Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Sub 3 HR Marathon Pace | 2:19 Marathoner Tips

Are you seeking how to sustain sub 3 hr marathon pace more effectively? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I have run 2:19:35 for the marathon. My goal in writing that is not to impress you but to impress upon you what you are capable of. I didn't have a lot of talent but I had an enormous amount of work ethic.

In fact, I rarely came across athletes with the amount of drive and focus I had or have. So, if you are lacking in the talent department then don't let that get the best of you.

You were created for greatness and a sub 3 hr marathon is an elite time. One that very few runners around the world achieve each year. In fact, only about 4 percent of marathoners who compete in marathons each year achieve it.

I am a big believer in working smart, not hard. There are far too many people who have been taught to work hard. It doesn't always guarantee results. How many hard working, highly educated people do you know who are broke? So, we have all been taught poor ways of getting results.

There are better ways to get ahead in this life. The problem is most of us have been taught poor mindsets and poor methods to reaching our end goals. The people who are using leverage are getting better results working less.

Is 3 Hours a Good Time for a Marathon?

I consider a time of 2:59:59 to be an elite time. Yes, you will still have to work hard to maintain sub 3 hr marathon pace. There is nothing easy about a 2:59:59 marathon time. That being said, it is most certainly doable if you are following a legitimate plan.

I created a course called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro where I teach athletes exactly what to do in order to maintain 3 hour marathon pace. The problem is most athletes can do it for a few miles but fail in the latter stages. Our aim is to change that.

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How Hard is It to Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

It is most certainly not easy to break a 3 hour marathon. That being said, if you change up your tactics your chances are going to significantly increase. I see a big problem many runners make. They are running too many miles or kilometers too slow.

In addition, their long runs are far too aerobic. I would recommend start doing faster paced long runs which I teach in the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course. I used this tactic to drop my marathon PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. It is not an easy task to go from running a marathon at 6:14 pace to 5:19 per mile pace.

Of course, it is difficult to sustain sub 3 hr marathon pace because it is fast. In addition, you have to manage discomfort and higher levels of lactic acid build up. So, I always teach my athletes to focus on training at paces much faster than goal marathon race pace.

For example, 6×1 mile repetitions on the track at around 5:20 per rep. No, you are not going to hold this pace for a marathon (2:20:00). That being said, you can hold it for a few minutes, rest, and repeat.

Sub 3 Hour Marathon Indicators

There are many factors that go into running a marathon under 3 hours. Can you do 10 miles in training at goal race pace? If so, this is a legitimate indicator that you are getting into the proper fitness to break 3 hours. Can you run 20 miles at 7 minute mile pace?

If so, you are definitely on track to run a 2:59:59 or faster over the marathon distance. Remember, there are many variables that go into running a marathon this fast. How much are you paying attention to your rest and recovery?

I write that because far too many runners are still running too fast on their easy days. In addition, they are running too slow on their fast days. So, you need to switch up your training tactics. I am a huge advocate for faster paced long runs.

Yes, you still need to take about 4 to 6 weeks and run relaxed, easy jogging. Focus first on laying the foundation of your build up. You will then want to start working on training specific paces at, near and far below sub 3 hr marathon pace.

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Can Anyone Train to Run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

I never place limits on runners as I never placed any on myself. That being said, you will need to be in superior shape to run under a 3 hour marathon.

Sub 3 hr marathon pace comes out to 6:52 per mile or 4:16 per kilometer. So, we have to work to improve our lactate tolerance. Yes, easy running still matters as we have to adapt and allow time to recover.

That being said, the world's top runners are running around 40% of their weekly mileage at or below their lactate threshold.

We run between 85 to 89 percent of our max heart rate at this effort. Again, we need to get sub 3 hr marathon pace to feel less demanding. So, doing longer tempo runs of around 10 to 12 miles (16 to 19 kilometers) will do wonders for you.

Of course, you need to first adapt to a 3 to 4-mile tempo run before moving to longer ones. The good news is that the body always adapts. I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. The Garmin 245 is a great option and is what I use. It helps me to stay at the correct heart rate zones and prevents me from over training.

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

I would focus on at least 30 miles a week and preferably between 50 to 60 miles a week. Start slow and allow time for your body to adapt to the training you are doing. I would run at least 4 weeks running easy, aerobic mileage first.

The optimal time frame to train for a marathon is 12 to 24 weeks. I highly recommend at least 16 weeks and preferably 20 to 24 weeks if you want to break 3 hours.

Remember, it takes about 3 to 4 weeks for our bodies to adapt to the physiological demands we are placing on them. So, you cannot be in a rush to break 3 hours. You should also aim to get your half-marathon best down to around 1 hour and 22 minutes. The faster you can run the shorter races the better prepared you will be in the marathon.

Focus always on quality training rather than volume. Higher mileage is no guarantee that you will break 3 hours. I created a resource here called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course.

I highly recommend taking a look at that by clicking the green button below. It is the most in-depth overview of breaking 3 hours online, in my opinion. I cover every strategy and tactic I used personally to run 2:19:35.

Sub 3 Hour Marathon Indicators

You will know you are ready when you are doing mile repeats at or around 5:40 to 5:55 per rep. In addition, when your half-marathon best is around 1:22 to 1:24. Of course, some runners are much better in the longer races than the shorter ones. That being said, you will know you are ready when 6:52 mile pace seems easy.

I would work to get your long run around 18 to 23 miles in length. I would not recommend running long and slow every single weekend. How did I go from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35? Faster, varied paced long runs. Below is an example of the type of long runs I was doing prior to breaking 2:20:00 for the marathon.

  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 6 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 8 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:05, 1 mile jog cool-down (23 miles)

I would always run the following week's long run at or around 8 to 9-minute per mile pace. In addition, would allow myself anywhere from 2 and even up to 3 days of easy, recovery between this workout. The long run was, without question, the hardest workout I ever did. It was not speed workouts, hill repetitions or fartlek run workouts. This style of long run will take time and patience to build up to.

What Percentage of Runners run a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

There are only about between 2 to 4 percent of marathoners who break 3 hours for the marathon each year. So, you are joining a very select few runners who can run this fast over the marathon distance. Again, it isn't about running more mileage.

There are runners running upwards of 100 miles a week who still don't do it. In comparison, there are other runners running far less who do. So, you want to focus on using leverage. Leverage simply means doing more with less. There are many runners who know how to work hard. Well, working harder isn't always a guarantee.

What percentage of your weekly mileage have you been practicing training at, near or far below sub 3 hr marathon pace? 5%? 20% I would recommend running around 40 percent of your weekly volume at these efforts. One of the biggest strategies that helped me was doing faster long runs. That being said, I would always run the following weekend's long run easy.

Again, always focus on working smarter. The benefits of your hard work will come within the rest period. So, hydrating well before, during and after your workouts is key. Also, ensuring you are getting enough sleep each night as well. Remember, the benefits from the workouts you are doing today will be seen several weeks from now.

Closing Thoughts

The sub 3 hour marathon is a very competitive, elite time. My aim with this post is to give you some indicators of what you need to be looking for and focusing. I haven't even scratched the surface. Do you want to take your preparation to the next level? If so, click on the green button below and check out the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SUB 3 HOUR MARATHON PRO COURSE