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I'll try to keep this as short as possible but if this exceeds the limit then please bear with me.

I'm 29 y/o Indian male and I was a serious (if not professional) body builder when I was younger. I started bodybuilding when I was 17 and pursued it for 4 years. Then I got a shoulder injury and simultaneously life got more demanding and I couldn't return to the sport. In next 4 plus years I put on a lot of weight and reached 100 KG (220 lbs) i.e. 32 KG (70 lbs) extra from my base weight when I was in sport. Oh and yes I'm not very tall. I'm 5'9''

I turned 25 and decided it was enough and hit the gym back. For the first time in my life I decided to run (which I thought was running) on treadmill for quicker results. Let's cut it short and let me tell you that I couldn't stop running since then. I quit the gym in next 7-8 months to do more serious running and joined a track.

I ran my first half marathon (1:58 hrs) in 10 months from the starting point. Second half (Hill Course- 2:10 hrs) in another 2 months and my first full in another 3 months and there I failed miserably (5:35 hrs)

By the time I ran my 1st full I was 30 KG (66 lbs) down and looked good. I now know that I transitioned from a fat lazy boy to a half marathoner and then to a full marathoner a little quick and my body couldn't handle the stress. I didn't stop there and ran 1 half and 1 full in next 4 months and my second full again went pathetic. I finished 4:40 hrs.

I went through injuries and bad races but I didn't stop. By June 2014, I finished 9 half and 2 full marathons and maintained my weight (plus minus 3 KG). Till then my HM PR was 1:53 hrs and now I wanted to improve. I added yoga and body weight exercises in my routine and improved myself significantly and lost some more inches too. I ran a 10 KM PR (45:40 mins) and a 5:44 min mile in practice. My 1 KM best is 3:36 mins and 14+ sec for 100 meters. I set all these PRs prior to the half marathon I was training for in Nov 2014.

I did all the fartleks, repetition work, speed work, long runs and drills and finished the half marathon in 1:43:10 hrs. Though I was expecting sub 1:40 but I was happy. This was the beginning of Nov 2014 and continued my training for a full marathon in Mid Jan 2015.

I did everything what the plan said. Ran high mileage weeks, did repetitions and speed works and everything the plan asked. I did the taper and carb loading too. During this training I ran two 20 milers. Each under 3:20 hrs very comfortably. Every test said I'm fit enough to run a sub 4 hour marathon. I did Yasso 800 workout and comfortably ran 10 rep of 800 in 3:20 mins with 2:30 min recovery between each rep.

There I must mention that I was training in North India and the temperature during Dec and Jan was below 10 Deg C in mornings. The race was in South and the temp on the race day was 19 Deg C.

After putting all the efforts in training I got drained on 3rd km and felt like quitting. I managed through half way and did 21 km in 1:48 hrs and the pace was very comfortable for me. Then I felt like I'm getting slow. This might be the marathon wall but if it was so then it came a lot too early. I started dragging and again finished with a miserable timing. I finished 5:10 hrs.

So where did it go wrong? Should I not go for fullers and stay happy with the half marathons? Even if someone suggests that, I wont take that advice haha! I want to run full marathons and qualify for Boston in near future. I know it'll take time but I'm ready to train.

For the time being I'm planning to cut on the junk races and train for a considerably fast half marathon for myself which will probably fall in the 1st week of November. I effectively have 9 months for this race. I want to run a sub 1:30 race. All the plans I see online are 16 to 18 weeks long but I've around 36 weeks.

I'm looking for some advice on how I should proceed with the training. I would also like to get a proper strength and flexibility training plan. My arms and legs are toned but I still have some extra inches around my waist. You know everybody loves six packs and I'm no exception :P

Thanks Parth

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    Would it be correct to say that this is two questions? "How can I get my half marathon under 1:30 in 36 weeks?" and "Why can I run 20 miles in 3:20 but can't finish a marathon under 5 hours?" Can you decide which of these questions is important to you so we can edit the focus onto that one? – Noumenon Feb 2 '15 at 5:40
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    Hi Noumenon, I'm sorry for a messed up question. My next/near term goal is to run a sub 1:30 half marathon which will happen in last week of November. But my main goal is to run a sub 4:00 hour marathon in 2016. I feel it'll not be very suggestible to attempt a full marathon in Jan 2016 after a half in Nov 2015. This is what I did this year and failed. – Parth Feb 2 '15 at 9:43
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Brief answer: Don't give up. Full marathons are complex and tough to get right. Think carefully about hydration and nutrition during the race.

I used to run competitively. My marathon PR is 2:32 in Chicago. But I've also run some miserable full marathons. Even shorter races like 10K, I've known I was in much better shape than my race.

My best advice about the full is not to give up. It's a long way, and there's a huge difference between a 20-mile training run and 42 km. Each marathon race unfolds in a different way. My first (and fastest) went great. I was cruising along very nicely through about 35 km. I even thought (ha!) that I wouldn't hit the wall. I did, but about 6 km from the finish and got through it.

My next one, I was in better shape, but around 18 km, my legs started feeling very heavy and tired. I kept going, but easily 15-20 minutes slower than my target pace.

I think my big advice would be to think carefully about nutrition and hydration. These make a huge difference. You need to take carbohydrates during a full marathon. Often this is Gatorade or Powerade. I always test with the actual brand during long runs. My advice is a little bit at each station. If the stations are 1 mile or 2 km apart, you'll be fine. If they're 5 km or more, make sure you get a good drink at each.

Gu or gels can work too for some people. I tried once during a long run and within 2 km had to find a bathroom. It just didn't work with my stomach and running. Other friends feel they get a huge boost from the sugars.

The short story is that each marathon will happen differently. You'll get a great time eventually with your training. Make sure to also get some rest, both in the training and after long races. It takes ~20 days before you fully recover from a marathon.

You may also want to look into periodization training. With 36 weeks, you can get in a training cycle for a 10K or half marathon, then a 16-18 week build for a marathon.

  • Hey Geoff, thanks for the advice. It means a lot when it comes from a 2:32 runner. As you said, I'm also planning to train for a sub-40 10K. My 10K PR is 45:40 and I ran this in Nov 2014. I'm not sure about my current fitness level because I'm still recovering from my mid Jan marathon. Do you think it is a realistic goal? I've around 36 weeks and my main target is a sub 1:30 half marathon. I'm not enrolling for any 10k races in between. – Parth Feb 2 '15 at 9:03
  • Also, Thanks for the link for "periodization training" – Parth Feb 2 '15 at 9:52
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As Geoff said, don't give up! The single most effective thing you can do is have continuous week-after-week, month-after-month fitness improvement. This means running 3 - 4 times per week, 20 - 40 miles per week, pretty much year round.

In terms of figuring out your race targets, let the McMillan running calculator be your guide.

https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/

You will have a chance at a 1:30 Half Marathon when you get your 10k PR down to 40 minutes.

The Marathon is a completely different beast because of the fueling complexity. There are very few people who make the jump to the marathon and "feel great" and hit the predicted time on the first try, or even the first few tries.

When planning your Half Marathon or Marathon-specific workouts, consider the words of Renato Canova (coach of many distance World Record holders): “What does a 2-hour easy run have to do with the marathon? Nothing.” [1]

I generalize this to "how does this workout relate to the target race?" when planning a training cycle.

Canova also says that the two most important things of distance training are to "run fast and run long. And sometimes run fast and long together." [2]

[1] http://running.competitor.com/2014/02/training/take-your-marathon-long-runs-to-the-next-level_58406

[2] INSIDE: Kenya (Ep. 2), a Flotrack original series (paid content)

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Normally when people ask how to increase their speed in running, the answer is simply "run more". However, you have that part pretty good, injuries notwithstanding.

There are two concepts that you need to add into your program on a regular basis as far as speedwork, and that is threshold and interval training. Interval training raises your top end speed, threshold training increases the amount of time you can spend at that speed.

Interval training is high intensity, high speed, long rest type training. Since you have a 5:44 mile personal best (PB), that is a 2:51 pace. A good interval workout for you would be 1-2 mile warmup, 8x800 @ 2:30, 2-5 minutes rest between, 1-2 mile warmdown. You can play with the rest and the pace, the goal is to be able to make every single interval. If you can't make the interval, either your pace is a little too fast, or you don't have enough rest. (no more than 4-5 minutes rest max, though).

Threshold training is at or near race pace, short rest intervals. If your race pace is 6:51 (That's a 1:30 1/2 pace), then you should be doing segments of running at 7:00, on short rest.

You can also do the basic fartlek, strides, pickup type runs as well.

Now to address your seeming walls in the full marathon. Most of the time if you can do the work and the race gets wonky, it's usually one of two things: Going out too fast, or nutrition. You've got to be on your hydration and nutrition from the get go, if you wait you're done. For your pacing, it's much better to run the 2nd half slightly faster than the first, than go out hard and try to hang on. You also have to pay attention to conditions.

One final tip: Most of the time, runners go too hard on their easy days, and too easy on their hard days. If a run plan says easy, run it easy. If it says hard, kill it. If you need a rest day, take a rest day.

You've got the times that suggest you can run the distance and time, it seems like its the execution that needs work. Go back and review all of your races, and see if there is a common limiting factor. Good luck!

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