Chasing Three Hours
I’ve been chipping away at the sub three hour marathon for two years now (since 2010). Like most runners I don’t have a running pedigree, I came into the game late with a meagre semblance of an athletic history. Sure… as a kid I enjoyed being active – riding bikes, treking – but the geography of rural Canada made self propelled transportation a necessity for fun and socializing. In high school I took up skateboarding along with smoking and missed out on any organized sports or athletics. Through College I followed a similar vein. Became a member of the snowboard club, stopped smoking, joined the mountain biking club, and started riding my mountain bike 30km a day so I could save a couple bucks on transit fare to afford my Kraft Dinner. Through my University years I spent summers planting trees which was really hard work and one of my most rewarding jobs to date. After University I travelling, taught in Japan, got a real job, lived in Ontario, then moved to Calgary Alberta. No athletics, no organized sports. So please… take any bit of my fitness advice with a a healthy grain of salt. :)
As a cubical dwelling software developer (2009) I was spending 8 or more hours at a desk, I was feeling out of shape and generally crumby, but you can read more on why I’m running. I signed up for a half marathon as a dare, trained for a month, and ran the marathon way too fast, but had fun. That brief stint as a runner lasted a month and a half until I signed up for the full marathon the subsequent year (2010). At this point I realized I needed to take things a little more serious. I started doing my research. Learned about fascinating things like: tapers, technical clothing, and nutrition. I followed a basic online marathon training program, ran the marathon, survived and continued to have fun. Read more about my first marathon. In 2010 I was pretty close to a Boston Qualifier and quickly signed up for my next marathon (Vancouver 2011) with the ambitious (secret) goal of breaking three hours. Now I started taking things more seriously… I trained through the winter! I ran Vancouver, but had a humbling marathon. I made so many mistakes in that race (not enough water, not enough fuel, not enough fitness) and hammered into the wall. Read more in my 2011 marathon results. In 2011 I flitted with a couple other marathons that summer improving my nutrition, but left the three hour goal largely untouched.
Finally in 2012 at the Kelowna marathon I broke that three hour barrier and it feels like so much has changed. I’ve been running with people that are significantly faster and more experienced than myself over the past year (I find it motivating to be the slower guy). I’ve accepted that running is hard work, there are no shortcuts to improving. If I want to run faster I need to run more and at a relatively easy pace (75% heart rate maxish, not at a harder pace). While training for my sub three hour marathon I ran five days a week logging 80km (50mi) per week, whereas my previous marathons training was three days a week with about 60km (37mi) weekly. Recently I’ve been running my long runs based on heart rate as opposed to pace. I’ve bought into the theory that by running based on effort I’m compensating for adverse weather and more difficult running routes. Interesting enough I’m running my long runs faster while following effort vs pace. I’m focusing less on complex training programs, although every run has a goal (75% HRM, V02Max, endurance, etc…). I’ve started running tempo runs in place of intervals (the jury is still out on whether this is a good idea). I also started working exclusively at a stand-up desk (tight hamstrings, running, sitting, weren’t jiving with my running). Running has become my lifestyle.
Splits (min/km) for Vancouver and Kelowna
Here’s my track from Kelowna.
Update: In 2013 I ran a new personal best of 2:43 at the Sacramento Marathon.