How I trained to run a sub 3 hour marathon

A few years ago I ran my first marathon in 4:11:08 (9:34 / mile pace). On Sunday I ran my second marathon in 2:55:05 (6:40 / mile pace) more than 76 minutes faster. This post is a summary of a few things I’ve learned to become a faster runner from May 2013 to October 2013.

Long Beach Marathon Start Number

NUTRITION BEFORE MAY 2013
Nutrition is really the foundation for performance and recovery. Until May 2013 I had never paid much attention to what I ate or drank. On an average day I’d eat 8 slices of bread, pasta, pizza, rice, potatoes, hamburgers and little bit of veggies. I would also drink coffee, milk, orange juice and beer. My energy levels during the day were all over the place, so I’d drink coffee to get energy and often had some beers at night. I felt tired, fatigue, had low energy and frequent headaches.

NUTRITION AFTER MAY 2013
In May I decided to eat a lot healthier, inspired by Dr Phil Maffetone, Rich Roll and Tim Ferriss. I cut out all refined carbohydrates, no more bread, pasta, pizza, chips. etc. After this I also cut out milk, coffee, alcohol, soda, fruit juices, most fruits, sweets, potatoes and rice.

The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen. When you eat refined carbs, your body produces a hormone called insulin, which shuts down fat burning. As soon as you get rid of refined carbs, it takes your body 2 meals before it shifts into a high fat burning metabolism. My energy levels increased, I slept much better and didn’t have fatigue headaches anymore, so this happens very quickly.

Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water.

Do yourself a favor and take 1-hour to listen to this great Trail Runner Nation Podcast about fat burning and nutrition.

TRAINING
In May 2013 I joined a running coaching and training program in LA called The Coyotes, by Jimmy Dean Freeman and Kate Martini Freeman, both very talented ultra runners. It motivated me a lot to run with a fun group of people and learn from everyone’s experiences. Finding others to run with makes it so much easier to get up at 5am and put your running shoes on. Twice a week I’d run with the Coyotes, then 2 to 3 times a week I’d run with local friends or alone in Long Beach. Here are the miles I ran in the last 5 months: May 160 miles, June 185 miles, July 184 miles, August 228 miles, Sept 297 miles, Oct taper 40 miles. A total of about 1100 miles in 5 months. See more specific run details on my Strava Account. The Nike Run Viking Contest (win a trip to Iceland ) helped push me to run many miles in September.

Running in Canada

HEART RATE MONITOR TRAINING
Want Speed? Slow Down! was another inspiring article for me during my marathon training. I always thought I had to train at a faster pace to become a faster runner. This article mentions the importance of developing the aerobic base first, before attempting hard work. You get faster without the wear, tear and injury using a heart rate monitor as biofeedback device.

In May I purchased a HR Monitor and Garmin 310 XT watch and started training at my maximum aerobic heart rate of 150. To find your max aerobic HR click here. In May I realized to run at this 150 HR, I had to slow down a lot to 8:30 min / miles on the road, and often a pace of 10 to 11 min / miles on trails with hills. It felt much slower than I was used to but I wanted to build a solid aerobic base. In July, after 2 months of running slower, I ran 7:30 min / mile at 150HR. In August, this pace dropped to 7:00 / mile and early October before I ran my marathon this was 6:40 / mile.

The use of a heart rate monitor takes the guess work out of training and helped increase my aerobic speed significantly. In May, June, July and August I only did 1 anaerobic speed work out per week. In September I did 2 anaerobic speed work outs a week.

It was good to know early October going into this marathon that I would be running borderline aerobic, just slightly anaerobic. So I could mostly burn my unlimited supply of body fat vs burning stored glycogen with higher potential of bonking.

Here is an amazing Trail Runner Nation podcast about HR Monitor training that changed my approach to running a lot.

ACCELERATE RECOVERY TIME
Things that helped accelerate my recovery time, relieved muscle pain and soreness, improved muscle strength and increased endurance:

Drinking a lot of water during and directly after long runs

Eating within 30 minutes after finishing a run

Salt and electrolyte pills on 16-20 mile runs during hot summer months

* Ice baths as soon as possible after long runs. Ice baths suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.

Epsom salt baths to relax your muscles and decrease inflammation

muscle roller to get knots out, to improve circulation and prep muscles for stretching

* Sleeping 7-8 hours a night since most recovery happens in the 7th and 8th hour of sleep. This was the hardest part and didn’t happen much since our daughter was born in March.

THE MARATHON DAY
My trainers Jimmy and Kate told me there are going to be things on race day that are out of your control, and not to let this mess with your head. I felt well prepared going into the race.

My Heart Rate monitor broke the moment I turned it on at the start line and the race was 25 minutes delayed because the course wasn’t ready. I guess those were the things Jimmy and Kate were talking about.

My race plan was simple, run 6:40 min / miles until mile 20, then meet my running buddy and pacer Damien and keep this pace or adjust it if needed. Take a gel every 25 minutes and a salt & electrolyte pill every 50 minutes. The gun went off and after half a mile I looked at my watch and saw 6:28 pace, it felt like I was doing 9:00 due to race excitement. I slowed down and it was pretty easy to keep a consistent pace of 6:38-6:40 until I met my pacer at mile 20. This reason this felt easy was that my heart rate was very low. Even though my HR monitor didn’t work, I estimate it to be 150 to 158.

Long Beach Marathon mile 25

I was stoked to see my pacer at mile 20 and started talking for a bit, he told me to shut up and run to save my energy, good call. At mile 22 I took a gel and salt pill and the pill got stuck in my throat, I coughed and nearly barfed while maintaining a 6:40 pace. At mile 24 my quads started to feel heavier and I made the decision to slow the pace down slightly to avoid possible cramping (and losing 5 minutes in the last 2 miles). I only lost 7 seconds in mile 24 and 11 seconds in mile 25, see detailed Strava breakdown below:

Strava Floris Gierman

At mile 25 another Coyote running buddy Jack totally surprised us and he ran with Damien and I to the finish line at a 6:31 pace. It was an epic feeling running fast with the 3 of us and finishing at an official time of 2:55:05, only 5 seconds off from my projected finish time. Happy to see my wifey and kid around the finish line.

Long Beach Marathon

Long Beach Marathon 2013 medal

Ice bath after running to speed up recovery

I took a 20 minute ice bath after the run and my legs felt totally fine. Next on my horizon is the Avalon 50 mile race on January 11th, 2014. My training plan for the next 3 months will include more trail and hill runs at aerobic pace.
** updated – see my Avalon 50 mile race report here.

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64 Responses to How I trained to run a sub 3 hour marathon

  1. There’s science and there’s mentality. There’s having a plan and there’s being willing to improvise when that plan isn’t working. You can’t implement all that science and mentality in 1 week of reading a couple articles and hearing a good podcast, you LIVED all of these principles ALL summer, and then on race day you executed. One of the things I love so much about running: work SMARTER (not necessarily HARDER). On top of that, you were very coachable. When you got crazy into your two anaerobic workouts a week, I cautioned you, you listened and adjusted (or at least considered what it was I was cautioning you about). From 4:11 to 2:55, and I remember back when you joined us you wrote down that your goal was 3:10-3:15 and you asked me if I thought cutting an HOUR off of your marathon time was possible. So proud of you, Flo!

  2. floris says:

    I clearly remember those conversations when I first joined the Coyotes! So stoked on all the training runs and coaching from you and Kate and I absolutely couldn’t have done it without you guys. You created such a fun running group, that was the biggest motivator to get out there and run together on the most epic running trails around LA.

  3. Mac says:

    I’m an occasional Coyote runner about to do my first marathon (as an adult) in NY. Loved reading your training path and hearing your story. Thanks for sharing and congrats on an outstanding race and time! Cheers!

    • floris says:

      Hi Mac, that’s exciting your first marathon is coming up in 2 weeks! There will be several other Coyotes running it as well. Glad to hear you enjoyed reading my story. Have an awesome time in NY and let me know how it went!

  4. Great Post and fantastic accomplishment. nicely done!

  5. Jonathan says:

    You’re my hero! That’s an awesome story! I eat Paleo and ran my first marathon last March with a 4:17 time. Since then been bit by the triathlon bug and Going to tackle my first Ironman next year and plan on a lot of aerobic fitness base training this winter.

    Cheers~

    • floris says:

      O wow, glad you liked my story Jonathan. That’s rad you ran your first marathon in about the same time I did. A lot of aerobic fitness this winter will pay off for your first Ironman, especially since its such a long aerobic race. Have fun with your training and let me know how your first Ironman went.

      Cheers!

  6. Fred Lechuga says:

    Great job! Thanks for the post and the links!

  7. mileage says:

    What was your mileage before 40 mile weeks in may…
    do you think your actually training started when your first marathon training started?

    • floris says:

      Hi Milage,

      After I finished my first marathon race in 2007 I didn’t run for about 3 years, I only ran once every few months.

      In 2010 I ran 136 miles = 11.3 miles per month
      In 2011 I ran 139 miles = 11.6 miles per month
      In 2012 I ran 229 miles = 19 miles per month
      The first 4 months of 2013 = 133 miles = 33 miles per month

      Here are my monthly totals for 2013:
      January 40 miles
      Feb 12 miles
      March 39 miles
      April 42 miles
      May 160 miles
      June 185 miles
      July 184 miles
      August 228 miles
      Sept 297 miles
      Oct taper 40 miles
      So far in 2013 I’ve run about 1250 miles.

      I think my actual training for this marathon started in May of 2013.

  8. mileage says:

    also thanks for the right up…inspiring.

  9. Joholahau says:

    This sounds absolutely amazing! Well done! I did my first marathon in 4:08, about the same time as you, and really can’t imagine running a sub 3 hrs marathon!
    I tried to run at my aerobic threshold today, as per the calculation in the link in your blog, and struggled very much to run that slowly (dropping from my usual 8:30/mile for longer runs to around 12:00/mile). After the first 10 miles or so, I had to walk at times (and even pace myself then) to keep the heart rate below the calculated threshold level. Did you manage to run 6:40 miles at your aerobic threshold heart rate? What was your starting pace (beginning of training according to this method), and how long did it take you to make this enormous progress?

    • Floris says:

      Hi Joholahau, good to hear from you. I totally had the same struggles you experienced when I first started trying to run at my aerobic threshold. The hardest part is the discipline to slow down even though you’re capable to run a lot faster.

      I was usually running at 7:30 min / mile and had to slow down to 8.30 – 9.30 pace on road and 10 – 13 min pace on trails with frequent walks. After 1 month of slow training this pace already dropped 30 seconds with same HR, the following month another 30 seconds.

      After training for 5 months and a marathon taper I was able to run 6:40 pace at my 150 aerobic threshold HR the week before my marathon. Hope that helps. Keep it up with your HR monitor and let me know how it goes!

  10. Benno says:

    Felicidades Amigo! With your tips and enthusiasm you definitely helped me as well run my marathon faster than i initially expected. I did not go all the way with the nutrition and stuff (still love the occasional beer or two) but definitely shaved off pounds in the past few months and was very excited about the training you in LB and around. Keep it up !

    Benno

  11. Floris says:

    Hey Benno, so stoked to run our short and long beach runs together with an occasional trail adventure getting completely lost. You did an great job running your first marathon! Going out like a Kenyan with a pace 40 second faster than goal race pace and still finishing with a very strong time of 3:33! Lets get some recovery runs going soon again! Cheers

  12. Coach Gareth says:

    awesome planning and result floris. if only more people would do this!!! see you in the lab next week.

  13. Jaime says:

    Great write up! Thanks for sharing!

    I’m really hoping to run a sub-3 in Feb.

  14. Kenneth says:

    Congrats on achieving sub-3 hour and it’s awesome to improve by 76mins! I was aware on the importance of diet but didn’t know it can make such a big difference. There is something that I would like to discuss as in your write up you mentioned avoid rice, pasta and pizzas, but isn’t these important sources of carbs and where rice is what Asians had daily. Any idea did Phil Maffetone mentioned (in his book) about Asian runners diet?

  15. Larry Manross says:

    What an awesome post on your personal journey. You had great coaching and a great team supporting you, but most importantly you had the determination to reach your goal. Enjoy Boston

  16. Shawn says:

    Hello, I came across your blog when looking for a way to use my HRM to train. I already completed my first Marathon doing it in 3:19:40 and I only began running this year. I really like your post. I decided to give it a try. It has been hard to slow down to my aerobic Threshold of 146 putting me at about. 9min mile but I believe this training will help me. I do have a few question. When you were training I read one of your comments about your mileage going up. Did you only run at your 150 aerobic HR threshold? or did you incorporate other types of runs? Did you run to a distance or did you just set a time? I also Live in a hilly area, If I run these hills do i need to maintain my aerobic threshold ( which is hard because of the hills)?
    Thank you for your time.

    • Floris says:

      Hi Shawn, good to hear from you. Thats a great time of 3:19 that you already ran in your first marathon. Slowing down to your aerobic threshold of 146 is very tricky at the beginning. In May this year I started training serious and increased my milage significantly to about 40 – 50 miles a week. The first 3 months in May / June and July nearly all of my runs were aerobic, at or below 150HR. Once a week on Tuesday nights I had speed work outs. I did speed work outs 2 x a week, only 6 to 2 weeks prior to my marathon, then 2 weeks taper with very low milage.

      In training I ran a lot of flat by the beach (similar to my marathon course) and I focused on time on my feet. In the weekends I’d run trails in the hills or occasional stairs.

      Running hills aerobic is tricky, I know all about it. The point is to stay aerobic. When I run aerobic hills I often run 11 – 12 min miles with hike breaks, but then you can run sub 6:00 / 6:30 min / mile down the hill and keep your HR very low.

      These are all guidelines, the main point is to train slower than you’re used to and over time you’ll become faster once you have a good aerobic base. Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know and I’m happy to help.

      Cheers,
      Flo

  17. Rufus says:

    Fantastic achievement Floris. A couple of questions to get a wider perspective:

    How old are you? Did you lose weight when you improved your diet and increased your mileage, if so, how much did you lose? What is you BMI or body fat %? It seems like you had very good natural speed by May 2013 judging by your comment that many of your runs were at 7:30 up to May, is that right? Did you run shorter races during 2013, and what were your times? Thanks again for sharing.

    • Floris says:

      Hi Rufus, thanks for your message!

      To answer your questions, I’m 31 years old. Yes I did lose weight by changing my diet and increasing my milage. In April 2013 I was 170 pounds and had about 16% body fat. With a pretty strict no processed carbs & sugar diet, I lost 28 pounds in 6 months, bringing my body fat down to around 9%.
      Several of my shorter runs up to May were between 7:30 and 8:00 pace. This marathon was the only race I ran, however I did time a handful of solo runs with ‘race conditions’ (water bottle, gels, few salt pills). Here are a few of them, all with negative split to train finishing strong:

      March 11, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:38:31 (new PR) = 7:31 pace
      May 14, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:35:05 (new PR) = 7:15 pace
      August 10, 2013 – 13.1 miles in 1:27:07 (new PR) = 6:39 pace
      August 30, 2013 – 20 miles in 2:24:17 = 7.12 pace
      September 21, 2013 – 20 miles in 2:24:36 = 7.13 pace

      In May I set this October Marathon goal time at 3:15 which I updated to 2:55 after I ran my 1:27 1/2 marathon in August.

      Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, let me know.
      Good luck with your upcoming race!

      Cheers,
      Flo

  18. Rufus says:

    28 pounds off a 170lbs frame in 6 months, wow, I am impressed! You must have a heck of a lot dedication and willpower. How tall are you? I am 51, run over 30 marathons in 20 years mostly in the range 3:23 – 3:45. I still feel I have a sub 3 in me but I know I need to knuckle down and work on my diet to get to racing weight (I am currently 172 pounds and 5’11) with 19% body fat. I have also run a few ultras, 50 miles and above, including the ultra trail du Mont Blanc.

    • Floris says:

      Cheers Rufus, it took about 3 – 5 days to get the habits / addiction to processed carbs and sugars out of my system, it wasn’t hard after that. Plus I’d eat whatever 1 day a week, to keep sane and because it speeds up your metabolism again for a proven increase in fat loss. I’m 6’1.

      That’s incredible that you’ve run over 30 marathons! That ultra trail du Mont Blanc looks like an epic race. You totally have a great base to run a sub 3. My main recommendation would be to train with a HR monitor at 180 minus your age for at least 3 months to build a strong base. Then add 1 – 2 interval trainings a week after that. Running aerobic all the time helps you burn body fat and lose weight, this alone will make you a faster runner. Also for 1 week replace all processed carbs (pasta / pizza / bread) for (beans, extra veggies, nuts, etc) and see how it goes.

      Good luck with your run training and please keep me posted how it goes! Cheers

  19. Bill Z says:

    Floris,

    I have to tell you; you really inspired me to make some serious last second switches to my marathon training and major diet changes. I ran my first marathon last year and barely broke 4 hours (3:58:46) which was my big goal. But it took everything out of me and I was hurting afterwards. Then I did some serious speed work and broke through in my 5K time (PR of 21:36 – nothing too impressive but I never thought I’d get there). Unfortunately minor injuries kept springing up which halted progress. I’ve heard and read in the past about HR training but this system makes it seem much easier…if you have dedication and patience. And those are 2 traits I do believe I have. I am doing my next marathon in late May and my 18 week training schedule began last week. I abandoned all of the speed & hill sessions and decided to do this. My age is 31, my aerobic threshold is 149 according to the formula. In addition to the plan, I cut out all the sugars/sweets and refined carbs (used to eat a ton). Get this, I’m on day 5 of this and I went from 149.8lbs to 146.2 (this morning) and I’m a pretty thin guy to begin with (I’m 5’11)! That’s 3 pounds in 5 days! I strongly believe (ok, really really hope) this will work for me. My first week went well although I couldn’t believe how much I had to slow down at points. I did the MAF test and my speed predictably went down each mile. Your story has me dreaming big. I’d love to get to Boston one day, that’s the dream. But I know I have to remain patient, not go above my aerobic threshold and stay determined.

    Did you eat anything on your long runs besides the electrolyte pills & salt pills? I’ve read some of your answers and you say it’s okay to have one cheat day a week (because it can kick start your metabolism?)? Did you take out all Gatorade/Powerade’s (as Maffetone suggests)?

    Thanks for writing this up. Much appreciated.

    • floris says:

      Hi Bill Z,

      Great to hear you were able to pick up some things from my post. That’s perfect you have until May to train for your marathon! Set your goals very high, work very hard and you can make it happen man! If not this time around, if you really want to, you can qualify for Boston.

      Good thing you’re changing up your diet pretty significant. Its totally normal you have to slow down during your runs to stay at or below your 149 HR. That’s the hardest part of this whole aerobic training thing is that you know you can run a lot faster and that you have to hold back and be patient. This is also good to prevent injuries.

      The one cheat day a week to eat whatever you want is to reset your metabolism to an artificially high rate every week, so it will help speed up your process of losing body fat.

      Once your metabolism is used to not eating carbs and properly burning body fat, you don’t feel the spikes in energy when you run aerobic. With that being said I did take out all Gatorade / Powerade’s etc. Last month I ran my first 50 mile Ultra race with 7k elevation and only had Water + Gue’s + Salt Pills and a few banana pieces for 7 hours and 26 minutes long. I made sure my HR wouldn’t go over 162 so I would keep burning energy at a level I could maintain. (http://www.flotography.com/how-i-trained-to-run-my-first-50-mile-race)

      At some point you’re going to hit a plateau when you only run aerobic. Then you’ll have to start implementing some speed work to get to the next level. After a few months of aerobic only running, I started doing 1 speed workout a week, 400m, 800m or 1600m sprints, stairs, hills, etc. Then 6-8 weeks before the race I started running my longer runs with negative splits, first 75% of the run at 1 minute slower then race pace, last 25% at 15 sec faster than race pace. Those are hard, but great training.

      Also to maintain a 6:50 pace for 26 miles, you should run a lot of 6:30 pace miles those last 6-8 weeks before your marathon, so when you run 6:50 pace it feels ‘slow’.

      Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, hit me up.

      Cheers!

      Flo

      • Bill says:

        Thanks for the response Flo. Just a few more questions.

        Did you ever think you would be able to run that fast, that far when you were working harder with 8:30min/miles before you started training this way? I read the 50 mile race blog (great stuff, btw) and you ran a 5’45 mile at one point! Did you ever think you could pull that off in the middle of a 50 mile race?!?! My fastest 5K included a pace of 6’56, and that felt very, very difficult last summer. Like I mentioned in my previous post, I notice some similarities with us before you started this training so I’m hopeful I can follow in your footsteps to some degree. It’s still hard for me to believe I’ll keep progressing at the pace I am and be able to hold a 6:xx pace for that long!

        I wrote down your timeline of 6 months leading up to your marathon in October and the only thing I saw that I’m way off on was you did a test half marathon in May and were able to do it in 1:35:05 (7’15 pace) which is pretty damn good considering that was the start of your training. I have a half marathon that’ll act as a good test in March. I have an 8K next weekend to see where I’m at speed wise on my short game.

        One other thing; I don’t know how you did it but pulling off a 297 mile month is INSANE. Even the 228 mile month seems pretty difficult. And you did this with a young child, so much props. I’m currently able to comfortably average 40-50 miles a week with a full time job, wife, house, etc. Attempting 70 mile weeks for a month may be not be doable but I’ll try to get as close as I can. And the fact that you stayed injury free is a testament to the Aerobic Threshold approach.

        Quick update on me: Still staying strict to my diet and my training (6 out of 7 days a week). I’m at “peak” weight, it feels. I hit a new low of 143.2 recently (started the 18 week training program/diet/aerobic threshold running at 149lbs). My time continues to go down, and I’ve thrown in one speed session a week. I’m starting to hit new levels of speed when I do them which is a really encouraging sign. Like I mentioned, the fastest 5K I ever ran felt very difficult. I’m curious to see how my speed improves at the top end. Week 1 AVG pace: 9:18. Week 2 AVG pace: 9:00. Week 3 AVG pace: 8:49. Week 4 AVG pace: 8:37. Currently on Week 5 and I’m trending in the same pattern. I was able to drop 41 seconds over my first month. Hoping to continue that way!

        Thanks again,
        Bill

        • Flo says:

          Hi Bill,

          Sorry for my late response, has been a bit hectic lately. Stoked to hear your training is going well and you’re still improving a lot! A 41 second drop in your first month is incredible. Now you’re at a 8:37 pace, even if you’re able to drop 15 seconds a month for the next 5 months you’ll be running aerobic around 7:15 – 7:20 which is incredible! When you’re able to run that, your current 5k pace of 6:56 will feel comfortable and easier to maintain.

          A few years ago I ran a 1:38 1/2 marathon and I could not possibly imagine ever running any faster.

          In the 50 mile I hit a 5:45 min / mile on a steep downhill, on the flats I would never do this in a long race.

          The 297 mile month was in the middle of a Nike Contest to win a trip to Iceland to run the glaciers. http://runfree.nikeapp.com/en_us/run/detail/runviking The Top 10 people who logged the most miles with their Nike App won, so I decided to run a lot that month. Most of the runs were with baby stroller by the beach, very early in the morning or late at night. It worked out well with my marathon training peak and I won the trip to Iceland so that was fun :)

          If you want to find time to increase your weekly milage, doing doubles could work well, 7 – 8 miles in the morning and at night, less injury chances that way too.

          Keep up the good work and let me know how it goes!

          Cheers,

          Flo

  20. Barak says:

    Hi man,

    I’m really inspired. The food is my biggest challenge. I would be grateful if you could post your diet plan.

    Thanks and regards!

    • Flo says:

      Hi Barak,

      Glad to hear that. Yeh the food part is definitely a tricky one, especially to get over the first week. Once you get in a new eating habit, it will become a lot easier.

      I don’t have a set diet plan. Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water. I make a lot of shakes as well with fruits. This morning for example I had a shake with some veggies (carrots, tomato, zucchini, carrot, apple and almond milk) + I made some some eggs with beans and spinach. I’ll have enough leftover for an early lunch as well.

      Hope that helps. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

      Cheers,

      Flo

  21. Tay says:

    This is inspiring. I live in LA and have a few friends that run with the Coyotes. I’m about to run LA Sunday shooting for 3:30-3:40 but I know I got some sub-3 in me. This post helped a lot. I already run with a group 2-3x a week but thinking of adding the Coyotes too.

    • Flo says:

      Hi Tay,

      Small world that some of your friends run with the Coyotes! You should come out on Thursday morning Coyote runs, its a free group trail run and you get to see many new trails around LA. Good introduction to see what the Coyotes are all about, great group of fun people.

      Hope you survived the LA marathon heat this past sunday! How did it go? Glad this post helped a lot and good luck with your sub-3 training, its not easy but you can totally do it!

      Cheers,

      Flo

  22. Flo says:

    Hi Tay,

    Small world that some of your friends run with the Coyotes! You should come out on Thursday morning Coyote runs, its a free group trail run and you get to see many new trails around LA. Good introduction to see what the Coyotes are all about, great group of fun people.

    Hope you survived the LA marathon heat this past sunday! How did it go? Glad this post helped a lot and good luck with your sub-3 training, its not easy but you can totally do it!

    Cheers,

    Flo

  23. Pingback: How To Run A 3 Hour Marathon

  24. Chris Keri-Nagy says:

    Hi Floris

    Totally amazing and congratulations. Please tell me, after your workouts on any day would you have a carb based recovery drink or just water?

    Cheers

    Chris

    • Flo says:

      Thanks Chris! After most work outs I’d try to drink and eat within 30 minutes. For the the longer or more intense runs I’d definitely consume carbs. I eat a lot of burritos with extra guacamole. I’m personally not the biggest fan of Gatorade or other sport drinks. For me Chocolate Milk or Vitargo are great recovery drink.

      Cheers!
      Flo

  25. John says:

    Hey Flo,

    Thank you so much for the post! Your article has been an inspiration to me and I have structured my training strategy around HR monitor training.

    I wanted to ask you a question, in your marathon you mentioned a target 6:50 / mile pace but what about a target HR for the race itself? I ran a marathon this past Sunday in Japan and the first two thirds at about 10 bpm higher than my aerobic max–totally crashed and burned after about 22 miles.

    I am still well on my journey to sub 3 hour status (3:57 this weekend after 2 months of HR training) but also want to think more about my pacing strategy for the next race irrespective of where my training has put me. Thank you so much in advance for the insight!

    -John

    • Flo says:

      Hi John,

      That must have been a rad experience, running a marathon in Japan! That sounds pretty familiar about hitting the wall at mile 22, when you run it at 10 bpm higher than your aerobic max. Keep in mind you’ve only been doing 2 months of HR training, it takes patience, determination and several months of aerobic training to build that solid aerobic base.

      In my Long Beach marathon I targeted 6:40 / mile to run the marathon in 2:55, going into the race I knew I would be around 150-155 at the beginning of the marathon and more towards 160 at the end. My HR monitor broke at the start line of the marathon, so I was never able to see my actual HR data.

      For the past 12 months I’ve now been training mostly aerobic. 3 weeks back I ran an aerobic marathon at 149HR in 3 hours 7 min (7:08 / mile), 2 weeks back I ran a solo 50k (31.1 mile) in 3 hours 30 min (6:45 / mile) and my average HR was 154, see mile by mile breakdown here http://www.strava.com/activities/131916574

      If you want to avoid bonking for your next race, I’d listen to your body more by running aerobic only, plus take enough nutrition every 25 minutes, take some salt / electrolytes and drink enough water. De-hydrating elevates your HR very fast and makes aerobic running nearly impossible. Run enough aerobic miles and your pace will become faster over time.

      Try the MAF-test (15 min warm up, then run 5 miles at Aerobic Max) do this once a month to see your speed at same HR improve over time, more info here: http://www.philmaffetone.com/maf-test

      Hope that helps. Keep me posted on your progress and good luck!

      Cheers,

      Flo

  26. RBZ says:

    Hey Flo,

    First of all thank you for posting this inspirational story! I was fed up of trolls on running forums and their disparaging comments. I’m training for my first marathon (San Francisco Marathon 7/27/14) and I want to qualify for Boston so I’d need to run a 3:05 race given my age group (25). Before stumbling onto your awesome blog I didn’t even think it was possible for a person to run such a fast marathon their first(second)try (I’m assuming you could have done this your first time around given the 3 year gap pretty much meant you started from scratch) but after reading your post I feel rejuvenated and more motivated than ever!

    Here is a brief look into my running background:

    -5K two years back at a 7:30 pace
    -HM two weeks back at a 7:57 pace – Ridiculous elevation gain including huge flights of stairs and also a section of sand
    -Performed Maffetone’s MAF test today and here are my splits:
    – Mile 1 – 6:35
    – Mile 2 – 6:50
    – Mile 3 – 6:54
    – Mile 4 – 7:01
    – Mile 5 – 7:15
    – Average – 6:55 (Probably didn’t warm up enough because it took a lot to get my heart rate up to 155 the first mile which is probably why there’s such a huge drop from mile 1 to 2 and also mile 5 due)
    - Using a customized Hal Higdon training regimen, first 5 weeks used beginner 1 for weekday runs and intermediate 1 for weekend long runs, second 5 weeks used intermediate 1 for all runs, just started 3rd 5 weeks using the advanced 1 program and will also use it for the 3 week taper period
    - I bought the same Garmin GPS watch and heart monitor you used (if only i read up on Maffetone’s articles earlier I could have used the heart monitor much sooner) and only started using the heart monitor last weekend on my first 20 mile run (7:45 pace @ 155 BPM HR – discounting time wasted at stop lights)
    - Through my 11 weeks of training I’ve been running my long runs at a slower pace and training up my aerobic base unknowingly. Hal Higdon recommended that all runs should be ran about a minute slower than what your race pace is so I started around 9mins/mile and worked my way down into the 7 min/mile pace.
    -My diet is very similar to yours but i eat brown rice and my salad dressing includes 2.5 grams of sugar
    -Didn’t cut alcohol out until about a week ago

    Given the above and with 4 more weekends of intense training before my taper begins, is a 3:05 marathon time feasible? SFM has a total elevation gain of 880″ and it’s a loop course so you start where you end up:

    http://www.thesfmarathon.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Full-Marathon-Elevation-Profile.jpg

    I mapped out a good portion of the route for my 20 mile run and it wasn’t as difficult as imagined but then again my pace dropped to 8+ mins/miles during my last 2 miles (will start taking salt pills next time around, only been using GU chomps on long runs and ran out of water for last 2 miles)

    My next question if you think it’s feasible that i can hit my goal, should i move to 2 a day anaerobic training for my last 2 weeks of intense training or just stick with once a week? i only recently started anaerobic training last week at the start of my final 5 weeks of training. From what i gathered from Maffetone’s podcast, anaerobic training is only useful in endurance training as a “change-up” to aerobic training.

    And last question, is a 3 week taper period too long and how long did you taper for?

    Please be honest :) I won’t get offended if you don’t think I can hit my goal

    Anyways, thanks again for the post and hope my reply wasn’t too excessive!

    Cheers,
    Rich

  27. Flo says:

    Hi Rich,

    Exciting to hear you’re training for your first marathon, that’s rad! Glad you got some inspiration out of my blog. Running your first marathon is a big goal, running it below sub 3:05 gnarly, I’m not going to lie, but not impossible.

    To answer your questions. MAF test – you need a solid 15-20 minute warm up and from looking at your data that jumped from 6:35 to 6:50 you weren’t warmed up all the way. I usually run mile 1 at 8.30 pace, mile 2 at 7.30 pace ending it closer to 7.00 pace and then mile 3-7 at my 149 aerobic pace. That way my HR is already at 135 ish when I start my MAF test so its easy to get to your max aerobic pace.

    Running a marathon can be split up in 2 parts. Mile 1 – 20 I would call the warm up. Mile 20-26 is where the race takes place. That’s the part where people bonk / hit the wall. To train and simulate this second part I’d recommend:
    - running on tired legs (doing a long run 13 ish miles on Saturday, followed by a long run 15-20 miles on Sunday)
    - running a long run, first 75% at 1 minute slower than marathon pace, so 8:00 / mile, the last 25% at 15 seconds faster than marathon pace, so 6:48 / mile.
    - becoming very comfortable running 6:40 min / miles, so that 7:00 marathon pace feels slow.

    Even before my sub 3 hour marathon I had run several 20 mile runs to train with water, gels and salt pills. With 4 weeks of training left, I’d run at least 2 – 3 runs of 20 miles to get familiar with the distance.

    I only implemented anaerobic runs after an aerobic base of several months. Since you want to run it at 3:05 and only 5 more weeks of training left, I’d do Fast Intervals on Tuesday and a long run with last 25% at 6:48 pace. So that’s 2 x anaerobic since you’ll only do that for 4 – 5 weeks.

    3 weeks is long for a marathon taper. I’d cut down my weekly milage. Not sure how many miles you run during peak training these coming weeks, however I’d bring it back in week 3. I ran a 1/2 marathon 3 weeks prior (75% slower, 25% faster than Marathon time). Then last 2 weeks I cut down milage and pace significantly. 25 / 15-ish miles.

    Its hard to say if you’re going to hit your goal or not. All I can tell you is that its ok to hit the wall on some longer runs, so you realize how this feels and how you can overcome though spots in a long run, either by drinking more, eating more gels or taking more salts, changing pace, etc.

    Hope some of this helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know. Good luck with your training!

    Cheers,

    Flo

  28. rich says:

    Hey Flo,

    Thanks for the reply and the helpful/insightful comments! I will definitely try to perform all of the advice you gave but a few points of clarification:

    -MAF testing, so are you running the 7 miles continuously? 2 miles of warm up and then straight into the 5 miles sort of like a tempo run

    -Awesome analogy with the 20/6.2 split! Should I be running all of my long runs (above 13+ miles) at the 75% @ +1 minute/ 25% @ -15 second

    -Can you clarify this comment – “Since you want to run it at 3:05 and only 5 more weeks of training left, I’d do Fast Intervals on Tuesday and a long run with last 25% at 6:48 pace. So that’s 2 x anaerobic since you’ll only do that for 4 – 5 weeks.” – My rest day is current Friday right now so should i move it to Monday after my long run? Also is the long run with last 25% @ 6:48 pace considered an anaerobic exercise?

    -Regarding taper, are you recommending I only taper for 2 weeks? Maybe it’s best if i run another 20 miler that week to get my total number of 20 miles up to 4 instead of only 3.

    Appreciate the comments again, i know my chances of hitting my goal are slim but as long as it’s not impossible i will keep on marching on.

    Lastly, i provide my email in my replies, if it’s not too much trouble do you mind if we connect via email going forward? I promise i won’t email you everyday regarding my progress but maybe twice a month for the next month or until my taper period begins. if not, that’s perfectly cool, you’ve already helped me much more than all the people on forums have helped combined!

    Cheers,
    Rich

    • floris says:

      Hi Rich,

      Yes I run the 7 miles on the MAF test continuously, from 2 mile warm up straight into the 5 miles at max aerobic HR.

      I wouldn’t run all your long runs at the 75% @ +1 minute/ 25% @ -15 second. These hard very hard runs to simulate running fast at the end of a long run, similar to a fast marathon trying to keep up fast pace at the end.

      You can work the days around to fit your week schedule best. I’d definitely take a day off or run a very mellow pace the day after a long run and before you do your next interval day. In this training pace you have to watch out for injuries, listen to your body what it can handle. A 6:48 pace is indeed for most people considered an anaerobic exercise, unless you have a very solid aerobic base.

      - I’d run your last 20 mile run 3 weeks out, then 2 weeks prior maybe 1/2 a marathon, then start your 2 week taper after. Tapering too long makes you lazy and your legs will recover to top shape in 7-10 days.

      Feel free to email your additional questions over, or you can post them here as well, so some others can read it as well.

      Have fun these coming weeks!

      Cheers,

      Flo

  29. Sanjay says:

    Hi Flo:
    Came across your blog on 10th April 2014 and that made me follow your inspirational transition to being a super athlete. On 18th April 2014, did my MAF at 5:43 per km (9:12 mile) over 10k. This was in hot weather in Mumbai, India. For the next 30 days there was zero time improvement i guess dues to the heat and humidity. But gains were setting in following Phil’s diet cutting wheat and milk out of my diet. Refined carbs were already absent. Then i went on a holiday to Gold Coast, Australia (26 May 2014, and ran my second MAF (35 days later). 5:17 ( 8:30 per mile) . Just being at 18C and low humidity did the difference. The running was effortless.

    Then oomes the tough part of getting back to Mumbai, India and the weather is very hot with high humidity. Temps at 30C in the morning and very humid. My MAF reading have gone to 9:35 per mile. On long runs, i am forced to walk a few steps every other km due to the heat.

    I am not sure how to understand MAF readings. We deal with heat and humidity and then rains and strong winds for the next 4 months. Very difficult to see progress in my readings and i see that Phil talks about this in his awesome book.

    My situation is that i will have to be just patient and wait for 4 months!!! I am 50, running at 135 HR. Body % fat has dropped from 11.5% to 9.2% (measured on Tanita scale) during the 2 months of training at aerobic. That is a big plus.

    A brief background. Done many marathons and the last 2 are sub 4 with a best timing of 3:56. Completed two iron man races, best time 15:22 this year. Note that most of my training was anaerobic in the past. Full of intervals and tempos.

    My goal is to run a marathon with a sub 8 mile pace in Jan 2015. Mileage, April 2014, 150 miles, June 150 miles. All runs below 135 HR.

    Have been tracking your progress really closely and love the focus on clean eating and being in the fat burring zone.

    • floris says:

      Hi Sanjay,

      Thank you for your nice message. Sounds like you’re training the right way! Congrats on your Iron Man completion, I hope to do that one day! That’s great you’ve been running at 135HR and that your body fat % has already dropped by more than 2%, that’s huge! Your monthly mileage of 150 below 135 HR is really good for a solid aerobic base as well.

      The different temperatures, humidity and wind make a reliable MAF test tricky. Higher temperatures elevate your HR rapidly. Sauna training, enough water intake, and keeping your body cool (ice bandana, etc) can all help reduce your HR.

      Phil Maffetone recommends in ‘The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing’ to run the MAF test on an indoor track. I don’t have access to an indoor track, so I ran my MAF test every month on the same 1.1 mile loop by the beach. I run mine usually at 5 or 6am so there is less wind and cooler temperatures.

      If the temperature is very hot early on, you can consider to run the MAF test indoors, on a thread mill. Make sure to do a 15 – 20 minute warm up before your test. Then run at your 135 HR and adjust your pace as you’re running. At the end of the day, the MAF test is good to see your progress. The first few months the progress is slow, but over time with enough patience, you’ll see your pace improve, and your runs will go easier and easier.

      Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, just let me know. Good luck with your marathon training, keep me posted!

      Reply

      • Sanjay Dalal says:

        Hi Flo:
        Have been running steady milage from 3 months below 150 MAF for age 30. May 176 miles, June 189 miles and July 231 Miles. Hard to predict my changes in MAF as the weather hovers around 27C to 32C with 90% humidity in Mumbai. What i wanted to check with you is the long run. I have been steadily increasing it every Sunday from 21k to 23k and then 25k and now the last 3 weeks it is at 28k. Is that fine? To run about 90k a week, i would require that weekend run. Mid week i do a 21k run.How do you structure your long runs every week end? Is there a pattern?

        What i found i bit confusing is Phil’s new book, 1:59 says long runs at MAF should not be over 2 hours, but you can gradually build it up !! What do you think?

        I looked at signs of weather i am over reaching or over training since MAF reading are hard to understand in very hot weather. When the humidity and temp came down one day, my 21k run dropped from 6 min/km to 5:45 !!! Looking at my resting heart rate and HRV all in control with body percentage fat low, i think its not overtraining.

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  32. Yi Hui says:

    Hi Floris!

    Just happen to catch your article on how you attained a sub 3 timing within months and I find it very inspiring! I have been facing problems to overcome my running plateau ever since i hit my PB at 4:20 and your article come just in time for me to pick up tips as I prepared for a marathon in December. Nice write up!

    • Flo says:

      Hi Yi Hui,

      Great timing before your December marathon! You still have 3 months of solid training ahead of you. If you come across any specific running questions during your training these coming months, just let me know! Have fun with your training these coming months and I’m sure you can beat your PB. Keep me posted how it goes! Cheers,

      Flo

  33. Alvin says:

    Hi Floris, thanks for sharing and serious inspiring stuff you have written! I’m giving the MAF approach another try after a previous failed attempt. Its been almost a month and i’ve seen quite a huge drop in my paces at my MAHR. I noticed you mentioned u did one anaerobic workout when u were first starting out in the aerobic base building stage. My question is does anaerobic workout hurt the progress alot? Fyi, i’m currently doing a PT class once a week (mixture of plyometrics, kettleball, calisthenics, TRX etc). Rest of my training are all aerobic runs just under my MAHR. Many thanks in advancr, cheers Alvin.

  34. Flo says:

    Hi Alvin,

    Stoked to hear you’ve seen a huge drop in your pace at Max Aerobic Heart Rate this month! Ideally you first take at least 3 months to only run at MAHR, since this gives you the least amount of stress on your body and it builds your aerobic base the fastest. Doing one anaerobic workout is fine and shouldn’t delay your aerobic base progress much, since you’re doing all other runs just under your MAHR.

    Keep up the good work and let me know how these coming months will go for you. Thanks and cheers,

    Flo

  35. Alvin says:

    Thanks Flo. Appreciate the advice. Run safe, keep writing and inspiring people ! Cheers Alvin

  36. Anand says:

    Hi Flo

    Thanks for posting such an inspiring article… Its evoked such discussion that the responses themselves are insightful. I have a few questions that I hope you can help clarify.

    How were you able to build miles so rapidly with out injury scares? Also your may 2013 Half was in a decent shape indictaing a good baseline fitness, were you cross training or practicing other sports before beginning your active running. Do you continue to cross train?. Upper body and core seems to be an important yet neglected one for some of the runners and i would love any tips on that

    Lastly, will you be able to share a representative week workout.. Say one in May towards the beginning and one in the ending months,

    Many thanks
    anand

  37. KC says:

    Awesome post and very inspiring. I notice you ran with a handheld bottle. I have finished 3 marathons and I am struggling to figure out the best way to hydrate. With a bottle that size, how are you able to get enough fluid and carbs during your race? In my last race I found myself clipping 8 packets of Gu in my shorts and stopping to drink Ultima as well. I still bonked. Now I wonder if I am getting too much, although everything I have studied says I need as much as 60g of carbs/hour. My next race has Nuun as the drink, which has zero carbs and zero cals, so now I’m wondering how to fuel and if I should carry my own. From what I’ve read online, most marathoners seem to take between 2-4 gel packets (I see in your photo that you had 4). Any hydration advice you can give based on your experience? Thanks and keep up the great posts! KC

  38. Mat says:

    Hi Flo,

    After running a 3:08 marathon in October 2013, I trained hard with the goal of running a 3:03 BQ time in May 2014. However, I bonked and ran a 3:10 marathon. I was very disappointed and did not plan on running another marathon this year.

    Then I read your post in July and was very inspired by your story. Not only did I decide to race in October, but I also developed my training plan around 5 pillars that you describe in your text.
    1) Increased weekly mileage over 45 miles (from 35 miles)
    2) Purchased a HR monitor to do all my runs under 150 bpm
    3) Improved my nutrition by bringing a lunch and snacks to work
    4) Accelerated recovery with ice baths and foam roller
    5) Boosted race fueling by taking a gel every 25 min and drinking more

    This regimen worked for me too! Last Sunday, I ran a 2:59 marathon, and met all of my most aspirational goals for this race: BQ, sub 3 hour, negative split.

    Thanks for your inspiring post!

    Mat

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