The Sub 3:30 Marathon Experiment

November 2020 Update:

Well, with Brighton Marathon moving to 2021 I thought the wait for the sub 3:30 marathon would wait until April next year. Then, Brighton move the event to September. No problem! Sadly yes. I have my sights set on a 100mile event next September which now clashes. I could move the the 100 miler – Hmm. Well the hard decision had to be taken. So 2021 doesn’t look like a marathon year for me. Lots of Ultra’s and the Holy Grail of a 100miler in September, but the marathon distance looks like it might have to wait until 2022. Im signed up to Brighton already. If it happens I will be there and I will get that 3:30 marathon time – its a deal!

For now, im focussing on the 100 Miler in 2021. Follow my blog for my progress – Oh and wish me luck!!

September 2020 Update:

Well the inevitable means Brighton is off this year and the 3:30 Marathon won’t be happening this year. Bummer but that’s life and no surprise.

So what now? A lot of training all to waste?

Well not really, I have signed up to the Race to the Sea 50Km event on 10th October, run by UltraViolet events.

It’s not a marathon and its not the same sort of race, but it at least keeps my training as valuable time spent.

The other news is that next year I aim to hit a bigger milestone of 100miles. This means a longer formal training program and incorporating Brighton 2021 into the training plan. I still believe I can get my 3:30 target even if the marathon becomes part of the training program and not my A race.

Lets see how that goes!

July 2020 Update:

Things seem so unsettled still around whether my target race will go ahead. At the moment I assume its game one and training is on. But it seems so unlikely a mass event of such size could go ahead. in the current climate. I guess we wait and see. For now, the sub 3:30 goal is still on for 2020!

Since Junes update I finished the month with 300+ miles of training and completed the #GVRAT1000Km virtual event. Massive mileage for me (635 in 2 months) and probably not the best training miles for a marathon but I certainly feel I’ve built some good endurance in the legs.

I also did the Quarantine Backyard Ultra earlier this month. loops of 4.17miles every hour, on the hour. A really different type of event, and one that made me feel I had to behave like a real endurance runner. Planning, nutrition, pacing lots of things I don’t really do well (ha ha). But I thought why not. I covered over 107Km (Report link). I learnt a huge lesson on preparation that will stick with me for a long time. I hope to do the next event, but it will all come down to timing.

For now I’ve reverted back to marathon training. Lower weekday mileage and long weekend runs. Pace sessions using temp/threshold structure as well as typical short intervals. Mixing this with easy miles too, including having my 6 year old pace me on a scooter (lol!).

So July continues and I expect more certainty will come next month.

Bournemouth half was cancelled and so after Brighton im looking at the Great South Run, then Reading Half. What will be will be and we will have to realise that COVID-19 has made the world a very different place. At least for a while longer that is!

‘If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up

Dean Karnazes

June 2020 Update:

Well what happened there then!

I think we all know the answer to that. With the onset of March’s Coronavirus lockdown and global events being cancelled and postponed, my sub 3:30 plans were left in a few tatters. Brighton Marathon was postponed from April to September. Training was ultimately put on hold and a little bit of my enthusiasm and excitement for reaching that goal went south!

That said it wasn’t like the world had ended. I usually have an optimistic outlook, at least externally, and was just thinking ‘well OK, it’ll be September, maybe the rest of my events will go ahead’… Obviously now I know that was beyond optimism. As march moved to April I had to seek a new option, a new goal. Enter the world of Zwift.

I’ve had a treadmill for a bout 18 months and have only ever used it when weather is awful, or I wanted to run but had to also look after the youngsters. But treadmill running in my garage is tedious and it’s so much harder for that fact alone. Zwift however gave me a competitive edge to the running, something to watch and a little bit of a feeling that I actually was running with others.

That led me to join a Marathon event , on the treadmill at 8am on the 26th April – London Marathon day!

not to be underestimated how challenging that can be.

Anyway with a bit of focus I managed to get that done in under 3:15. Now whilst I was chuffed I also realise that its a bit different running on a treadmill.

For now the true sub 3:30 dream is on ice until September. And realistically until April 2021 if I’m being really honest with myself.

But we keep running and there will be a chance to go for my goal in the not too distant future.

Feb 2020 Update:

February saw the training continue but has been a tricky month. The weather was hard to fight against with long runs lost to the elements. The temperature has been up and down and it’s been harder to get out first thing in the morning to keep churning out the miles. But I plodded on with my marathon training plan with the Ultra twist.

I managed to put in a few couple of 20 miler runs. One on road and one trails around Wendover Woods – a real highlight in the month for me. I tried to push one of them to my marathon pace. I aim to hit 8 minute miles to get around Brighton Marathon in 3:30. On the 2nd Feb I put in just over 18 miles at an average pace of 7:31 per mile. comfortably within marathon pace. this was on roads so close as I can to race day. I also employed the relatively new Levitate 2 in orange. So that was fabulous, that has given me renewed confidence of achieving the task in hand.

The highlight around Wendover woods has been something I have been thinking of and planning for a while. It has appeared on many searches, Facebook posts and there are a lot of events. Being a trail fan I got the feeling I needed to try it out. So on 20 Feb I packed up the car early and rolled up to Wendover woods, arriving in a rain shower and to be only the second car in the car park.

I packed a drink some snacks and took on the 10 mile circuit from Centurion Running. Well as best I could. the route includes some of path routes which were not always easy to find, let alone follow. I did two loops, pausing in the car park for a snack renewal half way. I pulled in just under 20 miles and achieved over 4000 feet of gain. It was a real challenge with some serious poor weather making it incredibly wet, slippery and windy. But I loved every step and every second of it. A trail runners dream I would say.

Theres only a smidge left of February, and I plan to put a small pre-race warmup 5K in for that on the 29th. I’m in the Big Half on the 1st March, to take on my first race of the year. I’ve taken part in the first two years of the big half and at the moment I intend to they and take part each year, until I forget and book another race the same day, or they introduce a ballot for which I have zero success with so far!!

Oh and the New York Marathon ballot was drawn on the 26th. Big fat no for me, will try again and maybe next year I’m lucky.

For March in in two events (Big Half, Maverick Buckinhamshire) and I need to build my training a little towards completion. Early April starts with the Reading Half too.

my distances for the last 6 months are below, Jan was a highlight and feb a little low.

I’ve also included the last 12 months trace for VO2 max as this has shown a nice trend and I’m really pleased with how that has developed.

So the month is up and we go again. Brighton is not far away and the thought of breaking that 3:30 barrier is front of my mind when I get out running. This could be the year for making it happen, and I certainly won’t miss the target through not trying.

Jan 2020 Update:

So training has started as of 1st Jan. In order to make a 15 minute improvement in my marathon time I’ve got to make some noticeable improvements in my training. 15 minutes is a big deal, that won’t come without some effort. So I’ve started to follow the Runners World sub 3Hr 30min training plan which is 5 runs most weeks, a mix of easy effort twice a week, mid to high effort twice a week and a long run. Now to confuse the situation I am running a 106Km ultra 2 weeks after Brighton. So a marathon plan alone isn’t going to give mt the mileage I need for the ultra. So I’ve decided to modify the plan a bit. Firstly 5 runs a weeks has become 6. Long runs starting around 9 miles and working up to 20 are starting at 10/15 miles and work up to 30 miles prior to marathon day. Finally I have opted to take the short easy runs (3-5 miles) and add an extra mile on. What that has meant is that week 2 totalled 45+ miles already and im likely to hit 60+ miles training weeks before I get to Brighton.

Progress though has been encouraging. My training runs were often mixed with some real high pace (for me around 3:30 per km/5:40 min per mile but also regularly 5:30 min per km/8:51 min per mile. So far after nearly completing 3 weeks of training my tuns are averaging 7:47 min per mile which equates to 4:50 min per Km. an average that is much faster than I used to run at. And it feels OK. I’m not finding it a real struggle and I’m not finding I’m on the edge of what I can do. A good indicator of where I am now is my rent long run at the end of week 2 – 17.06miles averaging 7:57 min per mile which, in a training run, is probably one if not the fastest run over 15 miles. And I still felt strong and could have carried on. My splits were good and I wasn’t flagging at the end.

So it’s going well. Im enjoying the training and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. Building the miles further and looking to see my pace hopefully improve a bit to underpin my hope of making my goal of a sub 3:30 marathon. Fingers crossed!

Dec 2019 Update:

Brighton 2019

2019 – my first Marathon year.

Brighton – April

3 Hours 44 min 7 seconds

Write Up here

2020 – the. 3:30 marathon experiment begins!

In 2020 I aim to try an push 15 minutes off my Marathon PB and go under 3Hrs 30min. For many that’s an easy target, for more thats far too fast – we all have different targets which are all as challenging and significant on a personal level. Mine just happens to be 3:30, yours might be 2:30 or 4:30 or 5:30 – we all have our own goals to work to.

I’ve drawn uo a training program using Excel which is based on the Runners Worlds Training program for a sub 3:30 marathon. The link for that Runners World training plan online is here:

What I have done is prepare a spreadsheet with all my runs listed and then built a training program about delivering the ones I want to target for performing well at.

Currently my training program focusses on hitting Brighton Marathon on form for a sub 3:30 time. 16 weeks starting in the new year.

Over time I will build out the rest of the year too but for now, and for the purpose of this blog I am focussing on Brighton.

If you want to see the training program or wonder if my template might be useful then you can download it below.

Notes on the plan:

I have-it most sessions in as the below example:

1M/@9, 3x(0.5M/@6,200m@10),1M/@10

This translates as:

1 mile at 9min/mile followed by 3 repeats of – 0.5 miles at 6 min/mile then 200 metres at 10min/mile – cool down 1 mile at 10 min/mile

I have also included an adjacent column for the approximate total training time. For me thats also key as time is not so easy to find sometimes and knowing a good idea of the time I’m committing to a training session means I can better plan and work around training days.

I plan to put routine updates on this blog post during my training. Compare plan to actual, record general comments and how things feel. And hopefully come late April 2020 I can report on a successful marathon and breaking that 3:30 barrier.

3 thoughts on “The Sub 3:30 Marathon Experiment

      1. I’ll do a post at some point. Basically it has one quality run a week (hills, intervals, fartlek etc) and 5 easy pace runs, 2 light, 2 medium and one long.


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