Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

4 Hour Marathon. How To Break The Barrier

What It Takes To Run A 4 Hour marathon

The 4 hour marathon is a respectable time.

It may not mean much to an elite level marathoner (but should), but to someone else it is just as impressive as any world beating time.

4 hour marathon

We're all working hard and want to improve, not just elite athletes.

I have been involved in competitive sport since I was a teenager. I've always respected those athletes trying to run under the 4 hour marathon barrier.

Our media and culture respect and admire people who do anything at the elite level.

A sub 4 hour marathon is not easily achievable. It is a respectable effort and one only a few men and women achieve each year. 

Ways To Run A 4 Hour Marathon

You must train yourself to run at 9.09 per mile pace.

What runners who are looking to run at a specific pace for an extended period of time are not paying attention to is sustained pace training.

I see guys who are running 5.00 per mile pace and wonder what needs to be done to maintain that pace for 26.2 miles.

My best marathon is 5.19 per mile. I, too, wonder how these top athletes sustain pace for so long. What needs to be done to sustain 5:00 minute per mile pace for 26.2 miles? That being said, the same fundamentals apply.

Hard, sustained work.

Sustained Anaerobic Running

This is not jogging pace.

A 4 hour marathon means 9.09 per mile pace must be held. You can't train at 10 minute mile pace for 6 to 8 miles per day and truly prepare yourself correctly to run a 4 hour marathon.

Why? You have to be able to train at 9.09 per mile pace and feel controlled for 6 to 8 miles before you can start thinking of doing it for 26.2 miles.

Running at a faster pace is demanding.

Running slowly will build fitness and on a molecular level will build red blood cells. This will help the body transport oxygen to muscles.

Secondly, it will help the body create capillary beds.

Third, this will increase blood flow to the working muscles. Lastly, the body will make more mitochondria  which are the powerhouse of the cell.

The more of mitochondria in the blood stream the more economically you are going to run. 

These are all vital, important physiological adaptations that will occur from running easy. In addition, your heart rate will drop so your heart doesn't have to work as hard as it did prior to you starting.

This is huge. Wonder why at first you're struggling just to run a mile and a few weeks down the road a mile is a joke to you? Your heart has adapted.

Endurance must be built over time. It can't be rushed.

Learn More About The Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery Course

Pace Yourself

Runners who want to hold 9.09 per mile pace, consecutively, 26 miles in a row plus an additional distance equivalent to half a lap around the track, means you have to sit down and think of what must be done to sustain the pace

Here are a few things you can do to help you reach this goal.

It is not just how many miles a week you are running needed to run a 4 hour marathon. Is mileage important?

Yes, of course, we discussed a few things above that prove this, but to run a marathon in a specific time we have to train in a specific way.

The difference

You can't do this running easily.

The difference between a novice and elite runner is that the novice's muscles haven't been trained to generate enough sustained force. –  Pete Migill

The trick is the quality of the miles you are running.

You have to focus on extending the length of your longer runs and the pace at which you hold them at.

The real secret

This is the secret that too many runners don't pay enough attention to. Furthermore, a higher percentage of weekly mileage needs to be run at higher intensities.

glutathione and athletic performanceThe key for you to run at your lactate threshold or slightly above it. Your lactate threshold is the point at which lactic acid begins to build up in the blood stream.

You need to target the pace you need to run at. Then, focus on what needs to be done to make that a reality.

Here are a few examples of what you can do.

  • 20 miles – 5 miles easy, 5 miles@ 20 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace, 5 miles at 20 seconds faster than goal pace, 5 miles easy

The idea behind this workout is building strength, not simply endurance.

You are basically warming up with the first 5 miles (and fatiguing). So, asking yourself to gradually increase pace the further out you get into the run.

You are teaching your body to not only run longerbut run in a fatigued state. In addition to that, increasing pace as you fatigue.

You will have no rest in a marathon and to run 9.09 per mile pace you have to build sustainability of that intensity in training.

Prepare to execute
  • 10 mile run (1 mile warm up and cool down) running at 20 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon race pace.

You are increasing your aerobic capacity by doing a workout like this.

Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen you can bring to your body during an exercise activity. You increase this ability and you will nail the 4 hour marathon.

Have you ever wondered why runners who seem to run effortlessly run in that manner?

They do so because they have trained their system to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. This helps the body run more economically.

They have also maximized their ability to transport more oxygen to their muscles.

You will not be able to do this effectively unless you can make a plan to do more than just run easy miles.

Easy mile will help you to finish a marathon. A systematic plan will provide you a way to attack a specific time such as 4 hours

Pace training and recovery

We clearly now know this. What you must also keep in mind is the importance of recovery in all of this.

Specific marathon pace training is demanding. I don't care if you are aiming for 9.09 per mile pace or 5.10 per mile pace like me.

We all have to train at or below the paces we are wanting to hold for our marathons.

In addition, you have to give equal attention to recovery or results will not come. benefits of running in the morning

Your golden moment

A rested body is ready for a golden performance.

Furthermore, a tired body will give you the complete opposite.

You have to gradually build into doing runs at a 9.09 per mile pace.

It would not be wise to be running for two weeks into your training plan and begin doing runs at 9.09 pace (or faster).

It is important to build a base of solid mileage first. Then, the specific training can begin.

So, the most important thing to remember if you have a 4 hour marathon as your goal. First, train at 4 hour marathon pace as often as possible with a careful eye on ‘jogging' on recovery days.

Lastly, easy running is important but fast running for long periods of time get the job done.

Results will come from this, they will not come overnight.

Stay motivated and grow in patience. Patience is difficult in this sport. It is, sometimes, the most difficult part of training for marathons.

Finally, if you can see this as a long-term process you will have conquered the distance before you even toe the line.

Learn More About The Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery Course

One response to “4 Hour Marathon. How To Break The Barrier

  1. Thanks for the training tips! Impressive times you’ve run!
    I just turned 60 and am going to run the NYCM this year, if it happens. It will be my 34th marathon, and the first in 6 years (3:58 in bad conditions). I’d like to get close in 3hrs, but have no idea whether my body can still do that. I used to run, regularly, in the high 2:40s (PR: 2:46 in NY in ’87!) but wasn’t training correctly. I now realize I was doing my VO-max type workouts way to fast, and also my endurance-speed workouts wrong as well. I want to train more sensibly and the virus has given me some time to reflect and get a little base going. Right now, four weeks in, I’m trying to figure out the proper pace for my long runs. How best to calculate? It’s hard to say exactly what shape I’m in. I ran 10 miles last weekend at 8:20 pace and that felt too hard and took too much out of me.
    Thank you!

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