Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Marathon Sub 3 Hour Training Plan

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Are you seeking a legitimate marathon sub 3 hour training plan? If so, welcome to rundreamachieve.com There certainly has never been a better time to start training smarter than now. One of the common problems I see with marathoners is pace sustainment issues. Let's face it. A sub 3 marathon is no joke and a highly competitive time. The runner needs to sustain 6:52 mile pace or 4:16 per kilometer for 42.2 straight kilometers.

So, you have to have a mindset revolved around improving your body's lactate tolerance. Why do the best marathoners make it look so easy? They spend about 40 percent of their weekly volume training at paces that are closer to or even below their goal marathon race pace. So, it isn't that they are just talented. Remember, talent that doesn't work will get beat by the athlete that does. We cannot rely specifically on talent alone. So a marathon sub 3 hour training plan has to encompass pace sustainment improvement.

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

I would recommend training at a minimum of 12 weeks. More importantly, 16 to 20 weeks if you really want to break a sub 3 marathon. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. No, a sub 3 hour marathon will not be achieved easily. Yes, you can be running higher mileage but is high mileage a guarantee? No. So, you have to be cognizant of the amount of quality mileage you are doing. I discuss how to go under 3 hours for the marathon in-depth in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course I created here at rundreamachieve.com

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A 4 month marathon training plan is sufficient to prepare properly for a sub 3hr marathon time. Again, think long-term about this. There are very few runners around the world who break 3 hours for the marathon each year. In fact, only about 1 percent of marathoners run 2:59.59 or faster world-wide each year. So, you are going after an elite time for sure.

Yes, you most certainly can achieve this time. That being said, you have to follow the fundamentals and duplicate what the best marathoners do. My goal with this post is to briefly share with you some tactics that helped me to eventually run 2:19:35 for the marathon distance. Did I fail too? Yes. I didn't just get to a sub 2:20 marathon time overnight. I failed many times along the way. Who doesn't love talking about their best times right? Well, far fewer discuss their failures. I believe it is critical you share that as well.

Is Sub 3 Hours Good for a Marathon?

Yes. I believe a sub 3 hour marathon is an elite time. Of course, if you are comparing yourself to runners running under 2:10 you are doing yourself a disservice. So, focus on your own capabilities and don't place limits on yourself. Also, don't second guess yourself either. Are you lacking in talent? Well, you can make up for it with your work ethic. The first time I ran the mile in 1992 as a high school freshman I ran 5:30. I would not have though at that time that one day I would run 5:19 per mile pace for 26.2 miles.

I committed to excellence as should you. I already know you have otherwise you would not be here searching for a marathon sub 3 hour training plan. How often are you spending time training mentally to break this barrier? I ask that because a lot of marathoners only focus on physical training. The best marathoners focus on both. So, I want you to start spending 10 to 15 minutes daily visualizing yourself getting across that finish line with 2:59.59 on the clock. You can do this when first getting up in the morning when going to bed at night.

How Many Miles a Week Should I Run for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

I have seen runners putting in 50 miles who have done and others running 100 miles a week. Remember, it is about the quality of the volume you are doing rather than the volume. Again, if you are running too slow for too high of a percentage of your weekly volume you will become a very strong, slow distance runner. Endurance is important but strength and stamina is what really matters in holding sub 3 hour marathon pace.

I ran my personal best of 2:19.35 on 85 to 90 miles a week. Of course, I got up to as high as 142 miles in one week. The result was it left me tired and fatigued. So, be mindful of the law of diminished returns. Again, there are only so many times you can stress the body and expect a return on your investment. I would say about 60 percent of your weekly volume should be aerobic in nature and 40 percent, anaerobic. The best marathoners in the world follow this pattern. Again, don't compare yourself to them and focus only what you can control yourself.

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Sub 3 hour Marathon Pace

Sub 3 hour marathon pace takes training well below it to be maintained over 26.2 miles. Sure, many runners can hold this pace for 5 to 15 miles. That being said, far fewer sustain the effort over 42.2 kilometers. So, how can we get you to achieve the goal? Below are some tactics I would strongly recommend doing. Yes, this has to be consistent. I cannot guarantee they will work but will say they helped me dramatically.

Again, success leaves clues. I have always believed in studying what successful people do. The tactics below helped me lower my marathon best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. Yes, going from 6:14 mile pace to 5:19 mile pace over 26.2 miles takes a different mindset. You have to have a belief in delayed gratification in order to get a sub 3 hour marathon right. That being said, the below mentioned tactics will make you dangerous.

Faster Long Runs

The long run is the most difficult workout that I do. Faster, varied paced long runs are the secret sauce the top marathoners use to sustain pace longer than their competition. Have you been running long, slow long runs every single weekend? If so, you need to start changing up your tactics in order to run 2:59.59. Below are some of the types of workouts I was doing prior to breaking 2:20.00. Again, look at how I did mine and mirror yours to fit your needs.

Again, you need to sustain 6:52 per mile or 4:16 per kilometer over 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers. So, running long runs at 7:45 to 8 minute mile pace or 4:45 to 5:10 kilometer pace isn't going to do the job. Yes, you will be very strong in terms of your endurance but not your strength and stamina. No, long runs as shown below should not be done in the first few weeks but in the middle to late sections of your build up. So, you have to be in great anaerobic shape in order to do these. Here are a few examples of my faster, varied pace long runs prior to running 2:19:35…

Long Run Examples

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 6 miles@160BPM (about 85% of max heart rate) or around 5:35-40 mile pace when very fit, 2 miles easy, 5 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:50, 2 miles easy, 4 miles@6:00 mile pace
  • 1 mile jog warm-up, 16 miles@5:35-45 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:15 mile pace, 5 miles easy

Remember, always alternate a faster, varied pace long run followed the next week by an easy, relaxed long run. Again, recovery is critical. So, you have to stress the energy systems of the body and allot sufficient time to recover as well. Strategy is everything.

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Longer Tempo Runs

How far have you done your tempo runs in the past? 4 to 5 mile tempo runs are great for the 5K to 10 mile distances. That being said, we are talking about the marathon here. So, you need to start thinking about tempo runs between 8 to 14 miles in length. Again, training at your anaerobic threshold is very important. We race right around this effort. So, working at paces that are significantly faster than sub 3 hour marathon pace or close to it is key

Your marathon sub 3 hour training plan should focus on this. The philosophy I teach in my running courses and training plans focus on this fundamental. Longer tempo runs will build your confidence, improve your lactate tolerance and help you last longer than your competition.

Yes, you will need patience. It takes about 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it. So, focus first on adapting to 3 to 4-mile tempo before moving to longer durations at your anaerobic threshold. We know these types of workouts take time to adapt to.

Pool Running

Pool running is a great alternative to doing a land workout. The resistance of the water in the deep end of the pool makes for an extremely challenging workout. Do you want to know what will really make it tough? Do not wear a flotation device. Of course, you can also wear one when you want to do a long run in the deep end of an hour or longer. You can use pool running to do intervals, fartlek workouts and long runs.

Furthermore, it is an outstanding alternative especially if the weather outside if not cooperative. Runners of all ability levels can drastically improve using this strategy. Again, wearing no flotation device will make your workout much more anaerobic. So, you will have to pump your arms and legs to stay above water as opposed to wearing a flotation device.

Closing Thoughts

Again, these are just a few of many strategies to use as you utilize your marathon sub 3 hour training plan. Remember, continue to focus on training well below 6:52 mile or 4:16 kilometer pace. In addition, focus on the quality of the mileage you are doing and not so much the volume. Yes, consistent mileage is key and you do want to do higher mileage. That being said, just don't do too much of that volume an too aerobic of effort.

The key is to get that sub 3 hour marathon pace to feel more controlled and less taxing on the body. So, you are going to have to demand some heavy work out of yourself in order to achieve this. Do you want to take your running and racing to the next level? Check out the other resources here at rundreamachieve.com. I am looking forward to hearing about your sub 3 marathon time. Make sure to check out and subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos there each week to help runners get to the next level.

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