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Lee’s Bespoke Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Plan

Manchester Marathon 2015 Training Plan

By Lee Dempster

Not going to lie, the main attraction for choosing this marathon is that it finishes alongside Old Trafford and what better way to finish a marathon hey!! It’s also apparently the flattest marathon in the UK as well!! My favourite marathon I’ve ever done is the North Dorset Village Marathon and the reason I loved it so much is because it’s just so quiet! No crowds, only 400 runners and just mile after mile of quiet country roads. As I live in a village I spend the majority of my training on quiet country roads so this is what I’m used to. The flip side of that is that my least favourite marathon is London. The crowd and the support is amazing and something you really should try and experience if you ever get the chance, but there are so many runners that I found myself walking across the start line rather than actually running and then having literally nowhere to go or no way of getting around the thousands of people there, so spent the next 26 miles in a foul mood rather than enjoying the occasion. Manchester is kind of middle ground in between the two. It certainly won’t be quiet but there won’t be as many running as London.

The Marathon Training Plan

Although this will be my 6th marathon it will only be the second time I’ve followed a strict training plan. The last time I did this was in 2012 where, after two failed attempts at the elusive sub 4 hour marathon I thought I’d better actually follow a training plan to help me hit sub 4. The plan I used was from P&D’s Advanced Marathoning and I was anything but advanced I went with the smallest one which peaked at 55 miles per week. I stuck to the plan like glue and it became obvious during the plan that sub 4 was in the bag (barring any major issues) and perhaps I needed to revise the target slightly. Cut a long story short, I went down from 4:00 to 3:50 to 3:45 etc and on race day I ended up with the target of sub 3:30. I didn’t have a particularly good race in all honesty but still ended up with 3:19:59 which remains my PB to this day!

This time around I’m also following an 18 week training plan but this is one I’ve come up with myself. There are three main contributors to this plan, the previous 18 week plan I followed, personal experience and Steve Way marathon sessions thrown into the mix over the last six weeks. The biggest plus side to creating your own plan is that you can tailor it to your own lifestyle and needs. The worst thing about the 2012 plan was having to try and do ‘8-10k tune up races’ on a Friday night around my local village as there wasn’t a local 10k race that weekend. The plan will generally be as follows:

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Marathon Session

Wednesday – Easy

Thursday – Club Night

Friday – Easy

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – Long Run

The two key sessions per week are Tuesdays and Sundays:

Tuesdays – The emphasis here being on a variety of efforts at different speeds but mainly it’s efforts at either half marathon pace or target marathon pace.

Sundays – As all of the speed work is being done on Tuesday, the beauty of the Sunday run is I just have to nail the distance/time on feet, without giving a second thought to the speed at which I do it. This means I can run by myself or I can join in with the Sunday long runs with the guys from Lytchett and not have to worry about the speed which makes things a lot easier.

The rest of the week is just about easy runs to get the mileage up:

Wednesdays – Will usually be a 5 miler on my lunch break at work.

Thursdays – Will usually be a 7 miler in the evening with Lytchett

Fridays – I split the 10 miles into two runs, 5 miles to work and 5 miles home from work. Although this is meant to be an easy day I find the run home from work on a Friday one of the hardest runs of the week. It’s 5 miles up hill and I’m carrying a bag which weighs about a stone with my laptop, clothes, phones and everything else I need for work.

That leaves me with two rest days!!

I’ve also got two mini taper weeks during the 18 weeks as I want to have a go at half marathon PB at Blackmore Vale and then again at Bath.


I’m expecting absolutely no sympathy from anybody here but one of my biggest worries during the 18 weeks is that I lose too much weight. When I first started running in 2011 I weighed 14st 7lbs and by the time I started proper marathon training in 2012 I was down to about 13st 8lbs. Over the course of the 18 weeks I lost about a stone and a half and have stayed in the region of slightly over 12st ever since. So that means that I really can’t afford to lose another stone and a half over the course of this 18 week training plan. There’s only so many times you can be happy about having to buy new suits for work because the one you have now looks like it used to be your Dad’s, and it doesn’t quite fit you yet.


I believe you can’t go into a target race which you’ve trained for 18 weeks with just one target, as if you fall behind that target early on it can be quite demoralising. So based on that I’ve come with a plan A through to plan D target system. Obviously the intention will be to stick at plan A for as long as possible but then if the wheels start to come off towards the end then hopefully I’ll be able to cling onto plan B and so on.

Plan A2:57 (6:45’s) – You need a stretch target!! I would love sub 3 but if I go out slightly faster it gives me time in the bag towards the end.

Plan B – 2:59:59 (6:51’s) – As long as my end time starts with a 2 I’ll be happy so would happily take 2:59:59 if offered it now.

Plan C3:04 (7:01’) – This would get me good for age qualification into next year’s London marathon.

Plan D3:19 (7:35’s) – If all else fails then a PB would be nice!

Download the full sub 3 hour 2015 Marathon Training Plan

Lee Dempster

Lee is a marathon specialist, constantly looking for ways in which to improve his running – aiming for a sub 3 Manchester Marathon soon…

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