Not everybody's desire but good to realize what needs to be done to reach this milestone in running.
If anything, at least you can impress the weirdo at the staff party blabbering on about his or her marathon goals.
Simple math teaches us that a sub 3-hour marathon means a 4.16 min/k pace. Here is how this converts into the lower distance markers. This way you can judge if you are on track in your training program.
Stage 1: 5k under 20:00 effortlessly.
If you can't do this yet, no point in setting a sub-3 goal for your next marathon. Focus more on getting a good movement pattern and running effortless.
Stage 2: 10k under 40:00. This is a milestone for most runners in itself and a good indicator if you are working towards a higher base speed. Lots of short tempo work and interval sets will get you closer to this 40:00 minute mark.
No shortcuts. Strava application conducted a great research into how many miles the different marathoners run. Sub 3 marathoners run 50+ miles (80+ kilometers) on average per week. You want the bragging rights? Then you must do the work. Interestingly though, a lot of these miles are slower than race pace (7.31 min/m or 4.40 min/k).
Stage 3: HM under 1:20. Why such a fast half marathon split? Because you can run 10k at speed doesn't mean you have the speed endurance to maintain that for twice as long. The 1:20 marker is really a sign that you transferred your speed over the shorter 10k into a distance that surpasses a one-hour long effort. Take time to work up to this milestone in your training program. Don't expect to run a 1.20 HM two weeks after you broke your first 40min 10K.
Stage 4: Reaching the elusive sub 3 milestone. Now that you have a fast HM in your legs, start looking to work more and more on that 4.16min/k marker. The double 7's workouts are perfect for this. After a warm-up run 3 sets of double 7's. The first 7 minutes are at 10k pace (3.55 - 4.00min/k) immediately followed by an active recovery of 7 minutes at marathon pace (4.16min/k). Do this for 3 sets to get to a 16k workout at marathon pace. Increase the time of the double or the reps to work towards a solid 28k run with this method. This will take app 8 weeks if you increase one rep every 2 weeks. Then, combined with slow runs for volume, you are ready to tackle your sub 3 and join the 4% of men or 1% of women achieving this.
If you are keen to break the 3 hour marathon, schedule a call and find out how Healthstax Running can help you turn your dream into reality!