Road to Boston – with Holly Rush

This week I’ve managed to get a few structured sessions in. The Road to Boston will need me to train Hard, be consistent, and not make excuses. This week has consisted of a 5 mile Tempo; 5 km intervals; and a long run. With some spinning for cross training this is a good start. When thinking about my Boston Qualification journey, who better to get advice from than Great Britain Athlete Holly Rush.

Holly Rush is the ASICS UK FrontRunner Manager, coach and podcaster (Marathon Talk). Holly has represented GB at the European Athletics Championships, Commonwealth Games 2010 and the World Mountain Championships (2016/18) winning 2 bronze and 1 silver team medal. Now Holly’s passion is to run off road and compete in ultras including UTMB and Comrades.

1) Tell me about the first time you broke sub 3 

The first time I broke 3hrs was at Berlin Marathon in 2004 in 2.57. I actually missed the start because I was having a pee in the portaloo so I had to sprint and jump the barrier. I had run 3.06 the same year in London but this time I printed off the the Runners World sub 3 hr training plan and tried to follow that as I hadn’t done any speed work before so I knew I had to make some changes if I was going to break the magic 3. I was over the moon when I crossed the line, I honestly didn’t believe I could do it.

2) What does it take to be a sub 3 runner

Well in basic terms you need to be capable of running a 1.25 HM or sub 39 10k to be capable of running a sub 3hr marathon unless you have a tail wind on the day 😉 There are many ways to skin a cat so there is no magic mileage number I can give you but you should be able to withstand a couple of sessions a week and a long run that build gradually. Its all about getting that threshold pace down as much as possible to give you the biggest buffer and improve endurance. So this should include lots of prolonged or intermittent (cruise intervals) runs mixed in with your marathon race pace which is around 6.49 per mile or 4.14 per k. Consistency is also the key, staying injury free will always help you in your quest for the magic sub 3.

3) What is your PB, and how did your training change to reach this goal? 

My marathon PB is 2.37 which I ran 5 times within a few seconds. Getting to 2.37 took years of training taking 2 mins off at a time every 6 months (spring and autumn marathon) I had to work on improving my 10k (34 mins) and HM times (74 mins) to be able to break 2.40. It doesn’t happen over night and you must gradually build your base mileage over the years and work on improving your anaerobic threshold so the buffer is big enough that you can sustain running 3.45 per k for over 2hs 30 without your blood lactate going through the roof.

5) If you could give me one tip what would it be

Don’t forget your ‘Why”. If you lose your running mojo or you are finding yourself down a rabbit hole as your self why? Why did you start running in the first place? I started because of a bet but I loved it straight away, if it all gets too hard and you are putting too much pressure on yourself just go back to the beginning and make running fun again. You should also ask yourself “why” before you do each run. There needs to be a reason, it could be simply because you want time alone to think or it could be a 5k specific session that you want to do to improve your goal time. But if you are doing because you feel you have too because of outside or internal pressures then maybe you need to not do it and work out why you are feeling this way? Hope that makes sense?

I love this, and absolutely get the mental element is going to play a big part of my Sub 3 / Boston Qualification Journey… Don’t forget your why!


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