Marathon in 4 Hours | How to Run 3:59:59 Faster NOW

To run a marathon in 4 hours or less is will take commitment on your part. No one runs a 3:59:59 by mere interest alone. Welcome to I am happy to know you have made it here.

marathon in 4 hours

In addition to that, your faith has to match your willingness to put in the work. A sub 4 hour marathon is a very competitive time.

How badly do you want it?

I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks I have used to help break the 2:20:00 marathon barrier.

Runners who are running a marathon in 4 hours or less understand one thing well.


They have practiced that pace to such an extent that it becomes automatic. How often do you practice running at 4 hour marathon pace?

What percentage of your weekly mileage is spent at or below 9:09 mile pace?

In addition to that, you have to practice running at paces below 9.09 per mile pace. Remember, it is an average of 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer.

What this means is many of your miles will be run faster than 4 hour marathon pace.

You have to train in a specific way to get a specific race result.

A tempo run at 9.45 pace for 5 miles will build strength. That being said, will this prepare you to race 26.2 miles at 9:09 mile pace?

Running a marathon in 4 hours is achieved by following a strong marathon training plan.

Is 4 Hours a Good Marathon Time?

Yes, a sub 4 hr marathon is a highly competitive. Remember, you will need to sustain 5:41 per kilometer or 9:09 per mile to achieve a time of 3:59:59. Proper pacing is also vital in order to run under the 4 hour marathon barrier. There are far too many runners who try to win the race in the first half.

The result is they go into oxygen debt and are forced to slow down in the latter miles or kilometers. It is much more wise to be conservative early and pick up or maintain your pace later. In addition, to be passing other competitors rather than being passed yourself.

The long run should be the hardest workout you do. How did I drop my marathon time from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35? I varied the paces of my long run.

Additionally, I went from running long slow miles to very specific mile pace.

It took me from 2002 to 2007 to break the 2:20 marathon barrier. It would have taken a much shorter amount of time had I followed the fundamentals.

Remember, your goal is to sustain pace for 26.2 miles. You have to practice sub 4 hour marathon pace often. Additionally, there are other areas of training you have to focus on such as speed work, hill repetitions and tempo runs.

My goal was to break 2:22:00 in 2008. It was the USA Olympic Trials “B” standard time.

My best at that time was 2.43.36.

The best I had run per mile was 6.14 pace.

How does one go from 6:14 mile pace to 5:25 pace for 26.2 miles? It is done by significantly increasing the paces of your long runs.

How Do I Pace Myself for a 4 Hour Marathon?

As mentioned above, focus on a negative split. Again, do not try to win this race in the first half-marathon. You want to be picking up or maintaining your pace in the last 10 kilometers of the race. Be sure to also pay attention to mental training.

The vast majority of runners only focus on physical training. The world’s best runners focus on both mental as well as physical preparation. So, do not go out any faster than 2:02 through the first half-marathon. Also, aim on running that second half in 1:57 or faster. Remember, you have to train the mind equally as you train the body.

Be sure to spend at least 10 minutes daily visualizing crossing the finish line in 3:59:59 or better. Remember, our goals have to start in the mind before they become reality. Also, be sure to hydrate well in the marathon. Your body will be desperate for fluids and calories. So, do not neglect this and your chances of a new personal best will rise.

What are the Splits for a 4 Hour Marathon?

The vast majority of runners run the first half around 1 hour and 52 minutes. Also, complete their second half in or around 2 hours and 8 minutes. Again, focus your attention on running a negative split. So, go out slower and more conservative and continue to pick up your pace in the second half-marathon.

Remember, most superior results in this event come from runners doing a negative split. Also, continue to focus on running relaxed in training.

The less tension you are feeling the more efficient you will run over this distance. So, consciously tell yourself that you are in control, relaxed and confident. The best sprinters, middle and long distance runners always run relaxed.

The Importance Of Patience

I didn’t get it back then but I am sure had I been a little more patient and payed more attention to doing my long runs at harder paces I more then likely would have reached my personal goal much faster.

This is a great sport and there are millions of marathoners around the world who would like to see running a marathon in 4 hours or less a reality. I want to change that by getting you to take more initiative in how you view your long runs.

Doing 16-22 mile long runs at 40 seconds slower then your goal pace isn’t going to prepare you to race 26.2 miles at goal pace. Is it not a wonder why you have missed it in the past?

I know for certain you haven’t missed it on account of hard work, focus or drive. I have no doubt you have as much motivation as the oceans of the world are wide. The thing you need to adjust is your pacing.

Is a 4 Hour Marathon Realistic?

Yes, a 4 hour marathon is very realistic. Remember, other runners have done it so why cannot you? You simply have to duplicate what the best runners do. I have shared some of these tips in this post. Also, there are resources here that will help speed up your learning curve.

Mimic What The Best Do

Renato Canova, a world renowned Italian distance running coach, has his runners do their long runs at or even exceeding their goal marathon race pace.

What kind of crazy person would do their long runs at race pace?

The best runners in the world.

Your goal may not be to be world-class athlete but these fundamentals will set you up for success.

There are far more runners who have the capability to run a marathon in 4 hours. The problem is they are not spending enough time at their goal pace.

How Difficult is a 4 Hour Marathon?

It will not be an easy task. Remember, you need to sustain 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer in order to run 3:59:59. So, you have to spent a higher percentage of your weekly mileage at or below your anaerobic threshold. We run between 85 to 89 percent of our maximum heart rate at this effort.

So, running a 5K or 26.2 miles are two different animals. The trick is extending the amount of time you spend at race pace. Again, our goal is to improve our lactate tolerance.

In addition, teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Easy running is still important. That being said, stamina and pace sustainment only come from faster, anaerobic training.

This won’t happen overnight but I guarantee you if you are persistent enough you will start to see results and the longer you will be able to run.

How I Went From 2:43:36 to 2:19:35

The biggest change I made was how I did my long runs. I had never run 26.2 miles faster then 6.10 pace prior to breaking 2.22.00.

How on earth could I hold 5.25 per mile pace?

I’ll tell you what I did and the steps I took to dramatically drop huge amounts of time off my marathon was the exact same step you can take.

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

I think long runs between 18 to 23 miles are sufficient for this distance. I do think there is a point of diminished returns. For example, doing long runs of 27 to 30 miles in length may not add any additional benefits than 18 miler.

Again, the focus here is to train smarter, not necessarily harder. Do the hardest working athletes always get the results?

No. The smartest athletes usually do and the most patient. You will have some challenges along the way. Also, there will be days where you simply do not hit the paces you are planning to run at in training.

Vary Your Paces In Your Long Run

Prior to breaking 2.20.00 for the marathon this is what my long runs looked liked

18-20 miler at 7.00 pace

22 miles at 6.35 pace

24 miler at 7.00 pace with last 7 at 6.00 pace

Do you see a similarity in these examples?

5.25 pace was nowhere in the picture. I was not training to handle the paces I wanted to race at and what was the outcome?

Five years of marathon attempts that were nowhere near 2.22.00 marathon finish times.

This is what my long runs looked life after I finally realized the importance of race pace training.

18 miles at 5.50 pace

20 miles at 5.30 pace

22 miler at 5.50 pace with last 10 at 5.18-25 pace

Train At Higher Heart Rates

My times started to drop because I was spending more time at much higher anaerobic threshold.

Please note, this doesn’t happen overnight. You have to allow yourself time to adapt.

Your lactate threshold is the point at which lactic acid begins to accumulate in higher levels in your body.

These are workouts I never envisioned doing back in 2002 when I first starting running marathons. I always thought a long run should be easy to build endurance.

Easy long runs do exactly that. You burn fat (at lower speeds) and build endurance.

What you don’t do is prepare the body to handle huge amounts of lactic acid while trying to race at maximum speeds.

The reason why marathoners who have the capability to run a marathon in 4 hours is because they have not spent enough training that specific energy system in the body.

Burn Fat – Conserve Carbohydrates

The faster you run the more carbohydrates you burn.

Now, tell me how on earth running easily for 20-24 miles in training is going to help you conserve those precious fuel stores.

If you have mot practiced in training what you want to hold during the race, you will miss the 4 hour barrier.

There are many other factors that can contribute to a marathon under the 4 hour mark but I have found that probably the single most effective way to running a marathon in 4 hours or less is practicing at or below race pace.

running training plans


So, build your fitness and start to implement Aerobic Capacity training as you get fitter.

The good news is the body always adapts. In addition, you will be able to race at or below your goal marathon pace.

Aerobic capacity workouts are workouts which have you running at significantly faster than goal marathon pace.

For example, 6x1mile on the track at 7.00 per repetition with shorter recovery breaks between each set.

The more you practice running at challenging speeds the more marathon pace is going to feel easy to sustain and only start to really hurt bad in the last 2 to 3 miles of your marathon.

Wouldn’t it be great not to have to experience the dreaded ‘wall’?

The hardest part of racing the marathon distance is always the latter stages of the race, most likely from miles 18 to the finish.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

I always tell runners to focus on a longer rather than a shorter build up. The optimal time frame is a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks. 5 to 6 months is sufficient time to prepare properly for this race. Remember, it takes between 21 days to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load being placed on it.

So, allot more time to prepare and your chances of achieving a new personal best will rise. Faster training till teach the body to utilize fat storage more optimally.

Your body is already running low on carbohydrates and when that happens your body relies more on fats.

The trick to all this high anaerobic training is to use fat as your primary fuel source. Carbohydrates can be better stored for when you need them most, in that last 6 miles when everyone else is having issues trying to maintain pace.

You will feel as though you are slowing but you are sustaining pace and that is the beauty of race pace training.

It is extremely taxing on the body but if you do it with equal attention on recovery you will soon see your daily pace drop and your ability to hold 9.09 per mile pace for the entire marathon distance.

Closing Thoughts

Remember, faster, varied paced long runs should be followed by an easier recovery long run the following week.

Do not do these forms of long runs every other week.

A long run of 20 miles at or near goal marathon race pace week after week is not smart. So, be sure to allow sufficient time between your faster long runs to ensure adaptation occurs.

You have worked far too hard to spend your precious time second guessing your ability.

Do one hard long run one week, the next relaxed and recover.

The easier long run should be just focused on getting the time in on your feet. You will be more energized and motivated for the following weeks long run.

I hope some of these ideas will help generate a renewed sense of vigor in your training.

I am certain that if you adopt some of these ideas you will not only run a marathon in 4 hours but will go much faster then you originally ever envisioned yourself running.

If you are in that 4-5 hour marathon category currently share with me by leaving a comment of how you have been doing your long runs.

I would love to hear what you have been doing and if these ideas will assist you in your future training.

I hope this post on how to run a marathon in 4 hours or less has been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help runners like you get to the next level in their training and racing.

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