is a sub 3:00 reasonable?

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This topic contains 11 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  sub3marathon 14 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #1574


    I am new to the forum and have spent a couple of hours reading through many postings. I have already gathered some great running advice, so I thought I would take the next step a share a bit about myself.

    I am rather new at this running thing. 18 months ago I went out for a run. 30 minutes later I had completed the longest run of my life: 3 miles. 18 months later and 25 pounds lighter (I am still 6:4 and 190) I am now looking back on my second marathon. I ran the 2003 Lakefront in 3:47 and just completed the Green Bay Marathon in 3:27. My goal for the first marathon was to finish. I don’t think my weekly mileage ever went above 40 miles, which I think is what made for such a memorably painful last 6-7 miles. The recent Green Bay Marathon was completely different. I felt as if I was holding back most of the race. My goal was to finish under 3:30 and comfortable. Both goals were achieved. The entire run, including the last 6-7 miles, were no more challenging than any of my 5 20+ mile training runs. They were actually pretty comfortable; I was smiling and enjoying myself all the way to the finish line.

    I have been fortunate not to get injured (an occasional sore knee and a neuroma that now seems to be under control are about it). I have been told that adding so much mileage in such a sort period of time is not the best training plan. I want to respect this advice, but I am also interested in testing my limits a bit.

    I am 33 years old and really want to see how fast I can get before my body decides to slow down. So, I am setting the goal of trying to run a sub 3:00 marathon. I don’t expect to be able to do this in the next year necessarily, but I would like to make this my main long-term running goal right now. Given the bit that I have shared, does this sound like a reasonable goal? Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.


  • #14927


    Welcome to the forum! Well, sub-3:00 is 5 minutes faster than I’ve ever run so best of luck achieving that! Can you do it? Gosh, hard to say, sub-3 ain’t EZ. You’re on the large size for a marathoner and you’ll find that increasing miles may be problem for you. Still your progress is impressive, especially that you didn’t feel too stressed while running 20 minutes faster.

    My marathon progress was 3:35 [1st] 3:22 [very hot] 3:05 [PR] 3:18 [don’t know what happened] 3:13 [BQ] 3:15 [BQ] 3:12 [BQ]. My progress was 30 minutes but I never managed to optimize my training in my peak years. I think I could have gone under three hours if I had trained smarter / harder. Instead I burned out for 7 years. And just when I got rolling again I got injured. Now I’m trying to get back to Boston but will never P.R.

    If I were you I’d train hard but smart and keep your goals within your abilities. As I found out, even when you have the tools to run certain times “bad things happen to good people”. Best of luck and stick around.


  • #14928


    I don’t see why sub-3 would seem like an unreasonable goal for you. It will take time and hard work but you’ve shown already that you have what it takes to run well.

    One thing I would stress. Don’t worry about running out of time. There are at least a couple of guys here who broke 3 for their first time after turning 40. Just keep working consistently, doing a little more every training cycle as your body is ready for it, and I can pretty much guarantee you that you will look back 10 years from now and realize you accomplished more than you originally thought possible.

  • #14929



    I am one of those 3 guys Ryan is talking about. First of all I would ask questions on this site — There are a lot of good guys willing to share information about their experiences on this site. Ryan has done a good job of keeping it alive and kicking — it does take a lot more work then people think. I would take advantage of it and ask tons of questions no question is stupid 😀 Pski is also very good at the Marathon Training i think that is his speciality. use these dudes to help you.

    I went Sub three on my 3rd marathon 3:45- 3:16- 2:59:58- I really don’t like the distance — So I really worked on getting my 1/2 marathon time down to 1:24-1:25– knowing in the back of my mind I could double that time and add 10 mins to get around 3 hours if I was aerobically trained well. The other thing that helped was trying to break 39 for a 10k – I actually got it down to low 38’s when I broke 3 the same year. without writing a huge essay about how to do it. I would focus on a lot of marathon pace (6:52’s) plus 40 sec runs — like 7:30 miles and really build up a good aerobic base. Then throw in a tempo run of say 10 miles with the middle four miles at 10k pace plus 10-15 secs . and then a track workout of 1600’s or 2000’s once every other week at your current 5k pace plus 10 secs.

    A sample week would look like this: I’m assuming that you have a good base first

    Mon- 10 miles – Tempo run like above middle 4 miles at (6:30 pace)

    Tues-5-6 miles easy – no worries on pace

    Wed- Track – 10 miles including– 3 x mile or 3 x 2k with one lap jog or 800 jog on the 2k’s

    Thursday- easy 5 miles

    Friday- 6-8 miles at MP + 40 secs — (7:30’s)

    Sat- easy 5-6 or off

    Sun – 10 miles building to 20 miles – Whatever pace your legs feel like running -pace not a huge thing here. I did do MP runs every now and then to get a feel and confidence for the pace. Every third week I would do a 10 mile MP run instead of the tempo Monday run.

    Basically that’s what worked for me at the time. There are many different ways to get there— I’m just showing you what worked for me at the time. take from it what you want- throw out what you don’t like.

    I really believe anybody guy or girl can break 3 hours if they make it a priority and want to put in 60-70 miles consistently. So you can definitley do it — you’ve already shown improvement and an ability to cover the distance. I would not worry about your weight or body type too much for a marathon. This last year I ran 2:59:30 and at 18-23 was dying and getting passed by 150 LB waddling women 200 lb tri- athletes. I am always amazed at how many different body types succeed at the marathon distance. When I run 5k’s it’s pretty easy to pick out the studs but the marathon i’m never surprised anymore when a weird body type passes me! 😀 I think you can run good marathons sub 3 — well into your 50’s so don’t feel in a hurry you have a lot of time!


  • #14930



    Great post! I am still a bit disappointed from my failed quest to go sub four. Your post has inspired me. Well, maybe not sub 3 anytime soon, but sub 4 definitely. Thank you! I needed to read a post like that.


  • #14931


    As you can tell by my signature I am also aiming at a sub three. This will be very hard for me becuase I am too busy to kick in the extra training that I believe I will need to achieve this goal. My superordinate goal – the one that would get me to (possibly) quit running is to get with-in 10% of the Olympic qualifying time. I have only done 1 marathon and ran it in 3:35:34 with only four months of training and no base prior to that. Now I’ve got a fair base and a program that actually has all the extra elements that were absent from my first training plan. I will push the training to my limits but when it comes marathon time I will follow my most likely pace to finish with a PR. But your numbers seem to support the possibility of going the distance at the speed you need.

  • #14932


    I definately think you can break three. If you don’t break it this fall, then you can the next marathon after that. That’s of course if you keep training. You might want to increase your miles to over 50 miles aweek, possibly to over 70. However, don’t increase mileage and intesity too quickly, that can result in injury.

    Also, as for long runs, if you run a 15 to mile run onece a week (end of week is best in my opinion); that should get you ready endurance wise. As for other workouts, do some hard tempos, runs on hills, hill repeats, and possbly some fartleks. If you can for a 8 week period about 10 to 2weeks before marathon, do soem intervals with someone your speed.

    Actually, the most important thing is that you have to make yourself BELIEVE you can break 3 hours. I know my best two marathons, I mentally beleived I could achieve my times, even though others doubted me. As for my last marathon this past november, mentally I was down, due to lack of solid training; so my time greatly suffered.

    So Just go for it. That’s the best info I can give.

    Just my thoughts

    Jason Grimm

  • #14933



    Given what you’ve said, I’d say sub-3 is a possibility. No one really knows what your potential is — the only way for you to find out is to give it a try! It might take a while, so why not work with the Boston Qual 3:10 goal in mind for a year or two first?

    I’m still aspiring to sub-3 (3:00:46 PR), but I’ve seen some good improvement over the last 3 years. You’re younger (I’m 40), so don’t worry about your body slowing down just yet.

    Put in the work consistently and you’ll see improvements.


  • #14934


    Wow! I really appreciate all of the encouragement and suggestions! Woody, your specific suggestions were especially helpful…and a bit of a reality check. I know that I don’t have much speed as of yet. I have run 2 5ks and both times were right around 20 minutes (one a little over and the other a little under). I do wonder how much extra mileage will increase my speed compared to actual speed work (not that I think it is an either/or thing). While I had never run 3 miles straight before 18 months ago, I was a sprinter in high school track and managed to get my 400 time down to 49.9…not the fastest, but makes me think that I can get a little bit of that speed back.

    Whatever the case, thanks to everyone for the encouragement, your willingness to share some of your own experiences, training suggestions, and overall goal-setting suggestions!

  • #14935


    I ran my only sub 3 marathon whe I was 33. My first marathon was 3 years earlier, 3:28.

    With a 49sec 400, there’s no doubt you have natural talent to run fast enough. 20 minute 5ks aren’t very far away from what you need in speed for a sub 3.

    When I prepared for my sub3 I concentrated all on mileage and only added speed when my mileage goals were met. I always ran some of the last miles of my runs at marathon pace.

    I have tall friends that have troubles with distance running because of injury. So my only advice is to seek out the safest training surfaces, ratchet up the mileage and good luck.

  • #14936


    bodean I agree with Grimm here. FWIW the first time I broke 3 I just signed up the day before, went to the line with the sub 3 or bust attitude and was winging it. I had prepared for a half that spring and got sick, so I continued to run about 50 mpw and busted a 2:54 coming off a 3:20 initial effort. Just run. For sub 3 getting on a steday diet of 8:00 min miles is great for those med long long runs, easy days lay off and jog, Then throw in the LT and speed mix leading up to the marathon and wham, your gone! Good Luck PSKI

  • #14937

    Bdean, I also have a goal of getting under 3. I came close many years ago (3:01:30–man that hurts to be so close!) and hope that in the next couple of years I can get back down to that time with some focused training.

    Find a good training program. What is a good training program? The snide answer is the one that works for you, but in reality it is a crap shoot since you will not know until you go through it. Read Lydiard, Daniels and Pfitzinger. Select the one that looks good to you. I really like Pfitzinger’s “Advanced Marathoning”. Start with a program like the 50 mpw (or is 55mpw?). If that works, then add mileage. How much mileage? There is not a set answer. The optimal mileage is the mileage that achieves the goal without injuring you.

    In addition to the long runs (which I think are the most important factor), the next most important is to improve your sustainable speed (think the max speed you could maintain for an hour, often called lactate threshold speed). The types of runs that will do this are the runs that are just a little slower than 10K pace. There are a myriad of ways of achieving this.

    Being able to run a 20min 5K shows that you are close to having the “speed” but the need is now to be able to maintain that speed overdistance.

    Good luck. Perhaps one day you and I can pace each other to a sub 3.

    BTW, selecting the proper race is also critical.

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