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How Duc Trần was finally able to run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon

By May 14, 2020April 14th, 2022No Comments
Duc Tran Extramilest Show Marathon Running

I was holding on to a light pole, because with every movement I would cramp. Literally my ear was cramping” – Duc Trần

Duc Trần (Strava) doesn’t seem to do things by halves. From entering his first triathlon and first marathon within an Ironman competition, to a full-on CrossFit background, he had made great gains indeed. However, through injury and feeling broken at the end of events, Duc researched and discovered MAF training and subsequently enrolled in the Marathon PR Program.

When the Boston Marathon 2020 was postponed, Duc decided to try to crack a sub 3 hour marathon by running a solo marathon. Floris joined him to document his journey.

In our recent conversation, Duc shares:

  • his progression from CrossFit, to half marathon, to Ironman.
  • his pain in completing events and improving but pushing the limits of physical endurance.
  • MAF zone training and improving by 1 minute per mile at the same effort over 5 MAF tests.
  • details of his enrollment in the Marathon PR Program, on being honest in your training and listening to yourself, while taking a holistic approach.
  • his favorite run equipment and his current mindset on running and racing, having been through this training cycle.

Hope you enjoy this conversation with Duc!


I just added 15 new video stories from members of the Marathon PR Program. You can learn their lessons, their challenges, takeaways and incredible improvements here. There has never been a better time to become a stronger, healthier and happier athlete. Watch this quick video and join the movement today as a Marathon PR Member.

What was your favorite quote or takeaway from this episode? I would love to hear from you in the comments on YouTube in the comments on YouTube.

Watch this full interview on YouTube.

Listen to the conversation on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastStitcher or your other favorite podcast platform.

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Links and tools mentioned:

Show notes:

  • Floris congratulates Duc on his first sub-3 hour marathon in alignment with cancelled Boston, while Duc compares the aftermath of this run to previous marathons. [5:15]
  • Duc shares his personal and athletic background, on juggling family commitments and training, along with the joy in having found a new training approach. [7:00]
  • Duc got super-strong as a Cross-fit athlete. However, injury was a constant danger due to the intensity and explosive nature of the training. [9:30]
  • Duc’s first half marathon: his friend had to carry him back to the car. [10:45]
  • Duc’s first full Ironman was in 2011 and this was his only triathlon race at that point! [11:35]
  • Ironman distances clarified for those unfamiliar with the event. Duc’s first full marathon was in his first Ironman! However, his first Ironman was his best, even though his preparation was in following a friend’s training schedule. [13:35]
  • Duc continued with the training volume and saw improvements from his first Ironman at 12hr 52mins, to around 11:50, to low 11’s and then 12:55 approx. This period was by no means injury-free though and Duc remarks that his Ironman in 2015 was one of his worst experiences and he ended up in the medical tent. Although demoralised, Duc came back in 2016 and performed well. [15:45]
  • Comparison in training between now and then is in having “never felt more energized and injury free.” Duc also reports an increased confidence, that confidence having been built the right way through more recent training. [18:05]
  • Details of Duc’s previous marathons, including in Ironman events [20:00]
  • With a focus on marathon training and interested in how fast he could go, Duc began zone heart rate training (comparison here between Garmin and MAF HR training zones). Duc qualifies for Boston and is piggy-backed home by a friend. Duc, in his own words, knows “how to suffer!” [21:15]
  • 2018 Boston Marathon – tough race and adverse weather conditions, resulting in a trip to the medical tent. However, Duc was just happy to finish after running in 38 degree heat, in the rain! [23:05]
  • Although Duc had seen further improvement in his running, clearly measurable in marathon times, he was disappointed not to have cracked 3 hours by this point. He returned to Boston in 2019 and finished the race (with some cramp-based delays). [24:20]
  • In comparison to his recent sub-3 hour marathon, the difference in feeling is marked (even in comparison to a downhill marathon between Boston and the sub-3)! [26:35]
  • Duc on Discovering Floris’ work, MAF training and wanting to refocus for Boston. [28:15]
  • Duc’s first experiences of MAF training: redefining “junk miles”, mindset change and embracing the principle of MAF. [29:15]
  • Making practical changes, such as using a heart rate alarm and only focusing on time and heart rate. Duc points out the body can’t grow under stress and on listening to Extramilest podcast; Dr. Phil Maffetone and others [32:05]
  • Duc joins the Marathon PR Program. He notes running faster at the same effort after 3 months, the mind games involved in getting there and the need for patience. [34:15]
  • Floris on lowering the intensity but increasing the volume. When the body is ready, you can integrate speed work. [35:30]
  • On the structure of MAF training, Duc comments that it is a misnomer to think MAF training is about running slow. Base building is slow and critical to building the aerobic system correctly, but there is also speed work. He comments that once the gains started to come, they came really fast. From his first to his fifth MAF test getting a minute faster per mile, blew Duc away. [36:20]
  • Floris on the ups and downs of lower-intensity approach [40:20]
  • Duc on the differences in running now. Not about pace any more, but the enjoyment of running. Diving deeper into our running, investigating what we’re doing. Noting physiological differences in fueling, post-MAF training. [41:25]
  • Handling the cancellation of the Boston Marathon. Regarding the idea of a self-supported race, Duc gave it a lot of thought; wanting to be responsible in the current pandemic and decided with the right approach; socially-distanced, with an early Sunday start and uninterrupted to route, to go ahead. [43:55]
  • Race Day (self-supported not-Boston marathon); pre-planning, build-up, nutrition, strategy (HR and pace), the race itself: how it went. To finish and feel ok in and of itself, takes this training to another level for Duc. [47:30]
  • Floris on social-distancing and being a part of the experience of Duc’s sub-3 attempt and on Duc’s family’s aid station. [53:05]
  • Duc’s training tools: watch, heart rate chest strap and shoes (including comparisons between shoes in relation to training, racing and regarding physiological changes due to training) [54:50]
  • Duc on trying different shoes on track at same heart rate [58:20]
  • Duc’s key takeaways from training and race experiences: Be nervous! Therefore, you are more prepared and not complacent. Discovering MAF = “Most Amazing Find!” Duc talks about bringing the fun back into the sport. Everybody’s MAF experience will be different, just as we are all different. [01:01:10]
  • Duc runs more than 100 miles in one week [01:06:20]
  • Floris on sudden decisions to try something extra during the training cycle. However, a fine balance is required not to take too much out of the tank. [01:07:45]
  • Floris asks Duc about any future race goals, with ever more races being cancelled on the horizon? [01:09:00]
  • Closing thoughts from Duc. A holistic approach to training, per the Marathon PR Program: nutrition, stress levels, be honest with ourselves in our training, listening to the process, recovery and sleeping. [01:09:55]
  • Floris responds, regarding pacing runners and being involved with people’s marathon endeavors. [01:12:40]
  • Floris on two camps of response to current pandemic: taking a step back or keeping the goal for structure. Also, being thankful to be involved in Duc’s journey [01:14:05]
  • Duc reflects on how the training plan worked for him, on being nervous but confident [01:14:55]
  • Floris closes on the importance of rest leading up to race day, accounting for possible lessened sleep hours the night before a race [01:16:25]

You can find me, Floris Gierman, here: 


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