How to run a marathon in under two hours

Posted on: 15 Jan 2017

I am a member of St Albans Striders and last week we had one of those great club moments when everyone gets together as a team to achieve the impossible. Someone read that Nike were putting together a team of runners with the aim of one of them running a marathon in under two hours. Detail is lacking but the article did say that the record would not be recognised by the sport’s governing body. Well, that opened the possibility of team St Albans Striders beating them to it.

As someone in the club described it: "I love how it started as a flip comment, turned into a joke/dare, then actually materialised into a Striders Classic, truly inspirational”. In total round 150 different members took part in two teams to run the distance on the running track in a series of relays. The men’s team aimed for the sub-two-hour marathon and the ladies’ for beating Paula Radcliffe’s world record time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds.

After much excitement (and no dropped batons!) the men completed well under the two hours in 1 hour 51 minutes and 56 seconds and the ladies completed in 2 hours 14 minutes and 39 seconds.

I did not compete in the relay. I had been on a long and enjoyable holiday over the Christmas and New Year period; lots of travelling, early mornings, things to do and places to see leaving no time for running. I had to loosen my water belt for my first long run of the year that turned out to be one of the toughest runs I’ve done in a long time. I finished with painful chaffing, cramping muscles and feeling mentally and physically exhausted. There was no way I could run even 400 metres at the speed the record holders manage to sustain for the whole marathon.

Someone I met the other day whose first marathon will be the London Marathon asked me what the single most important piece of advice would be for her having only run a handful of half marathons before. Rightly or wrongly, I said it was to make it to the start line.

I have a plan. I will stick to it, although it does require a bit of flexibility. Right now, the way that I’m feeling, the races I’ve booked in advance of the marathon seem very close and daunting. But my fitness will return. Soon the muscle memory in my legs will start turning out the pacing like clockwork. But I must not push myself too hard, too soon. That will lead to injury and that will jeopardise my getting to the start line.

The team at Nike can devote every moment of the day and night to achieving their goal. Us in the real world have life to knock us off plan: travel delays, holidays, weather. We need to be flexible in our training to keep on plan. How many of us are running the London Marathon because of flip comment, a joke, a dare? Don’t try to attempt it alone. Work together and 23rd April could be amazing.

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