Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

How To Run A Sub 2:40 Marathon

Sub 2:40 marathon

Can anyone run sub 2:40 marathon?

No. There does take a high level of talent for runners to achieve a time this fast. You increase your chances of achieving this time standard with a lot of hard work.

sub 2:40 marathon

A 3.10 marathon is 7.16 per mile pace, to run a 2.39.55 marathon one needs to hold a 6.06 per mile pace.

Obviously, this is a major jump in pace.  Runners have to believe this is possible but they also must do the necessary training in order to bring it to fruition.

You have to see yourself getting to the finish line with a 2.39+ time on the clock.The sooner you start visualizing that, the sooner you will be on your way to taking the sub 2.40 marathon time down.

Be Patient

That being said, you have to be physically and mentally ready to tackle a time like this nor will it come overnight. If you are a 5 hour marathoner, obviously a sub 2:40 marathon may not be your goal.

A 4.30 may be more reasonable. This is a specific goal for people who think a sub 2.40 time is possible, which it is.

Dream barriers look very high until someone climbs them. Then they are not barriers any more. – Lasse Viren, Double Olympic Gold Medalist

One of the athletes I coach dropped from a 4.40 marathon best to a 3.36 in one race.

In addition to that, he went from a 10.41 per mile average to a 8.14 per mile average in one race, this is one of countless examples of people dropping time.

A sub 2.40 marathon is certainly attainable for you provided your willing to put in the work.

This is a great topic for me to write about and one, I would like to think, I have a great deal of authority on because I was once a 2.40 marathoner and bypassed the 2.30’s and 2.20’s marathon time brackets in one race.

I did it by training at and exceeding goal race pace often every week, week after week, for a long period of time.

If you currently have, as your goal, to run a sub 2:40 marathon here are a few things I can share, from my own experience, that can get you there.

Work Your Plan And Plan Your Work

How To Run A Sub 2:40 Marathon? Hone In On 6.06 Per Mile Pace

What do I mean? You have to practice running at the pace you are aiming to hold for the entire distance, and often times, practice at paces that exceed goal marathon race pace.

If your running mile repeats with short recovery jogs at 5.25 pace, what is 6.06 pace going to feel like?

A pace you can hold for a relatively much longer period of time. It isn’t that you can’t run a sub 2.40 marathon, you just haven’t spent adequate time running at that particular pace. Running at 7.30 mile pace every day is not going to get you to this goal.

Obviously, you can expect to hold 6.06 pace for your long runs, but what you can do, is practice finishing the last 5-6 miles of your long run at that pace and build from there. This is the first step in getting you closer to running a sub 2:40 marathon

Race Pace Training

The goal is to extend the amount of time you are spending at goal race pace and capitalizing on your body’s ability to clear lactic acid faster then it is building up. This is the real secret to running a sub 2.40 marathon. The Kenyans are masters at this.

Clearing lactic acid, while at race pace, will guard you from slowing down and get you under that 6.06 per mile pace all the way to the finish line.

This is crucial and running paces much faster than conversation pace, you are teaching your body, over time, to running at high speeds with high levels of lactic acid building up, this will, in turn, give you the ability to maintain race effort without having the slow down effect we all feel when we run out of glycogen.

Running at faster speeds, or in this case, marathon goal pace for long periods of time in training, teaches your body to burn fat as its’ main fuel source, rather than carbohydrates.

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Use fat, conserve carbohydrate= PR

Focus On The Shorter Races

Run A Sub 2:40 Marathon By Aiming To Improve Your Half-Marathon Best

I would also add working to improve your 10K best in the mix as well.

The faster you get these two race disciplines, the stronger you are going to be for the full marathon and the better your chances of running a sub 2:40 marathon.

Greg McMillan’s viewpoint is to take your current half-marathon best, double it, and add 6 minutes and that is a good estimate of what you are capable of running the marathon in.

For example, let’s say you have a current best of 1.17, your ‘estimated’ marathon capability would be approximately a 2.40 marathon.

Double your half-marathon best, add 6 minutes and this will give you a rough ‘guesstimate’ of your ability. That being said, that is all it is, a guesstimate.

Is A Running Calculator Accurate?

A running calculator will never be able to factor in heart and mindset. My current best for the half-marathon is 1.07.06, when I broke 2.20 I hit the half-marathon point in 1.07.09. If I have a PR of 1.07.06, double that, it gives me 2.14.12+6 minutes. My marathon capability is around 2.20.12

I ran 2.19.35. In addition, a 1.07.06 half-marathon is equivalent to a 2.21.31, so how on earth did I get from 2.40.02 to 2.19.35?

I spent a lot of time running at or above goal race pace.

I had to improve my half-marathon best from 1.10.31 to 1.07.06 to have a better gauge of fitness, before I accepted a time of 2.22.00 was possible.

At the time, USA Track and Field had the mens marathon olympic trials ‘B’ standard at 2.22.00, which is 5.25 per mile pace. My training revolved running long runs at much faster than your usual conversation-type effort.

Long slow runs are great for fitness and, at times, recovery, but to run a marathon under 2.40, you have to shift your focus from LSD to race-specific training.

LSD To Race-Specific Efforts

My hardest workout over the past five years has been, hands down, the long run. I consider it the most important workout you can do in preparing to break the 2:40 marathon barrier.

Running your weekly long run at 7.15 pace (just for example) is great, will build fitness, endurance but are you really practicing running at the same pace you want to hold for the entire 26.2 mile distance? How is that preparing you to hold a 6.06 per mile pace for 26.2 miles?

You may have multiple weeks of long runs at that pace built up. Will you be strong from that? Absolutely. Will you have prepared your body to withstand 6.06 per mile pace consecutively for 26.2 miles. Absolutely not.

Race pace training is a training technique that works, but because it hurts and is hard (understandably), many runners don’t spend enough time practicing long enough to get to the race fully prepared to maintain the entire distance at that goal pace.

Why You Can Run A 2:40 Marathon

You can because others have done it. Do you have to have some talent to run this kind of time? Yes. That being said, you cannot rely on talent alone.

Have you done your homework?

You can’t cheat in workouts cause we both know the results will show.

There is trained and there is untrained.

I am only a 3.06 marathoner. How am I going from this all the way to a time under 2:40?  Be patient, persistent and consistent and it will happen.

It can, but you have to leave no stone un-turned in your quest to get it. Wanting and doing are two different areas of interest and there is a difference between 7.16 and 6.06 pace.

Interest vs Commitment

I am certain if you take these tips to heart you’re going to see some drastic improvements in your marathon.

I went from a 2:40 marathon PR to a 2.19 in one race effort. Remember, all things are possible if you want it badly enough.

I don’t say that to gloat. The good Lord knows I have had failed attempts. I have learned what works and what doesn’t. Fortunately, I had a great coach in Lisa Rainsberger. It was she who introduced me to this style of training for marathons.

Why do I want to run slow. I already know how to run slow. I want to learn how to run fast – Emil Zatopek, Triple Gold Medalist, 5000m-10,000m-marathon

The last thing I can leave you with is this, stay confident and let your body adapt to the stress you’re placing on it.

Furthermore, you can’t rush fitness. That being said, if you practice running at or below 6.06 pace this time will become a reality.

Long Slow Miles = Long Slow Runners

Logging long slow miles alone will not get you any closer to achieving a sub 2:40 marathon.

You have to get out of your comfort zone and start hardening your body in training to tackle that pace. It isn’t easy but it is possible.

You will join thousands of others who run that time every year in the world.

Remember, you are going to have to hustle but it is possible.

If you have this as your goal and have further questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment so we can discuss further.

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10 responses to “How To Run A Sub 2:40 Marathon

    1. T,

      My pleasure. Stay focused and don’t let up. The results will come, just stay fired up..there is no secret to this and those that are making strides just keeping training like a prized fighter.

  1. Very nice read Nate! I hope to go sub-2:50 this Fall and plan on spending much of the summer completely focused on race pace after I get a big base phase complete. Thanks for sharing this advice! -Kris

  2. Kris,

    My pleasure and best of luck in getting that sub 2.50, you obviously have the determination to get it, really all you need. The willingness to endure the training is this biggest hurdle.

    Keep in touch and let me know how your preparation is going.

  3. Very nice read Nate! I hope to go sub-2:50 this Fall and plan on spending much of the summer completely focused on race pace after I get a big base phase complete. Thanks for sharing this advice! -Kris

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