Disclaimer: I'm not fast, but I'm hoping some of the fast women that frequent this board will share. I'm looking for advice specifically from gals who perhaps picked up running later in life or were not expertly trained earlier on, but were able to train down to sub-3 hour marathon with time and work.
I'm female 29 yo (30 in three weeks), a rower in college, a hobby jogger now I guess, but I love running (or jogging, as it were). I've trained hard and mostly solo this winter (no coach, no training partners). I've only done two marathons, both in the past 5 years, the last one being Boston 4 years ago in 3:15, and have not yet felt like I have really RACED a marathon. I want to see what I can do in 5 weeks.
My questions are: what were the key workouts leading up to your race that were the barometers that gave you the confidence that sub-3 was reasonable/possible? How did you approach the race to make it happen (pacing, etc)? If you tried and failed, was it because of mistakes on race day or in the weeks leading up to the race that were the culprit, and how would you approach things differently?
I'm a dude, so skip now if that doesn't help (I could have pretended to be a woman and I think the advice is good, but YMMV):
I think the biggest component of the answer to your question is gender-neutral: what have you done for me, lately? That is, how have your workouts and shorter races been going? Can you run 13-15 miles at pace during a workout week? Can you race a 1:25 half? Check out the various calculators online for training paces and race equivalencies, to see how you stack up.
The biggest mistakes are mostly gender-neutral as well: proper taper after proper training, and proper pacing (a tight split, unless the course or conditions are very unusual).
Otherwise, I've trained with a few women that had similar goals, because depending on where you live (as you know), it's easier to find guys to run with at more aggressive paces (<3 can win a decent number of marathons for ladies), and I'm not that fast, either. If possible, running with training partners would be helpful for confidence, because you're going to be in a small pack of dudes (and maybe a fast few ladies), and it's nice to practice a race dynamic: how to run together smoothly in a group, how some runners might run faster up or down hill and how to know if you should keep pace with them or stick to your own pace without feeling discouraged, etc.
The main unique differences I can think would be the occasionally over-competitive dude -- that usually only manifests itself in the final finishing kick or maybe the half split, but if they try to race you faster than your planned pace early, let 'em go -- and then the possibility of an obvious, slightly faster woman, whom I only imagine would stick out in a competitive runner's mind among a sea of guys. You'll have an interesting dual-challenge of a fast time and a decent placing, but if she's more than a few seconds past your planned pace, early, don't do anything foolish to jeopardize your own race.
It's a good point. The question shouldn't be exclusionary, though it obviously was written that way, so I'll amend all parts of the post that were directed only at women. I figured a dude trying to do this might have different advantages - physiology, body composition - that would make the endeavor easier, but maybe not, depending on age, body type, etc. I know there are some fantastic women who occasionally post but stay hidden a lot b/c they're often flamed. I was hoping to draw some out.
I haven't run any recent races, and have never raced anything shorter than a half marathon, so I have been using the equivalent race calculators to target paces for workouts as opposed to my own racing history. I'm following Pfitzinger's 24 week, less than 55 mi/wk training plan, so low mileage is one of my limits for now. Before Boston my max was 45 mi/wk, I'm up to 55 - 60 now after being less than 25 mi/wk this past fall. I can run the 5k pace workouts at 545 - 555 pace, for example, and I can run the lactate threshold workouts (which I calculated should be around 6:20 - 6:30) at low 6:30s. A talented female masters runner I spoke to recommended that for my mileage and experience, a 12-14 miler at MP might be too extreme and hard to recover from this round of training but I have been trying to run goal pace workouts, e.g. I ran 2 x 6 mi yesterday (it was supposed to be at pace, it ended up at 6:43 and 6:44 avgs, respectively.)
thanks Lloyd - great advice, especially about race day strategy and potential pitfalls.
I ran a few marathons in the 3:05-3:10 range before breaking 3 hours. I really didn't run any workouts, I ran a few road races and trained through a half marathon. What I think really helped was getting a garmin watch, I realized I was running slower than I thought, so before my garmin my long runs weren't really as long as I thought they were. For me, doing lots of long runs helped me prepare. Also, fueling better during the marathon helped a lot. The first time I broke 3 hrs I consumed a powerbar gel approx. every 30 minutes during the marathon. I think this helped tremendously, because since I started fueling properly I've never hit the wall at the end, ever. And I went from 3:05 to 2:55 the first time I broke 3 hours.
Like the previous poster, I ran several marathons around 3:10 on between 30-45 miles per week, so the first thing I did was up my mileage pretty significantly. Before my first sub-3, I think I had about 3 months averaging 80 miles a week and a solid 6 months of 75 miles a week.
As for workouts, I knew from previous marathons that my tempo pace was about :20/mile faster than my marathon pace, so I felt pretty darn happy when I ran a 6 mile tempo at 6:26 pace. Most of those tempos were about 6:30s, though.
This doesn't help you, though, since you are already doing these workouts! Your 2 x 6 miles is very fast. You are doing your 3 mile tempos at 5:45 pace!!! If that is really the case that, you are going sub-18 in a 5k tempo in training, there is something wrong if you can't go outside and run a sub-3 right now. Think about it - that's 65 seconds faster/mile than sub-3 pace. I would guess your 5k time to be about 17:30, which would indicate a sub-2:50 marathon.
Again, it seems that you are ready now. Good luck!
Thanks so much for the response and encouragement JindoSmile, but either I wasn't clear or you misread.
I don't do a 3 mile tempo at 5:45 pace, I'm doing short 5k pace repeats at the track (in Pfitzinger so far they have been 600, 800, and 1000 repeats with 90 seconds to 2 min rest.)
I know I'm supposed to be running them at my 5k pace in theory, so I've probably been going faster than would be recommended (in part b/c I know my speed is lacking, and one has to practice maintaining turnover on tired legs). I've only ever been a slowtwitch hobby jogger with VERY limited speedwork, and I think my fitness over a marathon might be greater than 5k time and pace suggest.
Having said that, a good masters runner friend of mine has talked me into trying a 5k 3 weeks out just to see where I'm at. A 3 hour marathon predicts a 18:24 5k, but I'll be happy to break 19.
I've also been able to bring my tempo pace slowly down over the last 5 months from 6:40s to 6:30s, so it sounds like you were exactly the type of person I was hoping would respond (aside from mileage - yours is much higher).
Can you share how you approached pacing on race day?
OOps, sorry I misread! You seem to be on your way with the workouts, anyway. You should be in the neighborhood of a sub-19 5k, which puts you in the 3-hour marathon neighborhood if you have endurance.
I probably go out too fast, about 6:40 pace and then fight the 7:00 miles at the end. It's much better to run as evenly as possible. I think that Pfitzenger book says a slight positive split is probably best. Do not get too excited in the beginning! Jack Daniels says many races are wrecked in the first 200 meters. It doesn't always matter if you slow right down after that. It's better and easier on your body to just start at the right pace. (Easier said than done!)
Good luck with the 5K!
Don't mean to burst your bubble but if you can't break 19:00, there's very little chance you'll break 3 hours. Chances are you will go out too fast relative to your fitness and crash and burn. You should triangulate your marathon pace based on race times (longer races the better) and marathon specific workouts. Can you do a 20 miler and finish the last 10 at 6:53 pace? Can you do an 8-10 mile tempo at 7:00 to 7:05 and have it feel comfortable. Without redlining it? Hoping and guessing your marathon pace based on an arbitrary target of 3 hours is just that. Hoping and guessing.
Oh, and bag those short track repeats and use your quality day to run marathon specific workouts. I don't get all these hobby jogger programs that call for these short repeats. Us mere mortals have 1 maybe 2 days a week we can run a quality workout and put in the necessary miles to run a marathon. Why waste that one quality day on running 3 miles of short repeats? Use it to run as much as you can at MP, slightly faster and slightly slower. The more volume you put it at those paces the better. If you build up correctly, instead of running 3 miles at 5k pace you'll run 9 miles at MP and slightly faster.
|throws like a girl|
planning and preparation
and a whole lot of shorter test races months in advance of your goal marathon, oh...and up your training mileage!
Sub six minute miles in a 5km
Sub 6:13 minute miles in a 10km
Sub 60 in a 15km
6:25 per mile pace for ten miles
Two to three 85 minute half marathons
in the year to 18 months before your goal marathon
and do Yasso 800's,
then you will know you are ready to run 6:51 per mile pace
for a full marathon.
Thanks for the two reality checks. seriously. I had a feeling I was still a ways off, and should be thinking in terms of years of training, and not months, but hey, I'd rather ask the question. And go into the race with a positive and realistic mentality.