Saturday, August 30, 2014

How to break 3 hours for the marathon on ten miles a week

"That's impossible!" I hear you all shout. Well, it's not and it's actually pretty easy. The runner who most recently achieved 'the impossible' was not a 2:06 Kenyan who'd been running ten miles a week for six months. It was a 37-year-old Australian who placed 7th in the Adelaide Marathon last Sunday. Harley Vegan (who promotes the 'vegan high carb' diet) ran well under 3 hours with a time of 2:50:47. He was on 2:48 pace until 38k so lack of running training didn't cost him much time. His run training for 2014 amounted to 19.6k on average per week (actually 12 miles as he says in the video below). The video is a reply to a person who claimed a sub-3 marathon on ten miles a week couldn't be done in a comment on Harley's marathon race report video.

"I use cycling to build my cardio" says Harley. "I can't even do speedwork because I haven't got the [running] base!" Cycling is Harley's preferred sport and he's a very good cyclist. He cycles A LOT! He doesn't own a car or even have a driver's licence. On his Youtube Channel there's a video of Harley riding up the Corkscrew Hill in Adelaide and keeping pace with the Movistar Team professional riders. He has a high VO2Max and has built up impressive endurance from cycling. "My challenge with the marathon always comes down to leg fatigue — I do runs so the legs can withstand the impact and use heavy cushioned shoes [in the race]."

I must say that I'm excited by this video from Harley (and that's coming from a rare user of the 'f' word!). I'm adding cycling to my rather modest 50 kilometres or so of weekly running (I do like running and 16-19k a week just wouldn't do it for me). I predict that the cycling will enable me to maintain (or improve) my stamina over and above simple running. As Harley says, "Ego crushes potential. Always have an open mind [about different ways to train]."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think he ran this well just because of cycling. He's run and won hundreds of shorter races with very good times in the past few years, so he has a strong running base! He's not just a vegan, but an 80/10/10 "disciple", and he only drinks coffee before races for an extra boost. Above and beyond, he has very strong convictions in his lifestyle choices, without truly believing that he can do this, he couldn't:)

11:55 pm  
Blogger Raina R. said...

Thanks!! I needed a hope-filled post. I do believe it would be even better news if he didn't do all the cycling though! :)

5:38 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Anna, that's a good point about his strong belief being a key factor in his success as a runner. He doesn't want for lack of confidence!

Glad you got something from it Raina. If he didn't do all the cycling I'd guess his marathon time would be somewhat slower ;) I enjoy cycling (in summer) so that's why it's an exciting post for me.

9:44 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

That's "somewhat slower if he only ran 10 miles a week"!

9:45 am  
Blogger Grellan said...

Interesting Post Ewen. An authentic Australian.

I have heard that cycling certainly helps improve running performance but that the opposite does not apply. I certainly know that all my ultra running would do me no good in the Tour De France ;-)

I would imagine he would be a sub 2:30 marathoner if he did run specific training. It's all relative.

11:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harley is has a delightfully forthright way of cutting through the blah. Some of his ideas are a bit wild but I am sure that it is feasible to run a sub-3Hr marathon with only 10 miles of running per week in recent months, with three provisos:
1) Lots of cross training to build up aerobic capacity;
2) prior experience of marathon running;
3) well- padded shoes.
He had all three of those things. The cross training was probably the most important. I think his claim that mashed legs cost him a few minutes in the final few Km is plausible, but it could have been a lot worse without the padded shoes.

Do you still do much cross training on the razor scooter – not as easy on the legs as cycling but more running-specific with less impact than running itself?

6:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ewen,

Excellent article. Like his final line: "Ego crushes potential. Always have an open mind [about different ways to train]." Not so easy for so many runners to have an open mind on running.
My personal example is nothing compared to Harley but I can currently run sub 19 mins on no running training but three half hour cycles per week. In an earlier life cycling daily enabled me to run around 35 minutes for 10kms. Always feel absolutely stuffed at the end of a race though. Running injuries have led me to cross training and cycling, even exercise bike riding, has been of great benefit.
Regards Pablo

1:29 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Yes, certainly is Grellan - glad you were able to understand the accent ;) Perhaps that's because you need a lot of cycling to strengthen cycling specific muscles? I'd back you to finish a TdF mountain stage. Not saying how long it would take you though ;)

Canute, I noticed on Strava that Harley rode for 10 hours yesterday, so plenty of aerobic building there! I haven't been on the scooter since last summer - agree that it's a good cross training option (on flat ground). Not that enjoyable on our -5 to 5C winter days though.

Thanks Pablo - fantastic to hear of you being able to run 19 for 5k off cycling training, especially as 5k is my goal race distance.

2:45 pm  
Blogger trailblazer777 said...

Another thing which in our lemmings like existence we fail to recognise sometimes, is that by training on steep hills, we can replicate the same effects on the body with 20% or 30% as many km, but with the same amount of volume (time)... Another crosstraining type approach I used successfully when I was young, was to run races, purely on racewalking training. My 10km and 12km PB's to this day from 16-17 years ago were both done on mostly racewalking training. The one size fits all fallacy is nearly always wrong. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator IMO, with individual characteristics within a massive variety of genetic and environmental factors, and there are many "roads leading to the rome" of our desired destinations... Some approaches work. Some don't. But there is room for much variety in those that DO WORK. That is also why managers in companies that micromanage too much are taking a bad approach, they are better off setting a task, saying go get it done by this deadline, within certain legal and resource/financial limited parameters, and letting the subordinates get on with it in their own individual way, than trying to control every little thing that is done along the way. Its the same with coaching, coaches, need to be a bit more flexible sometimes... Jumping Jai or Ryan Bayley, or Shane Warne or Leighton Hewitt or Bernie Tomic Steffenson, even super Sally Freeman, Saxby-JUnna etc etc etc many other examples,some of the most successful athletes of alltime Australian history, but if you try and put them in a box, and micro manage them, make everyone do the same training, control everything they do, you will not get the best out of most of them if any of them because of the individual characteristics... Guidance is important, but freedom within realistic parameters is important too, and willingness to look at the goals, and consider different ways of getting there that may not be common... Good post Ewen... especially the title...

2:04 am  
Blogger Jog Blog said...

Another good argument for me to buy an elliptigo :)

8:22 am  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Jonathon - very interesting about you running those PBs off walk training when you were younger. One of Canute's champion 'ancient marathoners', John Keston, eventually used regular 2 hour walks as part of his training.

Liz, can't wait until you get one!

6:07 pm  
Blogger Black Knight said...

Sorry for the not running comment but ..... congrats to the Wallabies!!!

6:40 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks Stefano! We can win... just not against the All Blacks!

8:07 pm  
Blogger Mark Watson said...

Did someone mention those mighty All Blacks?

That's a great post Ewen. I've followed the "Carb the f... up" man for a number of years now. By no means am I on the same path as he and Freely but you can't help but admire his passion and talent.

Now where the F... is my bike!

1:20 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

You had to bring up those mighty effin All Blacks Mark!

9:01 pm  

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