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  • i think the last tip is my favorite and perhaps the most true 🙂
    can you tell me a little more about the foot turnover and how to measure/figure it out? i don’t know if qualifying for boston is in my future, but i am pretty sure i will do a marathon again one day, and obviously want to improve my time!!!!
    .-= Holly´s last blog ..Home Sweet Pancakes =-.

  • Since the day I found your blog back in May, I just knew you would do it. It has been fun and interesting following your journey. You are such a nice guy and so modest, but with 3:09:59, you are certainly in a position to give running advice!

  • Hi Matt – This summer I followed the Run Less, Run Faster plan and shaved 31 minutes off my PR and qualified for Boston. I was religious about sticking to the plan and biked for my cross-training. I highly recommend the plan for any level of runner – I’ve only been running 3 years and started off at a 10+ minute pace on my first half-marathon then ran 8:30’s to qualify for Boston – something I never thought I’d see happen.
    I have a question about the foot turnover advice. How do you measure that? Do you literally just set your watch for 1 minute and count your steps?

  • Great post. I also use the “Run Less, Run Faster” program, and in my 3rd marathon took off 24 minutes to qualify for Boston. You will love running Boston. It is great! Congratulations on 7 years of hard work!

  • That’s some great advice. And honestly sometimes it’s really nice to hear advice from someone who had to “work to get fast”. Then you can’t be like, well I could never do that, that guy is naturally fast. I’d love to one day be able to run an under 4 hour marathon.
    I too am curious about the foot turnover thing. How do you measure that? Just count how many times your foot hit the ground in a minute or something?
    .-= Bronwyn´s last blog ..Challenge: week 1 =-.

  • Great advice. I think everyone can take something away from your tips. I think working your butt off is a great one! 🙂 You make running seem so easy… hopefully I can get there.
    .-= pure2raw twins´s last blog ..Trying new things =-.

  • For those wondering how to measure your stride rate…keep an eye on your watch and/or set a timer for 30 or 60 seconds. Count every time your right foot or your left foot hits the ground (ignore the other foot.)
    Multiply your count by 2. If you timed yourself for 60 seconds, that’s your stride rate. If you timed yourself for 30 seconds, multiply it by 2 again to get your stride rate.
    So, ideally, your right foot should hit 90 times in 60 seconds.
    This should be true no matter how hard or how fast you are running, by the way…slower running doesn’t mean a slower stride rate.
    (My stride rate tends to be around 182-183 strides per minute the few times I’ve actually counted.)
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..100 Year Old Ruth Frith Sets New Shot Put World Record =-.

    1. Holly and Bronwyn, what Blaine says about counting your stride rate (turnover) is right. Conveniently, 180 is divisible by 60, so if you don’t care what your current rate is but just want to calibrate to 180, try running on a treadmill and lining up your steps so that you take 3 per second (that is, three foot impacts occur each second). This sounds complicated but it’s easy to get into a rhythm and line it up with the timer. You can also do this with a watch, but just watch where you’re running!
      By the way, this number got popular because people measured the stride rates of elite runners and they were almost always near (or over) 180.

  • Great post, thank you for sharing (and congrats on your BQ!) I am currently a 4:37 marathoner and need to get to a 3:40. I know I’m capable of 8:20 miles (heck, I run 22:00 5k’s!) but I’m intimidated to put 26.2 of them together!! Thanks for the tips!

  • Great advice!!! I went from a 4+ hour marathon down to running sub 3:30’s and agree with many of your tips. It is a lot of hard work though, but once I made the changes and built my “i can run faster” confidence I have consistently BQ’d the last few years. Congrats!!!!

  • love this post 🙂
    i love your incredible progress. i know many, many people will find it very motivating to know that it is possible!
    minor detail, work your ass off. other than that, no biggie right? 😉

  • Just incredible; yesterday I handed out water at a marathon and, while I was amazed by all of them, I was specifically surprised by the >4 pace groups. Incredible to know that you went from 4:53 to 3:09. WOW! Your blog is so honest and straightforward, it’s a joy to read about your running and life journey!
    .-= CinnamonQuill´s last blog ..Boeuf Bourguignon, sans boeuf =-.

  • I have to tell you, this is precisely what I needed to hear. I’m a lot like you running-wise — I have never considered myself fast — though I’m older and likely bigger at 6’2″ and 190. My first marathon was 4:30, second was 4:08. I want to believe that qualifying for Boston is possible, but it’s hard knowing I have to knock another 48 minutes off that time. You’ve given me considerable hope. Keep it up!

  • I followed most of these tips and sure enough qualified for Boston at my very first marathon! I wanted to prove that as a vegan I could BQ and feel great. 🙂 I am now training for my second marathon (which is in 6 weeks). It’s a trail marathon so I guess this is my chance to really prove myself.
    I greatly appreciate your blog. It has evolved so much and it looks fantastic these days. 🙂

  • I want Boston SOOO BADDD and with the recent change of time I feel like it will never happen!! But this post was really inspiring and hopeful!

  • There is a lot of great advice in this post – your trials and errors of experience show here. A great way to work on your cadence is to buy a metronome. I put mine on “2/3 speed” so it beeps once for every 3 steps, and it will really help you work on your running cadence. 90 is not easy to accomplish quickly, so build up. 90 is still too fast for me, but I can do 86-88 regularly, and it does feel nice and light.
    totally agree with the diet advice – i ran 3-4 years ago and ended up quitting due to chronic injury. now i eat a pretty strict vegan diet, and i am down to ideal weight and have way more energy/recovery from runs.
    I appreciate your dogged determination – it is inspiring. I have perhaps more ‘genetic potential’ than many (ran sub 20min 5k on first try, for example), but the same advice applies nonetheless, to keep working hard towards the goal, and move the goal forward as you realize it.
    The actual running advice is excellent too – i like your approach to the “run less run faster” plan. Not an easy plan for beginners, so again, build up to it.
    I will definitely check out the core exercises and foam rolling too. thanks bro!

  • I have been a middle of the pack runner for years, just plodding along, wondering why I couldn’t get any faster. Finally I read about the FIRST plan in Runner’s World and tried the Run Less, Run Faster method for a half marathon. I shaved 15 minutes off with a half-effort. Then I used it for my first marathon (never thought I would run one) and had a really respectable time for a first marathon. Your tips are so true, and your blog is as inspiring as it is entertaining! Thanks!

  • I’m so glad this post is still up. I’m out scanning the web for inspiration on bq-ing, so this was perfect.

  • Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve been running for 31 years, since high school. My one and only marathon was in 1990, when I was working on my dissertation; running seemed the perfect antidote to writing all day. Trained with a 3:15 marathoner, went out too fast, crashed, burned and hobbled the last eight miles. Always ran, but life got in the way of making another attempt at this distance. Until about two years ago, had been pretty fast, but fell off serious training as my husband commuted between states, I held down the fort, and we finally moved. Writing full-time again…and looking at Boston, my holy running grail. Not sure it’s possible to push my times back down in a few short months -am training on all hills(almost no flats here) – hoping to be prepped for my hilly marathon(considered a lousy qualifier, another story). Thanks again, will focus on quality (duh) – and p.s. I’m a meatless athlete, too!

  • How long (how many years, how many marathons inbetween) did it take you to qualify for Boston? I ran my first marathon, painfully injured with an all-but-torn IT band after mile 4, in about 6 hours (I did my last training 20 miler in under 4 hours though, which makes me think I am fully capable, if un-injured, of a 5 hour marathon right now).
    I would love to qualify for Boston – and I always thought that it would never, ever happen, but you make it seem possible.

    1. It took me about 7 years from first marathon to BQ marathon, with 6 total marathons. But it took me 3.5 years after the first marathon to figure out how to stop getting injured and run another one.

  • I am a 2:49 marathoner, and although I agree with many of your tips, there are several that are questionable. Increasing cadence, consistency/working your ass off, cleaning up your diet, and doing ancillary exercises/strength routines are all important. I don’t agree with doing 3 workouts a week and think it’s a prime way for many non-elite or advanced runners to get burned out and get injured.
    Long runs and one good workout a week (you don’t need to do a tempo type and speed or intervals each week!) along with consistent, easy runs will dramatically drop one’s time. Also, long runs are not meant to be run at marathon pace–those runs are important but should be used sparingly as a type of workout. Keep easy days easy, and hit the hard days hard. Hill training can also be a HUGE tool, even if you are not racing a hilly course. Hills build strength and endurance, and how can that NOT be helpful on any type of course?
    Make sure your fuel properly not before/during the race, but also make sure your practice your fueling throughout your training. Find what works for you and feed the beast!
    Good luck to anyone looking to improve. Finding a coach that can take the guess work out of training can also be a huge asset!!

  • Now that I’m looking closely at your advice about dropping times, the intensity of the week overall feels like a recipe for injury to me. You are suggesting 3 intense workouts: race pace long runs, tempo AND a track workout? That’s surely a very high percentage of ‘quality’/fast running in relation to a runner’s overall volume of running. I love that it worked for you but I’m pretty sure if I took up this advice I’d be injured in no time.
    It’s pretty different from most advice I’ve seen out there.

  • I have picked up the Run Less Run Faster book and am considering this training along with Run Your BQ. I only run 1/2 or full marathons so as the book suggested as a test I ran 5k at 28minutes. The book says not to do the marathon training at goal pace- run at current pace. At best I can only run 9.5 to 9.3 minute miles but must do 8.34 p/mi to qualify for Boston. If it says not to run goal pace then how is someone supposed to get faster? It also worries me that it’s not going to be enough mileage. Tips?

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