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April 14, 2017

Runcoach Success Story: Elliot Norman

Written by Jennifer Van Allen
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Elliot Norman had a 3:16 marathon PR and a dream of getting a Boston Qualifying time of 3:05. He used Runcoach to train for the Paris Marathon, and finished the race this weekend in 3:00 smashing his previous PR, and accomplishing his goal.

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What is the secret to your success? I listen to my body, if I don't think I can do a workout distance or pace I back off. I focus on form and try to think about how life decisions outside of running—in terms of things like diet, alcohol, and sleep— will impact performance.

What’s the biggest obstacle to reaching your goal and how do you overcome it? I think I have struggled in previous marathons to execute my success in shorter races and training runs through the last few miles of the marathon. This feels like a mental hurdle that I was hoping to push through by following an increased mileage plan with Runcoach.

What’s the most rewarding part of your training? Seeing the improvements in my times when it comes to race day and the feeling of satisfaction and achievement on a daily basis from completing my workouts.

What advice would you give to other members of the Runcoach community? Everyone is different.  Train to your body and your capabilities, adjust your goals based on your progress. Don't ramp up distance or pace too fast, take your time and don't push too hard all the time. You're better off skipping a workout and resting to let yourself heal and recover than to push through and miss a lot more because of injury.

Tell us about your racing success at the Paris Marathon. I started with Runcoach with the goal of making my Boston Qualifying time. After completing the Marine Corps Marathon in 3:16 and having a half-marathon PR of 1:21, I knew I had it in me. But I hadn’t found the right training combo to execute well in the marathon. I tore my calf last May which ruled out my fall marathon and so I reset my goal for the 2017 Paris Marathon. When I registered, I was conservative and estimated a 3:15 finishing time. But after very closely following my prescribed training plan I thought I would be close to the 3:05 I needed to BQ. I knew that time was unlikely to get an entry but seemed like a good goal. At the expo I had to use race results to move up a corral and was actually put in to the sub-3 ‘preferential’ group. I started at the back of the group to ensure I didn’t get wrapped up in a group whose pace was well above my capability and to give myself some room.


It’s a beautiful course starting on the Champs-Élysées with the sun rising on the Arc De Triomphe. It was 50 degrees, with no wind and clear skies. The conditions couldn’t be more perfect and the further in to the race I got, the better I felt. During my training I would stop every 5K at water fountains. So I  walked through the water stops, while this cost me a little time it ensured I was well hydrated and able to refocus on the next few miles ahead. 

As I hit the half-marathon mark in 1:29 I felt good and was starting to think that if I could keep that pace up I had a shot of going sub-3. But I stayed focus on my original goal. I knew there were a lot of miles to go. Paris is a beautiful city but I was focused on being on the ‘green line’ painted to show the shortest way around the course the whole time. As I ticked off the miles waiting for the wall to come I continued to feel good. Having drastically increased my mileage since starting with runcoach, I was more confident and I could visualize those last 9 miles as one of my normal weekday runs. I kept focusing on the sacrifices I’d made and the motivation my family give me to push. I was frantically doing the mental math over the last 6 miles to see if I’d break 3 hours. In the end, I finished in 3:00:25. Still way below what I dreamed and shattering my goal and PR.

Those 26 seconds frustrate me but gives me motivation for Chicago in the fall and hopefully Boston next April. I’ve already put both into Runcoach and after a short break I am excited to start training for them again.    

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Last modified on November 26, 2017
Jennifer Van Allen

Jennifer Van Allen

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