LEE -- Entering his eighth marathon, Matt Kinnaman has his eyes set on a goal that's more than crossing a finish line.

The Lee resident has punished his body every day for five long months, running up to 22 miles in a single day and up to 70 miles in a week, in preparation for the Boston Marathon with a lofty goal in mind.

"For recreational competitors, the three-hour mark is one of those big measurements and big goals," Kinnaman explained. "There is something special to be able to get into the two-hour time frame, because in marathoning that's as good as it gets. It's the same as bating .300 [in baseball] or breaking par on a tough course."

Kinnaman's best marathon time is 3 hours and 9 minutes, but his goal is to eventually enter the rarefied company of those who finish the marathon in less than three hours. The average marathon finish time in 2013 for males and females, respectively, was 4:17:43 and 4:42:58, according to Running USA.

That would require him to average a 6 minute and 50 second clip across 26.2 miles -- a feat accomplished by about two percent of marathon runners.

Running a three-hour marathon can be a simple feat for advanced runners -- Wilson Kipsang of Kenya holds the world record for running the Berlin Marathon in 2 hours and 3 minutes and 23 seconds in 2013 -- but, for recreational runners, it can be a feat to aspire for.


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Kinnaman works in marketing and sales, and he described himself as a "three-mile jogger," prior to running in the Hartford Marathon at 49. Following a 3 hour and 21 minute finish, he said he couldn't stop himself from entering the next marathon.

"My biggest race is against age," Kinnaman, 53, said. "While I still have a window of opportunity to break the three-hour mark, I just need to give it the best shot I can and hope that it works. But we'll find out. In a marathon, there are no guarantees."

For those who have completed the feat, they say preparation should take place long before arriving at the marathon. Runners should be training four to six months in advance, running anywhere from 16 miles to 22 miles in the lead up to the big race. The training should incorporate regular core work, such as sit-ups and planks, and muscle strengthening.

"The difference between exercise and training is purpose," said Kent Lemme of the Berkshire Running Center, who has run a marathon in 2 hours and 32 minutes

Runners have about two hours before they'll start tiring and they say a good predictor or results is competing in a half-marathon.

"If you can't break 1 hour and 25 minutes in a half-marathon, you won't break three hours in a marathon," Lemme said.

A week before the marathon, Lemme said, runners should let their body rest -- and stock up on carbohydrates so the extra fuel will be available in their body when they need it.

Sheila Mason, 47, of Hancock has run a marathon in 2 hours and 58 minutes. In 2008, Mason ran with the elite 50 women runners at the Boston Marathon, finishing 44th overall.

To train appropriately, Mason went online to find an advanced training plan. She participated in long runs and interval runs, where she would run hard for one mile, ease herself in the next, and then run hard for the next mile. She'd practice running up a steep hill at last once a week.

"It builds the strength in your legs," she said.

Other tips include allowing time for your body to rest, being mindful of taking the shortest route possible along a course, and having a strategy to replenish yourself with water and food. Runners should be comfortable drinking water on the go because there is no stopping when running a three-hour marathon.

"You have to have done the training," she said.

Kinnaman went through his checklist the week before the Boston Marathon: He is limiting his running and resting his body and he stocked up on carbohydrates 36 hours before the race. His final run was three miles on Friday.

When he first started running, Kinnaman said he was prone to burning himself out by running too quickly. He's more savvy now and he takes pride if he can finish the second half of the race faster than how he began it.

Runners say the midpoint is the 20-mile mark, at which time people need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

"The last six miles are sometimes longer than the first 20 in terms of physical pain and near agony," Kinnaman said.

To accomplish a new personal record, Kinnaman said everything from the weather down to an injury-free training period needs to come into play. Then it's just a race against the clock.

"Everything needs to turn out right from the weather, to the training, to the way you wake up that day," Kinnaman said. "That's part of the beauty of the day."