How To Make An Average Marathon Time Great

For some, my 2:19:35 marathon personal best is an average marathon time.

The point of this post is not to dictate or degrade any specific marathon time. It is to help runners around the world drop significant time by using leverage.

average marathon time

The marathon is a highly aggressive event that takes a great deal of hard work and dedication to complete.

That being said, athletes don’t necessarily have to even train that extensively if the goal is simply to finish.

Everyone is different. There are people born with incredible genetic talent and can run 20 miles a week and successfully complete a marathon.

Additionally, there are others that can break the 4 hour marathon while others have run under the 3 hour marathon.

How do you take what is considered an average marathon time and truly stand out from the pack?

How Long Does It Take The Average Marathoner To Run 26.2 Miles?

What is the world record for this event? Well, the current world record for the marathon for men is 2:01:39 set by Kenya’s Eluid Kipchoge.

This man held 4:38 per mile for 26.2 miles with no breaks.

The world record prior to Kipchoge’s incredible 2:01:39 was 2:02:57 set by Dennis Kimetto.

The world record for women was set in 2003 at the London Marathon by Paula Radcliffe from England.

Paula held 5:11 per mile for 26.2 miles.

According to a recent article written by verywellfit.com the average marathon time in the United States is 4:22:07 for men and 4:47:40 for women.

This average marathoning time range is according to Running USA.

My Marathoning Background

I debuted at the 2002 New York City Marathon as a part of a charity team comprised of an all Armed Forces Team.

We started in last place (32,189th) and for every runner we passed Chase Manhattan Bank was donating $1 to Lung Cancer Research.

I had no idea how to run the marathon but finished as the teams top finisher with a net time of 2:43:36. The official time, if you review the results, shows 2:51:24.

The reason being is this is the time including the waiting for every runner to cross the start line. That being said, we were not permitted to start the race until every athlete had passed the start line.

Furthermore, the 2:43:36 net time is my exact time from when I crossed the start line to the finish line.

So, I understand the frustrations most marathoners have experienced over the course of their running careers. You may be a total beginner or an advanced marathoner.

I was able to lower my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 following the principles I teach within the RunDreamAchieve Academy.

My goal in creating the products here at rundreamachieve is to implement a proven strategy plan that works.

Lastly, I am very aware that my 2:19 marathon PR doesn’t help you. What will is teaching you the correct methods to be the best marathoner you can be.

Do’s and Dont’s

Do expect marathon preparation to challenge you both physically and mentally. You have three choices in this sport. Be average, good or great, period.

There are no easy paths to taking an average marathon time to the next level. You are either lukewarm in your preparation or you are going to be all in.

There will be days when the weather is not cooperative. You will not want to get up early in the morning. Additionally, there will be many days where you are fatigued.

You may have to learn the art form of listening to your body. Often times, runners do not get this right. Their ego gets in the way.

These are the highly motivated and focused athletes who feel more mileage is the answer. He or she is not committed if a day is taken off.

This has done more harm than good for far too many runners around the world. Your goal is to start using leverage.

Furthermore, leverage simply means doing more with less. It is working smarter rather than harder.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the results you desire in the short-term. Are you thinking long-term? I ask that because every world-class athlete I have ever trained with believes in delayed gratification.

These marathoners are 100 percent committed to achieving their goal. They realize tough goals in this distance may take months or many years.

How badly do you want your goal?

Is it to qualify for the Boston Marathon?

Do you desire to break the 4 hour marathon?

Are you focused on breaking the 3 hour marathon?

Is your goal to finish your first marathon or are you driven to run an elite marathon time?

That being said, whatever your goal is the marathon is like no other event.

Key Strategies To Run Faster For The Marathon

The marathon distance is never truly mastered by any of us.

I made several mistakes when I broke the 2:20:00 marathon barrier in December of 2007.

I hit the first half in 1:07:09 which was far too aggressive seeing my current half marathon best is 1:07:06.

Often times, runners set personal bests by negative splitting. What does this mean? It simply means you are running the second half faster than the first half.

I hit 1:07:09 my first half and the second half in 1:12:26. Again, as I always state on the blog and at the RunDreamAchieve YouTube Channel, make your mistakes in training.

The race itself should always be the easiest part. There are going to be times when you have to take some risks during your peak race.

That being said, if you are going to take a risk you had better have done your homework in training first.

The elite Kenyans I was racing against when I ran 2:19 were throwing everything at me.

I was able to react because I had done the extremely aggressive long runs, track workouts and hill repetitions in training.

Focus On All Your Workouts

The key strategy I want to ensure you focus on is your goal marathon race pace.

The strategies I teach in the 3 hour marathon pro and 4 hour marathon mastery courses is getting that pace to feel easy.

Furthermore, the reason marathoners are missing their goal times is they haven’t practiced at or below their goal pace adequately.

High mileage is not the answer. Speed is what kills when it comes to the marathon. You want to sustain pace for long periods of time.

Easy running does not teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream.

The way to take an average marathon time and turn it into a master piece is getting very comfortable being uncomfortable.

It is very easy to write this in a blog post but I have lived the process as well. I pull no punches. We all have different goals but the hard work is mandatory.

You can’t cheat yourself when it comes to your preparation. Your success in this event comes down to doing a lot of little things in big, effective ways.

Focus Areas To Be Aware Of

  1. Pay attention to your resting heart rate

It is very easy to miss and most athletes are not checking their morning resting heart rate during their training routine.

If your resting heart rate is normally 60 beats per minute and you wake up and it is 71 you know to rest.

2. Start researching Glutathione.

This is something I neglected for nearly 20 years of my running career.

I came across a company that was heavily focused on health, nutrition and increasing glutathione levels within the body.

Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and is responsible for eliminating toxins in the body. It also improves cellular health.

As marathoners, we do a number on our bodies already putting in the high mileage and heavy work load.

I’ve been a Max International associate since 2013 and have been using their products ever since.

Remember, marathon success comes down to doing all the little things correctly. Nutrition, rest, proper hydration, workout intensities are only a few of the many pieces of the puzzle one must focus on.

If you want to take your nutrition to a new level I highly recommend max international products. I have been using them since 2013.

All max products are certified drug-free by the Banned Substances Control Group. Athletics is about pushing our bodies to the best of our ability. It is not a way to get rich or is there ever a reason to cheat.

Sadly, this does occur in middle to long distance running.

Run Faster For Long Periods of Time

3. Faster Long Runs

The goal is not to run every weekend long run fast. This is a great way to get burned out and frustrated.

That being said, what is essential is to not run every weekend long run slow. You want to teach the body to handle long periods of time running at a higher heart rate.

The best marathoners in the world make it look easy for a reason. It isn’t because they are highly talented and genetically gifted.

These athletes know they cannot rely on these gifts and expect to stay at the top of their game.

Furthermore, if you are lacking in genetic talent don’t let that discourage you. I, too, never had a lot of talent.

I relied on my work ethic that I believe I inherited from my father who served 21 years in the US Army. A Vietnam veteran, perhaps I got my athletic work ethic from him.

Remember, you want to focus on gradually, over time, extending the amount of time you are running at faster paces.

Delayed Gratification

4. Be Patient

If you are not willing to be patient you will not be as effective as you can be at this distance.

Do expect some challenges along the way. Remember, this is the marathon. You are not preparing for a 5K or 10K.

There will be longer, harder intervals on the track. You may have to do these on your own. I had many times where I didn’t have a coach out there timing me.

What I did have was my dreams and goals propelling me forward.

My reasoning behind creating this site is not to impress you with my personal bests but to impress upon you what is possible.

average marathon time
founder of rundreamachieve.com, Nate Pennington, training at 6500ft elevation in Colorado Springs, Colorado

The best marathoners make the big leaps by being vigilent and patient. These runners are what I consider dangerous.

They’re the athletes who are going to keep putting in the work no matter what. Also, they have a vision and their why is too strong to back down.

Furthermore, they are hungry to improve and realize the immense work load they will have to out themselves through.

Focus On Aerobic Capacity Running

One thing to keep in mind regarding this level of running is this.

It is painful and you won’t be able to run for every long at this intensity.

Aerobic capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can consume during exercise.

Thus, the reasoning behind not being able to run very long at this effort. That being said, training at a heart rate of 175 beats per minute or higher stresses the anaerobic systems of the body.

The best marathoners make it look easy for a reason. They understand that in order to sustain fast paces for long periods of time fast running is essential.

Furthermore, you improve an average marathon time by a combination of many specific styles of training. Here are a few to keep in mind

  1. Progression runs – these runs can be between 4 to 16 miles in length. The idea is to run a set amount of miles gradually faster than the initial miles.

An example of a progression run looks like this.

10 miles – 8:00, 7:50,7:40,7:30,7:20,7:10, 7:00, 6:50,6:40,6:30

2. Temp0 Runs – these runs can be conducted between anaerobic threshold (168-72BPM) to Aerobic Capacity effort (173-175+BPM).

*note* – heart rates will vary from athlete to athlete

Tempo runs vary in distance. Early on, they can be 3 to 4 miles in length branching out to as far as 14 to 15 miles later in a training routine.

Focus On Shorter, Highly Aggressive Workouts

3. Sprinting

Any form of sprinting is heavily focused on aerobic capacity training. These workouts can range from doing repeat 200m,300m,400m or 600m repetitions.

They are highly aggressive forms of workouts geared toward training the lactic acid buffer capability of the body.

Yes, the marathon is a highly aerobic event meaning there needs to be a focus on running long periods of time at high effort.

That being said, this usually occurs at the anaerobic threshold level. You want to train often at or below 160 beats per minute.

Preferably, 165 beats per minute or higher. Why does training at aerobic capacity matter? You are teaching the body to utilize those fast twitch muscle fibers to help run more economically.

The focus here is to run more in control. Furthermore, in the race you don’t want to be that guy or gal struggling to hold pace.

In addition to that, you want to focus on being the chess master not the chess piece when it comes to running well at the marathon distance.

A common workout I prescribe to those I coach online is doing 3 to 4 miles on the track. The idea is to sprint the straight aways and jog the corners.

Furthermore, as these athletes fitness grows we speed up the recovery running on the corners of the track. The effort for the sprints remains the same but the rest is shortened.

There are no breaks in the marathon so the idea behind these forms of workouts is physiological adaptation.

Common Mistakes Marathoners Make

Poor hydration practices

If you are not sitting out water bottles during your long runs and practicing taking in fluid you are wrong.

This is a 26.2 miles or 42.18 kilometer race. The body absolutely needs fluid and calories during this event.

If you are not happy with your current marathon time you have to start focusing more on the areas runners neglect to get better.

I cover these areas in detail in the 4 hour marathon mastery and 3 hour marathon pro courses.

My recommendation is to map out a 16 to 24 mile long course to do your long run. Sit out water bottles every 3 miles along that course.

Sit a sugar gel packet in your shorts to ingest during your long run as well.

You want to ensure you are practicing this every long run. Furthermore, any mistakes you make you make them in training, not in the race.

If you prepare well in training you will dramatically lower your marathon time, guaranteed.

It is not a question of if but when you make the next big leap in your racing. That being said, for this to occur all hands have to be on deck.

No half-assing the process. You are either all in with this or you are lukewarm, end of story.

If you want to separate yourself the pack and take your marathoning to the next level it is going to take heavy work.

High Percentage Of Slow Running

Don’t get me wrong. There is still importance in slow, easy running. Running slow burns fat and allows time to recovery from faster, harder workouts.

That being said, if all you are doing is running slow every day you are not preparing properly to race a marathon fast.

Now, if your goal is to simply start and finish a marathon running slow every day may help you achieve that goal.

No one can sustain a fast pace for 26.2 miles by running 95 percent of their weekly mileage above goal race pace.

It doesn’t work like that. This is an event about pace sustainment. You have to stress the body’s anaerobic systems often to make an impact on your marathon times.

If you are unhappy with your current marathon time it simply means you need to make some small changes.

Changes that will dramatically improve your time if you stay consistent.

Runners second guess themselves with this event. They think they don’t have what it takes to run a fast time or they get frustrated too easily.

Focus on your strengths and make the necessary changes mentioned in this post and you’ll see yourself improving.

I guarantee anyone who follows these principles over time will take off massive chunks of time off their current personal best.

Trained vs Un-Trained

It is all about persistent and consistent work output. There is no substitute for this. Again, there is trained and there is untrained.

Which one are you? How badly do you want to get to the next level with your marathon efforts?

No one can get you out the door to put in the miles. It is a personal choice we all have to make.

Remember, running a faster marathon comes down to training the body at various efforts.

Lastly, it isn’t just about faster, long runs or taking in more fluids. It is doing the sprint workouts at speeds far greater than your goal marathon pace.

Furthermore, it is about doing those tempo runs (also known as anaerobic threshold efforts) at a heart rate of 168 beats per minute or higher.

The idea is to hold that effort for 20 minutes to an hour.

Again, heart rates will vary from athlete to athlete. So, if you feel like you are in an all- out sprint at 168BPM you may need to be at 155-160BPM, respectfully.

Additionally, it is about doing those progression runs, fartlek workouts and short, extremely fast intervals on the track.

It is also about being disciplined enough to jog on your recovery days. Remember, your goal is to work smarter, not harder.

High mileage alone is not the answer. It is better to do 45 miles a week with 85 percent of those miles run at quality efforts than 100 miles a week run too slow.

You don’t race 26.2 miles at a fast pace by running slow every day. You’ll quickly find out the first few miles of the race that you didn’t spend adequate time at those critical anaerobic efforts.

Things To Expect When Properly Training For A Marathon

You will be in a constant state of fatigue.

It is not uncommon to feel lathargic and tired. I would highly recommend getting a blood test and having your iron and ferritin levels checked.

Often times, athletes are anemic and don’t even know it. I was found to have extremely low levels of iron in my blood years ago.

As a precaution I take a 65mg tablet of iron twice a week with orange juice to combat this. Additionally, I take cellgevity which keeps my glutathione levels high as well.

If you are new to my style of training you’ll notice I utilize heart rate monitor training.

Heart Rate Monitor Training

The idea behind this is not to focus on relying on the heart rate monitor for every workout.

Furthermore, I could care less how slow I am running on a recovery day. It could be 8 to 9 minute mile pace for all I care.

Trust me, you will relish the easy days because the hard workouts are extremely demanding.

If you aren’t relaxing and taking it easy on your recovery runs you are doing yourself a disservice.

Remember, the benefits of all this hard work comes in the rest. If you are not as disciplined in the easy training don’t expect to see the results .

That being said, I do focus on heart rate when doing a tempo run or during my harder, long run efforts.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to heart rate monitor training. It will be very difficult initially to get your heart rate up.

The hardest part is getting the heart rate up to 160 beats per minute or higher. That being said, once you do then you can focus on sustaining it.

For example, you’ll notice as you are doing your long run that you’ll actually be able to back off the pace once it is at 160 BPM.

Again, you’ll have to gradually increase your pace to initially get the heart rate to that level.

Remember, the hardest part isn’t sustaining the effort sometimes as much as it is getting the heart rate up.

So, focus on having the knowledge that to run fast for long periods of time will require sustained, specific training. In addition to that, it will be very uncomfortable and painful.

Ahh yes, the joys of marathon training.

Heart Rate Monitor Training Reminders

As a reminder, the heart rate always goes down as you are running downhill so don’t speed up to maintain it.

Also, as you move toward running up any hillier terrain your heart rate is going to go up. The idea is to simply maintain the same effort you had on the flat section of your run.

Don’t make any big moves during the run unless they are called for in your training routine.

I have created numerous 5K to marathon training plans for beginner to advanced level athletes on rundreamachieve.

You can visit the shop page to check them out.

There are other resources as well for marathoners at the rundreamachieve academy.

Don’t focus on using a heart rate monitor all the time. It is simply a gauge to help ensure the athlete is not over training.

Focus On Effort Rather Than “Splits”

Lastly, it helps the athlete to focus on effort rather than splits. Sometimes this can be extremely helpful as it takes that stress off of you.

As you get fitter the splits will take care of themselves and you’ll notice the difference.

For example, early on in my training I notice my long run splits hover in the 6:20s at 160 beats per minute.

Later on?

I’m hitting 5:30s to 5:40s per mile at the same effort.

You will notice the same physiological adaptations occur for you. Remember, the thing to keep in mind through all of this is staying consistent.

Big changes in fitness take time and none of this occurs overnight. The best marathoners know the results come over an extended amount of time.

They do not lose enthusiasm over missing their goal the first few times at bat.

This is the mentality I have had since I started running in 1992.

You are either all in or you are tip toeing through the tulips with this.

I didn’t run 2:19:35 for the distance by half-assing it. I had to get my rear end handed to me several times to finally run that type of time.

Lastly, I had two marathons where I ran over 3 hours, a few DNF’s and several attempts where I didn’t run under 2:22:00 which was my ultimate goal.

Closing Thoughts

As you progress in your marathon training stay fully committed to yourself.

Again, running fast for 26.miles is all about training the body’s anaerobic systems properly.

You have all the tools to do this successfully.

There could be a combination of a lot of things that could be causing you not to be your marathon goals.

Areas To Focus On

Here are a few hang ups we have touched on that I want you to start noticing and change.

  1. running too slow for too many of your miles
  2. long runs are too short and too slow
  3. focusing too much of your time worrying about things outside of your control
  4. not enough training at anaerobic threshold (168 to 172 BPM)
  5. running too many miles at not enough quality
  6. Improper hydration practices
  7. Lack of commitment on sleep, eating properly and taking it easy on recovery days
  8. Focus more on higher quality mileage rather than easy miles week after week
  9. More training at aerobic capacity effort i.e. sprinting, hill repetitions
  10. Extending the distance of your long runs but also the paces at which you do them

If you focus on changing up the way you conduct your workouts you are doing to see massive changes in your marathoning.

Lastly, remember marathon success is about doing many little things right in big ways.

It is about 100 percent commitment, focus and using leverage. I hope this post will take your average marathon time to the next level.

Average means different things to different people. If you are working at your highest effort you are far above average.

There are small thinkers who think a 2:19:35 marathon is an average time compared to the 2:01:39 world-record.

The idea behind this post is to get away from average thinking. Status quo mindset will get us all status quo results.

I want to see you improve your marathon time, period. If your current best is 4:25 for the distance running a personal best is a massive change.

The focus here is to help other runners surpass their marathoning goals. I guarantee if you follow what I have discussed here you will do just that.

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