Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Marathon Sub 4 Hours | Tips to PR

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Are you seeing a legitimate marathon sub 4 hours plan? If so, you have come to the right place. Welcome to RunDreamAchieve. My goal with this post is to share with you some strategies that helped me run 2:19:35 for the marathon distance. No, it wasn't an easy process. I failed many times before I broke the 2:20 marathon barrier. In fact, many times I wondered if the marathon was my best event.

The key tactic and trait you have to have is immense patience. A sub 4 hour marathon is a very competitive time. Athletes must maintain 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer for the entire duration of their races. Have you been having issues with pace sustainment aiming for this sub 4 marathon goal? If so, you have to start changing up your tactics. Remember, we all know how to work hard but hard work doesn't already provide the results we seek.

So, you have to train in such a way to get that sub 4 hr marathon pace to feel more like a tempo run. What you don't want is to be hurting in the first 16 kilometers or 10 miles of the race.

How Hard is it to Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

If you train smarter, it will be much easier. That being said, it is no easy task. There is a small percentage of runners world-wide who break into the 3s each year. So, you have to start spending a higher percentage of your weekly volume training well below sub 9:09 mile pace. The best long distance runners are spending about 40 percent of their weekly volume at highly anaerobic efforts. They make racing look easy for a reason.

How much time have you spent focusing on mental training? I ask that because most marathoners seeking a marathon sub 4 hours plan focus only on physical preparation. Remember, this is a mental sport. So, you have to train the subconscious mind to do what it is you are dreaming about. I recommend spending 10 to 15 minutes each day visualizing yourself getting across that finish line with 3:59.59 on the clock. The best time to do this is when you first wake up in the morning or when you go to bed at night.

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Sub 4 Hours Marathon Training Plan

I recommend training for a minimum of 12 weeks and preferably 16 to 20 weeks for your next serious marathon. Again, if you are going to do it right you might as well do it right the first time. The first 4 weeks of your build up should be light jogging. Yes, you can do strides 2 to 3 times per week. I would recommend doing 5-6x100m strides before, during or after your easy runs during that first 4 weeks.

You can then start a 4 month marathon training plan. All of the running courses that I teach here as well as our training plans are 16 weeks in length. The course are more in-depth filled with tutorials and end with a 16-week training plan. There are some runners who just want to get the training plan. Remember, it is important to invest in yourself and I know what you will learn in the courses will speed up your improvement.

Our training plans focus on 4 specific key phases

  • Introductory phase
  • Specific training phase
  • Speed development phase
  • Taper phase

What Percentage of Runners Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

A recent study by livestrong.com showed that only about 43 percent of runners competing in major marathons break the 4 hour barrier. The number is closer to 1 percent for athletes breaking the sub 3 marathon barrier. Of course, this drastically goes lower the faster we are aiming. So, you are joining a group of rare air runners who are seeking or have already broken the sub 4 hour marathon barrier.

I created a course called the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery course you may be interested in. We cover training intensities, heart rate training, vo2max effort workload and much more in that course. More importantly, I cover exactly what you need to be doing in that course to get under the 4 hour marathon barrier. Click the button below to learn more.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE 4 HOUR MARATHON MASTERY COURSE

Sub 4 Hour Marathon Pace Strategy

Your marathon sub 4 hours training plan needs to encompass very high anaerobic efforts. In addition, allot sufficient time in order that you recover from those heavy work loads you are placing on the body. One of the biggest mistakes I see runners making is running too many miles or kilometers too slow. Remember, doing 100 miles a week at 11 to 12 minute mile pace will not prepare you to sustain 9:09 mile or 5:41 kilometer pace over the entire distance.

Below are some key strategies I want you thinking about as you lead into your next build up.

Start Running Your Long Runs Faster

Faster, varied paced long runs are the reason I was able to lower my best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. The long run is the hardest workout that I do. That being said, you should not run fast and long every weekend. Remember, the benefits of the hard training you are doing today will be seen weeks from now. It takes the body between 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it. So, focus first on easy, relaxed long runs before you move into faster long runs.

Below are some examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to breaking the 2:20:00 marathon barrier. Success leaves clues. So, consider mixing up your marathon long runs in similar fashion. Of course, the Sub 4 course and training plans here will take the guess work out of what paces you need to be running at.

  • 2 mile warm-up, 10 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 3 miles@6:00 mile pace, 1 mile easy JOG, 3 miles@5:25 mile pace, 1 mile jog cool-down (23 miles)
  • 1 mile warm-up, 5 miles@6:05 mile pace, 5 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:15 mile pace, 3 miles easy at 6:30-7:30 mile pace (18 miles)
  • 2 mile warm-up, 7 miles@5:20 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:50, 4 miles@5:50 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:40 mile pace, 1 mile jog cool-down (22 miles)

Remember, always alternate one harder long run followed the next week by an easy relaxed long run. Again, recovery is essential. So, make sure you are hydrating well during these long runs. You need to practice drinking rather than just sipping to break the sub 4 marathon barrier.

Focus On Better Nutrition

As mentioned above, learning to hydrate better during your races and in training will increase your chances of success. A major problem I made earlier in my marathon career was not drinking enough in the race. In addition, I would never ingest any gels. Again, major mistake and I had to learn the hard way. That being said, I made some adjustments and started taking my nutrition seriously. It paid off.

The same goes for you. So, start dropping water bottles out every 3 miles during your long run course. You can drive it prior to, drop the bottles out and make sure you are drinking them on the way out and back. It is critical to make training the most difficult part of your preparation. The race should be the celebration of all your hard work. In addition, not the day to be overly nervous and worried. Let your competition do that.

Longer Tempo Efforts

What is the furthest tempo run you have done? 5 miles? 7? I have found that tempo runs ranking anywhere from 8 to 14 miles is optimal. Again, you need to focus on improving your body's lactate tolerance. So, you have to train longer at the anaerobic threshold, the point where lactic acid starts to build up in your blood stream. Remember, we race right around our anaerobic threshold. So, if you train too short you will only be strong for so long.

Also, make sure to be patient with this. Yes, a 3 to 4 mile tempo will be very difficult at first. As mentioned above, it takes 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stressor you placing on the body. So, don't expect fast results. It will take time to extend your tempo runs out this far. Periodization is key which is how I have designed the training plans and running courses.

Are you seeking a coach? If so, I also coach runners online via our private community platform.

Speed Development

Speed workouts work to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these we can recruit the more efficient (economical) we are going to run. Again, the key is to get that sub 4 hour marathon race pace to feel easier and less taxing on the body. So, 1 vo2max workout per week is needed. We can only spend a few seconds or minutes at these types of intensities. They are great because they drastically improve your lactate tolerance.

Thus, you are able to sustain race pace longer and more effectively then your competition. Below are some examples of the types of speed workouts I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon. Again, similar types of workouts are built in catered to your sub 4 marathon goal in our running course and training plans.

  • 1 mile JOG warm-up, 5-6×1 mile in 4:44-4:48 with 3 minutes rest (60 seconds rest when very fit), 1 mile JOG cool-down
  • 2 mile warm-up, 10-12x300m hill sprinting all out (when fit) or moderate (when not as fit) with walking or jogging on way down, 2 mile cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up, 10x800m in 2:16-2:23 (2 minutes rest and slower when not as fit, 45 seconds rest when very fit and faster), 1 mile JOG cool-down
  • 1 mile JOG warm-up, 3x2mile in 10:00 or faster (best I ever did was 9:52,9:55,10:01@6400ft elevation) with 5-7 minutes rest between reps, 1 mile JOG cool-down

Closing Thoughts

In closing, there is more to say here but a marathon sub 4 hours training plan must encompass speed. Again, high mileage run too slow will only make you a strong, long and slow distance runner. We want to change up the tactics to get you under that sub 4 marathon barrier faster and more efficient. Make sure to check out the resources available here to you. I am looking forward to hearing about your sub 4 hour time.