How I ran a Sub 3h Marathon



In 2018 I ran my first marathon in 4:00:04 (5:40min/km Pace). In September 2022 I ran my second marathon in 2:58:20 (4:13min/km pace). More than 1 hour faster. In this article I describe how I got there.

My running background – The first marathon

My journey in endurance sports started in 2017. After playing soccer for 15 years before, I set myself the goal to run a marathon in 2017 without ever having started in a real race before. Great idea, right? I think that’s pretty much the most chosen path in running. First, a marathon. With that goal in mind, I signed up for the nearest marathon and started training.

Like any novice runner without training experience or a coach, my first injury wasn’t far behind. Running miles too fast, intensities too fast, and running too fast led to patellar tendonitis, which plagued me for a long time, especially after the marathon.

The marathon itself was tough, incredibly tough. Up to that point, I had only done 1-2 long runs over 20 kilometers. Still, I finished the marathon and ran 4 hours and 4 seconds and actually did it pretty consistently, even though I had no idea about race nutrition at that point.

After the competition I was enthusiastic about endurance sports. Even though the patellar tendonitis dragged on for more than half a year, it was clear that this was not to be my last competition. The training was something I could do every day and also (for the most part) really felt like doing.

The next sporting challenge was not long in coming. My work colleague had bought a road bike and wanted to do a triathlon. Until then, triathlon was something that didn’t appear in my world at all. He managed to convince me to do an Olympic distance with him in Hamburg. However, I couldn’t even do the crawl and the fish swimming underneath me in the open water worried me a bit.

Nevertheless, I was enthusiastic about the sport and was willing to sacrifice a lot for it. I developed quickly and before the first triathlon in Hamburg I ran a 10km in 40:18min. The Olympic distance itself I finished in 2:30h, which was certainly not too bad for a beginner.

Eventually the Corona pandemic came and made sure I had more time for sports and it went from a hobby to a passion. I learned through books, the internet, and my own training experiences how to achieve performance gains in endurance sports. I had my peak phase so far in 2022. I ran 10km in 34:30min and a half marathon in 1:18:30.

Sub3h marathon – Breaking 3

In 2022 I decided to run my second marathon over the summer. Although I had started playing soccer in the club again after a year’s break, I tried to squeeze the training into everyday life somehow, which in retrospect actually worked very well without any major injuries, but was still a bit chaotic at times and anything but a good marathon build-up.

A goal before the marathon was not really. Because of my previous performances I was convinced that I could run under 2:50h. Most of my training so far consisted as you would expect from triathletes not only of running, but also cycling. I think cycling is a very good complement to running training.

This is what my training looked like 11 weeks before the Sub3 marathon in September. The distances always oscillated between 8-12 hours per week. 12 weeks before the marathon my training was interrupted by a corona illness for about two weeks.

Training for Sub3h marathon

Sub3 marathon training
Training 11 weeks before the Sub3-Marathon

The race

The first kilometers in the race went almost outstanding. I ran the first 30km in 1:59:44 (3:59min/km). So far so good. That was also what I had previously run 26km in training. The nutrition was going well and I was able to take in 80g of KH per hour via gels
(Ministry of Nutrition).

At the beginning of the race I was running around 30th place. The feeling of being one of the first to pass the spectators and especially the waiting relay runners was overwhelming and pushed me very hard, plus I met a few familiar faces at the side of the course.

From kilometer 35 on, however, a slight cramp in my calf became noticeable. I attributed this to a lack of fluids and tried to compensate for the lack of fluids at the next aid station. Unfortunately with way too much water.

A few meters after the aid station I had to throw up for about 2min. Unfortunately, the majority of the supplied energy was also out again. I was able to continue running, but at some point it was over. The body was completely empty. No more gas in the tank. I was forced to walk a few times and could only continue running very slowly.

All the goals I had set didn’t matter to me at that moment. My body felt awful. I could no longer supply energy and my stomach rebelled. Again and again runners came by and pushed me to keep going.

Finally I finished in 2:58:20h. Place 57 of nearly 1500 participants.

Sub3 marathon, pace chart, heart rate
Pace (blue) and Heart rate (red)