Sub 4 Hour Marathon Pace KM | PR and Run 3:59

Sub 4 hour marathon pace km is 5:41 per kilometer for 42.2k. Are you seeking to run 3:59? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have made it here. Athletes seeking to run a sub 4 hour marathon are highly disciplined and focused individuals. You need to sustain 9:09 per mile for 26.2 miles or 5:41 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers. My goal in creating RunDreamAchieve in 2011 was to help runners such as yourself get to the next level in their training and racing.

More importantly, to use leverage. We already know that the hardest working athletes don’t always get the best results. There are plenty of athletes who know how to work hard and still miss their racing and fitness goals. So, you have to focus on quality over quantity. You can be running too aerobically throughout the week and still not race well. Easy running does not improve lactate tolerance. Fast running does.

The very best runner spend about 40 percent of their weekly mileage training at 85 to 89 percent of their maximum heart rate. We run at or around this intensity running at our anaerobic threshold. Of course, the best runners make it look easy. They simply have spent a higher percentage of their mileage at faster paces. In addition, they have been consistent in their training as well.

Is a Sub 4 Hour Marathon Realistic?

Seeking to sustain sub 4 hour marathon pace km effort? Yes, it is realistic. There are many other runners who have done this. So, what can’t you? I would first focus your time and energy building easy aerobic mileage. You should focus on at least 4 weeks of base-building mileage. I would also start doing strides twice per week during this phase of your build up. Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter acceleration drills. The good news is they won’t build up any lactic acid by doing these.

Air Force PT test 2022
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

In addition, they are great warm-up drills and will help you work on your form. Also, you will have spent several miles or kilometers at sprint efforts over a 16 to 24 week build up. Remember, the longer your build up, the better. I see far too many runners trying to rush their fitness. It takes between 21 days to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it.

So, the real benefits of the hard training you are doing today will be seen several weeks and months from now. My top recommendation is to focus on a minimum of 16 and preferably 24 weeks for your sub 4 marathon build up. Athletes that really want to do this right should focus on a longer build up. I have created training plans here that range in duration from 8 to 24 weeks in length.

How Do You Pace a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

You should definitely focus on running a negative split to achieve a sub 4 hour marathon. Proper pacing is essential in order to achieve a time this competitive. I also remind my athletes to make it your top priority to practice staying relaxed. You don’t need to waste any unnecessary mental or physical energy while racing a marathon. No, this ability won’t happen in a matter of days but several months.

Remember, you can be running high mileage and never break a sub 4 marathon. So, you have to think outside the box with your preparation. I have built resources here to help runners such as yourself to work smarter, not harder. Leverage is what you want to utilize. Leverage simply means doing more with less. I already know you know how to work hard otherwise you wouldn’t be here. The fact that you are tells me you are already a highly accomplished athlete.

So, focus on running that first half of your marathon no faster than 2:03 or 2:04. The second half of the race is where you really want to focus in on and run in the low 1:50s. I think if you do this, hydrate well during the race and take in at least 2 to 3 gels you will set yourself up for success. The marathon is a complicated event where you really have to focus on the fundamentals to get right. It isn’t like the 5K which is over in a matter of minutes.

How Hard is a Sub 4 Marathon?

A very small percentage of runners world-wide that run marathons run under 4 hours for the distance. My goal is to get more of my website visitors to achieve the elusive 3:59.59 time. It will take running a higher percentage of your weekly mileage at paces well under 8:00 mile pace to make this a reality. Again, we want to get that sub 4 hour marathon pace km effort to feel easier on the athlete. You won’t achieve this ability by running aerobically.

That being said, you do still need to run easy on your recovery days. There is only so many times you can push the body before you get diminished returns. So, you should be jogging on your easy days. There are many athletes who need between 2 to 3 days of easy running between hard, anaerobic efforts. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past for your marathons? 5 miles? 6? I would focus on working toward getting that tempo run lengthened out to around 10 to 12 miles in length. No, this won’t happen overnight.

Again, you need to allot sufficient time for the body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. First, focus on adapting to a 3 to 4 mile tempo run before moving forward. A sub 4 hour marathon is hard but certainly doable. We want to run at paces that are at or well below goal sub 4 marathon pace and often. The end goal is to get that sub 4 hour marathon pace km effort to feel less demanding on the body.

Focus on Improving Your Leg Speed

I recommend doing at least 1, vo2 max workout weekly. The running courses and training plans here have this methodology already built into them. The goal of doing faster running is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Remember, the more of these we can recruit the more efficient we are going to cover the marathon distance. You also need to start doing your long run faster. Don’t run long and slow every single weekend. I made this change in my own training and lowered my PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35.

So, alternate running easy one weekend followed the next with a faster, varied paced effort. Speed workouts, hill repetitions, fartlek runs and faster long runs will make the difference. Again, make sure you are jogging on recovery days. I highly recommend using a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245. It helps me to stay at the correct heart rate zones while I am training. Below are the heart rate zones you should be focusing on during your marathon build up. These are based off an athlete with a max heart rate of 170…

  • Easy: 65-74% of max HR or around 110-125BPM
  • Marathon (moderate effort): 75-84% of max HR or around 127-142BPM
  • Threshold: 85-89% of max HR or around 144-149BPM
  • Interval: 95-100% of max HR or around 161-170BPM
  • Repetition: 105% of max HR or around 178BPM

Closing Thoughts

Would you like to keep in touch? If so, make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. My goal there is to create at least 2 new videos there each week to help runners like you to make the big leap in your racing. I know you can achieve the sub 4 hour marathon pace km effort in this event. Again, the goal is sub 9:09 mile or running under 5:41 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers.

So, watch how many miles or kilometers you are running weekly at or below these paces. If the percentage is too low you know you need to start making some adjustments. I have created some resources here including a sub 4 hour marathon course to help you achieve this time goal.

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