Marathon Sub 4 Hour Training Plan | PR Faster

Are you seeking a legitimate marathon sub 4 hour training plan? If so, welcome to I know there are many runners seeking to run under 4 hours for the marathon distance. My goal is to help you to start working smarter rather than working hard and missing your goal. Yes, the fact that you are here already tells me you know how to work hard. How has that been working out for you? Why is it that some runners seem to work half as hard and get better results?

They are using leverage and studying what the best middle to long distance runners are doing. So, higher mileage is not always the answer to getting to 3:59.59 for the marathon distance. You have to start spending a higher percentage of your weekly volume at or below 9:09 mile or 5:41 kilometer pace.

A common mistake I see far too many runners making is running too many miles too slow. Also, they are running long and slow each week during their long runs. A marathon sub 4 hour training plan has to incorporate faster, varied paced long runs. I used this strategy to lower my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35.

Is Sub 4 Hours a Good Marathon Time?

Yes, a sub 4 hour marathon is a very good time. In fact, it would place you around the top 43 percent of marathoners world-wide each year. In comparison, a time of 4 hours 30 minutes for female is comparably just as competitive. My goal with this post is to share with you some of my top recommendations to succeed over this distance.

How often are you training mentally to break the sub 4 hour marathon barrier? I ask that because most runners focus only on physical preparation. I was visualizing myself breaking 2:22:00 for the marathon when I was still had a 2:43:36 PR. It took me from 2002 to 2007 to eventually run 2:19:35 for the marathon. I credit mental training has being a massive reason as to how I made that big of a leap. So, running is more mental than it is physical. I want you to start visualizing yourself getting across that finish line with 3:59.59 on the clock.

Spend 10 to 15 minutes before you go to bed at night or when you first wake up doing this. The point is to train the subconscious mind to do what it is you want your body to do. Remember, the mind runs the body, not the other way around.

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

I always recommend training for a minimum of 12 weeks and preferably 16 weeks. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. Again, a sub 4 hour marathon is a highly competitive time. No, it won’t come easy. That being said, there are some strategies you can use to get much better results. I talk about these in-depth in the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery course. In addition, will share some ideas within this post as well.

Can you train properly with 8 or 12 weeks? Yes, of course. Of course, there are people all over the world working full-time jobs. So, they may not have the luxury to train over an extended period of time. Also, there are other people who simply want to train for a couple months or so for their marathons. So, we all have different goals in mind. That being said, if you can, I would focus on 12 to 20 weeks preparing for your marathon.

How Many Miles a Week Should I Run for a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

Remember, always focus on quality versus quantity. Yes, I am sure you have heard this many times over the years. Higher mileage is not a guarantee that you will run 3:59.59 for the marathon. So, a marathon sub 4 hour training plan has to focus on specific training. Again, if you are running too many of your weekly miles or kilometers too slow you will be an outstanding long, slow distance runner. Of course, endurance is important.

Running easy still has its place. That being said, the best middle to long distance runners run around 40 percent of their weekly volume at fast paces. So, to get similar results of what the top runners do simply duplicate their work habits. Make sense? I have built RunDreamAchieve training plans around this philosophy. In addition, teach this mindset and strategy in all of the courses that I teach here at RunDreamAchieve.

Marathon Sub 4 Hour Training Plan Strategy

Long Runs

Don’t run long and slow every single weekend. You want to start improving your body’s lactate tolerance. You will not do this by running slow and long every weekend. Yes, you will build endurance and confidence running long and slow. In addition, running easy certainly has its place especially when it comes to recovery. Again, to be successful in the marathon you have to allot sufficient time to adapt to hard training.

Below are some example of the types of long runs I would recommend doing. Remember, this is after you have build a strong foundation of base mileage first. You won’t immediately be able to do these types of long runs in the initial weeks of your sub 4 marathon build up.

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 7 miles@9:20 mile pace, 1 mile jog, 1 mile in 8:00, 2 miles easy, 4 miles@9:05 mile pace, 3 miles@9:30 mile pace, 1 mile jog cool-down (21 miles)
  • 1 mile jog warm-up, 14 miles steady@9:15 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 7:50, 2 mile jog cool-down (21 miles)

Remember, always run an easy, relaxed long run following your faster, varied paced long run. Again, these are the exact types of workouts in our training plans and running courses.

Longer Tempo Runs

What is the furthest tempo run you have done to date? 4 miles? What about 6? You may want to consider doing longer tempo runs in breaking the 4 hr marathon barrier. Sure, 4 to 6 mile tempo runs are great for 5K to the half-marathon distance. That being said, we are talking about the marathon distance here. Again, you have to allot time first to adapt to the stresses you are placing on your body.

So, 3 to 4 mile tempos may be where you have to start off at, at first. The focus should be on working to gradually extending the distance out to 8 to 14 miles in length for your tempo runs. You will teach your body to be much more efficient running longer at your anaerobic threshold. What I see is many runners having pace sustainment issues in their races. It surely is not for a lack of motivation or desire.

Again, we all have been taught to work hard. Well, when it comes to running a time this fast you need to start working smarter. There are only a small percentage of runners who break the sub 4 hour marathon barrier each year around the world. My hope is that you will be the next to join this allusive club.

Run Longer

What is the farthest you have run in the past? 12 miles? 15? 17? You need to start thinking about doing 20 to 24-mile long runs. Again, you always want to be thinking about periodization. So, adapt first at routinely going 12 to 17 miles before you start jumping into runs of this length. Remember, it takes the body anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it.

No, you cannot rush the process. Athletes are already highly dedicated and motivated individuals. The problem is we often times want results too quickly. Sure, I wanted to break 2:22 for the marathon while I was still a 2:43 marathoner. That being said, it took massive work in order to go from holding 6:14 per mile pace to 5:19 mile pace (2:19:35) for the marathon. In fact, it took me from running from 1992 to 2007 in oder to eventually break the sub 2-20 marathon barrier. I started running in 1992 and ran my first marathon in 2002.

Vo2 Max Workouts

Vo2 max workouts are speed workouts. You should be doing one of these per week training paces that are closer to your 5K to half-marathon goal race pace. Again, you want to work to get your marathon race pace (9:09 mile or 5:41 kilometer pace) to feel more like a tempo run. Of course, you are going to be in pain racing, no matter how fit you are. That being said, you want to train so that you feel that way at mile 22 rather than mile 4. Does that make sense?

Examples of Vo2max workouts you need to be thinking about are as follow:

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 8-10x800m on the track@3:45-4:10 (faster times when very fit, slower time when first starting off) – 2 minutes rest b/t reps when not as fit, 45-60 seconds rest when very fit
  • 1 mile warm-up, 3x2mile on track or roads@16:00-17:00 per rep (times will vary based on your fitness), 2 mile jog cool-down (4-7 minutes rest between reps)
  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 16-20x400m@1:52-2:02 (faster when fitter, slower when not), 2 minutes rest earlier in season, 60 seconds rest when very fit

Remember, speed development is essential in order to get sub 4 hour marathon pace to feel easier. Again, if you just run slow mileage all week it will be very difficult to break 4 hours. So, the marathon sub 4 hour training plan options here help you to work more strategically.

Closing Thoughts

Also, incoporate 5-6x100m strides into your easy runs twice per week. Strides are too short to build up any significant lactic acid. So, you can work on your acceleration drills, staying relaxed and focused during these short sprints. Remember, these should not be all out. Yes, you can spend the last 20 meters or so all out but not the whole stride. So, focus on gradual increase in speed.

The best sprinters to long distance runners know the importance relaxation plays on athletic performance. You always need to keep this tactic in mind as you prepare for your future races. Also, hydrate well during your long runs. I would recommend dropping water bottles out every 3 miles along your course first. So, practice drinking rather than just sipping. There are far too many marathoners missing the sub 4 barrier for this reason.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. Make sure to check out and subscribe to our RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. We also have new MERCH available here at the site too. Keep me posted on your progress going for your sub 4 marathon. There are resources available here that will speed up your achievement of this goal.

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