Sub 2 20 Marathon | Tips to Run Faster NOW

12 week half marathon plan

Are you seeking more information on how to run a sub 2 20 marathon? If so, welcome to I wish I would have read a post like this back in 2002.

Is a a sub 2 20 marathon possible for someone with limited ‘talent’? Yes, but it will not be easy. You will certainly have to make up for it with your work ethic.

I debuted with a 2.43.36 at the 2002 New York City Marathon. I was a part of an armed forces marathon team that was running for lung cancer research. We started in last place (32,189th).

Chase Manhattan Bank was donating $1 for every runner each member of the team passed. I finished as the team’s top finished in 253rd place. It was my first experience at the marathon distance.

That being said, it took some time to improve and figure the 26.2 mile distance out. I ran a 2.40.02 at the 2007 Grandmas Marathon. It was a small improvement hitting the first half in 1:10:33. A sub 2 20 marathon didn’t happen overnight.

So, I am going to list 8 reasons why a sub 2 20 marathon is possible. You will most certainly have to be patient. In addition, be willing to work for several years to achieve this time. Are you lacking in talent? Well, you will have to overcome this with grit and determination.

Interest Vs Commitment

There is a massive difference between interest versus commitment.

#1 Others Have Done It

If others have done it why can’t you? Yes, you do need a small amount of talent. In addition, a high level of commitment to achieve a sub 2 20 marathon. Remember, talent that doesn’t work won’t get the job done.

So, to get faster you have to think outside the box. Remember, the goal here is to use leverage and train smarter. There are plenty of athletes who already know how to work hard. My goal for you is to help you to train smarter. Also, there are resources here from training plans and running course to help you.

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality, or imagination.

– Billy Mills

Billy knew what it was going to take to win the gold medal in the 10,000m at the Mexico City olympics.

He improved his personal best by nearly 2 minutes winning with a time of 28:24. In addition, he did it on a cinder track against men that were far better than he was leading up to the race.

He wrote a great book called Lessons of Lakota worth reading.

I did not have a great deal of talent or ability. That being said, I did trust in my training. So, you have to rely on yourself, your family, faith and belief in what you are doing.


A marathon time under 2 hours and 20 minutes will require an immense amount of work. So, you must be highly motivated or don’t expect to ever come close to this time.

I was only one of 63 men who broke the time in the entire nation in 2007. There are over 350 million people that live in the United States. The sub 2 20 marathon barrier is routinely broken by motivated runners. Remember, we have 3 choices in this life. We can be average, good or great. It is a personal choice only we can make.

The motivated athlete is dangerous. So, the runner with talent that doesn’t work had best watch out. I ran 1:13 for the half marathon in Cleveland in 1999.

My best 5000m in college was 15:19. So, my times early on didn’t indicate I would run a 2:19:35 marathon in the future. What I did have and relied heavily on was motivation.

I was willing to make the sacrifice to run as fast as I could.

Are you coachable? I created the RunDreamAchieve Academy to help runners committed to making the next jump.

It Is Consistently Done Every Year

Others have done it. Why not you?

I didn’t follow the status quo of placing limits on myself and neither should you. The guys out there breaking the 2.20 barrier want it. They are not interested. What they are is fully committed.

They do the work and understand what type of energy that is required to get a time like that. They are no different than you. I have known countless runners who were far more ‘talented’ than I who never broke the barrier.

I’ll never buy into the talent myth. Do you need to have some form of talent to run a sub-2:20 marathon? Perhaps, but talent must be used. What most people see is the performance. They fail to see the process.

In addition, the endless amounts of miles run and speed sessions on the track. They term runners that run fast times as ‘talented’ when so much goes unseen.

Will It Be Hard?


According to USA Track and Field, 50 men broke the 2.20.00 barrier at the 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials. This is just one race as it took a time of 2.19.00 to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic Trials.

The standard USATF “A” standard time in 2007 was 2.20.00. Also, you needed to run a time of 2:22:00 to complete in the Trials. Of course, this was several years ago. I am going in and updating all of my posts. It is now 2022.

So, If others are doing it, what is stopping you from doing the same?

Visit The RunDreamAchieve Academy

Negativity Will Make You More Determined To Do It

Haters and naysayers are everywhere. So, focus on what you can control. Are you currently a 3 hour marathoner? Well, getting to a sub-2:20 marathon time is going to take some work. I was told by a prominent elite American marathoner that I should quit.

This was while I was still a 2.43 marathoner. He respected my work ethic. That being said, he never thought I was capable of running under 2 hours and 20 minutes for the marathon.

You have to take negative comments and use them as fuel.

So, focus on what you can control. In addition, stay persistent in your work.

Revolve your thoughts around being positive.

Think of all the hardships the great Kenyan athletes have had to endure. They are hungry and put in the work. You have far more in you than you are currently putting in right now.

You have to have that same tenacity in your own training.

It is your ticket to a sub 2 20 time. You’ll have to change up how you train and study what the great runners do. You can also take a course at the RunDreamAchieve Academy and speed up the process.


I will never hide my Christian faith and can say that running 2.19 was a blessing from God. He put in the desire in me to train hard.

You have to rely on faith and the ability you have been given. Of course, there are no tests of how strong the mind is. It cannot be tested like a Vo2 max stress test.

I am no different than you. We both have faith in either ourselves or a higher power. The difference may be who is willing to put in the sustained work over a long period of time.

With man this is impossible, not with God, ALL things are possible with God-Mark 10:27

Practice Running Below Your Goal Race Pace

Expect tests and trials.

Make small goals and then bigger goals. In addition, see yourself dropping a few seconds or minutes here and there. It will become more attainable as time goes on. 

What percentage of your weekly mileage is run at or below 5:20 mile pace? The best marathoners run around 40 percent of their weekly volume at or below goal pace.

Kenny Foster, a former member of the US Army World Class Athlete Program went from 2:29:59 to 2:19:49.

Kenny was much better than I was coming into the Army WCAP. I was “only” a 2.43.36 marathoner with a 51.51 10-mile best. That being said, 10 months later I was a 2:19:35 marathoner. So, commitment, not interest, brought me to that time.

Kenny was accepted in mid-2009 and broke the sub-2:20 marathon barrier. He ran this time at the 2011 California International Marathon finishing with a time of 2.19.49.

He narrowly missed qualifying for the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. Kenny needed a 2:19:00 or faster to earn a spot.

We both had to work extremely hard to break the 2:20 marathon barrier.

The training and races along the way got us into good enough shape to do it. The same goes for you. You have to be patient.

3:30 to a 2:29 marathon

Here is another example of why it is possible.


A great deal of time can be cut from marathon times. It is a matter of proper planning, persistence and patience.

Justin Mock did just that.

Boulderrunning did a great write up on him in as he finished as the top American at the 2010 London Marathon. Justin set a 14-minute personal best time of 2.29.59.

Many of you are in the same ability level currently as he was or is. You could possibly be much faster. All the more reason to believe breaking the 2.20 barrier is within reach.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things- Phillipians 4:8

Rely on Your Mental Capabilities

The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination.

– Billy Mills

I visualized breaking the 2:20:00 barrier while I was still a 2:43:36 marathoner. Mental training is essential if you want to run a sub 2 20 marathon time.

I have been fascinated with how our thoughts affect athletic performance. I have bought countless books over the years on sport psychology.

The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murray is a great one to read. People once said it was impossible for someone to run a mile under 4 minutes. The world record for 2 miles is now 7:58. 

Closing Thoughts

What I have tried to do with this post is simply to make you think. Breaking 2.20 for the marathon doesn’t have to be a time that only ‘talented’ runners achieve.

Who is stopping you from running that time? Are you willing to put in the necessary work to make it a reality?

Philippus Paracelsus, a famous Swiss alchemist and physician, who lived from 1493 to 1541, stated what is now an obvious scientific fact when he said,

Whether the object of your faith be real or false, you will nevertheless obtain the same effects. Thus, if I believed in Saint Peter’s statue as I should have believed in Saint Peter himself, I shall obtain the same effects that I should have obtained from Saint Peter. But that is superstition., Faith, however, produces miracles; and whether it is true or false faith, it will always produce the same wonders.

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