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Sub 3

How to run a Sub 3 marathon with Yin Yin

By March 14, 2019 No Comments
Yin Yin running in the Tokyo Marathon in the street, on his way to his first sub 3 marathon in 2 hours 55 minutes

Yin Yin is one of our Extramilest Facebook members. Recently he posted a message in our group about running his first sub 3 marathon:

Dear all, I am 35, work under shift pattern and have a kid with my wife. Just finished my first sub 3 marathon in Tokyo and ran with most of zone 3 max HR. I have been training at mostly zone 3 HR between 145 and 160 plus some long interval one month before big race. What a big change from my last PB 3h11m to 2h55. Hope can encourage all of you to chase this dream.

– Yin Yin
Tokyo sub 3 marathon

I am always fascinated to learn more about how some athletes are able to improve their race times significantly. I mean running a 16 minute marathon PR, from 3 hours 11 minutes to 2 hours 55 minutes is no joke. Below are more details about his running background, training, racing, how he improved to run a sub 3 marathon and what advice he has for others looking to improve in their running.

Floris: Where were you born and where do you currently live? 

Yin Yin: Born and live in Hong Kong, China

Floris: You mentioned you work in shifts. What is your profession?

Yin Yin: Policeman and specialized in tactics, attached in airport security unit for 6 years

Floris: How long have you been running?

Yin Yin: started from 2006, without professional training before 2010, joined run club since 2010

Floris: What’s your age, height and weight?

I am 35 years old, 165cm tall (5′ 4”), weight 55 kg (121 lbs)

Floris: You have ran 4 marathons so far, what were the months and year you ran this in and what was the finishing time of each?

Yin Yin: 

  • 1st was Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon in January 2015 – time: 3 hours 33 minutes
  • 2nd was Taipei Standard Chartered Marathon in February 2015 – time: 3 hours 21 minutes
  • 3rd was Hong Kong Standard Chartered Marathon n January 2016 – time: 3 hours 11 minutes
  • 4th was Tokyo Marathon in March 2019 – time: 2 hours 55 minutes 
Relaxation is important, try work-life balance and don’t forget your family during the marathon preparation.
Relaxation is important, try work-life balance and don’t forget your family during the marathon preparation.

Floris: You have a 3 year old son. How has your training schedule changed now that you have a kid? When do you work out, when do you wake up and when do you go to bed?

Yin Yin: Luckily I can train during working hours some day, which can save time to take care of my kid, some training needs to do on weekends, such as long run. Some training needs to sacrifice dinner time after work.

Wake up time depends on my shift, but mostly wake up at 6-6:30am, even on off days. My son will wake me up when he is up, you should understand this 🙂 Time to bed normally after son sleeps around 10:30-11:00pm

Floris: You mentioned “I found one method to get improvements progressively without injury, which is not making yourself overtrain that will obstruct you to run tomorrow program. In other words, just run at most 90% of your maximum effort. If you feel exhausted, you need more days to recover, which is not worthy for one fast lap.“ I noticed you trained with heart rate. How did you calculate the heart rate zone to be training at? Did you follow MAF 180 formula at all or different HR approach?

Yin Yin: formula is (220-age)-RHR(54) *% + RHR. I didn’t follow MAF as found this in the solid base training, so keep on the same method on heart rate, but most training are in zone 3(65-80% max HR), I think it’s similar as MAF zone.

Floris: At most 90% of your max effort seems very intense and hard. Did you run often at that 90% of more below this? 

Yin Yin: most of the time is under 85%, only intervals would hit near 90%, only races may hit zone 5(over 173 HR)

Floris: You recently ran the Tokyo marathon and you improved from a 3 hour 11 min marathon to a 2 hour 55 minute marathon, a PR of 16 minutes! What was the biggest difference in your training and racing that you ran such a big PR?

Yin Yin: When I ran a 3 hour 11 min marathon in Hong Kong in January 2016, I aimed for a Sub 3 marathon, but wasn’t able to reach my goal. I didn’t use heart rate strap for training, I just copied some programs online. These programs included intervals , e.g. 1k x 16, 2k x 8, 3k x 5, 5k x 4, pace around 3’55 to 4’10 min per km (6:18 to 6:42 min / mile), long run from 22 to 36k pace around 4’45 – 5’30 min / km (7:38 to 8:51 min / mile), depending on how far in the training cycle I was. I didn’t run much tempo at all during this training period.

For the Tokyo Marathon I just ran in 2 hours 55 minutes, I started training in August 2018, so 7.5 months ago. I read several books about marathon training and found one method to get improvements progressively without injury. This program focuses on not overtraining. In other words, your runs should not exceed 90% of your maximum effort. If you feel exhausted, you need more days to recover, which is not worthy for one fast lap. 

This past training cycle I also started adding tempo runs and long runs with negative split. Also I build up my milage progressively. These things made a big difference. 

My monthly training volume and long runs: 

  • August mileage – 83 km (52 miles), longest run – 11 km (7 miles)
  • September mileage – 160 km (99 miles), 4 days a week – longest run – 19 km (12 miles)
  • October mileage – 334 km (208 miles), 4-5 days a week – longest run – 23 km (14 miles) 
  • November mileage – 245km (152 miles), 4-5 days a week longest run – 26km (16 miles) (sick for a week this month) 
  • December mileage – 358km (222 miles), 4-5 days a week – longest run – 30km (19 miles)
  • January – 465km (289 miles), 6 times a week – Longest run – 38km (24 miles)
  • February (taper) – 192km (119 miles) , 3-4 times a week Longest run – 40km (25 miles)

Floris: How did the Tokyo Marathon day go for you?

Yin Yin: The Tokyo marathon took place on 3 March 2019. The temperature was 5 degree Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). It was non-stop raining. I had no time to warm up and line up for 45 mins under heavy rain and freezing conditions, so it was a rough beginning. I just ran by feel for the race pace, unfortunately ran the first 5 km a bit slower pace than I initially wanted. After 5km (3 miles), I ran at steady pace 4’05 per km (6:34 min / mile) until 26km (16 miles). I took 3 gels in total, one gel at 13km (8 miles), 24km (15 miles) and 36km (22 miles).

From 26km (16 miles) onwards, I felt soreness at the back of thighs, so I had to slow down and kept pace at 4’10 to 4’15 per km (6:42 to 6:50 min / mile). It was very cold so I couldn’t focus on the race, the only way to stay focused was to think “my son is waiting for me” and “I can’t waste my whole hard training effort for this race, I can do it”. Then I kept running at 4’10 per km (6:42 min / mile) pace and took last gel at 36km (22 miles). And I did it, ran my first sub 3 marathon. Tears came out after crossing the finishing line. It’s so touching. 

The most important women of my life, my wife (left) and my mom (right), and my happy source from my son, without them, I am nothing! Treasure what you have!!!


Floris: What did you eat and drink the night before your sub 3 marathon race and on race morning?

Yin Yin: loads of sweet potatoes and carbs drink before sleep, beef rice and carbs drink 3 hours before race.

Floris: How did you limit your risk of injuries? 

Yin Yin: 

  1. ENOUGH SLEEP IS VERY IMPORTANT, try to sleep at least 8 hours, sleep more if you feel very tired
  2. take vitamins B and C to get rid of sick
  3. cold pad or ice bath on legs after hard training
  4. jogging for 20-30mins and do drills before intervals
  5. cool down jogging 2km and stretching after programs
  6. reduce volume and intensity when you feel hard on easy day 
  7. stay energized on every training(not over 90% of your maximum effort)
  8. do not overtrain 
  9. be happy at all times
  10. get massage if needed(don’t run or very easy run for under 5km if you feel soreness on the day after massage)
guy running a sub 3 marathon
Stay focus no matter how tough the race is!

Floris: Do you have any recommendations to other runners looking to improve, to become stronger, healthier, happier and faster athletes? 

Yin Yin: Don’t be shamed to slow down your training when things feel hard, listen to your body. Resting is important for the future. The best way to grow is to stay injury free.

Floris: Which other races are on your bucket list to run?

Yin Yin: I want to participate world sixth major marathons. I look forward to meeting you when running the races in the US.

Floris: Any place where Extramilest readers can find out more about you? Strava / Social media and / or a website? 

Facebook Yin Yin , Garmin connect WongCY, Instagram cy_guam1120

Floris: Any closing comments?

Yin Yin: I deeply understand it’s boring if you run alone on the same route or on tracks. Try listening to motivation songs and try to stay focused on long runs and intervals with your aim (sub 3) and think of something which can motivate you (for me, my family and the World Marathon Majors). Thank you for reading this. I hope this can help and encourage others who want to run a sub 3 marathon.

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Floris here to finish up this post. I want to congratulate Yin Yin on reaching his sub 3 marathon goal, well done man. We appreciate you sharing your experience and wish you all the best on your World Majors Marathon journey. Cheers!

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