Marathon 3 Hour Pace | Tips to Run 2.59.59

September 27, 2022

Are you seeking how to master marathon 3 hour pace? If so, welcome to Nutrition Geeks. I have run 2:19.35 for the marathon. So, do understand the strategy and tactics that are needed to help you run a sub 3 hour marathon time. No, it will not be easy nor should you expect it to be. There are runners all over the world seeking to run a marathon under 3 hours. My goal as your coach and mentor is to help you achieve your goal. Athletes seeking to break the 3 hr marathon barrier need to sustain 6:52 per mile for 26.2 miles.

Also, run at or below 4:16 per kilometer in order to run a 2.59.59 time. So, you have to work smarter rather than harder to achieve this time barrier. I always recommend to my athletes to focus on a longer build up rather than a shorter training block. The marathon takes time to get right. In addition, is not as simple of an event to master like the 5k or 10k. The only way to get your marathon 3 hour pace to feel easier is to train at higher intensities.

The worlds' top distance runners are running between 35 to 40 percent of their weekly volume at or below goal race pace. Of course, they make it look easy for a reason. They are simply running more quality mileage versus the other runners around the world. In addition, they also pay attention to other fundamentals of running. For example, getting proper sleep and hydrating well before, during and after workouts.

What is the Average Pace for a 3 Hour Marathon?

Marathon 3 hour pace comes out to an average of 6:52 per mile or 4:16 per kilometer. Pace sustainment is one of the biggest challenges for most runners. My top recommendation is to be patient and take your time. Again, a longer build up of a minimum of 16 weeks and preferably 20 to 24 weeks is optimal timing. I would recommend focusing first on running 4 weeks easy and relaxed. Remember, the goal here is to just build easy, aerobic fitness. In addition, doing strides twice per week working on your acceleration and explosiveness.

Army ACFT
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter sprints and are perfect for warm-up drills prior to the start of your workouts. You will have spent several miles or kilometers at sprint paces over a 16 to 24 week marathon build up. Also, these are too short to build up any large amounts of lactic acid. So, you can do these on top of the other workouts you are doing each week.

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

Athletes that are seeking to sustain marathon 3 hour pace need to focus on running at or around 70 miles a week. Consistency is everything. One of the top tactics to succeed is to follow a legitimate training plan. I have created training plans ranging from 8 to 24 weeks in length. In addition, also created a course called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro which has helped many runners break the sub 3 hour marathon barrier. You can click on the button above to learn more about that course.

The overall strategy here is to improve the athlete's lactate tolerance. Easy running is still important too. You have to run easy enough on your recovery days in order to adapt to the hard training that you are doing. That being said, too many miles or kilometers run too slow will only make you a superior long, slow runner. Your goal is to run an elite marathon time which is 2.59.59 or faster. So, following a new strategy where you are doing workouts that will yield the highest results is essential.

How Do You Break a 3 Hour Marathon?

The world's top runners are running at a higher percentage of their heart rate each week. So, in order to run a marathon under 6:52 mile or 4:16 kilometer pace you have to run at faster paces. You should be doing 1, vo2 max workout per week. In addition, 1 tempo run and 1 long run each week. I am a big believer in doing faster, varied paced long runs. So, if you really want to drop significant time off of your current marathon PR you need to start running faster during long runs.

I used this tactic to lower my personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. Below are some examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to breaking the sub 2:20 marathon barrier. You can change up the paces to fit your own sub 3 hour marathon goal. Again, the training plans and running courses I have created take the guesswork out of your preparation. You will be doing the exact workouts needed in order to run a sub 3 marathon

  • 2 mile jog, 5 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 6 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 1 mile jog (20 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:25 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 5 miles@5:45 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55 (23 miles)

Remember, always follow a faster long run like these the next weekend with a very easy and relaxed long run

JOG On Recovery Days

You may need between 2 to 3 days to recover from your harder workouts. So, make sure you are jogging on easy days to ensure you are adapting to the faster training you are doing. I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and it helps me to stay at the correct heart rate zones in order to not over train. A common mistake runners make is running too easy, too often. In addition, too fast on easy days.

So, investing in a heart rate monitor will help to ensure that you are training at the proper intensities. Below are the correct heart rate zones you need to be focusing on in training for an athlete with a max heart rate of 170BPM. Of course, you can change the numbers based on your own heart rate.

  • 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
  • Fast Repetitions: 105% of max HR or around 178 BPM
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Run Longer Tempo Runs

If you are seeking to sustain marathon 3 hour pace longer you need to extend the duration of your tempo runs. We run between 85 to 89 percent of our max heart rate running at the anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold if the point where lactic acid begins to rise. Again, the end goal is to improve your lactate tolerance. So, the only way to get marathon 3 hour pace to feel easier is to train closer to your 5k to 10k race pace in training.

Remember, you will need to first adapt to 3 to 4 mile tempo run before you can move toward 16 kilometers or 10 miles. The longer you can spend training at this intensity the better prepared you are going to be to break the 3 hour barrier. A major mistake runners make is not running long enough at this intensity. In addition, running too many miles or kilometers too slow. The sub 3 hour marathon barrier is not an easy task to achieve. So, in order to break the barrier you have to think more about quality training rather than just volume.

Focus on Speed Development

Athletes seeking to run a sub 3 hour marathon must work on their overall speed development. You should be doing 1, vo2 max workout per week. Examples of vo2 max workouts are track intervals, hill repetitions and fartlek training. It is running at paces so fast you simply can't clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. We run between 95 to 105% of our maximum heart rate running at vo2 max.

Your vo2 max is your body's maximum oxygen uptake. One of the best ways to master marathon 3 hour pace is to train at significantly faster intensities. Sure, you will only be able to spend a few seconds to a few minutes at this intensity. That being said, it will help to make that sub 3 marathon pace to feel easier.

Closing Thoughts

Would you like to keep in touch? If so, make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I focus on making new videos there each week to help runners such as yourself achieve new personal bests. I would also recommend you start adding in mental rehearsal into your routine. Mental training is commonly overlooked. The vast majority of runners only focus on physical training. The world's top runners combine both mental as well as physical training into their routine.

So, start visualizing yourself passing people, running relaxed and getting across the finish line with 2.59.59 on the clock. The best time to conduct mental training is when you first get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. You don't need to spend more than 10 minutes per day doing this. That being said, over several weeks and months you will be training your subconscious mind to bring you the goal you are aiming for. I hope that this post has been helpful.

Make sure to click on any of the green buttons to learn more about our training plans, monthly coaching and running courses. I am certain that if you follow these fundamentals you are going to eventually run this 2.59.59 you are working toward. Please keep me posted on your progress.

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