Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

4 Hour Marathon | How To Break The Barrier and Set a New PR

Are you wondering what it takes to run a sub 4 hour marathon? If so, welcome to rundreamachieve. I am glad you have made it here.

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 are lacing is attention to training at sustained paces for a longer period of time.

Running 5.00 per mile pace is one thing. That being said, doing it for 26.2 miles is something else.

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? Remember, 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. Can training at 10 minute mile pace for 6 to 8 miles per day prepare you to run a 4 hour marathon?

No, You have to be able to train at 9.09 per mile pace and feel controlled for 6 to 8 miles. Then, you start focusing on 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. In addition, 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 for 26 miles have to be strategic in the way that they plan.

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

Remember, it isn't how many miles a week you are running. What percentage of that volume is spent training at sub 4 hour marathon pace?

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

The 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

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.

benefits of running in the morning

In addition, you have to give equal attention to recovery or results will not come. 

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

3 responses to “4 Hour Marathon | How To Break The Barrier and Set a New PR

  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!

  2. Great times you have already run Charlie. Very well done my friend. 2:46 is smoking! You may want to consider our training plans or running course on the sub 4 hour marathon. Keep me posted on your progress. The fact that you realize the mistakes you made in the past will help you dramatically in 2021.

  3. Hey charlie. I recommend subscribing to the RDA YouTube channel at as I do touch quite a bit on your questions there. VERY well done having dropped that 2:46 marathon as there are MANY athletes who wish they could have a PR that fast. Please keep in touch with me as I know 2022 is going to be an awesome year for you. You obviously are a highly successful athlete.

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