Is Sub-3hours realistic?

I've been lucky in the VLM ballot and I have read numerous threads where people are asking if they can run sub-3 on their first marathon. Equally I read with great amusement the sarcastic responses made by experienced runners that were 'tickled' by a newbies naivety at what it takes to accomplish such a feat. However, I'm not sure if I am just as naive or whether I have a fighting chance as I wouldn't consider myself a begginer and conversely I'm certainly not close to being elite.

I'm male aged 26, ran for a running club in my youth from 14 until about 16 including representing my district at cross-country. After rediscovering the sport after a ten year absence I've now been running for about 5months and I have a 5k PB of 19:10, 10k PB of 39:47 from running two or three times a week. I plan to shift most of my training focus now onto aerobic slower running although if possible I enjoy Tuesday track sessions at my local club and would like to keep that in my schedule. I'm hoping to gradually build my weekly mileage up to 40 in the twelve weeks between now and christmas. Between christmas and the race I'll have a decent mileage under my belt to start a marathon training plan.

So taking this life story (sorry) into account, do I have a decent shot at running a marathon in under 3hours in late April next year or shall I hide under a rock while people much quicker than I point and laugh at me for even suggesting it? All opinions and relevant anecdotes are appreciated. image


  • i'm not an expewrt in the fast running................but if you don't get it next year I believe you have the por#tential to get there........some of it will depend on how good your body is for running as to how many injuries you pick up and how sensible you are.......

    A year isn't long to get up to the distances needed.......but if you are sensible then you will get a good time and learna lot for the next attempt

     good luck

  • Given your basic speed, i think it will come down to the training you do - I only ran 3:16 for my first but then broke 3 easily on the second less than 8 months later - you belong to a club already train with other guys running the marathon, build up stamina but certainly keep the faster paced runs and speed work because if you think about it 2:56 is only 6:45 miling which should, with careful training be well within your capability -

  • If you believe running calculators (which are normally based on experienced runners so dont equate totally to first timers) then a 39:47 with right training would equate to a 3:06/07 marathon time. So in theory as that was based on only 5 months training.....(BTW its around 38 minutes dead for a 3 hour equivalent run - but I know lots of 38 minute 10km runners who havent run a 3 h marathon)

    But there is a world of difference between 10km and marathons - some can translate speed effectively as they race longer - others just can't. theres often no rhyme or reason. Get a decent program and  start putting the sessions in and you will have a better idea by say Christmas if its a goal worth aiming for this year.

    Your biggest obstacle will probably be injury from doing too much too soon.

  • I think you have a chance of it.

    It all depends on your training.

    If you train as you have so far then no you won't.

    If you can up the training as you plan to and stay uninjured then yes you can go sub 3.
  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭

    Possibly, but don't set your heart on it!  I managed to convert a 10k debut of 40:15 off ~25mpw as a relative newbie to a 3:04 marathon 9 months later.  (Then went significantly faster the following year.)

    As stated above, do the right training, avoid injury and see where it takes you.  Re-assess things around mid-March next year, hopefully after having run 1:23 or quicker in a half marathon and with a few 20 mile long runs inside your legs!

  • I ran sub 3hr on my first attempt (and as a smoker) so it is possible.

    Still to this date my 10k PB is still 39 mins but to be fair, it is a couple of years since Ive ran one.

    It all comes down to training. If you're happy making sacrifices, training smart and putting in the effort, anything is possible. Keep the speedwork and get a good base mileage in place for when you start your plan.

  • As Phil says dont put too much thought into whether your first time out will be sub 3 or not, it simply isnt that important. The time of your first effort at 5K/10K/10 Miles isnt important so why would a marathon be any different?

    Do the right kind of training and see what that brings and then you have some sensible data to work from for your next efforts.

    Unlike the shorter distances your performance over a marathon is influenced as much by the accumulated mileage in your legs as it is by shorter distance race times.

    Trying to predict a 10K time from a recent 5K time using a running calculator is going to be pretty accurate and shouldnt be more than say a minute out.

    However, when it comes to predicting a marathon time from a recent HM race the calculator could easily be half an hour or more out.

    The usual result of taking predictions from a calculator as a guide for a first marathon is that the initial pace will be too quick resulting in a less than pleasant experience a couple of hours later.

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