A few years ago I ran my first marathon in 4:11:08 (9:34 / mile pace). On Sunday I ran my second marathon in 2:55:05 (6:40 / mile pace) more than 76 minutes faster. This post is a summary of a few things I’ve learned to become a faster runner from May 2013 to October 2013.
NUTRITION BEFORE MAY 2013
Nutrition is really the foundation for performance and recovery. Until May 2013 I had never paid much attention to what I ate or drank. On an average day I’d eat 8 slices of bread, pasta, pizza, rice, potatoes, hamburgers and little bit of veggies. I would also drink coffee, milk, orange juice and beer. My energy levels during the day were all over the place, so I’d drink coffee to get energy and often had some beers at night. I felt tired, fatigue, had low energy and frequent headaches.
NUTRITION AFTER MAY 2013
In May I decided to eat a lot healthier, inspired by Dr Phil Maffetone, Rich Roll and Tim Ferriss. I cut out all refined carbohydrates, no more bread, pasta, pizza, chips. etc. After this I also cut out milk, coffee, alcohol, soda, fruit juices, most fruits, sweets, potatoes and rice.
The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen. When you eat refined carbs, your body produces a hormone called insulin, which slows down fat burning. As soon as you get rid of refined carbs, it takes your body 2 meals before it shifts into a high fat burning metabolism. My energy levels increased, I slept much better and didn’t have fatigue headaches anymore, so this happens very quickly.
Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water.
Do yourself a favor and take 1-hour to listen to this great Trail Runner Nation Podcast about fat burning and nutrition.
In May 2013 I joined a running coaching and training program in LA called The Coyotes, by Jimmy Dean Freeman and Kate Martini Freeman, both very talented ultra runners. It motivated me a lot to run with a fun group of people and learn from everyone’s experiences. Finding others to run with makes it so much easier to get up at 5am and put your running shoes on. Twice a week I’d run with the Coyotes, then 2 to 3 times a week I’d run with local friends or alone in Long Beach. Here are the miles I ran in the last 5 months: May 160 miles, June 185 miles, July 184 miles, August 228 miles, Sept 297 miles, Oct taper 40 miles. A total of about 1100 miles in 5 months. See more specific run details on my Strava Account. The Nike Run Viking Contest (win a trip to Iceland ) helped push me to run many miles in September.
HEART RATE MONITOR TRAINING
Want Speed? Slow Down! was another inspiring article for me during my marathon training. I always thought I had to train at a faster pace to become a faster runner. This article mentions the importance of developing the aerobic base first, before attempting hard work. You get faster without the wear, tear and injury using a heart rate monitor as biofeedback device.
In May I purchased a HR Monitor and Garmin 310 XT watch and started training at my maximum aerobic heart rate of 150. To find your max aerobic HR click here. In May I realized to run at this 150 HR, I had to slow down a lot to 8:30 min / miles on the road, and often a pace of 10 to 11 min / miles on trails with hills. It felt much slower than I was used to but I wanted to build a solid aerobic base. In July, after 2 months of running slower, I ran 7:30 min / mile at 150HR. In August, this pace dropped to 7:00 / mile and early October before I ran my marathon this was 6:40 / mile.
The use of a heart rate monitor takes the guess work out of training and helped increase my aerobic speed significantly. In May, June, July and August I only did 1 anaerobic speed work out per week. In September I did 2 anaerobic speed work outs a week.
It was good to know early October going into this marathon that I would be running borderline aerobic, just slightly anaerobic. So I could mostly burn my unlimited supply of body fat vs burning stored glycogen with higher potential of bonking.
Here is an amazing Trail Runner Nation podcast about HR Monitor training that changed my approach to running a lot.
ACCELERATE RECOVERY TIME
Things that helped accelerate my recovery time, relieved muscle pain and soreness, improved muscle strength and increased endurance:
* Drinking a lot of water during and directly after long runs
* Eating within 30 minutes after finishing a run
* Salt and electrolyte pills on 16-20 mile runs during hot summer months
* Ice baths as soon as possible after long runs. Ice baths suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.
* Epsom salt baths to relax your muscles and decrease inflammation
* A muscle roller to get knots out, to improve circulation and prep muscles for stretching
* Sleeping 7-8 hours a night since most recovery happens in the 7th and 8th hour of sleep. This was the hardest part and didn’t happen much since our daughter was born in March.
THE MARATHON DAY
My trainers Jimmy and Kate told me there are going to be things on race day that are out of your control, and not to let this mess with your head. I felt well prepared going into the race.
My Heart Rate monitor broke the moment I turned it on at the start line and the race was 25 minutes delayed because the course wasn’t ready. I guess those were the things Jimmy and Kate were talking about.
My race plan was simple, run 6:40 min / miles until mile 20, then meet my running buddy and pacer Damien and keep this pace or adjust it if needed. Take a gel every 25 minutes and a salt & electrolyte pill every 50 minutes. The gun went off and after half a mile I looked at my watch and saw 6:28 pace, it felt like I was doing 9:00 due to race excitement. I slowed down and it was pretty easy to keep a consistent pace of 6:38-6:40 until I met my pacer at mile 20. This reason this felt easy was that my heart rate was very low. Even though my HR monitor didn’t work, I estimate it to be 150 to 158.
I was stoked to see my pacer at mile 20 and started talking for a bit, he told me to shut up and run to save my energy, good call. At mile 22 I took a gel and salt pill and the pill got stuck in my throat, I coughed and nearly barfed while maintaining a 6:40 pace. At mile 24 my quads started to feel heavier and I made the decision to slow the pace down slightly to avoid possible cramping (and losing 5 minutes in the last 2 miles). I only lost 7 seconds in mile 24 and 11 seconds in mile 25, see detailed Strava breakdown below:
At mile 25 another Coyote running buddy Jack totally surprised us and he ran with Damien and I to the finish line at a 6:31 pace. It was an epic feeling running fast with the 3 of us and finishing at an official time of 2:55:05, only 5 seconds off from my projected finish time. Happy to see my wifey and kid around the finish line.
I took a 20 minute ice bath after the run and my legs felt totally fine. Next on my horizon is the Avalon 50 mile race on January 11th, 2014. My training plan for the next 3 months will include more trail and hill runs at aerobic pace.
** updated – see my Avalon 50 mile race report and my 2:44 Boston Marathon Recap.
** here is a video from a different Sub 3 Hour Marathon, you might find these Sub 3 Race Strategies helpful:
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There’s science and there’s mentality. There’s having a plan and there’s being willing to improvise when that plan isn’t working. You can’t implement all that science and mentality in 1 week of reading a couple articles and hearing a good podcast, you LIVED all of these principles ALL summer, and then on race day you executed. One of the things I love so much about running: work SMARTER (not necessarily HARDER). On top of that, you were very coachable. When you got crazy into your two anaerobic workouts a week, I cautioned you, you listened and adjusted (or at least considered what it was I was cautioning you about). From 4:11 to 2:55, and I remember back when you joined us you wrote down that your goal was 3:10-3:15 and you asked me if I thought cutting an HOUR off of your marathon time was possible. So proud of you, Flo!
I clearly remember those conversations when I first joined the Coyotes! So stoked on all the training runs and coaching from you and Kate and I absolutely couldn’t have done it without you guys. You created such a fun running group, that was the biggest motivator to get out there and run together on the most epic running trails around LA.
I’m an occasional Coyote runner about to do my first marathon (as an adult) in NY. Loved reading your training path and hearing your story. Thanks for sharing and congrats on an outstanding race and time! Cheers!
Great Post and fantastic accomplishment. nicely done!
You’re my hero! That’s an awesome story! I eat Paleo and ran my first marathon last March with a 4:17 time. Since then been bit by the triathlon bug and Going to tackle my first Ironman next year and plan on a lot of aerobic fitness base training this winter.
Great job! Thanks for the post and the links!
Hi Mac, that’s exciting your first marathon is coming up in 2 weeks! There will be several other Coyotes running it as well. Glad to hear you enjoyed reading my story. Have an awesome time in NY and let me know how it went!
Thanks a lot Scotty, means a lot coming from you!
O wow, glad you liked my story Jonathan. That’s rad you ran your first marathon in about the same time I did. A lot of aerobic fitness this winter will pay off for your first Ironman, especially since its such a long aerobic race. Have fun with your training and let me know how your first Ironman went.
Thanks Fred, glad you enjoyed the post!
What was your mileage before 40 mile weeks in may…
do you think your actually training started when your first marathon training started?
also thanks for the right up…inspiring.
After I finished my first marathon race in 2007 I didn’t run for about 3 years, I only ran once every few months.
In 2010 I ran 136 miles = 11.3 miles per month
In 2011 I ran 139 miles = 11.6 miles per month
In 2012 I ran 229 miles = 19 miles per month
The first 4 months of 2013 = 133 miles = 33 miles per month
Here are my monthly totals for 2013:
January 40 miles
Feb 12 miles
March 39 miles
April 42 miles
May 160 miles
June 185 miles
July 184 miles
August 228 miles
Sept 297 miles
Oct taper 40 miles
So far in 2013 I’ve run about 1250 miles.
I think my actual training for this marathon started in May of 2013.
Glad you liked it!
This sounds absolutely amazing! Well done! I did my first marathon in 4:08, about the same time as you, and really can’t imagine running a sub 3 hrs marathon!
I tried to run at my aerobic threshold today, as per the calculation in the link in your blog, and struggled very much to run that slowly (dropping from my usual 8:30/mile for longer runs to around 12:00/mile). After the first 10 miles or so, I had to walk at times (and even pace myself then) to keep the heart rate below the calculated threshold level. Did you manage to run 6:40 miles at your aerobic threshold heart rate? What was your starting pace (beginning of training according to this method), and how long did it take you to make this enormous progress?
Felicidades Amigo! With your tips and enthusiasm you definitely helped me as well run my marathon faster than i initially expected. I did not go all the way with the nutrition and stuff (still love the occasional beer or two) but definitely shaved off pounds in the past few months and was very excited about the training you in LB and around. Keep it up !
Hi Joholahau, good to hear from you. I totally had the same struggles you experienced when I first started trying to run at my aerobic threshold. The hardest part is the discipline to slow down even though you’re capable to run a lot faster.
I was usually running at 7:30 min / mile and had to slow down to 8.30 – 9.30 pace on road and 10 – 13 min pace on trails with frequent walks. After 1 month of slow training this pace already dropped 30 seconds with same HR, the following month another 30 seconds.
After training for 5 months and a marathon taper I was able to run 6:40 pace at my 150 aerobic threshold HR the week before my marathon. Hope that helps. Keep it up with your HR monitor and let me know how it goes!
Hey Benno, so stoked to run our short and long beach runs together with an occasional trail adventure getting completely lost. You did an great job running your first marathon! Going out like a Kenyan with a pace 40 second faster than goal race pace and still finishing with a very strong time of 3:33! Lets get some recovery runs going soon again! Cheers
awesome planning and result floris. if only more people would do this!!! see you in the lab next week.
Great write up! Thanks for sharing!
I’m really hoping to run a sub-3 in Feb.
Thanks Gareth! Stoked to see you in the lab in a bit. Cheers!
Glad you liked it Jaime! Keep it up with your training and all the best with your run in February, let me know how it went!
Congrats on achieving sub-3 hour and it’s awesome to improve by 76mins! I was aware on the importance of diet but didn’t know it can make such a big difference. There is something that I would like to discuss as in your write up you mentioned avoid rice, pasta and pizzas, but isn’t these important sources of carbs and where rice is what Asians had daily. Any idea did Phil Maffetone mentioned (in his book) about Asian runners diet?
What an awesome post on your personal journey. You had great coaching and a great team supporting you, but most importantly you had the determination to reach your goal. Enjoy Boston
Hello, I came across your blog when looking for a way to use my HRM to train. I already completed my first Marathon doing it in 3:19:40 and I only began running this year. I really like your post. I decided to give it a try. It has been hard to slow down to my aerobic Threshold of 146 putting me at about. 9min mile but I believe this training will help me. I do have a few question. When you were training I read one of your comments about your mileage going up. Did you only run at your 150 aerobic HR threshold? or did you incorporate other types of runs? Did you run to a distance or did you just set a time? I also Live in a hilly area, If I run these hills do i need to maintain my aerobic threshold ( which is hard because of the hills)?
Thank you for your time.
Hi Shawn, good to hear from you. Thats a great time of 3:19 that you already ran in your first marathon. Slowing down to your aerobic threshold of 146 is very tricky at the beginning. In May this year I started training serious and increased my milage significantly to about 40 – 50 miles a week. The first 3 months in May / June and July nearly all of my runs were aerobic, at or below 150HR. Once a week on Tuesday nights I had speed work outs. I did speed work outs 2 x a week, only 6 to 2 weeks prior to my marathon, then 2 weeks taper with very low milage.
In training I ran a lot of flat by the beach (similar to my marathon course) and I focused on time on my feet. In the weekends I’d run trails in the hills or occasional stairs.
Running hills aerobic is tricky, I know all about it. The point is to stay aerobic. When I run aerobic hills I often run 11 – 12 min miles with hike breaks, but then you can run sub 6:00 / 6:30 min / mile down the hill and keep your HR very low.
These are all guidelines, the main point is to train slower than you’re used to and over time you’ll become faster once you have a good aerobic base. Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’m happy to help.
Fantastic achievement Floris. A couple of questions to get a wider perspective:
How old are you? Did you lose weight when you improved your diet and increased your mileage, if so, how much did you lose? What is you BMI or body fat %? It seems like you had very good natural speed by May 2013 judging by your comment that many of your runs were at 7:30 up to May, is that right? Did you run shorter races during 2013, and what were your times? Thanks again for sharing.
Hi Rufus, thanks for your message!
To answer your questions, I’m 31 years old. Yes I did lose weight by changing my diet and increasing my milage. In April 2013 I was 170 pounds and had about 16% body fat. With a pretty strict no processed carbs & sugar diet, I lost 28 pounds in 6 months, bringing my body fat down to around 9%.
Several of my shorter runs up to May were between 7:30 and 8:00 pace. This marathon was the only race I ran, however I did time a handful of solo runs with ‘race conditions’ (water bottle, gels, few salt pills). Here are a few of them, all with negative split to train finishing strong:
March 11, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:38:31 (new PR) = 7:31 pace
May 14, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:35:05 (new PR) = 7:15 pace
August 10, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:27:07 (new PR) = 6:39 pace
August 30, 2013 – 20 miles in 2:24:17 = 7.12 pace
September 21, 2013 – 20 miles in 2:24:36 = 7.13 pace
In May I set this October Marathon goal time at 3:15 which I updated to 2:55 after I ran my 1:27 1/2 marathon in August.
Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, let me know.
Good luck with your upcoming race!
28 pounds off a 170lbs frame in 6 months, wow, I am impressed! You must have a heck of a lot dedication and willpower. How tall are you? I am 51, run over 30 marathons in 20 years mostly in the range 3:23 – 3:45. I still feel I have a sub 3 in me but I know I need to knuckle down and work on my diet to get to racing weight (I am currently 172 pounds and 5’11) with 19% body fat. I have also run a few ultras, 50 miles and above, including the ultra trail du Mont Blanc.
Cheers Rufus, it took about 3 – 5 days to get the habits / addiction to processed carbs and sugars out of my system, it wasn’t hard after that. Plus I’d eat whatever 1 day a week, to keep sane and because it speeds up your metabolism again for a proven increase in fat loss. I’m 6’1.
That’s incredible that you’ve run over 30 marathons! That ultra trail du Mont Blanc looks like an epic race. You totally have a great base to run a sub 3. My main recommendation would be to train with a HR monitor at 180 minus your age for at least 3 months to build a strong base. Then add 1 – 2 interval trainings a week after that. Running aerobic all the time helps you burn body fat and lose weight, this alone will make you a faster runner. Also for 1 week replace all processed carbs (pasta / pizza / bread) for (beans, extra veggies, nuts, etc) and see how it goes.
Good luck with your run training and please keep me posted how it goes! Cheers
I have to tell you; you really inspired me to make some serious last second switches to my marathon training and major diet changes. I ran my first marathon last year and barely broke 4 hours (3:58:46) which was my big goal. But it took everything out of me and I was hurting afterwards. Then I did some serious speed work and broke through in my 5K time (PR of 21:36 – nothing too impressive but I never thought I’d get there). Unfortunately minor injuries kept springing up which halted progress. I’ve heard and read in the past about HR training but this system makes it seem much easier…if you have dedication and patience. And those are 2 traits I do believe I have. I am doing my next marathon in late May and my 18 week training schedule began last week. I abandoned all of the speed & hill sessions and decided to do this. My age is 31, my aerobic threshold is 149 according to the formula. In addition to the plan, I cut out all the sugars/sweets and refined carbs (used to eat a ton). Get this, I’m on day 5 of this and I went from 149.8lbs to 146.2 (this morning) and I’m a pretty thin guy to begin with (I’m 5’11)! That’s 3 pounds in 5 days! I strongly believe (ok, really really hope) this will work for me. My first week went well although I couldn’t believe how much I had to slow down at points. I did the MAF test and my speed predictably went down each mile. Your story has me dreaming big. I’d love to get to Boston one day, that’s the dream. But I know I have to remain patient, not go above my aerobic threshold and stay determined.
Did you eat anything on your long runs besides the electrolyte pills & salt pills? I’ve read some of your answers and you say it’s okay to have one cheat day a week (because it can kick start your metabolism?)? Did you take out all Gatorade/Powerade’s (as Maffetone suggests)?
Thanks for writing this up. Much appreciated.
Hi Bill Z,
Great to hear you were able to pick up some things from my post. That’s perfect you have until May to train for your marathon! Set your goals very high, work very hard and you can make it happen man! If not this time around, if you really want to, you can qualify for Boston.
Good thing you’re changing up your diet pretty significant. Its totally normal you have to slow down during your runs to stay at or below your 149 HR. That’s the hardest part of this whole aerobic training thing is that you know you can run a lot faster and that you have to hold back and be patient. This is also good to prevent injuries.
The one cheat day a week to eat whatever you want is to reset your metabolism to an artificially high rate every week, so it will help speed up your process of losing body fat.
Once your metabolism is used to not eating carbs and properly burning body fat, you don’t feel the spikes in energy when you run aerobic. With that being said I did take out all Gatorade / Powerade’s etc. Last month I ran my first 50 mile Ultra race with 7k elevation and only had Water + Gue’s + Salt Pills and a few banana pieces for 7 hours and 26 minutes long. I made sure my HR wouldn’t go over 162 so I would keep burning energy at a level I could maintain. (http://www.flotography.com/how-i-trained-to-run-my-first-50-mile-race)
At some point you’re going to hit a plateau when you only run aerobic. Then you’ll have to start implementing some speed work to get to the next level. After a few months of aerobic only running, I started doing 1 speed workout a week, 400m, 800m or 1600m sprints, stairs, hills, etc. Then 6-8 weeks before the race I started running my longer runs with negative splits, first 75% of the run at 1 minute slower then race pace, last 25% at 15 sec faster than race pace. Those are hard, but great training.
Also to maintain a 6:50 pace for 26 miles, you should run a lot of 6:30 pace miles those last 6-8 weeks before your marathon, so when you run 6:50 pace it feels ‘slow’.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, hit me up.
I’m really inspired. The food is my biggest challenge. I would be grateful if you could post your diet plan.
Thanks and regards!
Thanks for the response Flo. Just a few more questions.
Did you ever think you would be able to run that fast, that far when you were working harder with 8:30min/miles before you started training this way? I read the 50 mile race blog (great stuff, btw) and you ran a 5’45 mile at one point! Did you ever think you could pull that off in the middle of a 50 mile race?!?! My fastest 5K included a pace of 6’56, and that felt very, very difficult last summer. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I notice some similarities with us before you started this training so I’m hopeful I can follow in your footsteps to some degree. It’s still hard for me to believe I’ll keep progressing at the pace I am and be able to hold a 6:xx pace for that long!
I wrote down your timeline of 6 months leading up to your marathon in October and the only thing I saw that I’m way off on was you did a test half marathon in May and were able to do it in 1:35:05 (7’15 pace) which is pretty damn good considering that was the start of your training. I have a half marathon that’ll act as a good test in March. I have an 8K next weekend to see where I’m at speed wise on my short game.
One other thing; I don’t know how you did it but pulling off a 297 mile month is INSANE. Even the 228 mile month seems pretty difficult. And you did this with a young child, so much props. I’m currently able to comfortably average 40-50 miles a week with a full time job, wife, house, etc. Attempting 70 mile weeks for a month may be not be doable but I’ll try to get as close as I can. And the fact that you stayed injury free is a testament to the Aerobic Threshold approach.
Quick update on me: Still staying strict to my diet and my training (6 out of 7 days a week). I’m at “peak” weight, it feels. I hit a new low of 143.2 recently (started the 18 week training program/diet/aerobic threshold running at 149lbs). My time continues to go down, and I’ve thrown in one speed session a week. I’m starting to hit new levels of speed when I do them which is a really encouraging sign. Like I mentioned, the fastest 5K I ever ran felt very difficult. I’m curious to see how my speed improves at the top end. Week 1 AVG pace: 9:18. Week 2 AVG pace: 9:00. Week 3 AVG pace: 8:49. Week 4 AVG pace: 8:37. Currently on Week 5 and I’m trending in the same pattern. I was able to drop 41 seconds over my first month. Hoping to continue that way!
This is inspiring. I live in LA and have a few friends that run with the Coyotes. I’m about to run LA Sunday shooting for 3:30-3:40 but I know I got some sub-3 in me. This post helped a lot. I already run with a group 2-3x a week but thinking of adding the Coyotes too.
Sorry for my late response, has been a bit hectic lately. Stoked to hear your training is going well and you’re still improving a lot! A 41 second drop in your first month is incredible. Now you’re at a 8:37 pace, even if you’re able to drop 15 seconds a month for the next 5 months you’ll be running aerobic around 7:15 – 7:20 which is incredible! When you’re able to run that, your current 5k pace of 6:56 will feel comfortable and easier to maintain.
A few years ago I ran a 1:38 1/2 marathon and I could not possibly imagine ever running any faster.
In the 50 mile I hit a 5:45 min / mile on a steep downhill, on the flats I would never do this in a long race.
The 297 mile month was in the middle of a Nike Contest to win a trip to Iceland to run the glaciers. http://runfree.nikeapp.com/en_us/run/detail/runviking The Top 10 people who logged the most miles with their Nike App won, so I decided to run a lot that month. Most of the runs were with baby stroller by the beach, very early in the morning or late at night. It worked out well with my marathon training peak and I won the trip to Iceland so that was fun 🙂
If you want to find time to increase your weekly milage, doing doubles could work well, 7 – 8 miles in the morning and at night, less injury chances that way too.
Keep up the good work and let me know how it goes!
Glad to hear that. Yeh the food part is definitely a tricky one, especially to get over the first week. Once you get in a new eating habit, it will become a lot easier.
I don’t have a set diet plan. Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water. I make a lot of shakes as well with fruits. This morning for example I had a shake with some veggies (carrots, tomato, zucchini, carrot, apple and almond milk) + I made some some eggs with beans and spinach. I’ll have enough leftover for an early lunch as well.
Hope that helps. Good luck and let me know how it goes!
Small world that some of your friends run with the Coyotes! You should come out on Thursday morning Coyote runs, its a free group trail run and you get to see many new trails around LA. Good introduction to see what the Coyotes are all about, great group of fun people.
Hope you survived the LA marathon heat this past sunday! How did it go? Glad this post helped a lot and good luck with your sub-3 training, its not easy but you can totally do it!
Small world that some of your friends run with the Coyotes! You should come out on Thursday morning Coyote runs, its a free group trail run and you get to see many new trails around LA. Good introduction to see what the Coyotes are all about, great group of fun people.
Hope you survived the LA marathon heat this past sunday! How did it go? Glad this post helped a lot and good luck with your sub-3 training, its not easy but you can totally do it!
Totally amazing and congratulations. Please tell me, after your workouts on any day would you have a carb based recovery drink or just water?
Thanks Chris! After most work outs I’d try to drink and eat within 30 minutes. For the the longer or more intense runs I’d definitely consume carbs. I eat a lot of burritos with extra guacamole. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Gatorade or other sport drinks. For me Chocolate Milk or Vitargo are great recovery drink.
Thank you so much for the post! Your article has been an inspiration to me and I have structured my training strategy around HR monitor training.
I wanted to ask you a question, in your marathon you mentioned a target 6:50 / mile pace but what about a target HR for the race itself? I ran a marathon this past Sunday in Japan and the first two thirds at about 10 bpm higher than my aerobic max–totally crashed and burned after about 22 miles.
I am still well on my journey to sub 3 hour status (3:57 this weekend after 2 months of HR training) but also want to think more about my pacing strategy for the next race irrespective of where my training has put me. Thank you so much in advance for the insight!
That must have been a rad experience, running a marathon in Japan! That sounds pretty familiar about hitting the wall at mile 22, when you run it at 10 bpm higher than your aerobic max. Keep in mind you’ve only been doing 2 months of HR training, it takes patience, determination and several months of aerobic training to build that solid aerobic base.
In my Long Beach marathon I targeted 6:40 / mile to run the marathon in 2:55, going into the race I knew I would be around 150-155 at the beginning of the marathon and more towards 160 at the end. My HR monitor broke at the start line of the marathon, so I was never able to see my actual HR data.
For the past 12 months I’ve now been training mostly aerobic. 3 weeks back I ran an aerobic marathon at 149HR in 3 hours 7 min (7:08 / mile), 2 weeks back I ran a solo 50k (31.1 mile) in 3 hours 30 min (6:45 / mile) and my average HR was 154, see mile by mile breakdown here http://www.strava.com/activities/131916574
If you want to avoid bonking for your next race, I’d listen to your body more by running aerobic only, plus take enough nutrition every 25 minutes, take some salt / electrolytes and drink enough water. De-hydrating elevates your HR very fast and makes aerobic running nearly impossible. Run enough aerobic miles and your pace will become faster over time.
Try the MAF-test (15 min warm up, then run 5 miles at Aerobic Max) do this once a month to see your speed at same HR improve over time, more info here: http://www.philmaffetone.com/maf-test
Hope that helps. Keep me posted on your progress and good luck!
First of all thank you for posting this inspirational story! I was fed up of trolls on running forums and their disparaging comments. I’m training for my first marathon (San Francisco Marathon 7/27/14) and I want to qualify for Boston so I’d need to run a 3:05 race given my age group (25). Before stumbling onto your awesome blog I didn’t even think it was possible for a person to run such a fast marathon their first(second)try (I’m assuming you could have done this your first time around given the 3 year gap pretty much meant you started from scratch) but after reading your post I feel rejuvenated and more motivated than ever!
Here is a brief look into my running background:
-5K two years back at a 7:30 pace
-HM two weeks back at a 7:57 pace – Ridiculous elevation gain including huge flights of stairs and also a section of sand
-Performed Maffetone’s MAF test today and here are my splits:
– Mile 1 – 6:35
– Mile 2 – 6:50
– Mile 3 – 6:54
– Mile 4 – 7:01
– Mile 5 – 7:15
– Average – 6:55 (Probably didn’t warm up enough because it took a lot to get my heart rate up to 155 the first mile which is probably why there’s such a huge drop from mile 1 to 2 and also mile 5 due)
– Using a customized Hal Higdon training regimen, first 5 weeks used beginner 1 for weekday runs and intermediate 1 for weekend long runs, second 5 weeks used intermediate 1 for all runs, just started 3rd 5 weeks using the advanced 1 program and will also use it for the 3 week taper period
– I bought the same Garmin GPS watch and heart monitor you used (if only i read up on Maffetone’s articles earlier I could have used the heart monitor much sooner) and only started using the heart monitor last weekend on my first 20 mile run (7:45 pace @ 155 BPM HR – discounting time wasted at stop lights)
– Through my 11 weeks of training I’ve been running my long runs at a slower pace and training up my aerobic base unknowingly. Hal Higdon recommended that all runs should be ran about a minute slower than what your race pace is so I started around 9mins/mile and worked my way down into the 7 min/mile pace.
-My diet is very similar to yours but i eat brown rice and my salad dressing includes 2.5 grams of sugar
-Didn’t cut alcohol out until about a week ago
Given the above and with 4 more weekends of intense training before my taper begins, is a 3:05 marathon time feasible? SFM has a total elevation gain of 880″ and it’s a loop course so you start where you end up:
I mapped out a good portion of the route for my 20 mile run and it wasn’t as difficult as imagined but then again my pace dropped to 8+ mins/miles during my last 2 miles (will start taking salt pills next time around, only been using GU chomps on long runs and ran out of water for last 2 miles)
My next question if you think it’s feasible that i can hit my goal, should i move to 2 a day anaerobic training for my last 2 weeks of intense training or just stick with once a week? i only recently started anaerobic training last week at the start of my final 5 weeks of training. From what i gathered from Maffetone’s podcast, anaerobic training is only useful in endurance training as a “change-up” to aerobic training.
And last question, is a 3 week taper period too long and how long did you taper for?
Please be honest 🙂 I won’t get offended if you don’t think I can hit my goal
Anyways, thanks again for the post and hope my reply wasn’t too excessive!
Exciting to hear you’re training for your first marathon, that’s rad! Glad you got some inspiration out of my blog. Running your first marathon is a big goal, running it below sub 3:05 gnarly, I’m not going to lie, but not impossible.
To answer your questions. MAF test – you need a solid 15-20 minute warm up and from looking at your data that jumped from 6:35 to 6:50 you weren’t warmed up all the way. I usually run mile 1 at 8.30 pace, mile 2 at 7.30 pace ending it closer to 7.00 pace and then mile 3-7 at my 149 aerobic pace. That way my HR is already at 135 ish when I start my MAF test so its easy to get to your max aerobic pace.
Running a marathon can be split up in 2 parts. Mile 1 – 20 I would call the warm up. Mile 20-26 is where the race takes place. That’s the part where people bonk / hit the wall. To train and simulate this second part I’d recommend:
– running on tired legs (doing a long run 13 ish miles on Saturday, followed by a long run 15-20 miles on Sunday)
– running a long run, first 75% at 1 minute slower than marathon pace, so 8:00 / mile, the last 25% at 15 seconds faster than marathon pace, so 6:48 / mile.
– becoming very comfortable running 6:40 min / miles, so that 7:00 marathon pace feels slow.
Even before my sub 3 hour marathon I had run several 20 mile runs to train with water, gels and salt pills. With 4 weeks of training left, I’d run at least 2 – 3 runs of 20 miles to get familiar with the distance.
I only implemented anaerobic runs after an aerobic base of several months. Since you want to run it at 3:05 and only 5 more weeks of training left, I’d do Fast Intervals on Tuesday and a long run with last 25% at 6:48 pace. So that’s 2 x anaerobic since you’ll only do that for 4 – 5 weeks.
3 weeks is long for a marathon taper. I’d cut down my weekly milage. Not sure how many miles you run during peak training these coming weeks, however I’d bring it back in week 3. I ran a 1/2 marathon 3 weeks prior (75% slower, 25% faster than Marathon time). Then last 2 weeks I cut down milage and pace significantly. 25 / 15-ish miles.
Its hard to say if you’re going to hit your goal or not. All I can tell you is that its ok to hit the wall on some longer runs, so you realize how this feels and how you can overcome though spots in a long run, either by drinking more, eating more gels or taking more salts, changing pace, etc.
Hope some of this helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know. Good luck with your training!
Thanks for the reply and the helpful/insightful comments! I will definitely try to perform all of the advice you gave but a few points of clarification:
-MAF testing, so are you running the 7 miles continuously? 2 miles of warm up and then straight into the 5 miles sort of like a tempo run
-Awesome analogy with the 20/6.2 split! Should I be running all of my long runs (above 13+ miles) at the 75% @ +1 minute/ 25% @ -15 second
-Can you clarify this comment – “Since you want to run it at 3:05 and only 5 more weeks of training left, I’d do Fast Intervals on Tuesday and a long run with last 25% at 6:48 pace. So that’s 2 x anaerobic since you’ll only do that for 4 – 5 weeks.” – My rest day is current Friday right now so should i move it to Monday after my long run? Also is the long run with last 25% @ 6:48 pace considered an anaerobic exercise?
-Regarding taper, are you recommending I only taper for 2 weeks? Maybe it’s best if i run another 20 miler that week to get my total number of 20 miles up to 4 instead of only 3.
Appreciate the comments again, i know my chances of hitting my goal are slim but as long as it’s not impossible i will keep on marching on.
Lastly, i provide my email in my replies, if it’s not too much trouble do you mind if we connect via email going forward? I promise i won’t email you everyday regarding my progress but maybe twice a month for the next month or until my taper period begins. if not, that’s perfectly cool, you’ve already helped me much more than all the people on forums have helped combined!
Came across your blog on 10th April 2014 and that made me follow your inspirational transition to being a super athlete. On 18th April 2014, did my MAF at 5:43 per km (9:12 mile) over 10k. This was in hot weather in Mumbai, India. For the next 30 days there was zero time improvement i guess dues to the heat and humidity. But gains were setting in following Phil’s diet cutting wheat and milk out of my diet. Refined carbs were already absent. Then i went on a holiday to Gold Coast, Australia (26 May 2014, and ran my second MAF (35 days later). 5:17 ( 8:30 per mile) . Just being at 18C and low humidity did the difference. The running was effortless.
Then oomes the tough part of getting back to Mumbai, India and the weather is very hot with high humidity. Temps at 30C in the morning and very humid. My MAF reading have gone to 9:35 per mile. On long runs, i am forced to walk a few steps every other km due to the heat.
I am not sure how to understand MAF readings. We deal with heat and humidity and then rains and strong winds for the next 4 months. Very difficult to see progress in my readings and i see that Phil talks about this in his awesome book.
My situation is that i will have to be just patient and wait for 4 months!!! I am 50, running at 135 HR. Body % fat has dropped from 11.5% to 9.2% (measured on Tanita scale) during the 2 months of training at aerobic. That is a big plus.
A brief background. Done many marathons and the last 2 are sub 4 with a best timing of 3:56. Completed two iron man races, best time 15:22 this year. Note that most of my training was anaerobic in the past. Full of intervals and tempos.
My goal is to run a marathon with a sub 8 mile pace in Jan 2015. Mileage, April 2014, 150 miles, June 150 miles. All runs below 135 HR.
Have been tracking your progress really closely and love the focus on clean eating and being in the fat burring zone.
Yes I run the 7 miles on the MAF test continuously, from 2 mile warm up straight into the 5 miles at max aerobic HR.
I wouldn’t run all your long runs at the 75% @ +1 minute/ 25% @ -15 second. These hard very hard runs to simulate running fast at the end of a long run, similar to a fast marathon trying to keep up fast pace at the end.
You can work the days around to fit your week schedule best. I’d definitely take a day off or run a very mellow pace the day after a long run and before you do your next interval day. In this training pace you have to watch out for injuries, listen to your body what it can handle. A 6:48 pace is indeed for most people considered an anaerobic exercise, unless you have a very solid aerobic base.
– I’d run your last 20 mile run 3 weeks out, then 2 weeks prior maybe 1/2 a marathon, then start your 2 week taper after. Tapering too long makes you lazy and your legs will recover to top shape in 7-10 days.
Feel free to email your additional questions over, or you can post them here as well, so some others can read it as well.
Have fun these coming weeks!
Thank you for your nice message. Sounds like you’re training the right way! Congrats on your Iron Man completion, I hope to do that one day! That’s great you’ve been running at 135HR and that your body fat % has already dropped by more than 2%, that’s huge! Your monthly mileage of 150 below 135 HR is really good for a solid aerobic base as well.
The different temperatures, humidity and wind make a reliable MAF test tricky. Higher temperatures elevate your HR rapidly. Sauna training, enough water intake, and keeping your body cool (ice bandana, etc) can all help reduce your HR.
Phil Maffetone recommends in ‘The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing’ to run the MAF test on an indoor track. I don’t have access to an indoor track, so I ran my MAF test every month on the same 1.1 mile loop by the beach. I run mine usually at 5 or 6am so there is less wind and cooler temperatures.
If the temperature is very hot early on, you can consider to run the MAF test indoors, on a thread mill. Make sure to do a 15 – 20 minute warm up before your test. Then run at your 135 HR and adjust your pace as you’re running. At the end of the day, the MAF test is good to see your progress. The first few months the progress is slow, but over time with enough patience, you’ll see your pace improve, and your runs will go easier and easier.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know. Good luck with your marathon training, keep me posted!
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Awesome, thanks so much for the advice! Will keep you posted 😀
Have been running steady milage from 3 months below 150 MAF for age 30. May 176 miles, June 189 miles and July 231 Miles. Hard to predict my changes in MAF as the weather hovers around 27C to 32C with 90% humidity in Mumbai. What i wanted to check with you is the long run. I have been steadily increasing it every Sunday from 21k to 23k and then 25k and now the last 3 weeks it is at 28k. Is that fine? To run about 90k a week, i would require that weekend run. Mid week i do a 21k run.How do you structure your long runs every week end? Is there a pattern?
What i found i bit confusing is Phil’s new book, 1:59 says long runs at MAF should not be over 2 hours, but you can gradually build it up !! What do you think?
I looked at signs of weather i am over reaching or over training since MAF reading are hard to understand in very hot weather. When the humidity and temp came down one day, my 21k run dropped from 6 min/km to 5:45 !!! Looking at my resting heart rate and HRV all in control with body percentage fat low, i think its not overtraining.
Sorry, drop the word age 30. Typo.
Just happen to catch your article on how you attained a sub 3 timing within months and I find it very inspiring! I have been facing problems to overcome my running plateau ever since i hit my PB at 4:20 and your article come just in time for me to pick up tips as I prepared for a marathon in December. Nice write up!
Hi Yi Hui,
Great timing before your December marathon! You still have 3 months of solid training ahead of you. If you come across any specific running questions during your training these coming months, just let me know! Have fun with your training these coming months and I’m sure you can beat your PB. Keep me posted how it goes! Cheers,
You and many others were able to find it, so I’m all good. Cheers!
Hi Floris, thanks for sharing and serious inspiring stuff you have written! I’m giving the MAF approach another try after a previous failed attempt. Its been almost a month and i’ve seen quite a huge drop in my paces at my MAHR. I noticed you mentioned u did one anaerobic workout when u were first starting out in the aerobic base building stage. My question is does anaerobic workout hurt the progress alot? Fyi, i’m currently doing a PT class once a week (mixture of plyometrics, kettleball, calisthenics, TRX etc). Rest of my training are all aerobic runs just under my MAHR. Many thanks in advancr, cheers Alvin.
Stoked to hear you’ve seen a huge drop in your pace at Max Aerobic Heart Rate this month! Ideally you first take at least 3 months to only run at MAHR, since this gives you the least amount of stress on your body and it builds your aerobic base the fastest. Doing one anaerobic workout is fine and shouldn’t delay your aerobic base progress much, since you’re doing all other runs just under your MAHR.
Keep up the good work and let me know how these coming months will go for you. Thanks and cheers,
Thanks Flo. Appreciate the advice. Run safe, keep writing and inspiring people ! Cheers Alvin
Thanks for posting such an inspiring article… Its evoked such discussion that the responses themselves are insightful. I have a few questions that I hope you can help clarify.
How were you able to build miles so rapidly with out injury scares? Also your may 2013 Half was in a decent shape indictaing a good baseline fitness, were you cross training or practicing other sports before beginning your active running. Do you continue to cross train?. Upper body and core seems to be an important yet neglected one for some of the runners and i would love any tips on that
Lastly, will you be able to share a representative week workout.. Say one in May towards the beginning and one in the ending months,
Awesome post and very inspiring. I notice you ran with a handheld bottle. I have finished 3 marathons and I am struggling to figure out the best way to hydrate. With a bottle that size, how are you able to get enough fluid and carbs during your race? In my last race I found myself clipping 8 packets of Gu in my shorts and stopping to drink Ultima as well. I still bonked. Now I wonder if I am getting too much, although everything I have studied says I need as much as 60g of carbs/hour. My next race has Nuun as the drink, which has zero carbs and zero cals, so now I’m wondering how to fuel and if I should carry my own. From what I’ve read online, most marathoners seem to take between 2-4 gel packets (I see in your photo that you had 4). Any hydration advice you can give based on your experience? Thanks and keep up the great posts! KC
After running a 3:08 marathon in October 2013, I trained hard with the goal of running a 3:03 BQ time in May 2014. However, I bonked and ran a 3:10 marathon. I was very disappointed and did not plan on running another marathon this year.
Then I read your post in July and was very inspired by your story. Not only did I decide to race in October, but I also developed my training plan around 5 pillars that you describe in your text.
1) Increased weekly mileage over 45 miles (from 35 miles)
2) Purchased a HR monitor to do all my runs under 150 bpm
3) Improved my nutrition by bringing a lunch and snacks to work
4) Accelerated recovery with ice baths and foam roller
5) Boosted race fueling by taking a gel every 25 min and drinking more
This regimen worked for me too! Last Sunday, I ran a 2:59 marathon, and met all of my most aspirational goals for this race: BQ, sub 3 hour, negative split.
Thanks for your inspiring post!
Cheers Alvin, same to you! If any other questions come up, just let me know. Have a good one!
I’m sorry for my late reply. I was able to build miles pretty quickly by slowing down my pace significantly. Especially during the aerobic base building phase, many of my runs were at 9 min / miles or slower on road and 11 – 13 min / miles on trails. I tried not to increase my miles by more than 10% a week and have a step back week every 4th week.
I didn’t have enough time for cross training so I didn’t do any biking, weights, etc. I focused on getting in my weekly miles.
To give you an example of my beginning work outs: the first 3 – 6 months almost all my runs were at my max aerobic HR of 150, actually I tried to stay in the zone 140 – 150, more towards 150 beats per minute. This was done in a combination of road and some trail with hills. This way I use different muscles in my body and run different paces.
About 6 weeks prior to my marathon I did 4 weeks of 2 intervals a week, or 1 interval and 1 faster longer run. I like the longer runs with negative split, or the last 25% at 15-20 seconds faster than marathon time. This way you train your mind and body to finish strong.
Hope that helps. If any other questions come up, just let me know.
Thank you, I appreciate it. Hydration is definitely a tricky one, to find out what, when and how much to drink and eat. What works for me might not work for you since it depends on many things, like your body size, metabolism, aerobic base, etc. I recommend you practice with different options and see what works best on longer runs (15 – 20 miles). Here is what works well for me: 1 plain GU 15 minutes before a race, then every 25 minutes my watch alarm goes off to take a gel, every 50 minutes I take an electrolyte / salt pill.
I don’t recommend running with a water bottle, it’s pretty heavy, especially towards the end. Practicing with drinking at aid stations will pay off for future races.
You can take 20 gels and still bonk, some people take 0 gels and don’t bonk. Improving your aerobic base so you can use more energy from burning body fat, vs sugar will help significantly with this.
Taking in more than 2 – 3 gels an hour will not give any benefits since your body can only use a limited amount of calories per hour. In an ideal world you train a lot of aerobic miles so your body burns mostly body fat for fuel at a lower HR. Then you should be able to avoid bonking with the right amount of water and gels. Watch out when you combine gels with energy drinks, sometimes this doesn’t mix well in your stomach. Don’t try anything in a race you haven’t tried in practice runs.
Hope that helps. Let me know if any other questions come up.
Thank you very much for letting me know, that’s so rad! Congrats on qualifying for Boston with your 2:59 marathon ** Interweb High Five!! Keep me posted on your running progress these coming months and hope to see you in Boston!
Could you give a little bit more information on the 1-2 speed workouts you did a week, i.e. pace, reps, heart rate and recovery. I am targeting a sub 3 hour marathon for April but I am nervous about losing speed by going down to 150bpm
First and foremost your blog is awesome and congradulations on your sub 3 marathon. I recently ran my first marathon (Philadelphia) back in November in 3:10, and doing my second marathon in April in the hopes of completing it under 3:05. Prior to reading this article I wasn’t using a HRM-however, since reading this article (2 weeks ago)I decided to use one for the next 3 months and strictly train only at my aerobic max….therefore, completely changed my training cycle–took out all speed work and increased weekly mileage to closely reflect yours. How did you combat fatigue of the legs, soreness, stiffness, etc? I feel like I need to constantly stretch-not in pain just super stiff. Especially hamstrings. Where I live there are countless hills so I’m sure that doesn’t help. How often were you doing salt baths, ice baths, rolling legs out, and stretching? Did you experience constant soreness for your entire traing cycle?
Congrats on your sub 3 marathon! When you ran that marathon did you maintain a 150 aerobic max? Or did you go over that? What range did you run it in?
I did not wear my HRM for the race, but I believe my HR was in the 160-165 range.
To combat leg stiffness, I took a 10 min ice bath every week after my long run, and I used the foam roller for 5 min almost every day before going to bed.
Just continue to progressively increase weekly mileage, and you’re going to kick ass in April!
Ah, i see. Well that’s not too tricky at all!”
That insight’s just what I’ve been looking for. Thanks!
This is the blog post that inspired me to qualify for Boston marathon. Thanks so much !
If I would do intervals, I like the 8 x 800’s with 90 or 120 sec recovery. The pace around 5:45 or 6:00 min / miles. The HR would go high up, but I usually don’t look at HR much during intervals because I know it will go up pretty high.
If you have any other questions, just let me know. Have a good race this month!
So stoked to hear that Pascal, congrats on your Boston Qualification and thanks for letting me know!!
Sorry for my late reply! That’s amazing you ran 3:10 for your first marathon, that’s more than 1 hour faster than my first one! That’s great you’ve been training at your max aerobic HR. I don’t experience constant soreness and I don’t ever stretch. When I started going from 20 miles a month to 100-200+ miles a month, my legs were sore at the beginning. I’d recommend doing a very good warm up, start slow and gradually increase pace for 15 – 20 minutes. Then after your run, cool down for another 15 minutes, even finishing with a 5 minute walk. If you gradually build up your miles, do a good warm up and cool down, and keep your HR at or below MAF, then you shouldn’t feel a constant of fatigue, soreness and stiffness. Other things to look into are getting enough sleep, rest & recovery, eating healthy and drinking plenty of water.
Hope that helps. Have a great marathon this month!
Thanks so much for the great read. In April I ran a 3:15 marathon bringing my time down by almost 30 minutes. This was the firs time I had trained really consistently with good mileage and I was really pleased with my time. However, I realized that I had taken a “no pain, no gain” approach to my training and I was completely burned out after this effort; so much so that I didn’t start running again until the end of June and even then I felt jaded. Since then I have found your website and bought Phil Maffetone’s book. I have started training at a max heart rate of 150 and had to slow down considerably. I noticed that you continued to do one anaerobic work out per week. Did you take a rest day after this and what type was it? Secondly, did you change your diet at all for the week leading up to the marathon? As you were a more efficient fat burner were you able to do away with carb loading? Thanks so much. Rob
Great to hear you shaved off almost 30 minutes from your previous race, 3:15 is a great time! That “no pain, no gain” mentality can definitely lead to feeling burned out. It’s good to you recognized that and started training at max aerobic heart rate.
Depending on where in my training cycle I am, I do run no anaerobic runs during my base building period. Once my fitness level has slowed down improving (during MAF tests), then I start adding 1- 2 anaerobic runs a week of 15 – 30 minutes max for 3 – 4 weeks.
Since it’s only 15 – 30 minutes of intervals or speedwork, there is no need to take the next day off. I listen to my body and usually just do a mellow recovery run the following day.
I did not change my diet leading up to the marathon. I don’t do anything different in my training than in my racing, that way there are no surprises on race day. I’d train your long 20 mile runs before your marathon using the exact pre race day dinner, race day breakfast and race nutrition.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know.
Started following your strategy since one and a half month. slowed down myself considerably. These days its very humid in India and my speed has gone too below the expected level. Still i am ready to follow the MHR strategy. Pls answer the following query:
How many times you used to eat and what exactly was that in a day?
That’s good you’ve been running with this strategy for about 6 weeks now, I had to slow down significantly at the beginning as well. The humidity is a tricky one since it will raise your HR. Does running very early in the morning or late at night make any difference?
I typically have breakfast around 7 – 7:30 am with 2 eggs, beans and spinach. Then around 10am I eat a vegetable shake with many different kinds of veggies and a bit of fruit, like carrots, tomatoes, kale, lemon, avocado, celery, almonds and 2 glasses of water. Then around 1 pm I eat lunch, anything from left over dinner or salad with tuna, salmon or chicken. Around 4pm another veggie shake and for dinner around 6:30 – 7pm, a lot of baked or steamed veggies with steak, chicken or fish. So 5 meals, but the meals aren’t that big, since I eat every 2.5 – 3 hours.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know, I’m here to help.
Thank you so much for this article. If I told you how many times I’ve read it you would think I was a legitimate stalker. It’s a primary source of my motivation and inspiration to run.
Thank you for sharing your training plan and progress.
Your story is inspiring, so congrats, and thanks! I’m curious how you were able to jump from 42 miles in April 2013 to 160 miles in May 2013 without getting injured? Assuming very slow running, but would love some insight as I’m about to increase my mileage drastically during this next training cycle.
Thanks for your help.
Thanks for the article, it really helps.
So if I well understood you did not do any anaerobic session the first three month of your training.
Never exceeding 150bpm during training.
Am I correct?
I did it now for two months building miles, but I don’t feel a big improvement. First month HUGE improvement but now getting to my second month only going from 7’56 to 7’44 per miles when I am doing my 5miles test.
What would you recommend?
Could you give me your typical bi-weekly training?
Thanks for sharing!
I have been training for the past 8 months or so using a HRM ensuring not to exceed my aerobic max. However, where I live is nothing but HILLS! Therefore, the past year of training 98% of all my running has been done on hills and never really on flats. I kind of feel like constantly running hills doesn’t so much make me stronger but rather just tires me out—I feel like if 98% of my runs were done on the flats at an aerobic effort I would actually gain more benefits–Just curious to hear your opinion? Attempting to finish the Philly Marathon under 2:53 and trying to figure out beast approach. Thanks!!!
Yes when I run early morning my speed increases at MHR but at night it decreases.
Many thanks for sharing your diet schedule. I would try to follow the diet plan as well depending upon my body requirements. I am planning to run a half marathon in November and a full in January. What should be my longest endurance run distance every week? and what should be the weekly mileage? Currently my weekly mileage is 50KM. Should i include any speed/tempo now? Or i should wait for another 1 month and keep on running at MHR?
I’m two months into my MAF training and hitting 7:00 min/mile as an average for my MAF test, getting down from about 8:20 initially. I was wondering about your perceived exertion at your MAF pace? At the end when you were hitting 6:40, how hard did this feel? I’m guessing quite hard over the course of the marathon?
Like Mandy, my MAF is 7:00 minute pace. However, yesterday I did a 8 mile run at marathon pace (6:40) and towards the end of my run my bpm was at 160ish ( my max 144) which felt fairly hard for only running 8 miles– do you think this is an indicator that my goal of running a marathon under 2:55 may be too much? But I’v been running 50 to 65 miles per week for the past 8 weeks…so maybe jus the accumulation of mileage is making it it hard? Also, did you do any of your runs at marathon pace? If so how far would you go…
Did a 13 mile run today at my MAF and my average pace was 6:55–my perceived exertion level seemed pretty high…. Breathing seemed a little harder than normal… You experiencing the same thing?
Hi Amit, yes give those meal ideas a try, it works well for me and might work well for you also!
That’s exciting you have a half marathon and then a full marathon coming up. Your training specific questions all depend on a wide variety of things, like how many miles are you used to running, how long have you been running 50km a week for, have you previously ran marathons, how much time do you have available to train, do you do any other cross training, you hoping to finish or place podium, etc.
To give some generic answers that hopefully help you: I strongly believe in building up your weekly mileage slowly, not more than 10% per week, every 3rd or 4th week a step back week with about 30% less volume to recover. For a marathon my longest training runs are 20 miles or 2 1/2 hours max, depending on if it’s a hilly terrain.
Since you’ve been running mostly MAF for about 3 months now, you could add some speed back into it, however I think you can continue to make a lot of progress with almost entirely MAF runs for the first 3 – 6 months. Do the monthly MAF tests to measure your aerobic improvements.
Hope that helps. Have fun with your upcoming race! If you have any other questions, just let me know.
Hahaha, stoked to hear that man! If you haven’t already, sign up for my newsletter and you’ll know when the next articles come out. A few exciting ones in the works now. Cheers!
Good to hear from you! That’s correct, I did pretty much all my runs aerobic at a HR below 150 bpm for the first 3 months. Great that you made a lot of progress the first month. Patience is key and although you think the 2nd month you didn’t make much progress, keep in mind that you shaved 12 seconds off per mile in 1 month, that’s 312 seconds during a marathon = more than 5 minutes!
If I’m training for a marathon, I typically run 5 – 6 x a week, almost entirely aerobic. Monday is my rest day, Saturday is my long run. I slowly build into this from 8 miles at the beginning or training cycle, to 20 miles at my training peaks. My weekly milage is anywhere from 40-80 miles per week, depending on how much time I have available to run, how my body is feeling, etc. When my MAF tests show that I’m not progressing much aerobicly, I analyze first if my body is operating well (no recent sickness, cold, stress at work etc). If that’s not the case, I’d add 1 – 2 x a week intervals for 15 – 30 minutes max for 3 – 4 weeks, then back to all aerobic runs.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know.
Hi Jason, I wish there were that many hills near me! Hills can make you a much stronger runner, don’t worry about it. Yes it makes you tired, but if you run with a HRM, you can slow down your pace so you don’t go over your MAF. I often run with my daughter in the stroller on hilly bike paths, yes it takes more effort, however if you get used to this, then running on a flat terrain is much easier!
You’re running the Philly Marathon and this race will have several hills,(I’m sure you’ve seen this elevation chart: http://philadelphiamarathon.com/sites/default/files/Elevation_Chart_2015.pdf) So it’s good to train on hills. I honestly wouldn’t worry about it, see it as an advantage that you can train in the hills, it’s all about your mindset. Have fun with your training these coming 2 months and let me know if any other questions come up.
Hi Mandy, that’s a great drop in your MAF pace in a short time, great job!! At the beginning with my MAF pace felt very easy and I had to slow down significantly to not get my HR up much. Then after my aerobic pace improved, my MAF pace became harder to maintain. Prior to my Boston marathon in April this year, I ran a MAF test at 6:12 min / mile average for 5 miles, this was definitely a high perceived exertion.
Once your MAF pace becomes hard to maintain, it’s for me a sign to start adding intervals in the mix. 1 – 2 x a week, 15 – 30 minutes, for 3 – 4 weeks, then back to (almost) all aerobic runs again. After a few interval sessions, your MAF pace doesn’t feel that fast anymore, at least not for me, hope that helps for you as well.
If you have any other questions, just let me know.
Hi Jason, great job on a fast MAF pace! Patience is definitely very important here. Although you have a solid aerobic base, once you go over a certain pace, your HR can indeed elevate pretty fast. Keep in mind that training runs and an actual race after 7 – 10 day taper is much different.
Yes, I did do some runs at marathon pace. My favorite (and hardest) training runs prior to my last marathon is: first 75% of your run at MAF, then last 25% at marathon pace. So for example, I’d run 9 miles at MAF, then 3 miles at marathon pace. Or even better, during your peak training week: 15 miles at MAF, then 5 miles at marathon pace. Yes these runs are tough, but they prepare you to dig deep and finish strong!
Hope that helps.
Jason, I’ve totally experienced the same thing before and it’s fine! Try adding some interval training, same as what I recommended Mandy. Also, keep running most of your runs at MAF and be patient with your progress. Also, if sub 3 is your main goal, consider shooting for 2:57 instead of 2:55. That 120 seconds = 4.5 seconds per mile, could make a difference in your breathing as well.
Yes I have done a marathon with 3 hours 58 minutes in Jan’2015. I do cross training with cycling in gym and I also do strength training there.
My legs are normally heavy and I feel Achilles pain in the morning when I wake up. Dont know what is the reason 🙁
Yes, I am also planning to include speed workout in my schedule now.
I have 4 more months to train for the full marathon.
Hey Flo, thanks for the tips! We’ve only done about 4 months of MAF, lost 6% body fat, 4 kilos and bid my best time @ Berlin 2015 (3:14:08), Boston qualified… best of all I feel great!! Kudos for MAF.. Next goal under 3 @ Boston! Thanks again!
I’m amazed at the MAF times produced at the beginning of training. I haven’t run in 5 years and doing a marathon next May. I started MAF in September and only down to 9:20 for mile 1 on MAF Test.
Anyway, this is a great article, very motivational. I will adjust my diet starting tomorrow and see how the next 7 months play out.
I have been consistently training for the past 20 weeks for the Philly Marathon (November 22nd) using a heart rate monitor, and last time I did my MAF, approximately 5 weeks ago, I was at 6:25 avg for 5 miles. Not exactly sure what my MAF is as of today, however I did a 10 mile run today on the track at my marathon heart rate (152 – 155) and my average pace was 5:58 per mile. Did you do any marathon pace effort runs on a track while training for Boston? If so do you recall what your pace was? With two weeks left before marathon just trying to figure out what all this means and what my goal pace should be for marathon. Any insight would be awesome. Thanks. Jason
Finished my half marathon in 1:41.. Still way to go.
Finished HM in 1:41.. Still way to go,
Would pls elaborate on two things:
1. the next 1 hour after long run: What you do in the next one hour like stretching/ice bath etc. i want to understand how exactly it goes.
2. The next week after your race.
Ran 2:50:09 for Philadelphia marathon. Strong head wind killed me from mile 13 to 20 but managed to finish last 6 miles at 6:15ish pace. Boston is next with goal of 2:43. Amit, have you done a full?
A great and inspirational read. Well done and thank you for sharing.
I recently completed the kiawah island marathon in 3h 8m in early dec 2015. I was hoping to go under 3 but bonked at mile 20. It was much hotter than expected mid 70’s. Strava details on marathon here https://www.strava.com/activities/448986704. I ran a 1.27 half in November. My training was not very scientific and my diet not exactly the healthiest. Too much chocolate etc!!! That been said I’ve signed up for London and probably have about 13 weeks to go. Also I’ve never used a heart rate monitor. I’m 5.8 and weigh 156lb. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I’ve started to follow you on strava. Thanks robert
Also I forgot to mention I’m 38 and previously ran 3 previous marathons before kiawah in December just past. 3.43 boston in 2005 with little or no training, 3.16 and 3.09 Dublin in 2008,2009 with some training. The kiawah island marathon I did train hard but probably not smart enough. Reading all your blogs and posts here. Fascinating stuff.
First of all HUGE INSPIRATION! Im currently at a PB of 3:33 and I want to start seriously training for a sub three however Im a little confused on the aerobic heart rate training. How does it work that your pace picks up when heart rate stays same? Is it that just your body is just getting more fit? By the link your provided my max aerobic HR is 154. Do I just run and keep my heart rate at that or is there more science im not understanding?
Basically, should i just go out and run each day for a certain set of miles? or am i more concerned about how long im running? Ofcourse with both of these im maintaining that aerobic heart rate that will inherently (with patience) increase my pace?
sorry for the multiple comments, do i just completely neglect looking at pace when im running since i want to be focusing on heart rate instead?
Awesome, nice work Joe, you totally got this, keep it up! Cheers
Hi Jon, stoked to hear that. You have a solid amount of time ahead until your next race. Training smart and eating smart can make a huge difference. Keep it up and have fun with it! Cheers
Hi Jason, you’re fast man! 5:58 aerobic pace is really good. I typically run based on what HR I want to race at, vs what my goal time will be. During my Boston marathon training I realized I can maintain HR of about 159 – 165 for the duration of a marathon. So I ran first half at about 160, second half up to 165. That resulted in 2:44:15 marathon. You can set a goal time for yourself based on your aerobic pace, however I’d listen to what your body tells you during your race with the race heart rate you feel comfortable with.
Amit, that’s really good. Stay patient and you’ll be able to improve that time further. Keep it uP! Cheers
Wow, congrats Jason, that’s an amazing time. You’re going to kill it in Boston I’m sure. Keep the hills there in mind, so hold back first 16 miles so you have enough energy left for hills and to finish strong. Please let me know how you did after the race! Cheers
Thank you for letting me know Nigel, I appreciate it! Cheers
Hi Robert, good job on your marathons so far already! You’re already at a 3:08 marathon and 1:27 1/2 marathon. With the right training and nutrition you should be able to go under 3. I recommend you buy a watch with HR monitor and train at 180 minus your age 38 = 142, so in the zone 132 to 142 for the next 3 months. This means you’ll have to slow down significantly and that’s fine, be patient and stick with it, I promise it will make you a faster marathoner.
Also adjust your nutrition to cut out sugars and processed carbs, it will help your fat burning significantly. Have fun with it and let me know how it goes! Also, if you have any other questions, just post them here and I’ll try to answer them sooner next time :).
Hi Alex, good to hear from you and those are all valid questions. Yes your body does become more fit and adapts to burn more fat for fuel at a lower HR. Over time your aerobic base improves so your pace becomes faster at the same HR.
Yes you ignore your pace all together and just focus on running at the right heart rate. For you that would be the zone 144 to 154. Warm up for 2 miles, then try to stay in this zone as much as possible, I set a HR alarm on my watch to avoid going over my zone.
There is no set number of days or miles you should be running. I’d recommend you run at least for 3 months all your runs at / below 154 HR. Do a monthly MAF test to record your progress, this will help motivate you as well if you see your aerobic pace improve. If your progress slows down, add intervals 1 or 2 x a week for 15 – 30 minutes, 3 to 4 weeks in a row, before going back to all aerobic for several months again.
Hope that helps answer. You totally got the sub 3 hours, keep it up! Cheers, Flo
I’m afraid your entire approach is based on a fallacy, so you’ve no proof at all that your improvements on the road are tied to your dietary changes. “The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen.” You do realise that the body’s fuel selection is down to intensity, not availability don’t you? You can’t train or trick your body to burn fat just because you want it to. If you walk, you will burn 95% fat. If you run 400m, you will burn 95% glycogen. Simply not eating carbs is a stupid thing to do, and you could have been much faster than 2:55 had you have understood and heeded sound endurance sports nutrition advice.
All the best.
Hi, very interesting on your details explanation of the prep for a sub 3. I have a goal in mind to qualify for Boston, my time had to be 3:25 ( 45-49 years old ) my best PR is 4:37, I have only done 3 full and have done like 12 half. any observations you will mention, I noticed the eating would be one. I have to lower my speed to gain aerobic capacity I see too. Thanks in advance.
Dear Floris, just amazed to read & it is so interesting from your 4:11 to 2:55 and getting better in Boston the Maffetone Method or the Aerobic System. I have been trying this for a weeks, I need your advice on the following:
Do you run on your average HR or do you run exactly +/- heart rate.
(i.e. mine is (180 -49) + 5=136.)
haters gonna hate
I’m very inspired from you and you will be my trainers for the next six months 🙂
I’ will run Venice Marathon in october ( I’m italian). I have ran my second marathon, Rome,the past sunday in 3hours 44 minutes.
My Dreams is to run a marathon sub 3 hours.
It’ s clear for me the aerobic works, let me know you anaerobic works, how long km it is? Can you explain me in detail a typical work of a day of anaerobic work?
your blog inspire me to a sub3 at the London Marathon this year[2:58:34] (24th April 2016) knocking nearly 1/2 hour off my PB. The advice really works!
No way, super stoked to hear that James, congrats on your sub 3 and knocking nearly 1/2 hour off your PB, that’s HUGE!! What were some of the things that worked well for you? Also, what’s next on the race horizon? Keep it up! Cheers, Flo
Congrats on your 3 hours 44 marathon in Rome, that must be an awesome place to race! Glad to help guide you for the next six months. That’s good to dream of a sub 3 marathon. My first marathon was 4:11 and I never thought that a marathon like sub 3 hours would be possible for me. It definitely takes time and patience, but with the right approach you can become a lot faster over time. Aerobic works for sure.
I don’t do much anaerobic work at all. For my Boston Marathon I broke down how much anaerobic work I did each week: http://www.flotography.com/boston-marathon-preparation-and-race-report/. “I approached this Boston marathon by training mostly (94% of my total running time) at a lower heart rate (138-148 bpm or sometimes lower). Occasionally I added intervals or speed-work at higher heart rate (6% total running time). I choose this 138-148 bpm HR zone by using the 180 formula and by doing a blood lactate test. For the intervals I’d run 8 x 800’s, mostly on the track, occasionally on hills since Boston is hilly. A few times times I added some speed-work to simulated running on tired legs, by running a 20 miler and increasing the pace to marathon pace or faster the last 5 miles.”
Hope that helps! Have fun getting ready for the Venice Marathon. If any other questions come up, just let me know, I’m here to help.
haha, that’s right!
Thank you Teddy! That’s good you’ve been trying this as well. If your MAF is 136, then try to stick in the 126 – 136 zone, up to 10 beats below what the formula gives you. I usually stick to the upper end, because you’ll make more aerobic improvements there.
If you have any other questions, just let me know, I’m here to help.
Hi Alfredo, great to hear from you. That’s a solid goal to qualify for Boston. It’s good you’ve already done 3 full marathons. Working on your aerobic pace will help a lot. For example if you shave off 1 minute on your aerobic pace, that’s already 26 minutes at the same effort faster during a marathon! Cutting out processed food should help improve your fat burning in combination with aerobic runs. Wishing you all the best. If any questions come up, I’m here to help! Cheers, Flo
Hi Adam, yes you can train your body to become much more efficient in burning fat. Here is a scientific study called FASTER=Fat-Adapted-Substrate oxidation in-Trained-Elite-Runners with proof: https://www.ultrarunning.com/features/health-and-nutrition/the-emerging-science-on-fat-adaptation.
Keep the positive vibes going!
Read your journey to a sub-3 and found it intriguing. First of all congratulations and your honest piece, makes me believe I can run a sub-3.(Btw have done only HMs with a HM PB : 2:05:57 and a 10k PB: 53:44, but seem to have hit a plateau here with injuries and inconsistent training. Ur account gives me an alternate approach, I will try to break out.)
The slow aerobic running regime is something that am trying to incorporate into my training to get faster.
I tey to run with a cadence between 175-180, to maintain efficient form.However, as my cadence increases, the HR shoots up at really low pace as well.(My heart rate almost mirrors my cadence).
Did u face this problem? How do I work around this?
Looking forward to your response.
Hi Aditya, nice job on your HM and 10k’s! Slowing down and building an aerobic base can absolutely help improve your race times and minimize your risk of injuries. I honestly never count my cadence, I run however it feels most natural. When you slow down to keep your HR aerobic, you’ll (re)learn to run with proper form. A lot of people train at a pace that’s too fast for their current fitness, so their running form is not the most efficient form. I recommend you simplify things, set a HR alarm at your Max Aerobic HR, then for 3 – 6 months run aerobic, without intervals or speedwork. Don’t think about cadence, that will fall into place over time. Hope that helps! Cheers, Flo
Where can we get a copy of your training plan you used for your sub 3 hour marathon?
Thanks for your kind response – no one really believed I could do it except me – I just trusted in the training and paced for a 2:58.
In answer to your question the HR training was the key for me.
I followed a 4 month plan with mid-week and weekend long rule done just under my aerobic heart rate. (Which was very slow to begin with, as you said it would be – so I didn’t panic.)
I also did three 1/2 marathon races at a hard pace to try and make marathon pace seem slow.
Other bits that helped were:
I improved my diet, cutting out as much processed foods as I could.
I drank a lot of water during and directly after my long runs.
I would eat as soon as possible after I finished a run.
I used Epsom salt baths after the longer runs.
Next race: Hoping to do Boston 2017 – do you have any advice for this one?
As long as you believed in yourself and your training, that’s all that mattered! Sounds like you went about it very disciplined and it paid off!
Drinking a lot of water is something I do as well, I pee so many times a day, but good to stay hydrated haha. Eating asap after finishing a run helps speed up recovery as well.
Very exciting that you qualified for Boston, it has been my favorite race I’ve ever done, so many people, such a special place with a lot of positive energy along the entire route. For advice, I’d say, continue to do what worked well to qualify for Boston with a 2:58, with the right training you can totally beat that time in Boston. Helps that there are a lot of fast runners around you there as well. Make sure to add some Hill training as well. Here is how I trained for Boston: http://www.flotography.com/boston-marathon-preparation-and-race-report/
Hope that helps. If you have any specific questions about the Boston Marathon, just let me know. Cheers!
Gaaf om te zien dat je zo succesvol bent met de MAF methode en wat een geweldige tijd in Boston. Je verhaal heeft mij geïnspireerd om er mee aan de slag te gaan. Ondertussen ben ik twee maand onder weg en mijn MAF tempo (hartslag 148) is gestegen van 5.03 naar 4.36 gisteravond. Ik ben aan het trainen voor de marathon van Amsterdam in oktober en hoop daar een PR te lopen rond de 3.10u. En wellicht daarna een poging om te kwalificeren voor Boston 🙂
Ik was benieuwd naar je gemiddelde hartslag op de halve marathon van Amsterdam en wat was je MAF tempo voorafgaand aan de start?
Ik heb zes marathons gelopen, maar kan (zoals zovelen) het tempo niet vasthouden vanaf 35km. Wat heeft jou geholpen om het tempo zo goed vast te houden? De opbouw van aantal kilometers of ..?
Laatste vraag is over je anaërobe training: wat voor een type snelheidstraining heb je daar gedaan? En waarom koos je ervoor om anaërobe training te gaan doen?
Alvast bedankt voor je reactie en keep up the good work!
Good to hear from you. I’ll reply in English so most others can understand my response as well. Great job on a huge progress in only a 2 month period!
My HR during Amsterdam 1/2 was about 165, here is a link with breakdown of HR per mile:
My MAF test prior to this was 6:38 min / miles (https://www.strava.com/activities/194363441)
When you bonk around mile 20 – 22, you’ve most probably ran at a HR that’s too high for you, so you ran out of energy. You can slow down your pace, train more aerobicly, also make sure to take in enough sugars during your race as well. For me becoming comfortable running 20 mile long runs is key as well.
I train mostly aerobic only. Once I hit a plateau, I do add some intervals, such as 1 – 2 x a week, 15 – 30 minute intervals, for 3 – 4 weeks, before going back to aerobic. I like 400’s and 800’s most. Don’t go all out, try to make each interval slightly faster. 200m or 400m recovery jog in between.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the fast reply. Your informatie is very helpfull. I ran a half marathon 1.5 months ago in 1.30u with a 166 HR on a difficult course (Dom ver Dan Loop – Twents dialect), so for a 1.20u I’ve some work to do.
I ran my first long run of 16 mile last weekend, I will take your advise and go for a couple 20-22 mile runs.
I was wondering if you did any strength / core training?
For the coming weeks a will just do the aerobic trainings, I don’t think i’ve hit my plateau yet.
Thanks again en de groeten,
Is it possible to see the training plan you used for your sub 3 hr.
Would you have a4-6 month training programme for your sub 3 marathon? I have run 3:15 and I would like to go faster.
Good to hear from you! Yes, you can find almost all of my runs prior to this Sub 3 hour marathon on my Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/1329785 The marathon from this article was on October 13, 2013, so you can see my training activity from May leading up to October. I didn’t do any cross training.
I started working on an e-book that outlines all the details to run a sub-3 hour marathon, including detailed training schedules, however I haven’t been able to finish this yet with a full time job, 2 young kids and training runs / rides. I recommend building a large aerobic base, running at least 3 months all your runs at low HR using the MAF 180 formula to calculate your max aerobic function. Then after 3 months if you stop progressing during your MAF test, start implementing some speedwork 1 – 2 x a week, 15 – 30 minutes for 3 to 4 weeks before going back to all aerobic. Build up your weekly miles slowly, 10% increase max per week, every 4th week stepback week with 30-40% less miles. Depending on how much time per week you have available to train, I’d build up to at least 40 miles a week, but if you can do 50 or 60 miles, great! Get comfortable with 20 mile long weekend runs, aerobic pace is fine, incorporate at least 3 to 5 of those in your training prior to your race, that way the marathon distance doesn’t feel that long anymore. One of my favorite training runs is 15 miles aerobic, then last 5 miles at 15 seconds below marathon pace. This simulates having to push hard in a race.
Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know!
Would love it if the MAF pace would continue to get faster, but life gets in the way and high mile training weeks are not always possible, therefore MAF pace needs to be build up again after fitness has been lost.
Great job on running a 3:15 marathon already! I can understand you’re now hungry for a sub 3!! To get faster I highly recommend putting in more aerobic miles, so you train to eventually run a faster pace at same HR. This will help a lot, especially in the 2nd part of a marathon.
Finbarr asked a similar question a few weeks ago, so I’m going to copy / paste part of my response to him here.
I don’t have a 4-6 month training program ready yet. I started working on an e-book that outlines all the details to run a sub-3 hour marathon, including detailed training schedules, however I haven’t been able to finish this yet with a full time job, 2 young kids and training runs / rides. I recommend building a large aerobic base, running at least 3 months all your runs at low HR using the MAF 180 formula to calculate your max aerobic function. Then after 3 months if you stop progressing during your MAF test, start implementing some speedwork 1 – 2 x a week, 15 – 30 minutes for 3 to 4 weeks before going back to all aerobic. Build up your weekly miles slowly, 10% increase max per week, every 4th week stepback week with 30-40% less miles. Depending on how much time per week you have available to train, I’d build up to at least 40 miles a week, but if you can do 50 or 60 miles, great! Get comfortable with 20 mile long weekend runs, aerobic pace is fine, incorporate at least 3 to 5 of those in your training prior to your race, that way the marathon distance doesn’t feel that long anymore. One of my favorite training runs is 15 miles aerobic, then last 5 miles at 15 seconds below marathon pace. This simulates having to push hard in a race.
If you have any other questions, just let me know, I’m here to help!
I’m a busy mom of four who is recovering from an illness. I’ve recently returned to running while trying to improve my strength. It’s been slow to say the least however my desire to run a sub 3 remains the same as when I started running about 5 years ago. Reading your story has greatly inspired me. My best marathon time is 3:56. I’m going to implement your plan as much as I can starting right now. I’m also going to sign up for a spring 2017 marathon. I’m a pretty determined person, now I just have to prove it to myself.Thank you for sharing your wonderful journey and continued success and happiness.☺
Just wanted to let you know that I ran my first marathon (Portland, OR) this past weekend in 3:01:52 – your post was a big inspiration and I used a lot of the MAF method in my training. I knew I had a chance to go sub-3, but would’ve probably needed close to a perfect day (the race was ran in quite a bit of rain and wind) – or a faster course :). I’m definitely going to sign up for a spring marathon and go sub-3! I’ll also be running Boston in 2018 (BQ was my main goal when I signed up) – hope to see you there!
Hi Lizelle, great to hear from you! Your best marathon time was faster than mine when I got into running. It’s nice that you have several months ahead to get ready for your Spring marathon. A majority of your miles at MAF pace should help you get in great shape, while reducing your risk for injuries. Wishing you all the best to get ready for your race! If any questions come up, just let me know, I’m here to help. Cheers, Flo
Great post Simon, lot of good MAF info. Only thing I’d warn about is adding 4 – 10 strides of 100 meter twice a week. This could already increase chances of injury. I do like the occasional short downhill sprints you described! Keep up your journey towards a marathon on all 7 continents! Cheers
Hi Blair, congrats on qualifying for Boston, that’s amazing man! You’re going to have such a blast there and I know you’re capable of sub 3. Keep in mind that at Boston there are a lot of fast runners, this also helps you being able to find a fast group of other runners to run with. Have fun with your runs these coming months getting ready for a spring marathon! Cheers, Flo
Thanks for sharing. Inspired by your post, I have started to use the MAF method. Have you ever thought about creating a Strava group so all runners who are training with MAF could share their training data through the group. Then we probably can do some data mining work to examine the effectiveness. Just my two cents.
Great blog, it’s very motivational. I feel that I can also achieve Boston qualification (3:15).
I also started the MAF training and noticed that it’s indeed hard to run slow, but I’m seeing progress which is a good sign!
My challenge is changing my diet, since my wife is telling that I will look like these skinny elite runners and she’s afraid that I may get an eating disorder.
I have 3 questions for you:
1. In your opinion, what would be the impact of your running performance if you didn’t change your diet?
2. why are you still using GU gels, since you are running in your aerobic zone and should be burning fat as fuel?
3. I also noticed that you are biking now. Are you seeing added benefit on your running performance by adding these sessions to your training?
If you are by any chance in Aruba, drop me a line, so we can meet and have a run (or rum) 🙂
Thank you for a fantastic post and also the huge amount of wisdom in the comments section.
I would like to echo Jose’s question and add another if you don’t mind:
1) Re gels or other ‘in-running’ fuels (Sports Beans are a palatable alternative): If we trying to avoid peaks and troughs in our energy levels when we are not running (by eliminating sugars), why do we reintroduce them while running?
2) I have now being following your diet for a few weeks and I can definitely sense more stability in my energy levels. That being said, it was brilliant to learn that the ‘cheat day’ is actually beneficial. Intuitively it sounds like, to reset your metabolism to an artificially high rate every week, you should just introduce refined carbs – and not sugars. Does this sound sensible to you?
That’s exciting you’re going for BQ 3:15! Valid questions, to answer them:
1. my previous food intake was a lot of carbs and processed food. I could have still improved my running significantly, however my MAF pace / aerobic base would not have improved as fast, because my fat burning capabilities would have been held back.
2. when I run a race I’m not running in my aerobic zone, but about 10 – 15 beats above this. Also, even if you run aerobic only, you do still deplete some sugars so if you go on a run of 2 or 3 hours, taking an energy gel will help give you additional energy.
3. I just started bike commuting to work sometimes, it takes me about 30 – 40 minutes to drive and only 55 minutes to bike. With 2 young kids at home, this is a great way to get some more aerobic time in. I’ve been running so little, that it’s hard to tell the added benefit. I do know my MAF pace is much slower than prior, that’s purely from not running enough. Once work mellows out a bit and the baby sleeps a bit longer, more runs / rides coming.
Haha, would love to take you up on a rum run in Aruba one day!
Hi Tadhg, glad you enjoyed this post. I just realized this article has 157 comments by now, lot of good questions here answered! We reintroduce sugars during races because you’ll run at an anaerobic HR. If you race a marathon at your full potential, you’ll most probably run it at a HR that’s above your MAF HR the entire time. If you don’t take any sugars, chances of hitting the wall increase significantly.
During aerobic training runs under 2 hours, I don’t take any gels. You should be able to train your body to run for several hours aerobic without any need for sugars. After 2 1/2 hours I usually take a gel, because you do deplete some sugars, even when you run aerobic. And even if you run aerobic and you take gels, you can still run out of sugar, see this example after running 61 miles / 98k, see 3 minutes into this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CAxzM2mkrc
That’s good you’re noticing more stable energy levels! The thought process about the cheat day is that everything can be consumed, however to be honest I haven’t been doing the Cheat Day approach for a while now. I simply don’t run enough and feel I’ll gain unnecessary weight by going bonkers 1 day a week. Also, I’ve been experimenting with Ketosis off and on, and a cheat day would set back a Ketosis state 2 – 3 days every time. ** currently not doing Ketosis anymore either, I was just curious how it would effect energy levels. Like you said, cutting out the sugars or significantly limiting it, sounds good to me.
Have fun with your runs!
Thanks for all the info Flo. Will put it to use as I train for Paris.
Your blog has been invaluable in my current iteration of training, so thanks a bunch!
Do you mind recommending a brand of salt/electrolyte pills/tables? Since I plan on taking them on my next marathon, I’d like to introduce them into my training routine. Also, scanning other posts, it looks like you take a tablet every 30 minutes?
I have been sidelined for about 3 months (injured 3 weeks before the Berlin Marathon – calf muscle strained). Thank you so much for this post. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it since then (incl. invaluable your comments to the quest above). It has been a great motivation for me to remain patient and look forward to getting back to training. I am still not 100% recovered, but I would like to have a plan already. I would appreciate any of your advice or suggestions to start HRM training for my case. How many times/ how far should I run per week? Also, I have no running experience with using a HRM.
I’ve been keeping this blog booked mark as inspiration! I look back at it every now and then throughout the months and it seem like the blog just keeps getting more and more insightful each and every time!
It seems like your body went into ketosis after eliminating all refined carbs.
A quick question 🙂
Did you have any carbs (i.e 2/3 cup granola ~200 cal starch) to replenish glycogen storages during your base training runs? Or did you completely abstain from carbs except during anaerobic training and tapering?
Sending you the best wishes on your current endeavours both in running and in life.
Hi, iI just learned about the Maffetone training method and still researching on how to get started. Still looking for an online marathon running plan but to no avail.
Do i just start running at my maffetone max heart rate for 40 minutes? Keep track of the workouts?
Great and inspiring blog post. Your link to the podcast is broken, due to a missing slash – here is the one that works in my browser: http://trailrunnernation.com/2013/05/dr-phil-maffetone/
Also, I really liked to read the following post and lessons learned – thanks for sharing!
What is the make and model of the water bottle you used when you first went sub-3 in the marathon and if you refilled it during the race, how?
Thank you so much for the motivation. Newbie to MAF method.
I understand the MAF monthly test, short intervals (800…) and base training and I know you did Boston about 10-15 bpm higher than you MAF aerobic threshold. However, I am confused when you are running negative splits on your long runs (“running a long run, first 75% at 1 minute slower than marathon pace, so 8:00 / mile, the last 25% at 15 seconds faster than marathon pace, so 6:48 / mile”), do you watch your HR or just pay attention to your pace?
Marathon PR 3:32
Goal: 3:15 in 1 year.
Thank you so much for this article. I ran my second Boston Qualifier in Hyannis, Massachusetts three days ago and managed to qualify following your advice here! I have been a relatively faster runner of shorter distances such as the 5k running times in the 17 minute range so I focused on steady mileage for the 8 weeks leading up to the Hyannis Marathon, averaging 43 miles per week plus 25 miles of cycling per week. The race went a whole lot better than my first two years ago.
Just curious, what was your average mileage per week when you trained for this race?
I am going for a sub3 at New York later in the year – I followed your advice to a sub3 at London but I hear that New York is much tougher so really wanted to know what you think? Any recommended training specifically for New York? Any advice appreciated!
Hi Flo, I wanted to thank you for the inspiration as well as the detailed and easy-to-follow information on your blog! After digesting your posts about your running successes and the information on Maffetone’s diet, I embraced the method wholeheartedly in my own training in July 2016 as I began to prepare for the NYC marathon (my first), starting with the Maffetone two-week test. The first several weeks were the hardest part. I had to slow down to 9 to 10 minute miles to keep my HR <= 136 for age 44 in the summer heat. But, progress came quickly soon thereafter. By the end of summer I could stay aerobic at 8:20 min/mile pace, and by race day in November around 8:00. I finished the marathon just a hair under 3:25. I was targeting a 3:20 to ensure a BQ for 2018 (3:25 is the cut off but have read that to actually get a spot in the race you have to be a few minutes under that), but was still really thrilled given there was a 10 mph headwind for most of it, and my HR watch went haywire after I got into Brooklyn and was no help in regulating my effort over the bridges. I also developed really intense quad cramps on the 5th avenue hill at mile 24 which cost me time down the stretch. After a two week break, I resumed training, increasing my mileage (peaking at 60 miles per week including one 32-mile run), but continuing to keep almost all of my miles aerobic. Just ran the Phoenix marathon in Feb ’17 (a much easier course than NYC on a day with a slight tailwind and perfect mid to high 40’s temperatures) and was shocked to come in at 3:08 and change with none of the cramping that plagued me at the end of New York. I attribute that to both the increased mileage, as well as taking more Gu gels and salt pills than I did at NYC. At my current age, that time will definitely get me into Boston in 2018! So excited, and am quite certain I never would have been able to do it had I not come across your training and dietary methods. Thanks again for all the information you’ve laid out! Also, for anyone else considering Maffetone/HR training, I strongly encourage trying it. Takes some getting used to if you have a “no-pain no-gain” mentality, but the results make it worth it. In my case I have continued making progress doing virtually only aerobic HR miles with the exception of a handful of 5 and 10K’s I’ve run in, and I still seem to be lowering the pace I can maintain while keeping the workouts aerobic.
Thanksamundo for the post.Really thank you! Awesome. eddadbggdgbfggee
Great call Yan, we’ve recently created a Strava Group for Extramilest at https://www.strava.com/clubs/extramilest Hope you’ll join us there! Cheers
I echo what you have said. Train your body to burn fat, eat smart, sleep well and run slow.
I have just knocked out a 2:59 marathon, having started running 4 years ago. Up until age 38 I hadn’t really done any exercise. But now, I’m careful with how I live. The only thing in your plan I don’t do are the ice baths and electrolytes.
Well done on finding what worked for you through a good coach.
Wonderful post! We are linking to this great post on our website.
Keep up the good writing.
Glad you enjoyed it!
On march 3 I ran my first ever marathon at 3:54 and it was quite hard for me. Now a month later, healthy and watching the boston marathon, I’m inspired to run a sub three and try and qualify for the boston marathon. Your plan seems really good and I’m gonna try running it as soon as my school track season ends.
My questions are: In the first three months of running how many miles a day did you do? Do you recommend a water bottle or pouch running accessory to bring water and/or gels on longer runs? The article “Want speed slow down” says you should complete a MAF test every month and I was wondering if you considered those speed workouts and whether or not I should do them in my first 3 months of aerobic training.
Thank you for the training plan! Hopefully it works!!
I just wanted to add one last question: If i do your plan can I still do bike rides on sundays or will that interfere with running progress?
I just wanted to add one last question: If i do your plan can I still do bike rides on sundays or will that interfere with running progress?