Missed 3.15 Target

My 4th London Marathon (92,93,94 & 04). Previous PB was 3.18, trained hard for 3.15. Did four 20-21 mile training runs. The 21 milers were 2.30 to 2.35 with no stops, so I was in good shape for 3.15. Had a slight muscle strain three weeks out, so hardly ran during 'taper time.'

The start was even slower than I expected (mile 1 in 9 mins in spite of being in Pen 2) and I was 2 mins behind schedule at 4 miles. Then fell into a better pace and should have been able to bang out mile after mile at 7/7.15 pace. By halfway I was just inside my target but it felt too hard. It all fell apart @ 19-21. Had to stop and got cramp - never had that before. In the end 3.35, my worst result.

So where did I go wrong and how do I improve? I'd done the training, I'd taken on liquid, I had my jelly babies etc etc.

Should I have continued 'slowly' ie outside my target time, trusting that I could then run the whole way thereby eventually acheiving 3.15? That would effectively mean running a negative split which I really don't think I could do in a Marathon. My training runs were 7/7.15 pace from start to finish. How do you train for the fact that on the day it is not like that?

Advice greatly appreciated,


  • In theory you should be doing your training runs slower than your races, not the same speed. On your training runs you should really have been able to do 7 minute miles all the way round - 3 hours...

    The taper will have really affected your performance IMHO (In my Humble opinion). You still need to run, but not much. being injured would also take it out you - your body would be rebuilding itself to get repaired.

    Other obvious questions. Did you carbo load before hand? Did you take on enough water in the race?

    In theory, the slower start should have made it easier to go faster later, but you seem to have over cooked it. Perhaps you tensed up knowing you were so far behind. Even going slightly anaerobic go tget past a few people might have also had a big effect. In theory, I would say you should have aimed for 7:24 miles to get your 2 minutes back, rather than a big 7 minute mile push.

    Alternatively you may just have had a slight infection, got cold from the rain and then the wind round docklands...

    Whatever. You should still be able to get a 3:15 or even 3:00. Next time, just don't get injured and keep the hard runs a bit closer to the day - say 2 weeks before and then ease of distance for a week, then speed for the last week. Or try a few longer runs at a slower pace - perhaps upto 24/25 miles... It probably wouldn't hurt to do a 3:15 run 5 weeks before.

    You can do it... you just need to get it better next time.. and get pen 1 as well :-)
  • I haven't any expert advice but I'd like to offer some encouragement since it sounds like you have had similar experiences to me. I have previously had a number of marathons with times of 3:16, 3:18 etc and last year ran a disappointing 3:28 (sore throat etc 2 weeks before!). However, this year it came right with an unexpected 3:04. I just put it down to the many factors being right on the day for me.

    As David says, your training performance shows that you should be able to do 3:15 if not better so don't worry. I'd generally go along with what David suggests but personally I'd go easy on the speed in the last week.

    I suspect that the combination of poor start, your minor injury, enforced premature taper and how you were feeling got the better of you this time. I'm sure if you persist you'll do it - just keep trying - good luck.

    I use the power gels (4 off) with plenty of water (I don't touch the feed station stuff). They seem to deliver the energy without the Stomach problems! I'm not sure you get much from jelly babies (unless you eat loads of them!).

    BTW which start were you on? I was on the blue in pen 3 and managed 7:44 for mile 1.

  • was in pen 2 and managed a 7.10 for the first mile which was perfect. I then went through 1/2 in 1.35, once again perfect. But I got slight cramp at 19 in right hamstring, this locked up at 21, I had to stop and then hobble for 2 miles. Ended up 3.19.

    In a training run Stamford 30k, I ran 2.10, having been out late the night before, drinking lots of booze etc. no taper.I just turned up and ran. For London I tapered, ate, drank fluids etc. Personnally I think that a normal diet is adequate for a marathon and some of the anxiety spoils your run. I'm also not sure that tapering doesn't get your body out of 'exercise' mode.

    Alternatively it might just be a case of not feeling good on the day. Some days I feel like Forrest Gump, others I feel like an old man.

  • When I said speed for the last week I meant what Chris Tate said, to ease off on the speed in the last week. Hope that clears it up...


    All the best for the next one...
  • Last year I struggled to get round in 3:29, after doing all the appropriate training & said never again !

    However,gaining an entry through my Club meant I was very determined to try & get under 3:15 (previous PB was 3:19 in 1991!).

    Did all the training & tapering down but I only took the Lucazade drinks on my long runs (never just water). The days before London I ate more food than normal combined with drinking one of the SIS energy drinks.
    On the Saturday night after a large meal I had two bananas before I went to bed. Sunday morning I had cereals & bagels + marmalade. Just before the race I had a litre of the SIS energy drink (but again no water)+ hot cross bun with marmalade. I started the race carrying 4 energy gels, sweets + glucose tablets in my bum bag. I also carried a Lucazade orange pouch which I sipped & replaced with a fresh one at each Lucazade drinks station. At no point did I stop for water nor indeed did I have to use the items in my bag.

    I realise this may not work for everyone but my time was 3:13:50.

  • Peter

    Thong Man is right about the need for adequate 'fuelling' (although he seems to have eaten LOADS!). I also think the cold / rain would've been a factor in your cramp.

    Like you I had a niggling injury. Got it after my (1st & therefore only) 20 miler 4 weeks ago plus had a cold for a week then. Ran < 15 miles per week thereafter, and only once in week immediately b4 (7 miles, Tues).

    Was REALLY nervous I wouldn't make it round but on the day everything went great. Started in 2 at Blue, 1st mile 8 mins then picked up nicely. Half in 1.35, fnished in 3.11.

    Things I did and would recommend:
    (a) carbo depletion (2 days) then loading (3 days)
    (b) 2x double dose Ibruprofen (!!) and
    scambled eggs on muffins for breakfast
    (c) a coffee an hour b4 start
    (d) lucozade at 5,10,15 miles - sipping it all over mile or two (why do people just take a quick swig and chick it?!?)
    (e) water at regular intervals from mile 7 to 20 - again drinking it all (slowly), not just a quick gulp
    (f) constantly telling myself in 1st half "the race doesn't start until mile 16" and from mile 14, moving 'start' up a mile with every one travelled

    Bottom line though - who knows why mine went well and yours didn't - next time it could be the other way round! That's life!

    Good luck !
  • One and all....

    Thank you very much for all your messages and advice. Sorry to have not replied before but the office ADSL has been down all day!

    A few quick responses:
    I was at the Blue start. I have heard of quite a few Blue starters who missed targets and someone suggested that we were much more exposed to the elements than the Red start.

    On my training runs I carried Lucozade. On Sunday I sipped water at most stops and yes I carried the Lucozade pouches for several miles.

    Anyway, I am sure your advice will help and it does now look as if I am going to have to try this game all over again. One thing that has become very apparent is that there is a very small margin between success and failure for those of us aiming for 3.15.

    The London Marathon does provide good winter training for me as I am a tournament waterskier during the rest of the year. It means I can't ski through the winter and am now late starting this season, but it is nice to switch training focus every six months.

    One good thing - my wife was so inspired by watching and supporting on Sunday that she now wants to have a go. Like Tracey Morris she was a school-girl cross country runner, so who knows where this could lead!

  • Peter

    May I wish you every success & better luck next time.I'm sure you will achieve your goal. I'm 49 & never thought I would ever improve on my 1991 time of 3:19. Never ever give up hope but at the same time do not let it dominate your life. I was extremely relaxed on Sunday before the start & although I went through the first mile in 8:21, I tried to run very even paced. Last year I got the pace completely wrong & just speeded up in the first half as it felt so easy ! From 18 miles onwards it was a real struggle & my time was 3:29.

    Best wishes


    I also gave up alcohol for 3 weeks prior to Sunday's race !

  • HI guys
    The race was nice and even for me, you could almost say it went to plan, except that the last quarter got slower and harder, despite seriously upping the effort levels. Unfortunately the clock got to 3:15 before I turned the corner of The Mall, all hope went, and with it went my legs. I had to hang on to the barrier for half a minute and drink some water before running to the line.

    I just don't think it was my day.
  • I was on blue at the front of pen 3 (ish) - they seemed to get mixed up as we moved forward, and had a nine minute first mile. A lot of the people there seemed to be way too slow.

    A similar story really, kept up my target pace but then died way earlier than on training runs or races in the build up - e.g. 4 mins slower at the end of 20 miles than at a race two months previous, and felt a lot more worn out.

    I do wonder if even though the mile splits might have been right after mile one, that they effectively required more effort to dodge through the crowd, and so were effectively too fast.
  • I think your right about the first few miles, you defo expand more energy dodging round people.

    I was supposed to be out of the Pen 4 on blue start, but started out of Pen 3. no one was marshalling this at all.

    My first mile was also 9 minutes, so its very difficult to make up your time after that. i was hoping for sub 3:10, i got 3:11:45, whihc given the weather cnditions i was happy with.

    I was at 20 miles at 2:23 and then somehow hung on, the last few miles were agony though.

  • Peter

    Depending on what you already do, maybe worth looking at increasing the quality by:

    - longer long runs;
    - harder speed sessions;
    - a weekly hill session;
    - more complete rest days (between harder sessions, rather than junk miles).

    Of my two best marathons, one was off a regime of very long slow runs (in the 26-30 range) the other (this year) off a series of long slow runs up to an off-road marathon in early March then 6 weeks sharpening with less overall mileage but a weekly 5k on the track/race and a 10k race.

    I guess different things work for different people, but for me it help if:

    - your 5/10k pace is fast enough that marathon pace is genuinely comfortable;

    - you've done enough running in the 20-27 mile range that you minimise depletion effects.

    All the best with it...
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