Strava, a social network for athletes, has revealed a unique insight into marathon training across all abilities and what it takes to complete a sub 3-hour marathon.
Strava analysed the data of over 4,000 runners who uploaded their training and race data to the social network from the 2015 London Marathon, analysing the volume and quantity of training in the 12 weeks leading up to the event and how this correlated with sub 3- hour, 3-4 hour, 4-5 hour and 5-hour plus finishing times.
In the 12 weeks leading up to the event, Strava runners collectively clocked up a total distance of more than 1,265,489 miles. Cumulatively, they spent more than 181,797 hours running which is the equivalent of 20 years.
Clocking up the Miles
The data reveals that to achieve a sub 3-hour marathon runners are putting in an impressive amount of training. Over the 12 weeks leading up to the marathon, sub 3-hour finishers ran on average 42 miles per week, this is almost double the distance of 3-4 hour finishers who ran on average 27 miles per week, and three times the distance of 5-hour plus finishers who ran on average 14 miles per week.
Distance and Frequency
The faster marathon finishers are not just running further; they are running more frequently each week. On average, sub 3-hour finishers spent 5 hours and 22 minutes per week in their running shoes, split over seven runs. Compared with 3-4 hour finishers who spent 3 hours 51 minutes running per week, over four runs. The 4-5 hour finishers averaged 3 hours over 3 runs; with 5- hour plus finishers spending 2 hours 30 minutes running per week over an average of just two runs.
Long Runs Vs Short Runs
Across all finishing times the breakdown of short runs versus long runs was very similar. Runs less than 5 miles accounted for the highest percentage of all training, making up 49% of all runs for sub 3-hour finishers, this was followed closely by runs between 5-10 miles. At the other end of the spectrum runs over 15 miles accounted for only 8% of all training for the sub 3-hour marathon finishers.
Peaking and Tapering
Sub 3-hour marathon finishers hit their highest training volume four weeks before the marathon. At this point runners reached their heaviest training week, recording an average distance of 51 miles over the week, split across seven runs. The following week only saw a slight drop in mileage where they recorded 49 miles, but over 8 runs. After this there is a more obvious drop in volume to 36 miles, but still running regularly, with seven runs recorded. In marathon week, the sub 3-hour finishers still clocked up 17 miles over five runs. This is only slightly less than the heaviest training week for the 5+hour marathon finishers, who peaked at six weeks before the event with an average of 20 miles per week.
All data was collected from the 2015 London Marathon Strava Running Race.
Photograph: Jake Stangel