How I Went From a 3-Hour 48-Minute Marathon to Qualifying for Boston

Each year’s training progressively made me stronger for the next year, so I could run a faster marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

I increased the duration and volume of my long runs year over year. It took me six years to build my endurance for a 21-mile-long run. It didn’t happen overnight.

If I can do it, so can you!

2015 – Marathon #1 – I had one long training run of 11 miles. I had little structure in my training. Slowly and progressively, I found myself able to cover more miles without including any intervals. 

Goal: finish @nycmarathon without stopping to walk.

2016 – Marathon #2 – I had one long training run of 14 miles. I started to introduce unstructured speed work into my training. I stayed consistent with my runs, running 4-5x/week for 6 months. 

Goal: run a faster marathon.

2017 – Marathon #4 – I had one long training run of 16 miles. I included Fartlek training and completed more runs on hilly roads. This helped me get acclimated to the @bostonmarathon course. 

Goal: run strong & injury-free.

2021 – Marathon #9 – I had three long training runs, 21 miles each. While I was injured, boxing helped me build my endurance. Strength training helped me build my broken body back up. I lifted heavy 2x/week, applying my strength training for runners’ program. I hired my coach) to help me pinpoint my blind spots. We incorporated more structure. I worked on my speed before working on my endurance, leading into the San Diego @runrocknroll Marathon.

Goal: run a sub-3-hour marathon. This race was my first sub-3 hour attempt. I missed it by 2 mins and 48 seconds. I’m grateful to have come close to such an overreaching goal. I can’t wait to shoot for the stars again while running the @chimarathonthis October!

My Marathon Journey

To cut 26 minutes off my marathon time and how you can use these principles. I ran my most recent Boston Marathon at 03:22:21. I have not been consistently capable of a time like this. I want to cover my journey to that milestone and qualify for Boston. Things I learned along the way enabled me to do what I do, and the fun doesn’t stop there.

It’s been 6+ years since I ran my first marathon at age 26 in 2015 at 03:48. In my second marathon, I ran while on a work trip at 03:35:50. My friend told me I was:50 seconds away from Boston, and I knew I had to give it my all and go for it. My third marathon was the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon that same year, and the final year I ran in my “lucky” marathon shoes. I shaved 14 minutes off of my time, qualifying for Boston and finishing in a time of 03 hours and 21 minutes with a numb right leg.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was in the medics tent, nicely informed of how my running shoes weren’t entirely up to par and how I needed to ditch the old Nike pegasus and head to the nearest running store to grab a new pair! You live, you learn! My fourth marathon was the 2017 Boston Marathon, where I ran Boston for the first time and matched my PR (almost) with a finish time of 03 hours and 22 minutes. Boy is that a tough course! I toyed around with my nutrition during this fourth marathon build-up and ran myself into an injury the following year that sidelined me from running for 1.5 years after that.

After working with DPTs and other specialists to rehab myself back to health, I made a comeback while running the 2018 TCS NYC Marathon as a coach for the first time with my athlete, Per Tetzlaff. He had a goal of running a sub-4 hour marathon, and we did it, the whole 26.2 miles!

A few marathons later, after working with a coach to help me with my training and getting more marathon training build-ups under my belt, I ran a marathon last October in 03 hours, 02 minutes, and 48 seconds. I just missed my sub-3-hour goal, which excited me to conquer what’s next! Currently, I’m training for the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in October as my A race and my next opportunity to tackle a sub-3-hour marathon.

Five Strategies To Run A Faster Marathon

  1. Include More Long Runs
  2. Build Mileage Year Over Year
  3. Stay Consistent With Your Training
  4. Keep a Varied, Structured Training Program
  5. Properly Recover & Nourish Your Body Throughout Your Training

Include More Long Runs

It took me 6+ years to work my way up to a 21-mile-long run. I started running in 2015 with loose structure, little to no speed work, with just spending more and more time on my feet week over week. I was running for stress relief. I wasn’t focusing on training for a marathon for most of that build-up. I ran around 35-40 miles weekly, with mostly Zone 1 running paces and effort. I only did one long training run of 11 miles leading into the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon. I hit a wall at mile 18 during the marathon and thought I might have to stop to crawl over the finish line. Fortunately, I had developed a solid mental strategy heading into the race and loaded up with electrolytes and water to finish the race without stopping.

I could’ve prepared a lot better, but I finished my first marathon injury-free! #win. After the 2015 TCS NYC Marathon, my next three marathons only had one long training run per week, with the longest run not exceeding 17 miles during all of those marathon build-ups. I experimented with myself, mainly because I was self-coaching myself to the finish line of each race.

I self-coached myself to the 2017 Boston Marathon with one 16-mile long training run under my belt. I finished that fourth marathon strong and injury-free.

Build Mileage Year Over Year

I gained many benefits from every build-up. I improved my body’s conditioning; I improved my essential aerobic fitness; I strengthened my tendons and ligaments; I became more resilient to pounding the pavement for longer distances year over year. I gained confidence that I could complete my next marathon every time I crossed a new 26.2 finish line, and I built my resilience and mental toughness up one marathon at a time. As a result, I was able to endure more miles while consistently following a running routine, getting time spent on my feet, and not pushing the pace on every run to allow my body to adapt to the stress of the training!

I was able to endure three 21-mile long runs with time, which was in my most recent marathon build-up. It took over six years of resilience, consistency, and one minor injury that set me back but built me back up stronger, wiser, and more eager to learn and grow.

Stay Consistent With Your Training

Good things take time. Consistency is vital in any marathon build-up. Be patient with yourself. Progressively work your way up year over year to your longest training run. Your later self will thank you for it!

Keep a Varied, Structured Training Program

Including different types of runs at different intensities will keep your training program varied and fun. You will also most likely see results instead of a plateau in your fitness. Make sure you progressively build the volume of intensity for intervals. An example is starting with 4 x 400-meter (0.25 mile) repeats for two weeks, then increasing the number of reps for this workout by 1-2 for the third week, and then reducing this number by 1-2 for a fourth week in a training block. One activity a weekend paired with conversational paced activities, injury prevention drills, dynamic exercises, and static stretches before and after your runs will help you to:

Recover quicker

Eliminate your chances of getting an injury

Improve your fitness with varied workouts working different energy systems, getting your body more fit, fast

Properly Recover & Nourish Your Body Throughout Your Training

My nutrition and hydration strategy for my last marathon build-up made my race. Even though I missed the sub-3-hour mark by 2 and 48 seconds, I came pretty close for my first attempt and got a 19-minute PR. I am sure you or someone you know can relate or share something similar! UCAN’s chocolate energy + protein powder saved me during my training. The plant-based powder helped me optimize my recovery after my long runs by effectively repairing my muscle wear and tear to keep me training injury-free throughout the marathon build-up for this race!

Training includes recovery, nutrition, and fitness. All three need to work together to make you a stronger runner to run farther and faster injury-free, especially when it comes to the marathon distance.

Takeaways

Stay consistent—consistency breeds progress.
Get more time spent on your feet. It helps you to improve your endurance without breaking your body down.
Mentally prep yourself for your longest runs by breaking every long run down. One step at a time.

If you need help or seek guidance, please reach out to me here! I’d love to learn more about how Runwithalli® Coaching can help you attain your running and fitness goals!

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