I recently set a personal target of successfully completing a marathon in under 3 hours with less than 3 hours of training per week (including cross training) before I turn 31. Because of this I am calling it the 3/three/30 marathon training plan. Below is my first training plan based on my initial research.
Target Pace: Run a marathon in a time that qualifies for Boston (Under 3 hours and 5 minutes about 7 minute miles)
Training Time: Average less than 3 hours of training a week. Including warm up, cool down, cross training, and strength training.
My plan is to look at the 80/20 of marathon training and focus on the 20 percentage that yields most of the results. I am also looking for people who have had success with low mileage training plans.
80/20 of Marathon Training
Based on reading personal stories and talking with people who have run marathon here is what I currently believe to be the 80/20 of marathon training.
Most important 20% (Based on Duration to Complete)
Running Form – Spending time improving your running efficiency is time well spent. It means the total energy needed to complete a marathon can be drastically reduced. Also very important in helping reduce injuries.
Speed work. - To run a consistently fast marathon time you need to be able to get fast times in mile and 2 mile runs. Speed work and short intervals are crucial to get your times down.
Mental preparation - Almost as big as the physical preparation is the mental preparation for a marathon. I need to make sure I am mentally ready for the race.
Semi-regular long near race pace runs – These runs physically push you, help you find a rhythm at your race pace, and maybe more importantly help you mental prepare for race conditions.
Less important 80% (Based on Duration to Complete)
Long slow runs – These are designed to build you base and help your body get used to running lots of miles. While I do believe they add value based on the time they take to complete each week they are not in the most important 20% of training.
5 to 6 runs a week – After 2-3 runs a week the research seems to point to rapidly decreasing return on time invested. Personally I feel very strongly about the value of rest days after most hard work outs.
Detailed long training plans with minimal weekly mileage change – Putting up large miles and having a “long” run every week won’t fit in a limited and irregular schedule like mine. I also believe from personal experience that grouping your output for periods of very high intensity followed by rest periods to be effective for stretching your mental and physical limits. It allows you to regroup and mental refocus before you push your limits again
Almost as important as identifying the most important things to focus on is figuring out the correct sequence of training. For example focusing on form first is important because if you don’t you will be practicing bad habits that will be even hard to break after all of your additional practice
Form training – need to make sure I have a good efficient running form before I focus on the other training. I feel I have pretty good form now, but I need to be able to really feel it and be able to actively monitor my form as I continue my training.
Speed training – after getting my form in line I need to focus on improving my running speed. I need to work on this until I can run shorter distances faster than my desired marathon pace. Right now I am setting a target of a 2 mile run in under 11 minutes.
Distance and mental stretching – Work to extend my mileage so that I am mental and physically able to complete longer runs. Continue to do shorter runs to maintain results from speed training. Run at least one run over 28 miles in a low pressure situations with walking allowed.
Optimization – analyze current weak point and improve. Most likely higher mileage at marathon pace. Rinse and repeat until I get close to Marathon race date.
Race preparation – Do race specific preparation: mentally review course, plan race day routine, pre-race and race nutrition, and taper training for maximum energy on race day.
The core of my total training time will probably be spent on steps 3 and 4.
Other Key Points:
- Nutrition - My nutrition while training and particularly the month or so before the race will be very important. I plan on steadily improving my nutrition and particularly focusing on it the last 3-4 months of my training to ensure I have the maximum amount of energy on race day.
- Stealing Fitness - Since I will be putting in well below the recommended amount of training I feel that it will be important to "steal" fitness in some unconventional ways. To help prepare my body for the amount of energy I will need to expend to complete a marathon I will be working to increase the amount of calories I burn every day. For example: working at a standing desk as opposed to a sitting at a desk all day or going for walks when I talk with my wife instead of sitting on the couch. I believe that if I work to increase my energy output throughout every area of my life my body will be better prepared for the energy output required by a marathon.
I will updated this plan as I test it in the real world. I will also post updates on specifics for each of these steps such as form practices and nutrition as I work through them.
Until I test out the ideas on myself I am also holding off on putting together a list of resources.
Let me know if you have any tips or suggestions to improve my plan.