Better times

I have a problem in trying to better my performance.

Every other marathon I do seems to be a disaster (I end up walking).
My finishing times vary from 3:31 to 4 hrs.
I have run for 10 years and try to do a marathon every 6 months.
I tend not to run every week but start a 12/16 week training schedule as necessary.
This year:
Did Paris April 02 in 3:31:30.
Felt OK afterwards.

Did Franfurt October 02 DNF!!!
Had to walk from 23 Kms....

I usually follow Hal Higdons schedules (for Franfurt I covered more than 600 miles further than before).

I do all the right stuff but still seem to fail every other time, wierd?

Anybody got any ideas as to how I can a)
Beat 3:30?

I am 48 and weigh 11 stone.
Have access to a gym + can do long country runs.
Usual weekly mileage is 25, this goes up to 50 during training.



  • I'd say the best thing you could do to start with is to run every week which you say you don't do at the moment. Taking weeks off does knock you back a lot - the general wisdom is you lose two weeks of conditioning for every week you take off, which is a sobering thought.

    The other thing is to concentrate on some (or all!) forms of speed training - tempo runs are considered really key for the marathon distance, and interval training (from 400m up to 2 mile reps) are guaranteed to make you faster.

    Also, I'm sure you know this, but it's also recommended that the total of your five longest runs adds up to 100 miles. This really does make the difference as to whether or not you will hit the wall (which you say you are doing). Personally I think it's really important to get in at least two runs of 22 miles and I think that would help you a lot.

    Basically, you need to concentrate on a) consistency and b) the quality of your runs (rather than the total distance you run each week). Try to do two speed sessions a week (interval, tempo, hill reps, fartlek of whatever combination), and make sure you get your long run in (though it's a good idea to back-off the mileage every four weeks or so before piling it back on). If in doubt, use the Runners World schedules which I used to find really precise and more varied than most (which is important).

    Best of luck.
  • Thanks for the answer.

    I've found the Runners World schedules and am going to follow the advanced one for my next marathon in April (probably Paris).

    One question though, what pace/heart rate is 'easy', 'steady', 'brisk', 'fast' etc as per the schedule?

    I've read the article by Sean Fishpool as to how find my MHR and WHR (188 and 133)I've also found my fastest mile time (6:00)

    I assume I run at a pace that is governed by HR and not a %age of pace time?

    Previously I have followed a schedule that dictated the training pace from %age effort of my best mile time.

  • Nigel -

    do you know your 10K race pace? and what marathon time are you realistically aiming for?

  • I haven't done a 10K race, but on the treadmill it is around 42 mins.

    I ran the recent Great north run in 1hr 40 as a warm up to my last marathon.I had more in reserve when I finished.

    Realistically I should be able to beat 3:30:00 which is my goal, I've been close twice (30s over!) and about 10 mins out twice.

    My last training included 4 x 20 milers all at around 8:15/mile.

    I know that speedwork is the key, just need to decipher 'easy' 'brisk' etc!
  • At a rough guess from what you've told me (and with a little help from RW), I'd say your paces should be as follows (expressed as min/mile):

    Easy (Recovery pace): 8:30
    Slow/Base training pace: 8:00
    Marathon (Steady): 7:40
    1/2M (Brisk/tempo run pace): 7:00
    10K: 6:30
    5K: 6:15
    Mile: 5:40-6:00

    Your interval pace (again at a guess) should be between 6:30 and 6:15 depending on the distance covered, faster for 400m (93-98 secs.), slower for 1 mile reps (6:22-6:37).

    I'd say you can probably do a bit better than this already (by about 10 secs. even), but it's probably better to start conservatively and work up. You'll quickly get a feel for how much pace you can add, and of course you'll start getting quicker as your training progresses, so just plus everything up a bit accordingly.

    As well as intervals, make sure you do plenty of tempo runs, as these are pretty key for the marathon distance.

    And try adding one more long run of around 20 miles, following Bruce Tulloh's recommendation that your five longest runs should add up to 100 miles. You'll find that will really make the difference to busting through that dreaded wall on the day.

    I'd also say if your running in April and your a RW subscriber, you can do a lot worse than follow the schedules they print from February onwards for the FLM. For my money, they're far more precise (and fun to do) than anything else I've yet seen. Too many marathon schedules just give mileages and don't give enough information about how fast to run them, and frankly these are a waste of time and energy in my book.

    best of luck. s.
  • Many thanks for the info, now it's back to the grindstone (well, treadmill) with stop watch in hand....
  • I quickly checked back to an old RW mag to see what they meant by "easy", "brisk" and so forth, because I think different schedules use the same terms to mean different paces, which is pretty unhelpful (not RW, who are consistent, but US ones especially).

    Easy = recovery pace
    Slow = slower than marathon pace
    Steady = expected marathon pace
    Brisk = half-marathon pace
    Fast = 5K to 10K pace

    I think that's what I said.

    I remember now that Bob Glover uses the terms Hard and Fast for paces in excess of 5K pace, so beware when mixing and matching schedules.
  • RangerRanger ✭✭✭
    While I agree with what Achilles says, a couple of things come to mind.
    Why haven't you raced over 10k? If your aim is to run a faster marathon you should really take part in shorter races such as 10ks & half marathons. If trained for in their own right and not just as part of a marathon build up, they will get you running at a faster pace.
    Is the reason you don't run every week a lack of a short term goal? In which case shorter races will help.
  • Thanks Achilles, think I've got it sussed now.

    Ranger, I have to admit it's down to laziness. I like to just go out and do the mileage, without the fuss of finding a nearby race, entering, hanging around for the start etc.
    Also race days aren't flexible.
    I've been treating running as a kind of 'hobby' over these 10 years. It keeps me fit, slim(ish) and out of the wifes way!
    I've realised (took a while ...) that to acheive my goal of a sub 3:30 marathon I'll have to put more effort in. Damn!
    Thanks for the advice.
  • Nigel -

    races are fun, they really are. and they help you to fun faster, which I know you want to do.

    there are hundreds of them out there, and you're sure to find a few that suit your schedule or whatever.

    as Ranger says, don't get too focussed on the marathon distance which you can only race a few times a year. have some intermediate goals and you'll improve no end. and if you have a bad marathon, you haven't wasted all that training!
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