Now that I’ve broken 4 hours in the marathon I’m ready to fully chase that unicorn (Qualify for Boston) this week was the first week back of full force training. I’ve been reading up on people’s experiences going from slow marathon runners to Boston qualifiers and have been so inspired. It did make me think tho that before breaking 4 I looked up stories about breaking 4 hours. I went from running a 4:56 marathon in 2012 to finally breaking 4 this year.
HOW I BROKE 4 HOURS IN THE MARATHON
For my first marathon in 2012 I ran a few times a week and my longest distance was one 12 miler. At the start I honestly didn’t think I would even finish. I drank only water the entire race and didn’t fuel at all. I ran the whole thing at a super slow pace and was just happy to finish. Also my parents surprised me and saw me finish my first marathon ❤️
The next 4 marathons I ran at roughly the same exact pace, all finishing around 4:30. My training for each got a little better, but I wouldn’t run over 15 miles a week for an entire year, except for 12 weeks before the marathon. For all those marathons I roughly ran 15-25 miles per week, with one grueling run around 20 miles. I NEVER was able to run the longest run without stopping. I always made it to about 13 and from then on it was just a slow death until I got to 20. Most of the times I didn’t even make it 20 and called it quits at 19 miles.
For all the marathons I did I ran intervals and did tempo runs, as many training plans tell you to, but I still wasn’t getting any faster. For the marathon in 2020 I got my mileage up to about 25 miles per week with a peak of 30. I ran a 4:12 that year. I was excited to PR, but upset I still didn’t break 4.
Normally after a marathon I would not take running very seriously until the next marathon came along, so I never had a base when going into marathon training. After the Big Beach Marathon in 2020 I took about a month off and then got back into it. I started building a solid base. This was harder than I thought it would be. To make sure to not get injured, I ran all my runs at low heart rate (150 or less) from March until august or so. I had a hard time running over 30 miles per week. My knees started hurting bad, then my hips, then my piriformis. I started doing specific exercises to target these muscles and religiously stretched and foam rolled 3-4 times a week (still can improve a lot on this) slowly I worked up to 45 miles per week by September. Every 3rd week of building mileage I dropped my mileage a week to recover.
On October 4th I had a half marathon planned. I hadn’t done any speed work and just a handful of tempo runs at this point. My half marathon PR was 1:51 from back in 2018, I wasn’t expecting much. I started out way too fast at 8:40 pace and decided to just hold it. I ended up going faster each mile, running the last couple miles in the 7’s!!! I ran a new shiny PR of 1:46 that day!!
That’s when marathon training for the Big Beach Marathon in January 2021 really started. I had bought the book “advanced marathoning.” Which has become my running bible. I followed the 55 mile per week plan and felt amazing the entire time. Having built a good base I was easily able to run the 16-20 mile long runs during the weekend without issues. The years before I dreaded anything over 13, cause I could never run it without stopping at least once. This time, I never stopped. I ran the long runs slow and ended them a little faster, working on negative splits.
I ended up doing three 20 milers this training block!! And all felt great!! I was even able to just have a normal Sunday. The years before I would be down all day with an ice pack on my back after any long run.
In the plan was a 3 week taper, which was a welcomed break from the high mileage. I was surprised how easy a 37 mile week felt now, when just a few months before I had a hard time running 30 a week.
I feel like the true breakthrough for me was the higher mileage. Just make sure to take your time building it so you don’t get injured!! It took me from March until September to comfortably go from 20 miles per week to 45, through the summer months (I live in Alabama, the summers are HOT) I learned there’s no way to rush building your aerobic fitness. It’s all about consistency.