Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Marathon Training Plan Sub 3

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Are you seeking a marathon training plan sub 3 to help you finally get to that 2:59.59 you desire? If so, I am glad you have made it here to rundreamachieve. I hold a personal best of 2:19.35. So, do understand how competitive a time a sub 3 hour marathon is. That being said, you have to train smart and strategic in order to make this goal a reality. Remember, the goal is to improve your body's lactate tolerance. In addition, to sustain race pace for the entire duration of the race.

A common mistake I see runners making is running too many of their weekly mileage too slow. Yes, running slow is still important in breaking 3 hours for the marathon. You definitely need to still run a higher percentage of your weekly mileage at or below sub 3 hour marathon pace.

The best long distance runners are running about 40 percent of their weekly mileage at higher intensities. So, they make it look easy for a reason. It isn't necessarily that they are more talented than you and I. It simply means they are training at significantly faster paces routinely.

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

The longer the better. Of course, not everyone's schedule is perfect. There are some people who may choose to train for 8 or 12 weeks. My best recommendation is to focus on a 16 to 20 week build up. So, a 4 month marathon training plan is plenty of time to prepare optimally in breaking 3 hours. I created a running course called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro where I teach athletes how to do this effectively. In addition, the course concludes with a 16-week block of training.

Yes, you can go out as far as 20 weeks. That being said, I would recommend jogging for 4 weeks before starting a 4 month training plan. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right. So, plan accordingly. You are going after an elite time which 2:59.59 or faster is. There is only about 1 percent of marathoners who break this barrier each year. So, you are joining a group of rare air runners.

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How Do I Prepare for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

Runners seeking to break 3 hours need to focus on building strength and stamina. Yes, runners can build endurance via long runs. That being said, if those long runs are too slow it will only make you a superior, slow runner. Again, sub 3 hour marathon pace comes out to 6:52 per mile or 4:16 per kilometer. How can you get this pace to feel more like a tempo run rather than a sprint? Train significantly faster. I would also start doing faster, varied paced long runs.

I used this tactic to lower my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 for the marathon. The long run was, without question, the most difficult workout that I did. Below are some examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35.

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 5 miles@5:45 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:50, 4 miles@6:00 mile pace, 1 mile easy, 3 miles@5:20 mile pace, 5 miles easy cool-down (23 miles)
  • 1 mile warm-up, 12 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 5 miles@5:25 miles pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 2 mile jog cool-down (25 miles)
  • 2 mile warm-up, 16 miles@5:40 mile pace, 1 mile jog, 2 miles@5:15 mile pace, 2 mile jog cool-down (23 miles)

Remember, always follow the next long run with an easy, recovery long run. You must adapt to the training you are doing. So, make sure you pay attention to resting as well.

Longer Tempo Runs

How long have you been doing your tempo runs in the past? 5 miles? 6? I was doing anywhere from 8 to 14 miles in length prior to breaking the 2:20 marathon barrier. Sure, 3 to 6 mile tempo runs are great for athletes training for the 5K to 10K distances. That being said, you need to train longer at your anaerobic threshold in order to improve over the marathon distance.

Again, long tempo runs and faster long runs will build that strength and stamina that you need. Yes, the marathon is an aerobic event but still requires speed and stamina. Again, the sub 3 hour marathon is an elusive goal that many spend years training to achieve. My aim is to help you get there faster by working smarter. I already know you know how to work hard. I know a lot of hard working people who are broke and who have never run under 3 hours. So, you have to think outside the box and use leverage. The resources here at rundreamachieve will help you do this.

Speed Development

Below are some examples of the types of workouts I was doing prior to breaking the sub 3 hour marathon. Of course, I was aiming at a sub 2:22:00. That being said, these types of Vo2 max workouts are essential to get that sub 3 hour marathon pace to feel more relaxed.

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 10x800m in 2:16 to 2:25 (faster later in build up, slower earlier in training phase) with 2 minutes rest (45 seconds rest when fit), 2 mile jog cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up, 16-20x400m in 1:06-1:13 (slower when not as fit, faster when fit) with 2 minutes rest (45-60 seconds rest when fit), 1 mile jog cool-down
  • 2 mile warm-up, 15x300m hill, all out or moderate effort going up, walk down (jog down when fit), 2 mile jog cool-down
  • 1 mile warm-up jog, 6x1mile in 4:44-5:15 (faster when fit, slower when not as fit and earlier in training phase), 1 mile cool-down

No, you will not immediately jump into doing workouts like this immediately. Again, these paces are geared more toward athletes aiming for a minimum of a sub 2:25 marathon. I do have sub 3 hour marathon training plan options available here at rundreamachieve. You can click the button below to check those out.

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Mental Training

How often are you training mentally to break 3 hours? Remember, training physically is only 50 percent of the work. The best middle to long distance runners know the importance of mental training. In fact, I spent years visualizing myself breaking the 2:22:00 marathon barrier while still a 2:43 marathoner. We know there is a massive difference between running 6:14 and 5:25 per mile pace over 26.2 miles.

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination

– Billy Mills, Olympic Gold Medalist, 10,000m

Yes, I trained very hard. That being said, I also jogged on easy days and placed heavy emphasis on mental visualization. So, I would recommend spending 10 to 15 minutes every day seeing yourself crossing the finish line in 2:59.59 or faster. You can do this when first waking up in the morning or when going to bed at night. Again, you have to train the subconscious mind to do what it is you want the body to do.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, what is mentioned above is just an introduction of what your marathon training plan sub 3 mindset needs to be revolved around. I highly recommend checking out our sub 3 hour marathon running course or training plans to help speed up your progress. Are you seeking a coach? I do coach online and there is that option for you as well. You can click on the link below to learn more about that if you are interested.

Make sure to visit and subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there weekly to help runners such as yourself get to the next level. Keep me posted on your progress. I am looking forward to hearing about your sub 3 hour marathon time.

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