Create Your Training Schedules for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon, Boston Qualifier or Marathon PR. We’re diving into the specifics like mileage build up per week, training volume, number of training days per week, rest days and much more.
I have received quite a few questions about training schedules, in particular for the sub 3 hour marathon. Many of the fundamentals for Sub 3 Hour Marathon training also apply to other distances, like Ultra Running, such as 50k, 50 mile, 100 mile, etc., so lets dive right in.
As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of Heart Rate Monitor training and I really align in the way of thinking of Dr. Phil Maffetone. When you analyze athletes, a lot of them are built completely different and everyone has different schedules of their personal, work and family life. So there is no ‘one size fit all’ when it comes to training schedules. This is something to keep in mind.
That being said, there are several fundamentals that I use to maximize my work life training schedule and limit my risk of injuries and overtraining. The first focus is the building stage of your weekly mileage and volume. I do 3 weeks of building with a maximum increase of 10% a week in training volume, then I have 1 step back week of about 30% less training volume.
So if we look at an example, we start of with 20 miles (32km) a week. The first week this will increase with 10%, so 22 miles (35.4km), that bumps up the following week to 24.5 miles (39.4km) and after that we’d be at 27 miles (43.5km). Then we have 1 step-back week with 30% less volume, which takes it back to 19 miles (30.6km)
After your step-back week of 19 miles, you’ll pick it up again from the 27 miles per week and increase 10% a week again, 27 will become 30, then 33 and so on.
Your training volume really depends on how much your body is able to handle and how much available time you have to train. Strava came out with an interesting report where they looked at many Sub 3 Hour marathon finishers and on average, they ran 55 miles (88km) per week in their peak weeks to train.
For a Sub 3 hour marathon I think you should train at least 4 times a week. Some people train 5 or 6 days a week, or even 7. I prefer to have every Monday a rest day. My training volume on the weekends is typically higher, so on Saturday and Sunday I’ll be running higher miles and on Monday I take off, so I can give my body a recover and give my body a full break.
- If I train 4 days a week, I try to space it out and run Tuesday, Thursday and longer on the weekends on Saturday and Sunday.
- If I train 5 days a week, I add a Wednesday to this.
- If I train 6 days a week, I’ll add Friday to the mix as well.
I think you have to experiment to see what works best for you. For me training volume wise, I’ve tried it all. From 40 miles (64km) a week to get ready for a race, all the way up to 80 miles (129km) or 90 miles (145km) to get ready for a race.
At one point I notice that the training increase is not doing much to my body and I just start feeling very fatigue and tired. If I’m in top shape, I’m peaking at about 70 to 75 miles (113 to 121 km) per week. Also because I have a full time job, I have 2 kids and that all requires a lot of energy as well. See what works best for you, but slowly work into it, don’t go bunkers and crazy. Stick to the 10% increase a week.
Sometimes during my training weeks when I feel fatigue and I have a long run planned for the day I break it up in 2 smaller runs. I’d do a 5 mile run (8km) in the morning, followed by a 10 mile (16km) run at night, instead of doing a 15 mile (24km) run at once. This definitely helps keep the energy levels high.
I can not stress enough the importance of aerobic training / low heart rate training. Too many people out there think that in order to become a faster runner, they need to run a lot of fast miles. They think either once, twice or more times a week, they need to hammer out fast miles. This is absolutely not true. You can really become a much faster runner by putting in a lot of aerobic miles. Then once the time is right, you start adding some interval training and some speed-work. Slowing down is for a lot of people the key to success. A lot of runners fail to run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon, because they get injured in their training cycle from over training or from putting in too much speed-work. Be very aware of this!
Another very important component of training is sleep, especially uninterrupted sleep to properly recover. An average person should sleep 7 or 8 hours uninterrupted a day, however athletes who are actively training, sometimes will need 9 hours or more to fully recover their bodies.
Rest and recovery is absolutely key to train and get your body in the best possible shape. Sometimes you feel very tired and fatigue. If that’s the case, it is ok to sometimes skip a training day. You might do more damage by going out on a fatigue run instead of taking a rest day. You have to listen to your body, that’s more important than sticking to a training schedule.
I really don’t believe in the mentality of No Pain No Gain, hammering out a lot of fast miles. However, I don’t want you to be soft either. If you want to run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon, you have to put in the time and effort to train. Too many people say they want to run a Sub 3 Marathon, however they don’t want to really put in the time and effort, and give up things in their life in order and put in the work. Winners win because they show up and put in dedicated time for what is needed to train. Whether its raining, sunshine or snowing, they go for it.
Whenever you have any doubt, or you don’t really want to go out running. Really think about your goal and why you want to accomplish it. Visualize it and it becomes much easier to get out of the door when you need that extra kick under your butt.
These are some of the training fundamentals that have worked very well for me. I’m curious to hear, what are some of the fundamentals in training that have worked well for you? Please let me know in the comments below. I’m going to be back with another video again next week, so check out more on my website and Youtube channel.
Happy Father’s Day to all the rad dads out there!! See you next week again!
Hey love the post! When you say lower heart rate for aerobic miles, what’s generally your range? I consistently am able to stay at the 155 range but can spike up to 175 at times!
Hi Nathan, good to hear from you. I use Maffetone’s 180 formula to calculate my MAF HR. For me that’s 134 to 144. Depending on your age and other health factors, 155 to 175 is pretty high. Worth for you to check out the formula and logic behind it. Cheers, Flo
Hi Flo, after you establish a relatively strong base or good fat burning capabilities , do you still take gels in an actual marathon ? Will it impair performance ?