What's your experience?

I'm a newbie here, but I'm somewhat of a newbie to running, too!

I'm wondering what your first few years of running and marathon training was like.

I began running when the COVID-19 lockdowns struck, and I've been bitten by the running bug. I was never a runner in my entire life, and it took months for me to have real break-throughs in performance—running a mile without stopping, then a 5k, then a 10k, etc.

Now I run at least one half marathon per month (PR 1:42:02), and I ran an unofficial marathon a few months ago just for the fun of it. I didn't train specifically for it, and the longest distance I'd ever ran before was one half-marathon, but I finished it in in 3:54:14 (I made a big mistake in running it alone, without proper hydration or nutrition).

Now 10 months after beginning my running career, I'm sitting at a 5:44 mile, 19:58 5k, and a 41:07 10k.

I hope to run at least one official marathon this year, and I want to run it sub-3.

What do you more experienced runners think about this goal? Is it too ambitious?

What was your experience like when you began running? What were your short-term race goals? What are your short-term and long-term goals now?

I love reading about other runners' experiences and goals. Tell me about them!
TLDR: Cut from baseball, apparently very good at sprinting? Injure leg. Go slower, run longer. I hope to run all 6 major marathons.

What was your experience like when you began running?
Novel incoming... I have a pretty weird running path, but it may be interesting as I have kind of stumbled my way into the marathon and we have the same sub 3 goal.

I am in my mid thirties now but this one starts all the way back in high school. After getting cut from the baseball team, I joined the track team in my Junior year. As it turns out, I was really good in the 400m and I ended up captaining the team in my Senior year. I ran for a year in college and looking back on it I was fortunate to run at some amazing tracks (NYC Armory and Boston University indoors as well as Franklin Field for Penn Relays outdoors) before I injured my leg skateboarding (lol :rolleyes:)

Due to some really poor medical care (I still don't know what exactly I injured) my rehab was very slow. I never returned to competitive running or sprinting but, after college, I did start to jog again. Like you, I got bit by the distance bug and set myself towards running a sub 5 mile. When I accomplished that I got curious about longer distances and slowly worked my way up to a 5k. I stayed in that orbit for quite a while until curiosity got the better of me and I ran my first half marathon. You got a beer and a piece of pumpkin pie at the finish so why not? I finished in about 1:40 and felt great despite the fact that my training had been incredibly poor. I was just kind of making it up as I went, which is why the result was surprising for me (I had haphazardly set a goal of sub 2 and ran by feel in the race).

After that a few of my friends from college ran the NYC marathon and I decided to do the same. I had no idea how you got into the race (I thought anyone who wanted a spot could just sign up on any day prior to race day) and I was surprised to learn that there were no entries available. That many people wanted to run a marathon!?!?? Thankfully one of my friends was still very much active in the running scene (he was training for an OTQ at the time) and managed to get me a sponsor's entry. He also set me up with a beginner's training plan (I think Higdon Intermediate 1?) and for that I am thankful. As you well know, marathoning is definitely not something you can just wing.

I set a modest goal for NYC of sub 4 and I ended up falling short of that. The hype monster got me (NYC is unreal) and I ran my first 5 miles below sub 3 pace. I very much paid the price for that early excitement in the later miles, even after getting things under control. I finished that race in 4:30 but I was still really happy with the result. It was hard not to be after seemingly having the whole of New York cheering for you. Still, I swore I would never do that again. True to form, I then promptly put my name in the lottery for Chicago the following day... a few months later I got a text message at 5AM saying that one of my cards had been charged by *BANK OF AMERICA CHIC*. After some confusion, I realized that I was running another marathon...

I didn't make any progress at Chicago (it was blazingly hot that year) but I fell into a new trap... the World Marathon Majors. The 6 majors are New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Berlin, and Tokyo. If you run all 6 of them you get a special medal. It really is funny how small of an incentive runners need to set themselves to some really big tasks. So here I am! I ran Tokyo in 2019 and, despite not changing much in my training (other than consistency throughout the year) I made a major breakthrough with a 45 minute PR. I had only wanted to run sub 4 but I just felt amazing that day and about halfway through the race I decided to leave the pacer behind. I am now set to run Berlin and London later this year (assuming they happen) and that will just leave the venerable Boston before I can claim my six star medal.

Like you, I used the lockdown as an excuse to really double down on training. My BQ standard is 3:05 and my current PR at Tokyo of about 3:45 is still light years away from that. However, training this past year has gone really well. I haven't had the opportunity to run a successful marathon time trial (I really have a hard time with extended solo race efforts) but I have managed to get my half time consistently under 1:30, which is really encouraging.

What are your short-term and long-term goals now?
With all of that in mind, I have an A and B goal at the moment (now I truly feel like a runner!). With Berlin and London being run a week apart from one another I would like nothing more than to qualify for Boston before those races. That will enable me to run them at much easier paces and to enjoy the sightseeing while I am there (I have never been to Europe). I have a race on the calendar for the very end of June and the A goal is to run that race in sub 3. Honestly though that goal still feels just out of reach and, with the demand for Boston entries being sky high, I am doing everything in my power to min/max this attempt, notably the course is massively downhill... even with that advantage and how solid my training feels, running sub 3 still is a tall order (6:51/mile x 26.2) and a tiny part of me is prepared to fall short. With that in mind, I have set the B goal of running a BQ at Berlin in September. Berlin is a flat, fast course and I will have another 4 months to train so I think that is doable but man is it going to stink to run London right after that...

What do you more experienced runners think about this goal? Is it too ambitious?
Every runner is different, so I don't want to count you out at all. Some runners have extraordinary breakthroughs early in their running careers and others have to beat their heads against a wall before reaching their full potential. I can say that in the past year I have gone from 4 hour shape (I had regressed a little from my best at Tokyo) down to about 3:10 shape (if I had to take a guess). This was done by running 40 - 50 miles per week. For you, going from 3:55 to 3:00 in less than a year is going to be really though (especially when you consider your current half PR), but I say go for it! Just set yourself up with a decent B goal so that you aren't disappointed in the event you fall short. You are going to need to improve your speed (lower your half PR) and your endurance (sustain that pace) in order to succeed.

Consistency is king in marathon training so if I can pass along one piece of advice, keep at it!
I think the sub-3 goal is a little ambitious. Maybe shoot for 3:15 or 3:20. I can run a 5k in 17:00 and a 10k in 35:00 and can muster 2:50s in a marathon. The pacing between your 5k and a marathon will be slower by at least 60-90 seconds per mile. The first 8-10 miles of the marathon should feel like you're almost jogging, otherwise you'll never finish with anything close to even splits.

The Hansons and Allan Lawrence plans can give you a guide to training for the marathon. Just keep in mind, you're committing to 18 weeks of real training. The Allan Lawrence books give you a guide like if you can run a 5k/10k at this pace currently, this should be your goal time and it's pretty spot on. So for me at least, I can average 5:30 per mile in a 5k and 6:40 or a little faster is doable for me in a marathon.

If you are around 6:15-6:20 in a 5k, I think running 7:00 a mile in a marathon would be impossible. I would add at least 60 seconds and make 7:20 a mile your goal. So around 3:15 for a marathon. If you go out at 7:00 min/mile you'll be dreading life by around mile 18. (I've had a walk the last miles of a marathon before, so I know. Believe me). My best races, 2:52, 2:54, I was comfortable thru mile 13 and then sped up the last half of the marathon.
You're right my goal is a little ambitious, but I think I could be on track to do it--it's going to be a lot of hard work. In January, I ran a 1:47 HM. 7 weeks later, I knocked of 16 minutes for a 1:31, and then ran another HM a week later at 1:34 (stomach issues killed my last 4 miles).

1:25 is my goal for HM if I'm going to get a sub 3 marathon, and that's a huge difference from 1:31. However, I'm considering my goal possible.
I think that the lack of organized races has really presented a unique challenge for distance runners who are working towards a larger goal, doubly so if (like me) you are inexperienced.

Races provide a high-water mark of what you're capable of and while time trials can be a substitute, I find them unduly challenging. I might live too much in my head during TTs but I always find it really tough to go out alone for a race-level effort. I find myself overthinking pacing, fueling, or (worst of all) DNF'ing runs because I don't have the grit to really tighten the screws. It is so easy to think "well - this isn't a real race and nobody is watching... soooooo no sense in killing myself for a run nobody else knows about".

Back to you - it sounds like you're making progress in chunks which should be encouraging! I think that these are the sort of gains you see when you're still far away from your ceiling/ultimate potential. That HM time will continue to fall which should position you well for your sub 3 attempt.

This sounds stupid (or at least self-evident) but you should now have a pretty good appreciation for the differences between your 3:54 PR and your 3:00 goal. Running 6:51 miles versus 8:56 miles. I stick by my initial advice of maintaining consistent mileage above all else but speedwork has also been one of the most important boosts for me both physically and mentally. I am drinking the Yasso 800's kool-aid which, if you're unfamiliar, is an 800m repeat workout and accompanying theory that holds if you can complete the workout running each of your 800s in 3 minutes then you are fit enough to run your marathon in 3 hours. While the physical benefit of speedwork is obvious, I probably get an even bigger mental boost from these. Running 800s at 6/mile pace takes a little bit of the intimidation away from 6:51 pace in general.

Your goal is incredibly ambitious but I am recertifying my belief that it is possible for you! If not this year then absolutely the next.

One last bit... you might find this analysis of survey responses from BQ runners interesting...

Thanks for the commentary and good advice. Speed training and hills are the only things that I have yet to even try over my first 10 months of running, and--after a lot of research and advice-asking--I'm convinced it's necessary to reach my goals. I was thinking about doing 400 x 20 at 1:10-1:20, but I think I like your iteration of 800s much better. I've always been a very slow runner (I've played several sports before), so I think that training myself to unlock a little bit of speed will go a long way. Although I want to be fast, and I think I can make some good gains there, I'm at peace knowing I'm just a slow short-distance runner.
When making the move to distance running, the biggest mental hurdle was always sustaining harder efforts over long distances (I know, another profound thought from me). In high school/college my coach always wanted me to try out 800m and I would always tell him that I am only ever running one lap on that track...

Speed is ultimately the name of the game though. 6:51 miles are quick!

As for your plan, 400 repeats are not a bad idea at all (I have also actually done some foundational work at 200 repeats) but there seems to be almost universal consensus that Yasso 800s are a workout that will really improve your marathon outcome. See if you can work them into your plan and slowly build up the number of repeats. I don't know how much truth there is to the "yasso hypothesis" (3 minute repeats yield a 3 hours performance) but it is a huge confidence boost to blast out sets at 6 minute / mile pace.
I think the Yasso 800s make a lot of sense for long-distance speed training. I think I am going to try both. My absolute top speed is like a 6:20 mile and a 1:15 400m, but I can sustain 6:30 for 8-10 miles, and that feels like 98%. My legs just don't move very fast.