3 Hour Marathon Pace KM | Tips for 2:59:59

How does one sustain 3 hour marathon pace km for 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers? Have you had issues holding this pace and have as your goal to become a sub 3 hour marathoner? You will need to run 4:16 per kilometer pace in order to run 2:59:59. My goal with this post is to share with you some ideas and strategies to help you do it.

You are not alone. Athletes around the world are seeking to run a marathon in 2:59:59 or faster. The secret is to improve your lactate tolerance. That being said, the problem is to get the physiological adaptation to occur you have to train at high intensities.

Easy running will not improve your anaerobic threshold. The best advice I can give is to train at, near or far below 6:52 mile pace or 4:16 per kilometer pace and often.

In addition, you have to also focus on your recovery. We all as athletes are highly motivated and driven. Remember, the benefits of our anaerobic and aerobic training takes place in the rest.

You have to have the same type of discipline and focus you have to train hard as you need to have to back off when you know you should.

What Does It Take To Break The 3 Hour Marathon Barrier?

I teach athletes seeking to break the sub 3 hour marathon in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. It is an in-depth, results-oriented program designed to provide athletes with the exact blueprint needed to break this barrier.

The problem for many athletes that I have found is issues with their hydration practices and the pace they are running their long runs at.

I was able to lower my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 utilizing the methodologies I will be covering in this post.

The first major change you need to make in your training is to increase the pace of your long runs.

I have always believed that long, slow running will produce long, slow runners – Sebastion Coe, former world-record holder for 800m (1:41:73)

It is better to do a 16-miler at 6:55-7:15 mile pace then doing a 24-miler at 8:00 mile pace.

Remember, there are no breaks in the marathon. You want to get the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building in the bloodstream.

So, you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable. What I do not teach is to run fast for your long runs every weekend. You need to alternate one long, harder effort followed by a relaxed, easy long run the following week.

Again, recovery is critical. It makes no sense to brag about what kilometer splits you were hitting in your long runs and then get to the race and crash and burn.

Key Areas to Improve your Marathon Performances

  • Focus on running longer, long runs i.e. 18-27 miles in length
  • Vary the pace of your long runs. So, don’t just run long and slow every single weekend
  • Alternate one, faster paced long run with an easy, relaxed long run the following week
  • Jog on easy days. Remember, the benefits of your training is going to come from within the rest period
  • Focus on your speed development. Yes, speed is still needed even in the marathon and will make goal sub 3 hour marathon pace km feel easier, with time.
  • Mentally rehearse breaking the 3:00 marathon barrier. It has to become real in your mind first before it will become a reality outside the mind.
  • Lengthen your tempo runs from 3 miles at the start of your training to around 10 miles (16 kilometers) or more. Be patient, it takes 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it.

Be Patient

Marathon training demands delayed gratification. The biggest problem I have seen with many athletes is they expect results fast.

Keep in mind, a sub 3 hour marathon is not easy to achieve. There are runners all over the world training diligently to break this barrier and many of them never do.

My goal for you is to do the opposite of what the masses are doing. Do not get caught up in quantity and disregard what is more important, quality.

You need to start using leverage. Leverage simply means doing more with less. Would you rather run 50 miles a week and run a 2:59:59 or 110 mile a week and run 3:35?

The best marathoners I have lived and trained with believe in delayed gratification. They fully understand they may achieve the sub 3 hour marathon in a few months, years or even a decade.

Conduct Your Long Run At A Higher Heart Rate

I have zero doubt athletes in Australia and elsewhere are fully committed to breaking the 3 hr marathon barrier. The way I was able to lower my marathon best down to 2:19:35 was doing my long runs at 160 beats per minute.

This is approximately 85 to 88 percent of my maximum heart rate. So, not an easy effort considering some of the long runs I was doing ranged in distance from 18 miles to 27 miles in length.

I started my season running around 6:40 mile pace and as I got fitter my pace at 160 beats per minute was approximately 5:35 to 5:45 per mile pace.

This is a major difference in the way I was doing my long runs prior to breaking the sub-2:20:00 marathon barrier. If you have never considered training with a heart rate monitor I highly recommend start utilizing them in your marathon training.


It takes the stress off the athlete worrying about mile or kilometer splits and focus 100 percent on the heart rate zone he or she needs to stay at.

Additionally, training at a higher heart rate means you are stressing the anaerobic system of the body. The problem is far too many runners are running too slow and fail when it comes to breaking the 3 hour marathon barrier.

Focus On Hydration

One of the most critical areas of marathon training and learning to sustain 3 hour marathon pace effectively is proper hydration practices.

The marathon is not a 5 or 10 kilometer race. It is 42.2 kilometers which places heavy demand on the body. The human body absolutely needs the calories and fluid during this event.

That being said, far too often runners neglect this fundamental. They may grab a few sips of water during the race but are not ingesting any calories and run out of glycogen.

Remember, the marathon is like a puzzle. There are many pieces that you have to get right to get the distance correct.

I failed several times before I broke the sub-2:20:00 marathon. The reason for this was I was not drinking enough during the race.

Breaking 2

Have you ever watched the Nike Breaking 2 documentary?

Zersenay Tadese was one of three men trying to break the 2 hour marathon. The world-class exercise physiologists on the Nike staff found that he was not drinking enough in his marathons.

He is the current world-record holder for the half marathon having run an incredible 58:23. That being said, his personal best for the marathon prior to Breaking 2 was 2:10:41.

Tadese is clearly capable of running faster than 2:10:41, respectfully. The sports scientists were able to adjust his preparation and he was able to lower his personal best to 2:06 during the time trial that was held in Monza, Italy. So, start focusing on taking in more fluid and calories during your long runs. Start sitting your water bottles out every 3 miles or 5 kilometers. Have you ever watched the world’s top marathoners? They grab their water bottles and drink them holding them in their hands for about 400 to 800 meters while they are ra

3 Hour Marathon Pace

The best marathoners are not always the hardest workers. Do the hardest working athletes always get the results they are seeking? Not always. Why is that? Well, high mileage by itself is not a guarantee you will sustain sub 3 hour marathon km pace. What percentage of your weekly volume are you practicing running at or below 6:17 mile or 3:54 kilometer pace? The best middle to long distance runners run around 40 percent of their weekly mileage at or below their goal marathon race paces.

So, there is a legitimate reason why these athletes make it look so easy. A common mistake is simply running too many of your miles or kilometers too slow. You have to plan accordingly. In addition, pace properly in your race so that you slow down less than your competition. Also, you want to start varying the paces of your long runs. I was able to lower my marathon PB from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 using this method. Remember, you always want to alternate a faster, varied pace long run followed the next week by an easy, relaxed long run.

What Percentage of Marathon Runners Break 3 Hours?

Only about 4 percent run a time this competitive. Yes, a sub 3 hour marathon is very competitive marathon time. So, 3 hour marathon km pace comes out to 4:16 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers. Are you outside of the united States of America and follow the metric system? You will need to sustain 6 minutes and 52 seconds per mile for 26.2 miles to run a 2:59:59. You don’t want to do long, slow easy runs every single weekend. A big mistake runners make is running too many miles or kilometers each week too slow.

Remember, your goal is to sustain sub 3 marathon pace more effectively than your competition. So, in order to do that you have to pay attention to how you are setting up your training. You should check out the resources located here at rundreamachieve.com by clicking on any of the green buttons.

Speed development is also critical. I emphasize to the athletes I coach online here to do 1, vo2 max workout per week. Your vo2 max is your maximum oxygen uptake. It is running at speeds that are so fast you can’t clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. These types of workouts will help get your marathon race pace to feel more manageable and less demanding.

3 hour marathon pace km
Founder of rundreamachieve.com breaking the 2:20 Marathon Barrier at the 2007 CIM Marathon

How Realistic is a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

Remember, it isn’t about the volume you are putting in that counts. It is the percentage of your weekly volume you are training at or below your goal race pace. Again, it doesn’t matter how much mileage you are putting in if it is conducted too slow. You will be a superior middle to long distance runner. The marathon demands that you are not only strong endurance-wise but also speed developed as well. So, to run a marathon under 3 hours you have to train smart.

You need to use leverage. Leverage simply means doing more with less. We all already know how to work hard. Do the hardest working athletes always get the results? No. What do the best middle to long distance runners do? They use leverage. The best are always seeking how can I get better results by doing less. So, you need to develop the will to train smart rather than hard. The philosophy with my training plans and running courses are built around this mindset.

Can a 50 Year Old Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

Yes. The American record for the 50-54 age group is 2:24:08 set by Mbarrik Hussein. Of course, yes, a marathon under 3 hours is an extremely tough and competitive time but can be done even in your 50s. Again, the key to sustaining goal marathon race pace effectively is improving your body’s lactate tolerance. So, you have to spend adequate time training at, near and far below sub 3 hr marathon pace. Remember, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress you are placing on it.

So, you have to be patient with your progress. Yes, a 3-mile tempo run will be tough at first. That being said, weeks down the line you will be doing 8 to 10 mile tempo runs at even faster paces. The body always adapts. It is us that become impatient and start to second guess ourselves when we try to rush the process of getting into better shape.

Make sure you are practicing hydration and taking in fluids during your long runs. There are far too many runners who don’t hydrate well enough in the race and pay for it in the latter stages of the marathon. Remember, emulate what the best marathoners do and you will become even more successful. The marathon is not a 5K. You may be able to get away with not drinking in a 5 kilometer event but not the marathon.

How Difficult is Sub 3 Marathon?

Yes, a marathon time of 2:59:59 or faster is a very competitive time. One that many runners around the world are seeking to achieve. I have created 8, 12 and 16-week training plans ranging in distance from the mile all the way to the 50k distance here at rundreamachieve.com. In addition, have also created running courses designed for athletes just like you who are seeking success.

Investing in ones’ personal development is one effective way to make it to the next level in our sport. I, too, invested thousands of dollars myself to become the best athlete I could be. I was very fortunate to have been coached and/or mentored by 3 of the world’s top distance running coaches. The three were Jack Hazen, Lisa Rainsberger (1985 Boston Marathon champion) and Dr. Joe Vigil.

It helps to study what the best runners and coaches do to be successful. Also, to duplicate their work habits so that you get similar results.

How Impressive is a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

Very. It is not an easy time to achieve. Spend 3 to 4 weeks running easy, aerobic base mileage first. The reason is you want to strengthen your body’s ligaments, tendons and muscles. Of course, you can do strides 2 to 3 times per week while you are building your foundational mileage. Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter sprints that help you focus on acceleration and your form. The great thing about doing strides is they are too short to build up any legitimate lactic acid. So, you can develop some of your speed even while building your fitness.

As mentioned above, running a marathon under 3 hours means you need to hold under 6:52 mile or 4:16 kilometer pace. So, you have to get that 3 hour marathon km pace to feel more like a tempo run rather than an all-out effort. I believe a focus on doing longer tempo runs also will help you greatly.

The reason being is you are spending longer durations at your anaerobic threshold. A common mistake runners make is doing short tempo runs. Of course, a short tempo run will still give you a huge physiological boost. That being said, we are talking about the marathon here, not the 5K.

Closing Thoughts

So, focus on choosing a 8, 12 or 16-week build up for your marathon. I have built the training plans to fit into each athletes goals including the 2:45 marathon barrier. In fact, you will be doing the exact same types of workouts I was doing to run 2:19:35 for the marathon.

Of course, your workout paces will vary compared to mind. That being said, the workouts will be set up in such a way as to ensure you get sub 3 hour marathon km pace to feel easier.

Definitely check out and subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos there each week to help runners of all capabilities get the very best results. There are many resources here for you including monthly coaching, if interested.

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