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How to Run a Marathon in Under 2 Hours 40 Minutes

Aug 17, 2007
In my late 30s, I was still running decent times and breaking 16 minutes for 5 kilometers, but had not been doing any serious marathon training. As my 40th birthday approached, I decided to give the marathon a shot, just to see how fast I could go.

It turns out that I was fortunate enough to stumble onto a routine that worked extremely well, and I ran the following times after my 40th birthday:

2 hr 38 min Disney World Marathon 94
2 hr 34 min Boston Marathon 94
2 hr 38 min Disney World Marthon 95
2 hr 37 min Fox Cities Marathon 96
2 hr 39 min Disney World Marathon 97

Here is a general outline of what I was doing, as best as I can recall. The focus was always on 3 key workouts per week during the build-up phase, the long runs, the tempo run, and the short interval workout or 5 kilometer race.

Sun long run. I ran up to 17 or 18 miles at 7
minutes per mile pace

Mon easy recovery. Maybe 5 miles at a very relaxed
pace.

Tues medium long run. 10 miles at an easy pace.

Wed easy recovery. Same as Monday

Thurs tempo run 45 min to 60 min at a fast pace

Fri easy run up to 1 hour

Sat intervals, between 4 and 6 x 800 meters very hard, sub 2:30s or 5K race

Here is the twist. Six weeks before my marathon, I upped the medium long run to another long run, so I was doing 2 x 17 mile runs just 2 days apart. I found that I could handle the workouts and recover faster than running 20-22 mile runs. So I tried to do 8 two hour runs in a 4 week time period.

Here is another twist. As much as possible, I did one or both long runs off the road. I felt my legs could recover quicker after a trail run than running on asphalt, especially after 2 long hours of pounding.

I followed the 2 long runs per week routine for 4 weeks. After that, I did not do anything over 90 minutes, and only once or twice at an easy pace.

Two weeks out from race day I did 2 or 3 tempo runs each week for 5-6 miles, which I felt would prepare me physically and mentally for 6 minute per mile pace without tearing me down.

According to one of those Race Time Predictor formulas, a 16 minute time for 5 kilometers means you are capable of a 2 hour 36 minute marathon, while a 16:20 predicts 2 hours 39 minutes. I believe most runners must have that kind of speed over 5 kilometers in order to break 2 hours and 40 minutes for 26.2 miles.

If you can do that and follow this training program, I know you can do it. I did five times in a row!
About the Author
Dave Elger is a well respected authority within the running community having written hundreds of articles on the topics of running and wellness. You can contact him at http://www.daveelger.com. He also supports the Okinawa Running Club .
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