Marathon Sub 4 Hours | Tips for 3.59.59

September 29, 2022

Are you seeking to run a marathon sub 4 hours? If so, welcome to Nutrition Geeks. I hope that the information contained within this post will help you run your 3.59.59 goal time. I have run 2:19:35 for the marathon. So, do understand and respect how competitive a sub 4 hour marathon is. Athletes seeking to run under 4 hours for the marathon need to sustain 9:09 per mile for 26.2 miles. Are you outside of the united States of America?

If so, you will need to sustain 5:41 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers in order to run 3.59.59. So, proper pacing and following a legitimate 4 hour marathon training plan is essential. A marathon sub 4 hours time is highly competitive. So, you have to focus on quality versus quantity. You could be running high mileage consistently and still never break the sub 4 hour marathon barrier.

My top recommendation is to first focus on running easy and relaxed for 4 weeks. Remember, a longer training build up, the better off you will be. In addition, the higher your chances of success. The reason for this is you will not be rushing your preparation. It takes the body between 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load you place on it. So, be patient with your mileage build up and intensity of your workouts. The body always adapts. That being said, we have to allot sufficient time between hard workouts to ensure that it does.

Best Way to Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon

The best way to run a sub 4 hour marathon is to focus on a negative split. I wouldn't aim to go out any faster than 2:03 through the first half. My goal would be to aim on running faster in the second half of the marathon. The athlete that can come back the second half and run 1:56 is the new owner of a 3:59 marathon. I would much rather have you go out conservative and come back faster than go out hard and miss your time.

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

The optimal time frame to train for a sub 4 marathon is between 16 to 24 weeks. Again, the longer your build up the higher your chances of success. I would most certainly consider investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 regularly which helps me to not run too fast on easy days. In addition, helps me to sustain the proper heart rate intensities during my long runs and tempo runs.

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How Long Does it Take to Train for a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

4 to 6 months is the best time frame to train for the marathon distances. I would recommend a minimum of 16 weeks and preferably 20 to 24 weeks to get this event right. I have created marathon training plans that are built specifically for athletes seeking to run specific times for their races. In addition, also created the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Domination running course. I cover all of the exact strategies and fundamentals 3 of the world's top distance running coaches taught me.

Also, cover the same tactics and workouts I used to lower my marathon best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. One of the biggest was that I stopped running long and slow every weekend for my long runs. Yes, long runs are important and at times should be conducted at easy paces. That being said, you need to implement faster, varied paced long runs into your training strategy as well. Below are some examples of the types of long runs. was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon.

  • 2 mile jog, 7 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:05, 6 miles@5:55 mile pace, 3 mile cool-down (21 miles)
  • 2 mile jog, 5 miles@5:25 mile pace, 6 miles@6:05 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 6 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 mile jog (24 miles)

The following weeks' long run would be spent running easy at or around 9 minute mile pace.

How Many Miles a Week Should I Run for a Sub 4 Hour Marathon?

I think runners seeking to run a marathon sub 4 hours should aim for around 35 to 45 miles a week. In fact, the Strava, recently did a study where they found sub 4 marathoners were running around 32 miles a week. Mileage is not always the answer to breaking 4 hours. You can be running high mileage and still never do it. The reason is you are running too aerobically. The world's top marathoners are running between 35 to 40 percent of their weekly mileage at or below anaerobic threshold effort.

So, it is essential to start spending more time running at or around 85 to 89 percent of your maximum heart rate. The key tactic here is to improve your body's lactate tolerance. We want to aim to get that marathon sub 4 hours pace to feel easier and more sustainable. The only way to do that is to lengthen the duration of your tempo runs. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past? 5 miles? 6? I would recommend working to 10 to 12 miles. Of course, this will take time.

Again, you need to first adapt to a 3 to 4 mile tempo effort before you can expect to run 10 to 12 miles (16 to 20 kilometers). Yes, it will take time and patience but you will get to this point. The result is you will be able to sustain marathon sub 4 hours pace from start to finish.

Work On Your Overall Leg Speed

The marathon is a highly aerobic event. That being said, you still need speed and stamina in the marathon as well. I was always working on my speed work and leg turnover when I was running at my peak. I always recommend to my athletes to be doing 1, vo2 max workout per week. We run anywhere from 95 to 105 percent of our maximum heart rate running at this effort.

The goal here is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. We do this by doing hill repetitions, track and road intervals and fartlek running. It is when we are running so fast we can clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

So, we have to stop and take small breaks to allow lactic acid to be lowered in the body. I wouldn't recommend starting your next interval until your heart rate is back down to 120 beats per minute. Again, proper planning is essential to achieve a sub 4 hour marathon time.

Make Sure You Are Drinking

A major mistake many runners make in this event is not drinking enough. Remember, this is a marathon, not a 5k or a 10k. I made this mistake earlier in my career too. So, I know how much it can ruin an otherwise legitimate training build up.

Your body will need that hydration and extra calories when you are racing. I would recommend to start dropping water bottles out every 3 miles or 5 kilometers along your long run route.

The best runners in the world drink in their marathons, they are not sipping. In addition, they look relaxed and in control when they are racing. So, it is also important to practice staying as relaxed as you can even while running at faster paces.

Nutrition is an absolutely essential part in becoming a sub 4 hour marathoner. Continue to monitor the muscular tension in your body while running. Also, consciously tell yourself to stay calm and relaxed. Remember, the less tension present the higher your chances of success.

Closing Thoughts

I also believe mental training is a vital part in breaking the 4 hour marathon barrier. It has to happen in the mind before it will ever be achieved in real life. So, start implementing mental rehearsal into your training routine. I would recommend doing this for 10 to 15 minutes daily. You can train mentally when you first get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night.

See yourself passing people, running confident and getting across the finish line with 3.59.59 or faster on the clock. I would like to keep in touch with you and hear about your progress. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. My aim is to take a minimum of 2 new videos there each week. In addition, to share helpful running tips to assist you in earning a new personal best.

I look forward to hearing how the resources that I have mentioned in this post have helped you. I am confident that if you follow the fundamentals I teach in the sub 4 hour marathon course you are going to get a new PR. Make sure to also check out our training plans as well. It is a much more enjoyable experience training for a marathon when you don't have to guess what workouts to do.

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