Coach Joey's Corner: How to Run a 2:21 Marathon in 5 Easy (ish) Steps

Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a blazing fast marathon in 2:21? Coach Joey has been there and done that and has laid out 5 easy steps to getting there. Or at least making yourself a faster and better runner. Read more after his training week recap!

Training Update 2/27 to 3/3


o   AM: 10 at 7:10 pace with 8 strides

o   PM: 4.7 at 7:24 pace


o   8 at 7:22 pace

o   5.5 at 7:23 pace


o   AM: 3 mile warmup, 5 x mile with 2 min jog rests, 2 mile cooldown. Goal was 5-6 reps in 5:00ish. Splits: 5:03.9, 5:01.5, 5:00.3, 5:00.7, 5:01.1

o   PM: 5 at 7:43 pace


o   AM: 9 at 7:20 pace

o   PM: 5.6 at 7:29 pace


o   AM: 8 at 7:24 pace

o   PM: 5 at 7:28 pace


o   AM: 18.8 at 6:29 average. Plan was 14 easy, then 5 from 5:30 to 5:teens, then 1 easy. My foot has been a little achy lately but not concerning. But it got really bad during the 19th mile and I had to stop. Has been hurting and a little swollen since. Hopefully this doesn’t set me back too much. Anyway, splits: 5:29.1, 5:26.6, 5:21.1, 5:18.7, 5:15 pace till I had to stop. Too painful to cool down.           

o   PM: off


o   AM: off

o   PM: off (still hurting, maybe slightly better)

Week Total: 90.4 miles

Now Very Tentative Racing Schedule

·         Hot Chocolate 15k 2/16 (1st in 49:14)

·         Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon 3/9 (almost definitely not doing this one)

·         Purity Dairy Dash 15k 4/13

·         Grandma’s Marathon 6/22

Some Thoughts

Wednesday was tough, but I was happy to get through it. Saturday also felt kind of tough but got a little easier as it went. The injury is really what’s on my mind now though. I’m hoping it’s not a stress fracture and I can get back to training soon. Although I’m kind of concerned that it is. I will try to figure that out this week.

Even though I may be very injured, today I’ll write about something I’ve wanted to write about for a while. Maybe next week I’ll talk about how I deal with injury! Anyway, I hope you enjoy:

How to Run a 2:21 Marathon*, **, *** in 5 easy (ish) steps

*If you’re a guy. The female equivalent is 2:47 according to my friend/training partner Nick who used some online calculator. Thanks Nick.

**Technically I ran 2:21:51, which is really almost 2:22. But I think executing the below steps a little bit better (even just step 5) would’ve resulted in 2:21:low.

***Individual mileage may vary (haha, get it???). This is what worked for me. If you are very talented you may run much faster. You may not even need to follow the steps, although the marathon is a beast so it will probably still require some effort. If you are less talented you may run slower or have to follow the steps for longer. But if you follow them you will run fast.

Ok, let’s begin.

Step 1: Dedicate yourself completely to your goal. If you really want to do this, you’ve got to be serious about it. Get ready to make some life changes. Running is now a priority, so you’ll have to arrange the rest of your schedule around it. You’ll probably miss out on some social outings, especially those that begin (or end!) after 9pm. You won’t have much time for other hobbies. You’ll have to do things that seem annoying and maybe even unnecessary. You can still have a life outside of work and running, but many things will be somewhat restricted. I think the end result—or, really, even the pursuit itself—is worth it. If you don’t, that’s ok! We’ll see you next week 😊. Otherwise please proceed to step 2.

“The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” –Toshihiko Seko

“The marathon is my only girlfriend. I give her everything I have.” –Toshihiko Seko

Toshihiko was a little extreme, but you do have to be committed!

Step 2: Run often. At a minimum, 9-10 times a week. 12 would be better. This has many benefits. First, it makes it easier to run the necessary high mileage (that’s “The Secret”, remember?) required to get in good shape. But there are also other intangible benefits, like for example constantly reminding yourself of Step 1. There’s something about running every 12 hours that keeps you focused on your goal. Lots of thinking about running.


Step 3: Keep the ball rolling. This is a Tinman saying (a coach who’s all the rage these days). I used to think it meant doing workouts that were within yourself so you could nail them every time, which is also good. But what it really means is doing all of the necessary extra stuff to keep you healthy and able to train. For example, I do physical therapy exercises like hip/core/hamstring strengthening for 15-20 min a day, 5ish times a week. Plus some dynamic stretching before and after at least 1 run a day. It’s also extremely important to recover well. For me, that means a recovery drink (I prefer chocolate milk) after hard efforts and making sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Running a sleep “surplus” rather than a deficit or just getting barely enough is ideal. I think this Step is very specific to the individual runner. But the point is to do what you need to do to keep you healthy and recovering well so you can absorb all the training.


Brogan Austin, one of Tinman’s athletes, won the US Marathon Championships last December

Brogan Austin, one of Tinman’s athletes, won the US Marathon Championships last December

Step 4: Train like a marathoner. In addition to step 2, we need to add a little bit of hard stuff. For the most part, this shouldn’t be too hard. The first part of the season should include workouts that aren’t super marathon-specific. You just want to build general fitness here: fartleks, hill repeats, tempo intervals, etc. Later in the season, you can add more “extensive” work (that’s a term my coach likes to use, and I like it so I’m stealing it). This means long runs with big chunks a little bit slower than goal marathon pace, long intervals or tempos at goal marathon pace, and some moderate long runs as well. You need to train your legs to run at marathon pace when they’re tired—whether that’s cumulative fatigue from the mileage you’re running or because you’re running that pace near the end of a long run. Anyway, there are many ways to skin a cat and of all the steps, the details of this one may be the least important. Just add a couple hard days a week including some long stuff to get your legs ready to handle a marathon. And a healthy dose of strides doesn’t hurt either.


Putting it together: Steps 1-4. Before we talk about the final step, I just want to paint a picture of what this might look like. A typical weekday involves waking up, stretching, running, getting ready for work, work, come home and do 15-20 min of PT/strengthening, second run, make/eat dinner, clean up/relax a bit (maybe some additional stretching if you need it), sleep >8 hours and repeat. Weekends allow a little bit more time to be a normal person, but don’t neglect recovery, especially after a weekend long run. Is it a lot? Yes. But once you get in the routine it’s pretty manageable. Then you’ll be ready to execute step 5.


Step 5: Run the race. First, it’s helpful to choose a race that’s on a fast course with good competition. Running in a pack is easier than running alone. Early on, it’s very important to settle. Have an extremely low tolerance for pain early in the race. At some point, it should feel like a regular long run. Do not waste any unnecessary energy, and do not concern yourself with running goal pace right from the gun if it doesn’t feel natural. It’s a long race, ease into it. Try to get to 20 and still have some left, then you can start to push, gradually turning up the heat as you go. Trust the training you’ve done. If you’ve completed the steps then you are ready. Enjoy the experience. You never know whether or not you’ll get it again.