4 Hr Marathon Pace: Pro Tips to Run 3:59:59

4 hr marathon pace comes out to 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer. How can we make that pace feel more manageable? I’ve created a new course for marathoners seeking to break the 4 hour marathon. It is now launched and called the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery course. Pace sustainment is one of the biggest challenges for most runners.

The world’s best runners run between 35 to 40 percent of their weekly volume at or close to their anaerobic threshold. We run between 85 to 89 percent of our max heart rate running at these paces. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past training for your marathons?

3 miles? 5 miles? I would suggest working to extend this to 8 to 12 miles for your marathon races. Remember, the faster we run the more fast twitch muscle fibers we will recruit. The result is that we will improve our lactate tolerance. In addition, we will slow down less in our races. Also, it will make sub 4 hour marathon pace to feel easier and more sustainable

4 hr marathon pace

There are millions of runners around the world seeking to maintain 4 hr marathon pace.  It is therapeutic for me to write about training and helping other runners get to their fill potential.

What Pace is a 4 Hour Marathon?

Sub 4 hr marathon pace comes out to 9:09 per mile for 26.2 miles or 5:41 per mile for 42.2 kilometers.

I have created many resources to help runners like you break the sub 4 marathon barrier. For example, the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Domination course. Also, an e-book where I provide some tips and strategies to help you succeed.

The following marathoners reached out to give their opinion on what it takes to break the 4 hour marathon with the e-book:

Ryan Bak (2.14.17 marathoner)

Dan Kahn (2.19.07 marathoner)

Nick Stanko (2.19.37 marathoner)

Michael Wardian (2.17.49 marathoner and 4-time USA 50K and 100K World team member)

Is a 4 Hour Marathon a Good Time?

Yes, a sub 4 marathon is a highly competitive time. Again, you need to sustain 9:09 or faster per mile or 5:41 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers. So, you have to train more of your mileage at or below your goal race pace. I am a big believer in doing faster, varied paced long runs. Remember, running too easy too often is only going to make you a superior long, slow distance runner.

I didn’t want to create an average running courses or training plans for a sub 4 hour marathon. Runners need to start using leverage to sustain 4 hr marathon pace. That being said, sometimes it is just small, minute changes that need to be made. I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor for your training.

The reason being is they will help you to train at the proper intensities. I use the Garmin 245. It helps me to stay at the proper paces during my tempo runs and long runs.

Every athlete is different. There are runners seeking to break the 3 hour marathon and others aiming to break 60 minutes for the 10k. In addition, there are others seeking to run a sub 2 hour half marathon or run their first 5K.

Goals push us out of our comfort zone and challenge us to be and do more.

What are those two main hurdles to maintain 4 hr marathon pace?

How Hard is it to Run a 4 Hour Marathon?

It is a tough time barrier to break through. That being said, others have and are doing it so why can’t you? I would highly suggest doing at least 1, vo2 max workout each week. The reason being is you want to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Again, if you are running too aerobically you are only building endurance.

So, it is vital to train at paces that are closer to your 3k to 5k race pace. The result is that sub 4 hr marathon pace will feel much more sustainable. Remember, focus on running a negative split as well.

So, do not try to win your marathon in the first half. There are far too many runners who go out too fast. The result is they go into oxygen debt and are forced to slow down in the latter stages of their race.

Marathon fueling is absolutely essential to maintain 4 hr marathon pace.

This was one of my biggest hurdles to overcome over the past 17 years of running marathons. I simply wasn’t drinking enough during the race. One of the biggest killers of marathon times is sipping and not drinking in the race.

Is a 4 Hour Marathon Slow?

No, 4 hr marathon pace is most certainly not slow. The athlete seeking to run 3:59:59 has to be trained well mentally as well as physically. How often do you pay attention to mental training? I ask that because most runners only focus on physical training.

Remember, we need to train the mind just as we train the body. Our goals start in the mind first. The good news is that it does not take more than 10 minutes each day to do this. I recommend doing this when you first get up in the morning or when going to bed at night. So, see yourself crossing the finish line with 3:59:59 or faster on the clock.

This is a 26.2 mile or 42.1 kilometer race. The body demands to be fed and will remind you of this throughout the race. That being said, if you neglect this one aspect of training you will not break 4 hours.

It took me from 2002 to December of 2007 to drop my marathon best from 2.43.36 to my current best of 2.19.35. The best advice I can provide here is to start practicing drinking in your long runs. Do not just sip.

Have you ever watched the world’s top marathoners in their race? You will notice they grab their water bottles and drink from them. In addition, they will carry them in their hand for about a half mile before throwing them to the ground. These athletes are not sipping.

Furthermore, they fully understand the importance in taking in sufficient calories during the race. You cannot run a 4 hour marathon without taking this seriously.

rundreamachieveHow Do I Pace Myself for a 4 Hour Marathon?

Don’t be intimidated by aiming to sustain 4 hr marathon pace. This barrier can and routinely is broken throughout the world. Remember, focus on running a negative split. So, aim on running the first half marathon in 2:02 and come back with a 1:57.

The runners that break the barrier have trained properly at and below sub 4 hr marathon pace.

You can go from a 4.30 marathoner to a 3.55 marathoner in one race. That being said, you need to ensure you are pacing yourself correctly. In addition, do your best to stay as relaxed as you can during the race. Remember, the less mental and physical tension you feel the better you are going to perform.

Should I Run More than 20 Miles when Training for a Marathon?

I do not think most runners need to run over 20 miles for their long runs in training. Also, running further does tend to bring diminished returns. So, a 30-mile run may not bring any more benefit to you than a 20 miler. I would aim to run your longest long run about 3 weeks out from your upcoming marathon.

I also believe in doing a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper. Your marathon taper needs to be strategic. 10 days is plenty of time to fully recover from a build up. My recommendation is to train for a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks for your marathon. I have created training plans that are anywhere from 8 to 24 weeks. I strongly encourage runners to focus on the longest build up possible.

You will provide sufficient time for your body to adapt to the hard training that you are doing. I have seen a lot of the runners I mentor get great results from this. You can check out the testimonial page to hear what they are saying.

There are a lot of factors that go into holding a marathon under 9.09 per mile pace. You can do proper training, get plenty of rest and than get into the race.

What is the result of not taking in adequate fluids or calories in the marathon? You have probably already experienced this. The result is you succumb to walking or jogging the last miles of your race.

How Long Should You Rest after a Marathon?

I usually took anywhere from a week and up to 2 weeks complete off after my marathons. The reason is I trained about 11 months out of the year. So, it is very important to ensure you give yourself some time away from the sport. Remember, you have to give yourself some time to re-charge and regroup from the hard training that you do.

The trick is to teach the body to burn fat at race speeds rather than carbohydrate. The goal is to conserve carbohydrate for the last 10K of the race.

The body only has between 1700 to 1800 calories stored as carbohydrate. We burn between 100 to 120 calories per mile. When do most runner experience the so-called “wall”? You guessed it, between miles 17 and 18.

What if you could hold sub 4 hr marathon pace all the way to the finish line?

Practice Running Longer Faster

If you practice running longer faster you are going to become a 3:59:59 marathoner. In addition, you’ll be leveraging your fitness to work in your favor.

I don’t want you or anyone else reading this post to continue to run high mileage that doesn’t bring you closer to breaking the 4 hour marathon.

High mileage is not the answer. Remember, quality over quantity. We hear this phrase quite often but it is the truth. What percentage of your weekly mileage are you spending at sub 4 hr marathon pace? If it is too low you know you need to make some changes.

You are better off doing 14 miles at 9.09 pace than to do a 24 miler at 11 minute mile pace. The first choice will bring you closer to your goal.

There is a place for long, slow easy long runs. Please do not misunderstand me. I recommend doing one harder long run and the following week nice and easy. So, make sure you are leaving time in your 4 hour marathon training plan for recovery.

Focus On Your Nutrition

Foods that are high in glutathione are an absolute must. There are products you can take like cellgevity that contain glutathione precursors. Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant. That being said, most runners have never heard about it.

I was diagnosed with anemia in 2007.

I had no idea what was going on. Also, I had all the motivation any athlete could possibly want but for whatever reason I was not improving.

My workouts were slowing and I was getting frustrated.

My coach at the time, Lisa Rainsberger, suggested I get a blood test. It is ironic that from 1992 to 2008 no one had ever suggested I get a blood test done to see if I was low on iron.

It turns out I was. I had a ferritin level of 20ml.kg which is very low for males. You can lose iron in sweat, foot strike hemolysis and when you go to the bathroom.

Females are more prone to anemia than men but little did I know I was. Lisa surely knew what was going on.

She is the last American female to win the Boston Marathon.

She won in 1985 with a finish time of 2.34.04 and also won the Chicago Marathon twice (1998-2.29.12, 1999-2.28.15). I credit her attention to detail in helping me back to health and when I got my iron stores back to healthy levels I started to run faster.

I set a personal best time of 1.07.06 for the half-marathon, then 3 months later I broke 2.20.00 for the marathon.

Have Your Blood Tested

Eat plenty of foods high in iron, of course.

Foods like spinach, steak and other read meats and cereals all have high concentrations of iron.

You will be ahead of your competition with that alone.

Your body doesn’t produce iron so you have to get it in the foods you eat.

You can also take iron supplementation. I take a 65mg iron tablet daily with a glass of orange juice.

Vitamin C helps iron to absorb into the body quicker so it is always best to take an iron tablet with some orange juice or with Vitamin C.

I am not a medical doctor so I would always advise speaking with your physician before taking any supplementation.

Importance Of Your Long Run

Remember, focus on running faster, varied paced long runs. Also, do not run long and slow every single weekend. Below is an example of a type of long run I did prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon.

  • 2 mile jog, 6 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 7 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 2 mile jog cool-down (23 miles

I have found that running at a heart rate of between 85 to 89% of my max heart rate produced the best tolerance to lactic acid accumulation.

Of course, this is not easy when you are going for 16 to 24 miles. Yes, it will take several weeks to get into good enough shape to do long runs like you see above. So, first focus on being a large aerobic base of mileage. Also, ensure you are giving yourself at least 2 days of easy running between the hard workouts that you do.

You cannot continue to keep pushing the body and expect huge returns on your time investment. Remember, the major benefits of the hard training we do come from within the rest cycle.

Closing Thoughts

As mentioned above, do a harder long run one week, followed by a very relaxed long run the next.

Remember, you want to teach your body to burn fat more effectively and conserve carbohydrate

I use this exact form of training in my own marathon preparation. I will be using it again going into the 2013 Chicago Marathon as well. You maintain 4 hr marathon pace when you follow the fundamentals outlined in this post.

Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel. I’ll be creating new videos each week to help you leverage your fitness and run faster at the marathon distance.

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