The Three-Hour Marathon Plan
2:59from Flickr user sunshinecity, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licenseOK, there are obviouslyseveral ways to achieve athree-hour marathon, and,depending on your startingpoint and intrinsic traits, onesingle season and plan maynot be enough to get youthere. But for this previouslynear-3:00 marathoner (3:03:26, to be exact), this wasthe plan of choice in workingtowards a sub-3:00 fallmarathon in a season that started from awinter lost to a hamstring injury.The foundation wasPfitzinger’s 18-week 55-70 mile (18/70) plan, with modifications. Actually, the
modifications were minimal, mostly shifting days forward to make for the typical Sunday rest (i.e., sleeping in)day and taking advantage of atrip to San Franciscoto do some longer runs across the Golden Gate
Bridge. Pfitzinger emphasizes the following marathon-specif ic “competencies.”
- the high (relative to other programs, like Higdon) overall mileage drives gainshere. The trademark mid-week medium-long run of 12-15 miles is a differentiator in driving this.
– tempo runs of 4-7 miles serve to improve you ability to run at or just above your lactate threshold pace for an extended period of time. This helps you maintain steady splits in the latestages of the marathon.
Glycogen storage and fat utilization
– since the body can only store enough glycogen, the energy-generating form of carbohydrates, to last through mile 20, the long runs lasting over 90 minutes atleast twice per week, and total mileage of the program are designed to help you tap this glycogenmore efficiently. There is some evidence to suggest that these gains are enhance by running beforebr eakfast –in other words, becoming a predawn runner.
Improving your running economy –
while gains in running economy (how much oxygen is neededto maintain a certain pace) often come through years of accumulated training, it is possible to makesome gains during a training season through the use of strides, and they are abundant in thisprogram. The goal of the strides is to help improve your running form, thus minimizing wasted motion.
Increasing your VO
this is emphasized far less in the training program than it is in others, sointervals are less significant. They are included, at distances ranging from 600 to 1600m, in the lasthalf of the program, but with nowhere near the intensity of programs such as Higdon’s.The program employs the periodization approach to focus various phases of the training on specific gains.First comes endurance, which is basically a continuation of the aerobic capacity-focused base-buildingphase with some shorter (4-5 mile) lactate threshold training introduced. The second phase increases thelactate threshold focus by stretching the tempo runs, while continuing to build endurance by bringing thetotal weekly mileage up to the 70-mile peak by week 10. Third comes race-specific training, where thelactate threshold runs give way to longer (800-1200m) intervals, though 600m intervals are included inweeks were races should be scheduled. Finally comes the taper, which is not as aggressive in reducingmileage as other programs and still involves a long lactate threshold run plus some 1600m intervals.The base-building for this program focused on getting weekly mileage up to 55 miles with several medium-long runs in the 15 mile range. Only two each of tempo and interval workouts were mixed in, so the focus