Workout of the Week: The 3 x 3 Cutdown


Many runners are in the midst of marathon training (or will be soon), which means the long run takes on an extra level of importance. The 3 x 3 Cutdown is one of my favorite go-to long runs to help develop the specific fitness and skills necessary to race 26.2 miles well. Here are the details:

What: 3 x 3-mile repeats with a 1 mile “float” for recovery between repeats. The first mile of each 3-mile repeat is 10-15″/mile slower than goal marathon pace. The second mile of each 3-mile repeat is at goal marathon pace. The third mile of each 3-mile repeat is 10-15″/mile faster than goal marathon pace. The “float” miles in between are ~60-75″/mile slower than goal marathon pace.

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up with 2-5 miles of easy running including 4-6 x 20″ pickups (60″ jogging in between) to wake up the legs. Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running. Depending on how long you make your warmup and cooldown, the run will total between 14 and 18 miles.

Why: This is a challenging long run that touches on paces above, at, and below goal marathon pace. This helps to simulate some of the natural paces changes that may occur during a marathon and teaches you how to make adjustments on the fly. This workout is also a good opportunity to test and practice your fueling strategy at race intensity.

Where: This one is made for the roads but it translates nicely to a treadmill if that’s more your jam (or a necessity as we head into the winter months).

When: This is a good one to do 2-3 times in the 12-16 weeks leading up to a marathon. I wouldn’t recommend doing this session inside of three weeks from race day. Experienced marathoners can add a fourth 3-mile repeat to make this workout longer and even more challenging.

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