Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Plan | Pro Tips to PR

Are you looking for a sub 3 hour marathon training plan? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am happy you have made it here. I ran 2:19:35 for the marathon. So, I do fully understand the complexities of trying to run a time this fast. I comment you for going after this 2:59:59 time.

Pace sustainment is one of the biggest challenges for most runners. We can run our goal race pace for segment of our race but run out of gas later in the race. What is going on? Well, a lot of times it is improper pacing. We go out too aggressive and go into oxygen debt. So, you have to be very smart in order to to run a sub 3 hr marathon.

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

The optimal time frame to train for a marathon is a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks. Remember, the longer your build up the better your chances of success. You will not be rushing your fitness. It takes between 21 days to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to the physiological stresses you are placing on it.

sub 3 hour marathon training plan

I would focus on a 4-week base-building phase first. So, run easy and relaxed for a month. You will strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments. In addition, will lower your risk on injury.

Also, you will better prepare yourself to handle the faster workouts you will be doing. I would also implement strides into your routine. Strides are short, 50 to 100-meter long acceleration drills.

How Many Miles a Week Should I Run for a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

To run a sub 3 hour marathon you need to be able to sustain 6:50 per mile or 4:15 per kilometer. So, the key is quality training rather than volume.

You could be running 100 miles a week and still never run 2:59:59. I write that because what happens if 90 to 95% of your mileage is run too slow? The result will be you will be a superior long, slow distance runner.

You are not going after a slow time here. So, we have to train you like a professional athlete. The world’s top runners run between 35 to 40% of their weekly mileage at or below their lactate threshold.

How Hard is a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

The trick to get under 3 hours for the marathon is race pace training. We run between 85 to 89% of our max heart rate at or below anaerobic threshold. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past preparing to break the 3 hour marathon? A sub 3 hour marathon training plan needs to focus on quality versus high volume. Higher mileage is not a guarantee you will set a new personal best.

What helped me go from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 for the marathon? Longer, faster long runs. I spent many years running long and slow every single weekend. Running a sub 3 hour marathon is very hard. It is an elite time, in my opinion. Of course, every athlete has their own idea of what “elite” is. There are only about 2% of runners competing in marathons who break 3 hours each year.

The good news is it can be achieved. Remember, others runners have done it and so can you. You just need to train in a new way. Below is an example of the types of faster, varied paced long run I did prior to running 2:19:35.

  • 2 mile jog, 4 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 7 miles@5:55 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:05, 2 mile jog cool-down (21 miles)

I would always jog the following week’s long run at or around 8 to 9 minute mile pace. Remember, adaptation is what counts most. In addition, there is only so many times you can push the body before diminished returns occur.

The Sub 3 Hour Marathon Plan Course

I built a sub 3 hour marathon course for runners that has already helped many runners break 3 hours. You may want to check out our testimonial page to see what others are saying about the RunDreamAchieve training philosophy.

You may be a 3:59 marathoner or 3:01 marathon. That being said, with patience and a new approach to training can help you get to 2:59:59. I go about as in-depth as humanely possible of how to break 3 hours in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. The course concludes with a 16-week sub 3 hour marathon training plan.

How Do I Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training?

What has been the longest tempo run you have in the past leading into your goal marathons? One reason you may not have broken 3 yet is your not spending long enough training at your lactate threshold. Remember, we are running between 85 to 89% of your max heart rate at this intensity. I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor.

I regularly use the Garmin 245 for my training. It helps me to stay at the correct heart rate zones. More importantly, to not over train. Remember, you are aiming for a professional time here. It is not an average time by any means. So, you have to train and think in a new way to run 2:59:59. My recommendation is to focus on getting that tempo effort lengthened out to 10 to 12 miles in length. So, 16 to 19 kilometers in length. Of course, you need to first adapt to a 3 to 4-mile tempo run first.

Focus on Your Speed Development

The marathon is a highly aerobic event. That being said, speed still matters. Again, we have to train to improve the body’s lactate tolerance. The only way to do this is to train at paces significantly faster than sub 3 hour marathon pace. The sub 3 hour marathon training plan options available here will take you out of your comfort zone.

We need to be doing at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. We run between 95 to 100% of our maximum heart rate at this intensity. Remember, the faster, more explosive the effort the more fast twitch muscle fibers we will recruit. Also, the more of these we can recruit the more efficient we will run at goal race pace.

In addition, the less you will slow down. So, train closer to your 3k to 10k race pace at least once per week. Your vo2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen uptake. It is running at speeds that are so fast you simply can’t clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Of course, we can only train a few seconds to a few minutes at these types of paces. That being said, by doing so you will get your sub 3 hour marathon race pace to feel easier.


I believe in a 10-day rather than 3-week taper. One major mistake I see many runners making is dropping their volume and intensity too far out from their main event. So, stop doing that. 10 days is plenty of time for your body to fully recover and rest leading into your goal marathon. I would also highly recommend you start focusing on mental rehearal.

Mental training is commonly overlooked. The vast majority of runners only focus on physical training. What do the best runners do? Well, they combine them both to run superior times. No, it is not just because they are from Kenya or Ethiopia.

So, start spending 10 minutes daily visualizing yourself crossing the finish line with 2:59:59 on the clock. Also, passing people and running strong. The best time to do this is first getting up in the morning or when you go to bed at night.

Marathon History

You are also welcome to visit the about page to learn more of my race history. Remember, I didn’t start earning how to properly train for the marathon until 2007. Sure, I did track workouts, hill repetitions and fartlek workouts from 2002 to 2007. That being said, I was not doing long tempo runs further than 7 miles. In addition, my long runs were always long and slow every single weekend.

Additional marathon mistakes I made was not hydrating well in my first few marathons. Remember, this is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers, not a 5K. You may be able to get away with that in a 10k or even a 10k but not a marathon. So, practice hydrating well during your long runs and drink, do not sip, in your upcoming marathon.

Again, I didn’t start to learn how to race this distance until late 2007, December to be exact. So, look at my previous times. I was never going for slow efforts. In fact, one major mistake I was making was trying to run too fast before I was fully prepared to do so. So, what changed? More focus on better hydration in practice and in the race. Also, implementing the faster, varied paced long run strategy I mentioned above.

Marathon Overview

3 November 2002 – New York City Marathon (debut marathon) – 2:43:36 (25 years old)

19 October 2003 – Columbus Marathon – 2:55:19

31 October 2004 – Marine Corps Marathon – 2:51:45

16 June 2007 – Grandmas Marathon – 2:40:02 (1:10:32 through the half)

7 October 2007 – La Salle Bank Chicago Marathon – 2:51:56 (1:11:33 through the half, worst heat in the history of the event)

2 December 2007 – California International Marathon –2:19:35 (personal best)- 4th place, top American (31 years old)

6 December 2009 – California International Marathon – 2:36:28

21 March 2010 – Los Angeles Marathon – 2:55:36  (1:08:56 through the half)

5 November 2011 – Monumental Indianapolis Marathon – 2:26:42 – 5th place

8 December 2013 – California International Marathon – 2:32:57 (37 years old)

Closing Thoughts 

I hope that this post has been helpful to you. Be sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new training and racing tutorial videos each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level. How often do you pay attention to mental

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