Destinations Marathons Reviews

Marathon Challenge – Overview

Marathon Challenge
Written by Charlie

In the middle of July, I had a nice race planning strategy worked out for the Dubai Marathon in January. But then I began to think (it is really hard for me to wait that long for a race) about races in Europe that might be interesting to do while I am here. That is when I stumbled upon the Reykjavik Marathon (Iceland). I had long wanted to do this one but had considered it not something that was possible. Well, since I write for runners to help them with travel, I thought, why not do that?! I get people asking for recommendations on races and travel all the time so I figured it would be helpful to add this one to my personal experience list. The problem was that my running was nothing at the time. It had been that way for two weeks and very light before that. So, I came up with a mini Marathon Challenge. Here is what it was:

My Marathon Challenge 


It has been a long time since I ran a marathon on training miles that did not top 40 miles a week. In fact, I think the only marathon that I ever ran where I never went over 40 miles was my first one. The problem is that I really do not have the time for my possible next marathon to ramp up my mileage and I really want to work on my Insanity program as well. I have done some of the insanity workouts before while in the middle of marathon training and it is really hard to keep up the miles with the workouts at the same time. So, here is what my marathon challenge consists of:

  • 40 days of training
  • 40 miles (max) per week
  • Sub 4:00 marathon

I normally would not have a problem going sub 4 hours but with my lack of running and minimal training plan, I am setting that as a goal.


To see the updates I posted in the weeks leading up to the race, here they are:

Last Monday, I ran 4 miles and had intended to do the same on Tuesday and Thursday in preparation for the race (and it would still keep me under 40 miles for the week including the marathon). However, I went and did something stupid on Tuesday that made for difficult walking with any footwear for the couple of days following that. So, I was left with just the 4 miles in the week leading up to the marathon day.

Here is what my totals looked like (since July 3 – this is including two weeks of no running)

  • Total miles run – 186.4 miles
  • Total number of runs – 22
  • Average distance per run – 8.4 miles
  • Average distance per week – 26.62 miles
  • Average pace – 8:20 per mile

Now, I will say what I did in the first week – this is not something that I advise people doing. Can people run a marathon on 186 miles in 7 weeks? Sure. Can it be fun? Depends. Is it the best thing to do? NO! Again, given my schedule before this and coming up, I knew I had only a certain amount of time to give to training. Since I was doing this race wholly for review purposes, I was not looking for a fast time. I put the 4 hour limit on there because I like the sound of it. 🙂

Marathon Challenge – Overview

Marathon Challenge

Starting line of the Reykjavik Marathon

So, let’s see how I did on my goals.

  • 40 days to train – YES 
  • Under 40 miles per week – YES
  • Run a sub-4 hour marathon – YES

I will have an entire report and review of the marathon itself this week, but it was an incredible race! This was the 30th anniversary marathon (marking the 4th 30th anniversary marathon I have run) and you could tell they really pride themselves on the event. It was very well run and the course was among the most beautiful I have had the privilege of running on. The weather was not that great (the temps were perfect – 48˚ – 52˚) due to rain from mile 10 one, but it was a welcome relief to the temperatures I had been training in (upper 90s).

When I first charted the goals, I figured breaking 4 hours would not be a problem since it was about 30 minutes slower than my PR. However, I had not figured in how the temperatures in training would take their toll on me. I was not as confident toeing the line as I thought I would be given that my training runs had not gone the way I had wanted. However, I figured it was better to just enjoy the race and take in as much as I could along with photos to write about here.

I will have another post this week on marathon mistakes, but I made another boo-boo. I was so careful in my packing, I forgot where I had put my GU gels! I could not find them anywhere. I finally had left for the race thinking that I could get some on the course. Unfortunately, they did not have anything like that at the aid stations. Instead, they had bananas in the later miles. Not having something to replenish my energy stores was not helpful for my race, but I was not going to let that throw me. I gobbled up the bananas and some Powerade and kept at it.

Marathons and Muscle Memory

I will write about the race itself in greater detail in the race review, but I will say now that I did meet my goal of the sub-4 hour marathon. I crossed the line in 3:58 (actually, the clock showed gun time as being 3:59:50 which was kind of cool). I felt good enough in the later miles that I actually did the last .50 mile at a low 7 minute per mile pace! I think this helps to show that our muscles retain an incredible amount of memory. I am not sure how long one would have to go of not training much before performance would really suffer, but I was somewhat surprised that I was able to feel so well given my very low miles in the couple of months leading up to it. In fact, even before June, I wasn’t really running that many miles. So, if you have to take some time off at some point, have a little faith in your body’s ability to retain the muscle memory from your running prior to it. I am not sure what the correlation is to exactly how long one has been running to the amount of muscle memory retention (if you will), but I would imagine that a runner who has been running for 20 years with an average of 35-40 miles a week would be able to take a couple of months off and still cover the distances (although not as fast). Just a word of warning, should you have to take time off or limit your mileage, remember your limits. Sure, I have run the marathon distance in 3:27 on decent training. Does that mean I could have done that on Saturday? NO. My training was down, my miles were down, and I had a few more pounds on me than I would normally have for a marathon. I had to work within my limits which is why I chose the sub-4 hour. Pushing past those limits in a race is how you will get hurt. Just remember that!


All in all, I cannot wait to write about this trip and the race! It is absolutely a race that I highly recommend for people to run in. I will be showing how you can get there and stay there for free as I do the writeup so there should not be any reason for you to not run this race at some point! I look forward to returning to this race at some point to really race it and see how it feels like that. I also want to bring my family back. The country is so beautiful it is very hard to relay the beauty and experience. But I will try! Thanks for following along on this mini-challenge and for the advice and feedback along the way! It has been fun and I am already planning a slightly bigger challenge for next year. Thinking of something like Mini-Marathon Madness. What do you think that might entail? 🙂

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Glad you made it in the time you wanted! I hope to do a sub 4 in the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Hope all of my training pans out.

    • Hopefully the weather will be good for your Chicago race! The temps I have seen there before have been unusual! Good luck!