My next guest for my Road to Boston series is Thomas Eller. Thomas was born and raised in Essen, Germany. He was born and raised deaf. Thomas currently works as a deaf teacher for deaf children and teens in his hometown of Essen, Germany. In September 2018 at the age of 38 Thomas ran his first marathon in the desert of Petra, Jordan, and finished 4th there. This was the start of his passion.
1) Tell me about the first time you broke sub 3
At the Milan Marathon, Italy, in April 2019 it was my first time I broke sub 3 (my fourth marathon after the Petra Desert Maraton 2018, Jordan (3:45:17 hrs), Cologne Marathon October 2018, Germany (3:05:55 hrs), Barcelona Marathon March 2019, Spain (3:02:56 hrs).
In Milan I ran 2:55:50 hrs and at the finish line I got goosebumps and had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe my finish time there, because that’s a big improvement from my last marathons.
2) What does it take to be a sub 3 runner
The consistent quality training is the key to be a sub 3 runner. To reach that goal you have to run 26.2 miles averaging around 6:50 per mile or approx. 4:15/km. These kind of three main training sessions are important to run a sub 3 marathon time: a long run, a tempo run and a speed run. If you can do each of these over a 6-10 day period then you will be well on your way to achieve that stunning sub 3 marathon tartget. The minimum period for a marathon build up is around 12 weeks, but this depends on your level of fitness.
The speed session gives you the feeling to make a marathon race pace feel more comfortable. You can do a 6 x 1 mile at 6min mile pace, 10 x 800m, 8 x 1000m or 5 x 2 miles speed sessions.
The long run is one of the training methods you should never skip. You can pick up two different training techniques:
1) You can run at a solid pace for around 20-24 miles (approx. 32-38 km) – this will make your endurance and legs stronger for a speedy marathon.
2) You can treat the long run like a tempo run. Start to pick the pace up as the run goes on until you are eventually finishing the last 2-4 miles at race pace. The key of this strategy is to get your legs used to running race pace when they are fatigued (do this only every 2-3 weeks).
Tempo training sessions will help you to get your energy systems more efficient at runnning at pace. Running at a pace that you can sustain for a set period of time is a tempo run. The more you are doing the tempos, the easier they will be for you from week to week.
3) What tips would you give for people trying to aim for a Boston Qualification
Qualifying for the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail for many of us runners. It’s something special like getting qualified for the Olympics. My tips for people who are trying to aim for a Boston Qualification are:
Make your legs stronger: Increase your running mileage from week to week to make your legs stronger and gain more endurance. Stronger legs lead to less fatigue and your body is adapted to long runs. A great tip for building leg strenghts is to use a five-week cycle of two weeks at your normal mileage, two at an increased mileage level and then one at a decreased mileage week to allow tapering/recovery before starting the rhythm again.
Be open and creative for new routes and try to mix your training plans with hills, flat courses, speed intervalls and trail courses.
Believe in yourself. Everything is possible. When I started running marathons I told myself I would never get a BQ for Boston. I became faster and faster from marathons to marathons.
Find your optimal fueling. This is very important otherwise you can kiss your BQ goodbye. The key is to find what works and then practice it in race-like conditions.
4) What is your PB, and how did your training change to reach this goal?
My current PB at a real marathon is from the Berlin Marathon 2019. When I was running for my second Abbott World Marathon Majors star after London 2019 I ran 2:47:11 hrs in Berlin. 8 weeks before the Berlin Marathon I used to run 80-90 miles per week and in the last 4 weeks I reduced my mileage constantly until the marathon. In the last week before Berlin marathon I gave my body a little taper time and only ran 24 miles in the last week. In Berlin 2019 I became currently Germany’s fastest deaf marathon runner and broke a 11-year old record for over 11 seconds. Breaking that old German Deaf record put wings on me. To reach that goal I increased my monthly mileage from time to time. (I am running around 340 – 400 miles each month without feeling tired or battling with fatigue). To keep my sub 3 level I combine my training runs with speed, tempo and long runs and high mileage runs. They all are the key to become a sub 3-marathoner.
5) If you could give me one tip what would it be?
If you want to run a great sub 3 marathon, I would give you the tip to go hard late. No matter how much you are raring to go, it is important to keep things under control until well past the halfway mark. Then you can start flying on the course. If you feel relatively great at 18-19 miles, it’s now the time to get aggressive. You only have 8 miles left, so take the best of you. It helps to focus on a runner who is 300 metres ahead of you, pass the runner, then move on to the next runner. It’s an incredible feeling to pass runners in the last 7-8 miles and it will boost you.
My future goals:
The next big challenges for me include the Boston and Tokyo marathon, which will make me the first deaf-born six star-medal finisher. Due to the cancellation of the Tokyo and Boston 2020 marathon, I will postpone them to next year. In the meantime, I will keep training for the hills of Boston by doing virtual marathons and some local marathons. I will also compete for Germany in the 24th Deaf Olympic Games in Caxias do Sul, Brazil next December 2021. I am making history for the deaf community; I want to inspire others to do the same and prove that: We cam achieve great things in our life – even with a disability.
In order to accomplish these dreams, I have had to overcome a few additional challenges. The most significant is not realizing when people are cheering me on or calling out my name at races. This also means I can’t hear any bikes or cars that may be nearby until I see them pass, which can sometimes be startling. Despite these hurdles, I enjoy being what I call an “eye human,” someone who lives through sight. It is this calm silence that makes me happy in the mornings. I have many friendships from his marathons that go to show that communication barriers can always be overcome.
Thomas is an absolute inspiration, and I am loving his tips… can’t wait for the new year to keep pushing.