Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pace | Pro Running Tips

October 1, 2022

Sub 3 hour marathon pace is extremely competitive. I know more runners can break the sub 3 marathon barrier by making the appropriate changes in their preparation. Higher mileage is not a guarantee that you will run 2.59.59. There are already plenty of runners running high mileage and still missing their goal time. Quality training is what matters most and you will need plenty of it to break 3 hours.

I hope you find the running tips in this post helpful. I have run 2:19:35 for the marathon. So, do understand some concepts and tactics that can help you drop significant time off your current personal best. A major mistake I see many runners make is running too easy, too often.

One of the best ways to combat this is to invest in a heart rate monitor. I regularly use the Garmin 245. It helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zone during tempo runs and faster long runs. What is sub 3 hour marathon pace? It comes out to 6:52 per mile for 26.2 miles or 4:16 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers. Of course, there are many runners who can sustain this pace for a number of miles or kilometers. It is something else to maintain it from start to finish.

Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Plan

I would focus on a minimum of a 16 week build up for breaking 3 hours. A longer build up is even better. In fact, optimal time frame to train for this type of time is 20 to 24 weeks. I have created training plans that range in duration from 8 to 24 weeks. You can click on any of the green buttons in this post to learn more about them. I also created the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro running course to help runners such as yourself succeed faster.

Coach Pennington finishing 4th overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35 (1:07:09/1:12:26)

We all know how to work hard. That being said, do the hardest working athletes always get the best results? No. The smartest trained athletes do. The world's top runners always focus on leverage. How can I get better results by doing less? I asked myself this many times over the years. I created the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course to teach others the exact strategies I was taught. Quality mileage versus high volume is what matters most. I cover the exact workouts I was taught by 3 of the world's top distance running coaches.


How Realistic is a Sub 3 Hour Marathon?

It really comes down to the athlete and how fast he or she has run in the other distances. You should always be working on your speed development, even for the marathon. Yes, it is a highly aerobic event but still requires speed to maintain sub 3 hour marathon pace effectively. I recommend doing 1, vo2 max workout week. The focus behind doing speed work is you are recruiting more fast twitch muscle fibers.

Remember, the more of these we as athletes can recruit the more efficient you are going to cover the marathon distance. Pace sustainment is a major challenge for us all. Easy running is still important but won't teach you to race over 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers. Your main focus in the early stages of your training is to run easy for a minimum of 4 weeks. So, don't be in a rush to get into great shape. It is going to take time and most runners get too impatient.

My usual build ups for my marathon races were anywhere from 4 and most often times, 6 months long. I created 16 to 24 weeks training plans for this very reason. I know that a longer build up is best and will give you the best chances of success. Sub 3 hour marathon pace is aggressive. That being said, when trained properly you can get that pace to feel much easier on you.

Is Sub 3 a Good Marathon Time?

Yes. I consider a sub 3 marathon as an elite time. Of course, others may consider a time under 2:10 as “elite”. There are only a few runners each year who run 2.59.59 or faster for the marathon. My goal with this post is to share with you some idea to help you achieve this goal.. We talked about speed workout. Of course, we all know this is critical. That being said, faster, varied paced long runs should be a part of your preparation as well.

I made the mistake of running long and slow every weekend. It didn't help me run 2:19:35. I was able to go from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 conducting faster long runs. Of course, I didn't run fast for the entire run. Also, I didn't do fast long runs every week either. I would always alternate. So, one weekend I would do a faster, varied paced long run and the next weekend would be easy.

Below are some examples of the types of faster long runs I was doing prior to breaking the 2:20 marathon barrier.

  • 3 mile easy, 7 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:05, 5 miles@6:00, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 1 mile jog (22 miles)
  • 2 miles easy, 6 miles@5:25 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 2 miles@5:15 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 7 miles@6:05 mile pace, 1 mile jog (23 miles)

Jog On Recovery Days

It was not uncommon for me to need 2 to even 3 days of recovery run after doing runs of this intensity. Again, the following weeks' long run may have been a long run of 18 to 20 miles at 9 minute mile pace. So, make sure you are running easy enough on your recovery days. The end goal is to allow sufficient time between hard efforts in order to adapt the hard training that you are doing.

Start really focusing also on proper hydration during training. You may be able to get away with not drinking in a 5k but not the marathon. Runners are ruining their chances of holding sub 3 hour marathon pace by not drinking enough in the race. So, start setting your water bottles out every 3 miles or 5 kilometers along your long run route. The best runners do not sip in their races, they drink.

How much time do you devote each day to mental rehearsal? I ask that because the vast majority of runners only focus on physical training. Start visualizing 10 to 15 minutes each day getting across that finish line with 2.59.59 on the clock. It has to happen first in the mind before it will ever become reality.

Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past training for your marathons? 4 miles? 6 miles? I would work to extend that out toward 10 to 12 miles or 16 to 20 kilometers. Of course, you need to first adapt to a 3 to 4-mile tempo before you can run longer. The training plans and the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course I created will help speed up your progress. We are running at between 85 to 89% of our maximum heart rate at this intensity.

A common mistake runners make is simply not spending enough time at their anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold is the point where lactic acid begins to rise. It is easy to run easy for long periods of time because lactic acid build up is minimal. The faster we run the more oxygen is required. So, doing longer tempo runs and speed workouts will help make that sub 3 hr marathon pace to feel easier and more controllable.

Remember, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to the stresses we place on it. Fitness cannot be rushed. You are not going after an average time but an elite performance. Again, these resources will help take the guesswork out of your preparation.

Closing Thoughts

Do the best you can each days to practice staying relaxed. It is easier to do this running easy but much more of a challenge when running fast. Look at the world's top sprinters, middle and long distance runners, they all look relaxed. Of course, this comes with time, fitness and proper planning. Remember, less muscular tension equals better athletic performance.

Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I focus on making at least two new videos there each week to help runners such as yourself to make massive new gains in fitness. I look forward to hearing how the resources and tips mentioned in this post helped you get that 2.59.59 or faster time. Keep me posted on your progress.


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