Sub 4 Marathon | Tips To Run 3:59:59 in Less Time

Are you seeking how to sustain sub 4 marathon pace for the marathon? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have made it here. Pace sustainment is one of the biggest challenges for most runners. My goal with this post is to share some strategies to help you succeed.

How does one conquer the sub 4 marathon barrier? Remember, the athlete needs to sustain 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer. So, the key is to practice running at or below this pace and often. The world’s best runners are running anywhere from 35 to 40% of their weekly mileage at or below their anaerobic threshold. 

We run between 85 to 89% of our maximum heart rate at this intensity. Of course, runners training like this are going to make it look easy. So, it is not just because they are Kenyan or Ethiopian. In addition, due to the fact that they are talented. Yes, good runners are from these countries, Also, have some form of genetic talent.

That being said, the real reason is they are training fast more often. In addition, also use the genetic talent that they naturally have. Of course, not everyone is looking to run a marathon under 2:30 or breaking the 3 hour marathon.

sub 4 hour marathon pace

My goal with this post is to share some tips on how to run under 4 hours for the marathon distance.

The main thing you have to keep in mind when training for a marathon is to enjoy the process the best you can.

Training isn’t easy and often times it can be boring and time consuming but you still have to keep your eyes on the prize.

Is a Sub 4hr Marathon Good?

Yes, a sub 4 marathon is a very competitive time. Again, the athlete needs to sustain at least 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer in order to run 3:59:59. 

So, persistence and consistent training is vital for your success. I always tell runners to focus on a longer build up. I recommend training for a minimum of 16 and preferably between 20 to 24 weeks to perform well

Also, you need to have a strong desire to stay focused on what you want out of the sport.

Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success magazine said it best

The moment you resolve to take hold of life with all your might and make the most of yourself at any cost, to sacrifice all lesser ambitions to your one great aim, to cut loose from everything that interferes with thus aim, to stand alone, firm in your purpose whatever happens, you set in motion the divine inner forces the Creator has implanted in you for your own development. Live up to resolve, work at what the Creator meant you to work for the perfecting of His plan, and you will be invisible. No power on earth can hold you back from success

You already have the capability to run a marathon under 4 hours.

Is a Sub 4 Hour Marathon Hard?

Of course. That being said, with a proper marathon training plan it can become much easier. Remember, running too often too easily will only make you a superior, long slow runner. A sub 4 marathon is not a slow time. In fact, there are runners across the world seeking to break this time barrier. I created the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Domination course to help more do exactly that.

Furthermore, I cover every strategy I was taught that helped me to run a 2:19:35 marathon in that course. Also, how to bypass the mistakes your competitors are making. You can click on any of the green buttons on this post to learn more about it. 

The trick is staying motivated throughout the hardships that training does bring about.

Marden’s quote is not only important but brings up a vital point.

A marathon in 3.59.59 is averaging 9.09 per mile pace.

So, how are we going to do that?

Do you think running 20 miles a week will help you get that time? You’ll certainly gain fitness and burn calories but that is about it.

The sub 4 hour marathon demands more specific training. Your focus needs to be on running more quality miles at or below 4 hour marathon pace.

Running under 4 hours for the marathon takes consistent, well-planned training.

You have to prepare your body to hold 9.09 per mile pace for the entire 26.2 miles. I teach athletes how to do this in the newly launched Sub 4 Hour Marathon Mastery course.

This is an issue for all marathoners. How do I sustain pace for the entire distance without slowing? If you spend too high of a percentage of your weekly mileage running to slow what happens?

How Realistic is a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

It really comes down to how much time you have spent training below sub 4 marathon pace. Also, how consistent you have been over the past several months. Again, if you run too aerobically too often all it is going to make you is a superior long, slow runner. 

Proper pacing is also very important to break a sub 4 hour marathon. So, focus on running a negative split. Remember, do not try to win this race in the first half marathon. The result is you will go into oxygen debt. In addition, be forced to slow in the second half. Again, focus on conserving energy for the latter stages of the race.

Why do runners run out of fuel? What is the real reason for this? They have not trained their body to use fat as their main fuel source. So the trick to running fast for the marathon is to conserved carbohydrates.

How is this done?

Well, gradually extending the length of your long run at a brisk pace is a great start. Remember, quality over quantity.

Long slow running will create long, slow runners – Sebastian Coe, former world record holder for the mile and 800m

How Do You Pace Yourself for a Sub 4 Hour marathon?

The problem for most marathon runners is they are not training long enough at their anaerobic threshold. What has been the longest tempo run you usually do for your marathons? 4 miles? 5 miles? I would work to extend this out to 10 to 12 miles in length. Again, the longer you spend training at higher heart rates the fitter you are going to get.

I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 to help me sustain the proper paces. In addition, to ensure I am running easy enough on recovery days. So, training at the proper paces will ensure you are not over training. 

So, what good is there in doing 15 mile runs at 11 minute per mile pace when the goal is 9:09 mile pace for 26.2 miles?

Do you build endurance and strength from a run like this? Sure, but what is the goal? Your goal is to sustain the pace for the entire distance. So, a sub 4 marathon is going to require some significant training on your part.

That being said, it is going to take a change in mindset and specific training to do it. In addition, you have to ensure you are giving yourself at least 2 days of rest between each hard, anaerobic workout you do.

The same goes for marathon racing regardless what your time goal is.

Focus on spreading out the length of time you are spending practicing running at or below 9.09 per mile pace. Again, the goal is to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Easy running will not produce this physiological effect.

Focus On Pace

Practice it in long runs, track workouts, tempo runs. The trick is to gradually lengthen the distance spent at that pace. In addition, practice running at sprint speeds. Strides are one way of doing this. Strides are too short to build up any large amounts of lactic acid. So, you can do these short, 50 to 100-meter long acceleration drills on top of the other workouts that you are doing.

The idea is to spend some of your weekly training at 5K or 10K race pace.

What we want to do here is to make sub 4 marathon race pace to feel more manageable.

The marathon is a complex race. It is more than just putting in easy miles especially if you have a goal to run under 4 hours for the marathon.

There are no guarantees for a perfectly executed race. That being said, you can prepare in such a way as to increase your chances of success.

Runners experience setbacks all the time. The difference is how you react to them that matters. How fast do you get over disappointments? Remember, you are not going after an average time here. Few people run under 4 hour for the marathon.

I believe that this is the one characteristic you need to achieve your marathon goals.

Break Your Goals Into Segments

So, if your goal is to run 4:15 then keep training until you reach 4:10.

The marathon is great in that you can drop several minutes in one race.

Your very next race could be a 3:55.

Remember, breaking 4 hours for the marathon is certainly a time goal that can be achieved.

You have to stay motivated and stick to your plan.

You don’t have to run into the dreaded ‘wall’ provided you have trained the proper way.

What Else Is Needed For A Sub 4 Marathon?

Persistence – Stick to your goal.

A sub 4 marathon entails you holding 9.09 per mile for 26.2 miles.

That being said, there are other factors that play a part in breaking the sub 4 hour marathon.

Are you getting sufficient rest?

How are your family and career responsibilities going for you?

How are your workouts going in training?

Patience – Focus on running a negative split. Also, run the tangents. Remember, there is no need to run further than you need to.

Also, do not get caught up in trying to hit every mile right at 9.09 per mile.

Yes, there will be ebbs and flows throughout the race.

Also, some miles will be much faster while some will be slower.

Your goal is to ‘average’ 9.09 per mile so be patient.

Stay Relaxed– Remember you can control this in your race.

You waste a lot of energy with tight muscles. A good rule of thumb is to keep your face as relaxed as possible. It is the first to tighten up. That being said, consciously remind yourself to loosen your face muscles.

The rest of your body will follow.

glutathioneHow about your shoulders?

You can consciously tell yourself positive statements. For example, 

‘relax’ ‘I’m relaxed’ ‘drop the shoulders’ etc.

I have used ‘relaxed and smooth’ several times on hard long runs.

Do what you need to do to stay in control in the workout and in your race.

 Helpful Tips

#1 Increase the length of your long run

You want to gradually lengthen your long run out as far as you can. I wouldn’t advise going over 18 miles if you are running your first marathon.

Try going from 8 miles than gradually lengthening it a couple miles each week. The idea is for you to adapt to the work load. Remember, patience is key here.

Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to breaking the 4 hour marathon barrier. Expect it to be challenging. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line with 3:59:59 on the clock.

#2 Gradually lengthen the last few miles of your long run at your goal race pace

I have used this tactic to get my marathon times down.

I follow the philosophy of Italian distance coach, Renato Canova, who states

The goal of training is to reduce the consumption of fuel at race pace

Conserve Carbohydrates

What does he mean? He is basically saying the more time you can spend running at your goal race pace, the less sugar you will be burning up in your race.
The idea is to use fat as your main fuel source during the race and conserve carbohydrate.
The body only has 1800 calories of carbohydrates stored within the muscles.
Do you ever wonder why so many runners seem to hit ‘the wall’ at mile 18 in a marathon race? You are burning about 100 calories per mile as you are running
So, if we have trained our bodies to burn fat as our primary fuel source and conserve carbohydrate stores what happens? You will not experience the so-called “wall” so many runners run into.

Burn More Fat as Fuel

You want to burn more fat and less carbohydrate at race pace.

The longer you can spend running at goal race pace the more adaptation that will occur. In addition, the less dependent your body will be on carbohydrate.

A suggestion would be to run your first 10 miles of your long run relaxed.

Focus just on time on your feet then try to run your last 4-8 miles at 9.09 per mile pace. Do not get upset if you can’t hold the pace the first few tries.

Remember, the key is to gradually build into running for longer period of time at that pace.

My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment-Oprah Winfrey

9.09 pace will feel much more relaxed over time if you are patient.

Do The Right Workouts

Here are a few great workouts for a sub 4 marathon

  • 6x1mile at 7.30 per mile rep with 800m jog recovery between reps
  • 5x2miles at 16.00 per 2-mile rep on the track with a 1 mile jog recovery between each set
  • 2x5miles in 42.30 each with a 1 mile easy jog recovery between each set

This a great set of workouts I use in my marathon training.

Do you see the similarities between the three workouts above?

You are practicing below pace you want to hold.

Your body will adapt to the long runs and stress you are placing on it. Remember, stay persistent, patient and practice relaxing your muscles as you’re running.

Lastly, keep your face relaxed and your body will follow.

Clothing Thoughts

Also, gradually lengthen the distance of your long run. In addition, practice lengthening the time you spend running at 9.09 per mile pace.

The more time you practice it the easier it will be for you to maintain it in the race.

It will teach runners how to run a marathon under 4 hours.

So, if you are serious about running a sub 4 hour marathon the course will help you significantly.

I hope this post on the sub 4 marathon has been helpful to you. Lastly, make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new content there each week to help runners like you get to the next level in their training and racing.

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