Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

How long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon is a common question I get asked here at RunDreamAchieve. A sub 3hr marathon is an extremely competitive time and will ask a great deal out of you. It can take months or even a decade to achieve.

My hope for you is that it will not take a decade. That being said, we all have different capabilities. If you are like me and lack talent then you are going to have to rely on your worth ethic. There are no short cuts with this type of goal. There is a small percentage of the world population who achieve this goal each year.

Do not expect it to be easy. Also, do not lose enthusiasm if you miss your goal. This is not the type of time for the weak of heart. You've got to be hungry, determined and highly focused to run a 2.59.59 or faster time for the marathon distance.

how long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon

How Long Does it Take to Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

Well, it will depend on your ability level and how you are setting up your training. I cover how to use leverage and break the 3 hour marathon barrier in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. In addition, I cover the majority of the mistakes most athletes are making that is preventing them from running 2.59.59 or better.

More mileage is not the answer. The focus should be on quality over quantity. What are you putting into the mileage you are running that is really going to make the difference. Furthermore, what percentage of your weekly mileage are you spending training at, near, or far below 6.52 mile pace?

The key here is to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the blood stream. This is why the best marathoners make the distance look so easy. It is not that it is not difficult for them. The facts are these athletes have trained optimally at paces that far exceed what they are aiming to run at in their marathon races.

How long will it take you to break 3 hours? Well, I believe you will significantly lower the time you have to wait if you invest in your personal development with the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. It was designed for the serious athlete who is seeking a legitimate path to run 2.59.59 in the least amount of time.

Is A Sub 3 Hour Marathon Possible?

Absolutely. That being said, you are going to have to focus on leverage in order to do it. One of the key reasons I was able to lower my marathon PR from 2.43.36 to 2.19.25 was following this advice. Are you running your long runs long and slow? Well, this could be one of many reasons why you haven't broken the barrier yet.

Remember, running long and slow is still important. That being said, you need a combination of speed and stamina to run 2.59.59 for the marathon. You still need endurance but a 20 miler run at 8 minute mile pace is not going to prepare you to run 26.2 miles at 6.52 pace. It may help you to sustain the pace for around 15 miles but you still have 11.2 miles to go.

You have to improve your lactate tolerance. How? Highly aggressive workouts that will test your physiological and mental limits. Again, a sub 3 hour marathon, in my opinion, is an elite time. Athletes that run under the 3 hour marathon are performing at a level very few athletes around the world can. So, it is going to require more specific training in order to have a 2 instead of a 3 in front of your marathon PR.

If Others Can So Can You

My goal with this post is to provide some insight into what it takes and what to avoid. It is possible to break the 3 hour marathon. If others can do it so can you. That being said, if your current marathon best is 4 hours you have some significant work to do. It may be some time before you get under 3 hours. If your current best is 3 hours and 30 minutes your wait may be significantly less. I've coached athletes online who have dropped over an hour off their personal bests. How to run a marathon in 3 hours

It is a matter of focusing on training closer to 5 minutes to 5 minutes and 30 seconds per mile pace. Yes, you will not be able to spend much time training at this intensity. That being said, you can spend some time training at this pace. How easy will 6.52 mile pace feel after you have spent more time training much faster paces? You guessed it, much more in control and easy.

Remember, this is a 26.2 mile race we are talking about it. It does you know good to tell your friends and family that you were on pace for 17 miles. Where were you at the finish line? Did the clock read 2.59.59 or faster or did it read 3.40.00? Let's be honest here. Long, slow easy running will not get you there.

What Does It Take To Run A Sub 3 Hour Marathon

It takes a great focus on training at, near and far below 6.52 mile pace. Remember, you want to use leverage. What are the very best marathoners doing that you are not? If you lack talent then you have to rely more on instinct and your work ethic.

The talented athlete may not have to work as hard as you. In addition, it may take him or her a fraction of the time it will take you to become a 2.59.59 marathoner. You cannot lose enthusiasm when you don't get the results you want as quickly as you would like. What does it take? A white hot, razor sharp focus. One that will not relent when the going gets tough.

The best marathoners I have ever known didn't have a great deal of talent. What they had was an almost fanatical focus and drive. These are the athletes that get the job done. They will keep putting in the work in order to achieve the end goal. It took me from 1992 to 2007 to break the 2 hour 20 minute marathon barrier. Are you willing to work for that long to get your goal?

I started running marathons in 2002 and ran my marathon personal best in 2007. That being said, it really took all the months and years of training starting in 1992 in order to run 2.19.35. So, I can relate to you. I, too, didn't have a great deal of talent but I was willing to put in the heavy work. It didn't intimidate me nor should it you. You are on the verge of greatness and you cannot let up especially now.

How Hard Is It To Run A 3 Hour Marathon?

Very. You need a combination of talent and even greater level of hard work in order to do it. That being said, it is certainly attainable. I've created running courses here at RunDreamAchieve specifically built to help you break this barrier.

Yes, it is an investment but you will also be cutting your learning curve in half. In addition, you'll be following the same fundamentals and plan that I used to run 2.19.35 for the distance. I am a big believer that the long run needs to be run at a higher heart rate. How did I go from a 2.43.36 PR to 2.19.35? I started to vary up the paces of my long run. How long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon? The process will be speeded up much more quickly if you follow the advice within this post.

For example, below is an outline of how I used to do my long runs and what I changed.

Long run I usually did while still a 2.43.36 marathoner.

22 miler at 6.30-7.30 mile pace

Changes I made leading into my 2.19.35 marathon PR

22 miler – first 5 miles easy@140-50BPM (6.15-45 mile pace, 5 miles@160BPM (5.25-40 mile pace), 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4.50, 6 miles@160BPM (5.25-5.40 pace), 2 miles easy@140-50BPM, 1 mile in 4.50

Faster vs Slower

Do you see the drastic difference between the two? Which of the two do you think would get you to a sub 3 hour marathon? Of course, you need to change up the paces but you can see one builds endurance while the other stamina and strength.

Remember, a sub 3 hour marathon involves a greater capacity for you to run economically. You need to perform optimally and clear lactic acid more efficiently and that doesn't occur simply by running slow. That being said, running slow does play a factor after the hard track and road sessions take place. Furthermore, if you are running too fast on your easy days it can have the same result as running too slow.

You want to get the highest return on your time investment. So, I want you thinking about using leverage. How can I get better results by doing less. Isn't the going trend that running higher mileage and working harder gets you the results? Unfortunately, that philosophy has done more harm then good.

What Does It Take To Run A 3 Hour Marathon?

My top advice? Faster long runs. Additionally, track and road work that involves running closer to 5 minute mile pace. Again, you are not going to be able to spend much time at this effort. The key is to spend more of your time running much faster than goal marathon race pace.

In addition, a combination of easy running and op-tempo efforts at 30 seconds slower than goal marathon race pace. 7.22 mile pace is quality running and not far off your goal marathon race pace of 6.52 per mile. Remember, all of the benefits of your hard work come within the rest, not from the workout itself. Yes, you need to challenge the energy systems of the body to get to a 2.59.59 marathon. That being said, you also have to back off and allow time for the body to heal too.

It takes multiple areas to break the 3 hour marathon. Here are a few:

  1. Paying attention to hydration and nutrition. It is very common for athletes to focus on physical training and neglect the areas that matter just as much.

You can easily run low on iron or glutathione without knowing it. The majority of runners I have come across in my 28 years of competing know nothing about glutathione. Glutathione is the body's master antioxidant. Furthermore, every cell of the human body produces it. It's direct role is to detoxify the body of free radicals and heavy metals. In addition, it plays a huge factor in oxygen transport and cellular health.

Iron also plays a big role in cellular health and oxygen transport. So, you can have all the motivation and drive in the world and loose big not paying attention.

Work Smarter, not Harder

2. Running too many miles too slow. It doesn't matter you are running 100 miles per week. I'm more impress with the guy or gal who can run 45-60 miles a week and break the 3 hour marathon barrier. If you run 70 percent of your weekly mileage too slow all you are going to be is a very good, long, slow distance runner.

I've always believed that long, slow training will produce long, slow distance runners – Sebastion Coe, former world record holder for the mile and 800m

You need to have a healthy balance between very hard, easy and moderate training. More importantly, you need to plan your work and work your plan. I cover how to plan your training in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course.

how long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon

Not Knowing When to Slow Down

3. Running too many miles too fast. Remember, breaking 3 hours doesn't only mean you have to run fast. It also means you have to back off and take it easy on those easy, recovery days. There are far too many quality athletes that are running too fast on their easy days and too slow on days when hard training is called upon.

So, you have to have a specific plan in place that is designed to get you under 3 hours the proper way. There is a training principle called supercompensation. I advise you to click on the link of the word and read up on this. Our body is always weakened by the hard training that we do.

That being said, if you back off and run very slowly on the easy days your body will bounce back. Furthermore, it will be twice as strong as it was before you did that initial workout. These are the physiological philosophies you have to teach yourself that your competition may not.

Remember, working smarter, not harder and getting the results you desire is the end goal. It isn't just about working hard. There are many hard working athletes who are trying to break the 3 hour barrier and keep missing it. Furthermore, my goal is to help you achieve this goal and destroy the sub 3 hour marathon barrier.

Time Your Taper

4. Focus on a 10-day, rather than 3-week taper. I ran my best times focusing on a 10-day taper. I am not saying that a 3-week taper won't work. It has for many athletes and there are many philosophies that state a 3-week taper works. Often times, it can.

That being said, I believe in a 10-day taper. It will keep you from feeling lethargic by starting to drop your miles too soon. This is often times what happens during a 3-week taper. You start dropping your mileage 21 days out and then get to the race and feel like crap.

I believe that continuing to train intensely up until about 10 days out will remind your legs what you are asking them to do. Yes, I want you dropping your mileage but really not until you are about 2 weeks out. The intensity coupled with mileage should not be significantly dropped out 10 days out from the big event.

Again, you have to find out what works best for you. What worked for me may not be best for you. This isn't the gospel of training here. That being said, I am only writing about my own experiences and what helped me. These are the tactics I used to go from 2.43.36 to 2.19.35. It didn't happen overnight but a perfect taper can be the difference between a 3.15 and a 2.59.

Work On Your Speed

We all can continue to work on this area right? Yes, the marathon is not a sprint but you will still need to call upon that speed in the last mile of the event. It doesn't take much more effort each week to do strides. Strides are short sprints that last anywhere from 50 to 100 meters.

The great news is they won't build up any unnecessary fatigue or lactic acid in your legs. What they will do is to help you recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the more efficient you will run.

Also, you need to be getting the track and doing intervals at a heart rate above 170 beats per minute. A good way to find your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. Again, you want to improve upon your lactate tolerance. You do this by training at or around 88 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Of course, you are not going to be able to sprint very long. I can maintain sub 4 minute mile pace for only so long. The same goes for you. What we need to focus on here is training those energy systems of the body that will keep you going when you are severely fatigued.

The types of workouts I would recommend for an athlete seeking to break the 3 hour barrier?

  • 6x1mile in 5.15-20 per rep with 2 minutes recovery between reps
  • 3×3 mile on the track at 5.45 mile pace
  • 10-12 mile tempo run at 5.55 to 6.05 per mile pace
  • 3×2 mile in 11.10 per rep with a 5 minute recovery between reps
  • 16x400m in 75 seconds each with 90 seconds rest between reps

Be Patient

Remember, you are training to do something very people around the world attain each year. A sub 3 hour marathon is an elite time and a time that is respected around the world. It will require a great deal of patience on your part.

The one trait I have noticed in all the sub 3 hour marathoners I have lived and trained with is they never lose enthusiasm. They are always positive and continue to work toward their goals regardless what obstacles they face. So, be persistent about this goal. You may need to be a little fanatical to achieve it. It isn't an easy time to run and is a respected time for a reason.

A sub 4 hour marathon is a respectable time. A marathon under 3 hours is drastically different and requires specific training to achieve. It also requires more patience than most people have. You need to sustain 6.52 per mile for 26.2 miles. So, you have to follow through on all the areas we are discussing in this post. I have hinted at a few areas of key concern within this post. The rest I have covered extensively within the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro.

You have a choice now. Chop down a tree with an axe or a chainsaw. Which will get you to the end goal faster? Which will require more sweat equity to get the tree down? The problem is far too many are choosing to use the axe when the chainsaw is right there next to them. Often times, it is just a few minute changes we need to make in order to get the greatest results.

Time Frame To Break 3 Hours

How long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon? Well, the manner in which you set up your training will dictate the speed at which you achieve this goal. The fact that you are searching for the answer to this question already tells me you are a highly competitive athlete.

Athletes seeking to break the 3 hour marathon have already achieved a high level of fitness and results. More than likely, you are someone who has already broke the 4 hour marathon barrier or very close to doing it. In addition, you have the desire to become a sub 3hr marathon specialist. Lastly, you'll do whatever it takes in order to achieve your goal.

I commend you. You remind me of me when I first starting getting involved in the sport of marathon running. The bottom line up front is people that are motivated are going to do whatever it takes. They are not interested in breaking the 3 hour marathon. They are fully committed and there is a massive difference between the two.

I lived like a monk for the majority of my life. Why? I wanted to be the very best athlete I could be. Furthermore, I knew I didn't have a lot of talent so I was going to have to make up for that with my work ethic. There was no one that was going to hold my hand to achieve the goals I had set for myself.

Closing Thoughts

My goal, much like yours, involved a great deal of commitment and focus. I wanted to break the 2 hour 22 minute marathon barrier. The problem was I was still a 2 hour 43 minute marathoner at that time. How was I going to improve from running 6.14 mile pace to 5.25 mile pace? Well, I had to learn some new strategies. The way of training that I was focused on wasn't working. Did you know 78 percent of the American population are living paycheck to paycheck? Are these people hard workers? You better believe they are.

That being said, how can so many hard working, diligent, focused men and women be barely making ends meet each month? They have been taught to work hard but are they working smart? Is it easier to cut down a tree with a chainsaw or an axe? Which one is more efficient and requires less work? Trading time for money is much like training improperly. It is not working with leverage. There are people that make more in a month residually than many training professionals make in a year.

The reason I am writing these things is just to get you thinking about leverage. How can I work smarter and with less effort and get better results? How long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon? I hope I have answered that question for you within this post. My last recommendation is to take action now and invest in your personal development with the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course.

how long does it take to train for a sub 3 hour marathon