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2012-05-25 12:20 AM

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Subject: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

Hi all. I'm writing to ask for some advice on how I might best reach my marathon goal of sub 4 hours. Here's a bit of relevant information about me:

I just finished my second marathon--the Colfax Marathon in Denver. I didn't really have a set goal going into the race, but I would have liked to run something near 4 hours. I ran a 4:30 (my first marathon was 4:22). Overall, I'm elated to have finished marathons without injury. With that said, I'd really like to run one in under 4 hours. I followed Hal Hidgon's novice II plan pretty closely, but, I was doing longer than required runs through the whole middle of the plan--my girlfriend was training for Boston, which was 5 weeks ahead of my plan, so I started training with her, and then dropped back to my schedule when she hit the week of an18 mile long run. I felt pretty good throughout training. Some long runs were a bit slow (10mm or so). My logs are up to date.

I think that the main thing limiting my performance is tight IT bands. During both marathons, after mile 18 or so, they really tighten up to the point where they hold me back more than any other type of fatigue. I get massages every once in a while (but not too often--I'm a grad student!) which helps a lot. Using a foam roller helps too, and I should probably do it more often.

I'm wondering (a) how I might curb my IT band problems, since I think that they are a main hurdle for a faster marathon and (b) what else might be slowing me down. Here are some ideas that I have that I think might help me, but I'm looking for advice on which of these I should really focus on, which of these might be counter-productive, etc. Any advice is appreciated!

(1) I'm 6ft tall and usually somewhere between 168 and 173 pounds. Should I consider losing a few pounds? (it's so damn hard, training makes me hungry!).

(2) Should I try to add speed workouts to my training? I've always been worried about injury and know that speed workouts are a leading cause. Will they just compound my IT band troubles?

(3) Should I try to run faster on my long runs? More weekly volume?

(4) Should I try to correct possible muscular imbalances that may be causing my IT band troubles? 

(5) More cross training? Biking, for example, might work toward achieving (4), right? (I must admit, I didn't do much cross training during marathon training; I was extraordinarily busy.

(6) Years ago I was fit with orthotics to treat over pronation. I stopped using them last year to try to shed some shoe weight (and, admittedly, I was hoping to get more minimalist with my footwear; I wear Brooks Adrenaline stability shoes now). Should I throw them back in?



2012-05-25 2:15 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

Here are some thoughts on ways to reach your goal.

1. Graduate from the Higdon 4-days-per-week approach. If you're running a maximum of ~35 miles/week, with often more than 50% of that mileage in one run, then you're placing limits on your performance and increasing risks of injury from the stress of the long run. Aim to build to 6-7 days/week, with a lower percentage of the miles coming from the single long run. Try to incorporate a second, "medium long" run into the week. People often find that this helps a great deal.

2. Yes, lose some pounds. If you can get closer to 160 you will be faster. It's hard, I know. Track what you eat, and learn where the surplus calories in your diet are coming from.

3. Do pay attention to your injury risk factors. That won't make you much faster, but being sidelined by injury will certainly make you slower.

4. Speedwork. Needn't be a priority right now. It might help you some, and since you're youngish the injury risk may be lower than it would be for some of us. But it's unlikely to be your limiter in achieving a 4hr marathon. Build miles/frequency first, then worry about speedwork.

Good luck.

2012-05-25 4:52 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
I agree you need to add more volume to your weekly miles, at least 5 days a week if not 6. Get your peak mileage up to 50-60 miles during your training cycle to build your endurance. It should also help your IT band issue as will acclimate to added miles over time. At least mine did and I am much older.
2012-05-25 8:31 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

You've gotten good advice so far, but I'll throw out that I used this plan for my first marathon, and came in under 4 (no previous racing experience).  YMMV

http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/2/2_4/130.shtml

2012-05-25 9:05 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
I'm around your same height/weight and used the Higdon Novice II for my first and only marathon, but I'm 37.  I ran a 3:45.  I think you can definitely run sub 4 on that plan.  However, if I was not there yet, I'd re-evluate how I used that plan.  You need to set a realistic goal pace and train around that.  So when Higdon's plan calls for tempo runs or race pace runs you are running at the correct paces.  I did a lot of cross training with the plan, more than perscribed.  That probably helped.  If you are only running and not going to bike/swim I would graduate fro the Novice II plan and go to something 5-6 days per week.  If you want to bike/swim you could always modify the Novice II and add some speedwork to the medium runs.  Again, calculating a pace and use some software or something to tell you what your intervals should be.
2012-05-25 9:33 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

I ran my first marathon several years ago in 4:33 using the Higdon Novice II plan. This spring I ran a 4:04 conservatively on a very hot day -- using Pfitzinger/Douglas's 18/70 plan.

I'm not saying everyone has to go out an run 70-mile weeks, but steadily building up to 6 days a week and higher mileage has proved tremendously beneficial for me. I am aiming for 3:45-3:50 at my fall marathon using the 18/70 plan again.



2012-05-25 9:35 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
Your ran 4:30 in Denver? Move down to sea level...that should do the trick!
2012-05-25 11:50 AM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

bcagle25 - 2012-05-25 10:35 AM Your ran 4:30 in Denver? Move down to sea level...that should do the trick!

 

Thanks for the great advice everyone. It sounds like increasing my weekly miles (along with maybe shedding a few pounds) is the best way to go. 50-60 miles a week worries me with respect to injury, but I suppose that the best way to avoid injury would be to build slowly; is that right? I plan on doing the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon in Jan 2013 (that way I have elevation on my side!) so I suppose that I will keep a decent base this summer (along with lots of biking and swimming and the slowly build to 50-60 miles for 'real' training in the fall.  

2012-05-25 12:02 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

Late to the party, but I'd add the following:

--Up the mileage, but it doesn't have to be by a ton.  I've consistently run in the 3:30-3:55 range in my late 40s-early 50s (starting with my 2nd marathon) and I average 35 mpw during training and peak around 50-52.  I do get additional aerobic conditioning from cycling and swimming, though, so that has to be considered.

--You aren't at a bad weight if that weight range is accurate and you are correct about your height.  I'm 5' 10 1/2" and generally aim to run my marathons at 164 or so.  Sub-4 doesn't require extremely low BF%, frankly...if you were looking for a BQ, might be a different story.

--Don't worry about shoe weight.  Seriously.  Worry about your imbalances.  The ROI on dealing with the gait imbalance (and maximizing comfort) is higher than shaving a few grams from your shoes.  I did wean myself from my prescription orthotics for running (mostly because they were better for walking), but I did that by finding a pair of off-the-rack inserts that work for me...and that was by A LOT of trial and error.  But I've PR'ed at 10K (by 45 secs) wearing the heaviest pair of motion control shoes I own (because I had a flare up of PTT going on and needed the support).

2012-05-25 12:07 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

Yeah, while it never "hurts" to lose weight, your current weight is not your limiting factor.  I weigh more than you (typically between 170-175) and am only 5'10" and I consistently run sub 4.

Up the miles, focus on form and quality, and you should be able to hit your goal.

2012-05-25 12:19 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
I think the most simple answer is more frequency and more volume. 


2012-05-25 12:41 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
(1) I'm 6ft tall and usually somewhere between 168 and 173 pounds. Should I consider losing a few pounds? (it's so damn hard, training makes me hungry!).

Don't focus on the weight. That sounds reasonably healthy. Train well, eat well, and weight will do what it does. I'm a few inches taller and a little heavier than that, and doing just fine for one example. Just be mindful of what it's doing, as in if it changes up or down noticeably then something might be going on.

(2) Should I try to add speed workouts to my training? I've always been worried about injury and know that speed workouts are a leading cause. Will they just compound my IT band troubles?

You don't need speedwork for this. Are you consistently running 35 mpw or so (thought I saw that somewhere)? If yes, you can put some strides in. For anything else, it would be helpful to know if you understand what threshold level is, or how you otherwise gauge your efforts for various types of runs. There are several effort levels of running below what "speedwork" is generally run at, and it's possible to hit your goal running most everything there (if not always).

(3) Should I try to run faster on my long runs? More weekly volume?

Part of #2 addresses part 1 here. It's relative. Yes, you will want more volume, but what is your run frequency now? Thought I saw 3-4x a week in there somewhere? You want 5-6, and maybe 7 if you can manage that often. Don't increase volume yet. Figure out how to do that many runs with the current volume first. How far is the long run? If it's 18 miles on a regular basis with ~35 mpw, then you're doing a LOT. Generally no more than 30% of total weekly volume, and it doesn't have to be that much. I tend to be 25% or a little under.

(4) Should I try to correct possible muscular imbalances that may be causing my IT band troubles? 

I don't know if there are muscle imbalances, but work on #3 and see what happens. For all of your runs, you should be able to do more than what you did. For most all of them, you should be able to do it again the next day (but that's not necessarily the best idea). A number of the runs should feel rather refreshing, actually.

(5) More cross training? Biking, for example, might work toward achieving (4), right? (I must admit, I didn't do much cross training during marathon training; I was extraordinarily busy.

If you like, sure. It's good to do something different every now and then, but more so to keep everything fun, instead of becoming a grind.

(6) Years ago I was fit with orthotics to treat over pronation. I stopped using them last year to try to shed some shoe weight (and, admittedly, I was hoping to get more minimalist with my footwear; I wear Brooks Adrenaline stability shoes now). Should I throw them back in?

I don't know what to say about orthotics in general, but running shoes are light enough that weight is really of no consequence with what you're trying to do.
2012-05-25 12:47 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
you could push the volume a bit but you should be able to achive sub 4 on 35mpw I would say try to hold pace on your long runs and try to do runs at marathon pace a few times a week
2012-05-25 12:57 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

jaelinfunk - 2012-05-25 12:47 PM you could push the volume a bit but you should be able to achive sub 4 on 35mpw I would say try to hold pace on your long runs and try to do runs at marathon pace a few times a week

I agree with the mileage. You can get more than enough speed for a 4 hr marathon running on that for awhile. I think it's a good idea to build up more mileage as the event approaches for better fatigue resistance and to better handle the long run. Should make things less painful and lessen injury risk.

2012-05-25 1:02 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

From your logs, I'd say a bit more frequency with a little more distance on the short runs and maybe fewer long runs.  Like  5-8-5-8-5-16-rest. I agree about your weight, if you can lose it great, but don't get too concerned with that.  At 49 years old 5'11" 182# I ran 3:51 on about your plan, even after a bout with PF last Fall.  

Do you know your approx splits for you races? Did you start fast or slow ? What about hydration/nutrition ?

Cool

  

2012-05-25 1:15 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon

There is no magic 4 hour plan.  All you can do is increase your training load and improve your running fitness (while avoiding injury) until you can run sub 4.  For some people, that involves absolutely no training.  For other people, it's running for 1 year, then doing a 35 mpw training plan.  Then for others it takes YEARS of steady running, and a 50-70 mpw training plan.  Everyone is different.

We know that you can run a 4:20-4:30 marathon now.  Obviously you need to increase your fitness to run sub 4...unfortunately you're not one of those who can run sub 4 with little to no training, but that's most of us.  So instead of focusing on what it takes to run sub 4, focus on what it will take to improve your run fitness without injury.

Those things involve running more frequently, running more volume, adding in some intensity, and increasing your running experience (ie if you've been running for 3 years now...get up to 4, 5, 6 years).  Running adaptations take time, and we can't "force" those adaptations to go as fast as we want without risking serious injury.  Again, some people gain fitness faster than others...you just need to deal with the body you've been given and do your best with it.  Over time, I'm sure a sub 4 marathon will come...but nobody knows if it will be in your next marathon. 

So again...just focus on doing the things to improve your fitness.  Who knows what the result may be in your next marathon...4:15...maybe 3:45.  I just know that fixating too much on an arbitrary time is what leads people to train outside of what their normal progression should be.

Best of luck.



2012-05-25 2:02 PM
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Subject: RE: Advice for sub 4 hour marathon
brianzaha - 2012-05-25 11:50 AM

bcagle25 - 2012-05-25 10:35 AM Your ran 4:30 in Denver? Move down to sea level...that should do the trick!

 

Thanks for the great advice everyone. It sounds like increasing my weekly miles (along with maybe shedding a few pounds) is the best way to go. 50-60 miles a week worries me with respect to injury, but I suppose that the best way to avoid injury would be to build slowly; is that right? I plan on doing the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon in Jan 2013 (that way I have elevation on my side!) so I suppose that I will keep a decent base this summer (along with lots of biking and swimming and the slowly build to 50-60 miles for 'real' training in the fall.  

I've been running over 50 miles a week consistently with no time off for about two years without injury, until April -- when I decided to try to run two marathons six weeks apart, with a fast ten-mile race one week after the first marathon. That didn't leave enough rest and recovery time for me, and I ended up with plantar fasciitis. Had to drop to the half marathon instead of running the second marathon and had to take a few weeks off. I'm recovering well now, but it was really annoying.

Listen to your body, I guess is what I'm saying. High mileage doesn't always lead to injury, but it certainly can if you build too fast and don't give yourself adequate recovery time.

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