Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Who Is Capable Of A Sub 2:30 Marathon?

a sub 2:30 marathonA sub 2:30 marathon

What does it take to run a sub 2:30 marathon?

Are you capable of that time?

It really comes down to the level of commitment of the athlete and how razor sharp their focus to eventually make 5:43 pace feel more automatic.

This isn't going to be easy for anyone so don't be under the delusion that I believe everyone can do this.

If it were that simple everyone would be running under the barrier regularly, not just a few.

The truth is far more can and will as long as they are willing to put in the type of intensity in training in order to run under the barrier.

Everyone isn't willing to work for 10 to 15 years to break this barrier.

I was not born with the talent of a Steve Prefontaine or Paula Radcliffe (women's marathon world record holder at 2:15:25, far better than my PR of 2.19.35).

How fast it can be achieved comes down to the level of commitment one brings to the task and how genetically talented the athlete is.

If you lack more in the latter then you will have to raise the bar in terms of your drive and focus.

No short cuts, no easy ways around this folks.

I have said this countless times.

The disciplined and hungry runner is dangerous.

The genetically talented athlete that is firing on all cylinders needs to keep this in mind.

5.43 per mile pace for 26.2 miles.

No breaks or short walks every couple miles.

Who is capable of this?

An extremely driven, focused athlete can make this goal a reality.

It doesn't take a great deal of talent but it takes an enormous amount of hard work and diligence on anyone wishing to go after this.

Do not sell yourself short

It may take someone that is less genetically gifted one to two decades to achieve this but to say one is not talented enough to do it is selling yourself short.

I have never believed in the talent myth.

No anaerobic test in the laboratory can measure the impact of the focused athlete.

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The mind cannot be fully measured.

It doesn't care how high your VO2max is.

We all use a very small percentage of our mental capacity and none of us have fully come to grips with what we truly are capable of.

See also  Train At Marathon Pace | Tips to Help You Set a New PR

These are the facts.

Results come at shorter and sometimes longer durations for all of us.
It took me 18 years to break the sub 2.20 and 2.30 marathon barriers.

It didn't take hardly that long for my friends Dathan Ritzeinhein and Fernando Cabada to break 2.20 or 2.30 for the marathon distance, respectfully.

The level of focus and commitment has to be there because we all are born with what we have and it takes proper anaerobic training to get the most of what we were blessed with.

How fast we get results all depends on our level of commitment we bring to the table.

A sub 2:30 marathon is a possibility for more individuals than I am sure many people realize.

Talent and hard work

This particular goal is not for everybody and those who have the goal of running a sub 2:30 marathon had better be prepared to spend a great deal of time and effort to see this become a reality in their life.

It doesn't mean you have to give up enjoying life or heading to the hills to live like a monk.

Running an average of 5:43 per mile pace for 26.2 miles takes commitment and the belief in delayed gratification.

You have to believe in hard work and rely on your focus if you lack in the ‘talent' department.

I have failed more times then succeeded at breaking this barrier.

In fact, of the 16 marathons I have run I only broke 2:30 in two of them.

Ive run under 1.08.00 for the half-marathon only twice, broken sub 1.09.00 several times but even having done that I failed at the marathon distances over the years.

It takes a lot more to get a 13.1 mile race down right than a 26.2 mile race.

The longer the race the more mental tenacity and patience comes into play and we all are not as patient as we need to be when it comes to this sport.

Marathon history

I ran 2.19.35 to finish 4th at the 2007 California International Marathon and finished 5th at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon with a finish time in 2.26.42.

I remember very vividly the type of paces I had two hold in order to get under 2:30:00 and it took a great deal of trial and error before I learned the proper way to do it.

See also  How To Run A 3 Hour Marathon

Also, I've run in the low 2:30's several times.

Hard work and focus is everything.

Big or small engines

It doesn't necessarily take a great deal of talent but it does take an insane amount of hard work and commitment when you are not blessed with a big engine.

The guy or gal blessed with the Ferrari engine but works at 10% effort are going to get their butt kicked by the individual with the Toyota engine that does work at 100% effort and is willing to endure long enough to match the gifted athlete.

These types of athletes are dangerous, they want it.

I am not Dathan Ritzeinhein, Paula Radcliffe or Steve Prefontaine and I am sure neither are you.

We cannot rely on talent alone and neither could they.

If they weren't putting in everything they had they hardly would have run as fast as they have.

How to break a 2:30 marathon

Greater emphasis on prolonged efforts at or near 5.43 per mile pace.

Let me stress this, you cannot be in a rush to do this.

This type of fitness doesn't come overnight.

Heat and humidity and training in the hotter summer months doesn't make the process any easier. So, you have to be vigilant and patient.

Rule #1

The greatest lesson I learned in dipping under the 2:20 and 2:30 marathon barriers? Well, increasing the time I spent running at a higher anaerobic effort. In addition, running at a heart rate over a longer period of time.

You also have to focus on a clean, healthy lifestyle.

I got to a point where 5:20's pace actually felt comfortable and that came from two key areas and this was one of them.

Conducting long runs of upwards of 24 miles at or around 160 beats per minute pays enormous dividends when I tapered.

This is, depending on the individual, running around 85% or greater of your max heart rate.

This is why the Kenyans are so good.

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They spend a greater percentage of their weekly mileage running high end, quality miles.

You will not break a sub 2:30 marathon by doing 140 miles weeks running at 7:30 pace.

If you have friends that want to win the volume game and brag about how many miles they ran let them do so.

See also  52 Week Marathon Training Schedule | Tips to PR

High mileage doesn't yield guaranteed results.

Trust me, I know because I have played that game and lost royally.

Rule #2

Long runs conducted at a higher effort over a longer period of time doesn't do it either.

You have to spend a great deal of time at speeds that far exceed the pace you want to hold in the race.

To get 5:43 pace to feel comfortable means you need to get used to doing workouts such as:

2×4 miles at 5:08 pace

5×2 miles at 5:05 pace

8-14 mile tempo runs at 5:15-20 pace

Repeat miles run below 5:00 mile pace

So, it isn't just doing long runs at faster paces. Furthermore, you need to balance your runs at or near goal pace and workouts that are far below race pace.

2.30-marathon pace

Rule #3


It doesn't matter if you ran 100 miles a week for the past 6 weeks straight.

What did you do to aid your recovery with world class products from those miles and the above mentioned workouts?

Have you taken the advice I have shared here on rundreamachieve? Are you on keeping your iron and glutathione levels at optimal levels?

Are you taking this seriously?

I say that because far too many times we have the training part down but we have not mastered the recovery aspect of training.

Are you getting enough sleep or drinking the proper amount of fluids?

Are you living clean?

at home businessHow easy are you running on your recovery days? Are you running with the group where everyone feels as though they need to ‘keep up' in order to look good?

You have nothing to prove to anyone, not me or anyone else so play it smart on your easy days.

The Kenyans I have trained with in the past are some of the fastest marathoners in the United States and they jog on their recovery days.

These are men that can break 2.11.00 for the distance yet they are out running 8 to 9 minute mile pace (sometimes slower) on their easy days.

If they can discipline themselves to run that easy what is our excuse?

A sub 2:30 marathon can be run but it takes initiative and an insane amount of persistence and patience.

You are capable.

How long are you willing to endure?


6 responses to “Who Is Capable Of A Sub 2:30 Marathon?

  1. Thanks for stopping in @Anonymous. Yes, I ran 2:19:35 for the marathon. How? 15 years of non-stop, relentless work on leg speed, longer and faster paced long runs and slowing down on recovery days to recover

  2. Great article. Maybe a typo here: “It takes a lot more to get a 13.1 mile race down right than a 26.2 mile race.”

  3. Appreciate the advice and will revise. Continued success to you and your training/racing in 2022.

  4. Yes, my personal best is 2:19:35 (4th overall, top American at 2007 California International Marathon) and second fastest marathon is 2:26:43 (5th overall at 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon). How? A great deal of time spent training well below sub 5 minute mile pace and sub 3 minute kilometer pace, faster long runs, longer tempo runs and jogging on easy days. Mental training as well.

  5. Great read.
    And so true. Why the heck wasn’t I doing 10 or 12x 1 mile intervals in 5:20 or this type of workout. I was at 85 miles a week mostly 7 min mile pace. Track once a week, 400s in 65, 800s in 2:15…but only 5 of each.
    Best 1/2 marathon was 1:09.. 2 marathons were 2:36.
    5 mile road races were popular in 80s. Regularly ran 25 flat to 25:20.
    Needed faster pace runs for sure!

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