7 Ways to Slash an Hour (Or More) Off of Your Marathon Time.

So today I thought we would discuss marathon times and for those of you that are trying to hit some serious time goals, this post is for you! I don’t pretend to be an expert but I wanted to share my experiences with the marathon distance and how I’ve vastly improved in the last few years.

A few short years ago, I was running marathons and finishing them in 4 hours and 50 minutes. I was slowly but surely creeping into finishing all of my races in 5 hours and it was so mentally frustrating. But I altered some things and making those changes has literally slashed 1 hour and some change off of my current time. My PR is now 3:45 and that is due to a lot of hard work and dedication. So I wanted to share how I’ve gotten there. And hopefully I may be able to help some of you.

1. Figure out what style of training works for you. I was just talking with my running buds about training methods this morning. I have a friend that I train with in the mornings (he does his easy runs/recovery days with our group) that is pushing 60 years old and you guys he is just remarkable in every sense of the word when it comes to badass runners. He has broken 3 hours in the marathon more than once and is returning to Boston this year to really crush it. He consistently runs strong times and actually told me that one of the things that has helped him improve over the years is upping his weekly mileage. It is all about balance and all about patience. Increasing your mileage slowly over time is definitely going to build your aerobic capacity and make you a stronger runner in the long run. Pun intended.

2. Stay on top of problem areas when it comes to injury prevention. Do you have issues with your hips, knees, whatever etc!? Do not run yourself into the ground until you fall apart. Find out what is going on with your body and do what it takes to immediately nip it in the bud. The moment you stay on top of things before they become serious issues is when you will start to see improvements in your running. I run a lot…but guess what? I stretch a lot too. I see the same massage therapist 1-2 times a month who works on my issues when they come up. You do what you’ve gotta do to stay healthy and stay rocking out the mileage.

3. Be consistent! You can’t expect to improve if you are not willing to put in the work. Run when you don’t want to. Get up early before you have time to think about it and get the time in on your feet. Keep track of your miles from week to week. Include recovery weeks in your training. The more consistent you are as a runner the better you will get at it and the better you will get at what does and does not work for you.

4. Stay mobile and active even when you are not running. I have a varidesk at work. I am telling you, having an adjustable desk where you can stand up and move around and you are not sitting all day will help you immensely! Before when I was sitting all day I had to see my chiropractor on a consistent basis for hip adjustments. Now I only see him a couple of times a year. So thank you, varidesk…you are the real MVP.

5. Okay, keep it real time. Racing weight does matter somewhat. I don’t necessarily think it is the end all be all to running faster times. You still have to put in work because you could be stick thin and unhealthy and still be struggling with running. BUT… dropping excess weight does make you lighter which in turn could make you a tad faster. In the last few years I’ve dropped about 25 additional pounds really due to the higher mileage and getting adjusted to that. But I do think that helped give me a bit of a boost and helped running a sub 4 hour marathon not feel so difficult. Y’all that sub 4 used to feel HARD to me. It really doesn’t anymore. So, make some adjustments in your nutrition if you have to. Add more fresh foods into your diet. Cut the unnecessary post long run “treats”. I know some of us run because we are foodies or like to drink margaritas. But doing all of that stuff is NOT going to make you faster. Eat to fuel your running and to fuel your goals. *drops mic*

6. Hills. Speedwork. Long runs. Do them. When I started adding more hill training especially is when I started to see lots of improvement in my training. I really feel like hills strengthen my legs and make me more powerful when it is time to race. Hills definitely are speedwork in disguise. Also even if you do things like strides (quick pickups while you are running) or hit the track 1-2 times a week, tempo runs etc. All of these things will make moving faster not as difficult.

7. Run with faster people. This one is major. If you want to run faster marathon times you have to put yourself in a scenario and envision yourself being that “fast” runner. Run with people who have more experience with this than you. Run with those Boston marathoners that wear the flashy jackets. Find out what makes them tick. Sooner or later you will be rocking and rolling and pushing the pace and feeling like that confident fast runner that is crushing those marathon times.

What are some things that have helped your running improve over time?

36 thoughts on “7 Ways to Slash an Hour (Or More) Off of Your Marathon Time.

  1. Word on the street is that I’m getting an actual office (instead of staying in a cubicle) and I’m going to look into a varidesk. I’ve seen a couple variations where one can combine it with a treadmill or a stationary bike.

    • Yep! Working in tv behind the scenes I do get to move around probably more often than other desk people but as a writer I do have to write a lot so it is nice to stand up. I feel like it helps get my brain moving with creative stuff too.

    • Hmm…girrrl I have been running marathons for so long now I’m starting to get old so you are making me think 🙂 I believe it was after the 4th try or so. Started to plateau after running so many and then finally broke the plateau again! Running is such a roller coaster ride but I love it and love sharing the journey. 🙂

  2. Great advice, especially on mileage and consistency! The relationship between mileage and weight is a funny one as well, I have noticed that anything under 28mi / week and I put on weight, but once I run over that consistently the pounds fall off!

    The only thing I’d add is progression runs, especially once you’ve built a decent endurance and aerobic base and you can introduce progression LRs into the mix! These were a game changer for me.

  3. Yes! Big believer in doing a variety of training runs. I have seen major speed improvement over the past year by doing tempo runs, progression runs, hill work-outs and mixing in nice and easy runs. Of all things, hills and tempo runs seem to work best for me when I want to get faster.

  4. Great read! I too have the stand up desk and love it. Recently I’ve upped my mileage and done a ton of hills. I didn’t realize how much stronger they made me until my flat half 2 days ago. I ran a 2:09 when in Jan I did a 2:22, Feb a 2:32, and March a 2:18. Suddenly seemingly overnight it feels like I’ve turned a huge corner and can’t wait to continue building for my Chicago marathon!

  5. Great list. All of these items are key pieces to big improvement. So many runners (myself included) fail to follow #2. We do a lot of stupid things and most of the time we get away with it. Sometimes we don’t. 😦

    • Indeed! Just years of experience honestly and trying and failing and trying again will make you successful in the next go ’round. Am continuing to send you positive vibes that you will be 100% soon!!

  6. Especially #5 and #6! I’m targeting race weight now and it can really get tough to try to drop weight without losing muscle, but with the right approach, it is definitely doable. For me, the extra pounds show up on the uphill cycling! Thanks for the insight!

    • Yeah and definitely strength training and yoga and cross training come into play when it comes to staying strong while you are getting lean. As a fitness instructor I’m very thankful for the gym!

  7. This is a great post! I am not planning on running any more marathons any time soon (at least not until my kids hit their teenage years), but getting my half marathon pace back down to my pre-baby speed is my primary goal right now! I’ll definitely be bookmarking this post and following your tips! Just what I needed today. Thank you. =)

  8. Great advice, and so good for me to read given that I am doing my FIRST marathon this coming fall! I’m excited that I will soon be able to up my mileage a bit, as I’m moving back to NYC in May, and plan to start running home from work! I got an apartment only 4 miles from my job, and want to eventually run home 5 days a week, in addition to my morning runs. And all the other stuff is good for me to keep in mind too. Great post!

  9. This was really useful. I definitely agree about hill work- that had the biggest impact the quickest on my leg strength, and meant I wasn’t scared of hills in the real things

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