How to run a 2:23 Marathon! (English)
Kristian Ulriksen’s training the last four months leading in to Hamburg Marathon 2022
Designed and executed by Kristian Ulriksen. Written by Andreas Grøgaard.
This article does not present any conclusion on how to run a 2:23 marathon. Neither is the training conducted completely in accordance with the original plan. However, the following paragraphs present what has been done in what Kristian describes as “a last attempt to run 2:19”.
The program is accommodated Ulriksen’s training background, his characteristics as an athlete, as well as his everyday life. An athlete with other capabilities would not necessarily respond equally to the training and achieve similar results. Nevertheless, there are several indications that the general principles of intensity control, prioritizing quality sessions and long runs, including elements of high speed/strides, and giving concern for recovery and rest, will be fairly generalizable. At the same time, the importance of individual adjustments should not be underestimated.
Ulriksen presents GPS measurements with regards to distance, speed at intervals (the main part of the session), average speed of the sessions in total, as well as measurements of lactate and heart rate in a number of quality sessions. On Strava he also describes details such as shoe choices, energy intake, subjective experience of the sessions, and other elements associated with the training. There is a Norwegian saying stating that children and drunk people will give you the truth. That statement can also apply to Ulriksen: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2578098
As a public figure, Kristian also has been honest and open about his routines, whereabouts, and everyday life in various media channels: Strava, Clubhouse, Breaking Marathon Limits, and “I det lange løp” (Norwegian Podcast: “In the long run”). Thus, he has experienced, relatively speaking, distinctive pressure and expectations associated with the final result. Nevertheless, he places the greatest pressure on himself.
Kristian Ulriksen went through a comprehensive operation to Haglund’s deformity, in April 2020. After a summer of limited physical activity, his BMI was higher than his speed at threshold. In August the same year, Kristian ran a 5-kilometer race in 18.05. That equals to 3:37 min/km. To break the 2:20-barrier in a marathon, you will have to run 18 seconds faster per kilometer, eight times that distance. A year and a half of pandemic might feel like an eternity. However, in order to achieve the wanted progress, this period is considered very limited. The goal seemed like a dream. It was completely unrealistic at the time – not to mention within 18 months.
However, Kristian had surpassed himself earlier, running 2:21:36 in the Berlin Marathon, 29 September 2019. This performance scores 976 points in the World Athletics scoring tables, and differs distinctly from Ulriksen’s personal records in the shorter distances. His level in the distances from 3000 meters to the half marathon is ranked fairly evenly in the 822-860 points range. This represents a performance level corresponding to a marathon time from 2:30:35-2:27:19 (average speed of 3:34-3:29 min/km).
One should necessarily take such comparisons with a grain of salt. However, the difference in performance level is considered that significant and remarkable, it would be a negligence not to mention. There are no doubts about Kristian being uniquely suited for the marathon distance. This includes what kind of training he responds to and what results he achieves in competitions. Marathon is not science – it is an art.
”Marathon is not science – it is an art”
General training idea
The cornerstone of this training philosophy is continuity. Fitness is temporary, and the body constantly has to be exposed to stress and exercise (in a sensible balance with rest/recovery) to achieve progress. You are also dependent on a certain training volume – both in terms of kilometers in total, and in terms of kilometers with +/- competitive intensity/speed. The marathon distance sets requirements for a number of characteristics, such as threshold speed, muscular endurance, VO2 max, speed resources, technique, metabolism, etc. In a basic training phase, an athlete will often seek to develop these characteristics simultaneously. However, in the marathon-specific period (or in a pre-competition period in general), it is considered vital to focus on specificity. In practice, this means that the focus is at getting maximum quality in those sessions that are similar to the competition. With 42,195 kilometers as the competition distance, it is assumed that the proportion of kilometers with competitive intensity/speed should be significantly greater than for track races and shorter road races. Furthermore, this restricts the number of quality sessions per week. Therefore, Ulriksen arranged the training weeks around two or three relatively demanding training sessions. Demanding in this context is defined by relatively high intensity (heart rate zone 3 +) and/or relatively long distance (20 kilometers +).
The 2022 season: “One last try”
Training phase 1: 8 weeks including Sevilla Marathon
• 137,87 kilometers on average, of which 43,1 kilometers with quality – defined as competitive speed/intensity (faster than 4:00 min/km). The proportion of running with a fairly high intensity thus constitutes 31,2 % of the total training load.
• Two competitions in week 1 and week 2, respectively 5 kilometers in 14.56 and 10 kilometers in 32.21. The 5 kilometer race was a new PB, while the 10 kilometer race was a huge disappointment, in which Kristian fell over during the race. The training indicated that he should be able to match his PB.
Training phase 2: 8 weeks including Hamburg Marathon
• 139,4 kilometers on average, of which 58,0 kilometers with quality ¬ defined as competitive speed/intensity (faster than 4:00 min/km). The proportion of running with a fairly high intensity thus constitutes 41,6 % of the total training load (a significant increase from 31,2 % in the previous training phase).
• No competitions.
”Set yourself a goal for life, and you are lost”
- Egil Drillo Olsen (former Norwegian football coach)
The dream of 2:19 lives on
This is not a terminal point for Ulriksen’s dream of running a 2:19 marathon. The dream lives on towards the Berlin Marathon, 25 September 2022. He acknowledges Albert Einstein’s teaching: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. As an experienced poker player, Kristian is not afraid to go all in, but this time with better cards at hand. In line with this, the potential gain will also increase.
After Hamburg Marathon, status quo is in Kristian’s own, brutally honest words:
“Went for a walk. Affected, but mostly tender. Probably achieved my potential. Fitness and threshold are good. The weight is actually also good. But once again, I’m not even close to being prepared for the distance. It’s sad I was prepared for 35km, max”.
Andreas Grøgaard (f. 1992) har en bachelorgrad i psykologi og en mastergrad i ledelse- og organisasjonspsykologi. Han er svært interessert i en rekke idrettsgrener (fotball, langrenn, friidrett osv.), men har selv hovedsakelig bedrevet langdistanseløping siden 2012. Hans personlige rekord på maraton er (foreløpig) 2:28:42.
Andreas har de seneste årene drevet et enkeltpersonforetak for treningskonsultasjon, samt relaterte aktiviteter og tjenester. Han er også initiativtaker til prosjektene ”Breaking Marathon Limits” og ”Breaking2:30”, som tar sikte på å inspirere og oppmuntre løpere til å pushe sine egne grenser og ta ut sitt potensiale – uansett nivå. Engasjementet for kondisjonsidrett kommer også til uttrykk gjennom rollene i redaksjonskomiteen til Kondis, som Runner’s Worlds løpeskoekspert, som instruktør og reiseleder for Springtime, samt som ambassadør for Torshov Sport Runners.
Gjennom BML kan Andreas tilby:
- Personlig treningsprogram
- Tekst (artikler, taler, innhold, foredrag etc.)
- Foredrag om trening