What Pace is a 3 Hour Marathon | Tips for 2.59.59

September 27, 2022

Are you wondering what pace is a 3 hour marathon? If so, I am glad you have made it here to Nutrition Geeks. I have been competing in endurance running for the past 30 years. In addition, hold a personal best time of 2.19.35 for the marathon. So, do fully understand how tough of a task it is to run a marathon under 3 hours. My hope is that this post will help you to start making some necessary changes so you get a new PR.

A sub 3 hour marathon is an elite time and one that few runners around the world achieve each year. What pace is a 3 hour marathon? You will need to sustain and average 6.52 per mile for 26.2 miles or 4.16 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers in order to run a time of 2.59.59. So, improving your body's lactate tolerance is essential. Pace sustainment is one of the biggest hurdles for most runners. Of course, many runners can sustain 3 hour marathon pace for a portion of the race.

That being said, where are you at the finish line? You have to be very cognizant of your pacing in order to run a sub 3 marathon time as well. I always recommend to my athletes to focus on a negative split. So, focus on running the second half of the race faster than you run the first half. For example, going out in 1:34 the first half and coming back the second in a 1:25 will yield you a 2:59 marathon time.

What Percentage of Marathoners Break 3 Hours?

It is estimated that only about 3 to 4 percent of marathoners break the sub 3 hour marathon barrier each year. So, you will be joining a very small population of runners who break the 3 hour barrier when you do it. What percentage of your week are you devoting to mental training? I ask that because so few runners pay attention to this. Again, you are aiming to run an elite time which a sub 3 marathon is. So, you have to visualize yourself getting across the finish line with that 2.59.59 time on the clock.

The best time to mental rehearse is when you go to bed at night. Also, when you first get up in the morning. You don't have to spend more than 10 to 15 minutes daily doing this. I just want you to focus on all the fundamentals so you have the highest chances for success.

The world's top runners know how important mental training is. I also utilized this tactic which helped me lower my marathon best from 2.43.36 to 2.19.35. I would visualize myself passing people, running relaxed and crossing the finish line with my goal time on the clock.

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Is 3 Hours a Good Marathon Time?

Of course. What pace is a 3 hour marathon again? The athlete needs to sustain 6:52 mile or 4:16 kilometer pace. So, this is most certainly high quality running. My top recommendation is to consider investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 which helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zones when I am training. I see far too many runners still running too easy on hard days and too fast on easy days.

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

I would much rather have you under trained than over trained. A legitimate heart rate monitor like the Garmin 245 will ensure that you train at the proper intensities. I highly recommend a longer marathon training build up rather than a shorter one. Remember, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load being placed on it. So, allow sufficient time for your body to adapt and your chances of breaking 3 hours will significantly rise.

Is a 3 Hour Marathon Hard?

Yes, there is nothing easy about breaking the 3 hour marathon barrier. That being said, if you train properly it can be an enjoying process. In fact, I created a running course called the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course built specifically for runners like you. I cover every tactic I was taught by 3 of the world's top distance running coaches in this course. In addition, cover every strategy that I used to eventually run under the 2:20 marathon barrier.

The course also concludes with a 16 week marathon training plan. Again, the minimum time frame I recommend for runners seeking to run a fast marathon is 16 weeks. The optimal time frame is between 20 to 24 weeks. I have also created training plans that range anywhere from 8 to 24 weeks for athletes training for the mile up to the marathon distance. You can click on any of the green buttons contained within this post to learn more about them.

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

My training plans and the Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course tops out at or around 70 miles or 112 kilometers per week. Of course, you can run less or more mileage as you see fit. I would not recommend changing up the anaerobic workouts though. Again, we want to help you to sustain that sub 3 hour marathon pace longer. In addition, minimize slowing down as much as possible. The only way to do this is by running at significantly faster than sub 3 marathon pace.

The world's top runners are running around 40 percent of their weekly mileage at or below their anaerobic threshold. We run at or around 85 to 89 percent of our maximum heart rate at our AT pace. So, the longer you can spend training at this intensity the better. The reason being is you will be running your marathon or or around this particular intensity. A common mistake runners make is that their tempo runs are too short. Sure, a 3 to 4 mile tempo is perfect for a 5k to 10k event. That being said, to break 3 hours for the marathon you need to lengthen the duration out toward 10 to 12 miles.

Again, it takes around 4 weeks for the body to adapt. So, work on a 3 to 4 mile tempo first. The body always adapts and before long you will be running 16 to 20 kilometers at your tempo effort. I used this tactic to run well below the sub 3 hour marathon barrier myself.

Focus on Your Speed Work

The marathon is a longer, aerobic event. That being said, you still need to work on your speed development. The overall goal is to train at quality paces to get sub 3 marathon pace to feel easier. Also, to minimize the effects of higher amounts of lactic acid build up. I would recommend doing at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. Remember, the faster you train the more fast twitch muscle fibers you will recruit.

The more of these we can recruit the more economical (efficient) we will race in our marathons. Also, continue to focus on staying as relaxed as you can in training. The less tension equals better athletic performances. We can always monitor when we feel our muscles tightening up.

So, pay close attention to this in training and consciously tell yourself to relax. Also, say positive affirmations to yourself to keep yourself in check especially when running at faster paces. Examples of vo2 max workouts are strength training, hill repetitions, fartlek and track/road intervals. Jog on recovery days so that you adapt to the harder training that you are doing. I trained with sub 2:10 marathoners who would run 9 minute mile pace on their easy days. So, if runners who can run sub 5 min mile pace for 26.2 miles can run easy on recovery days so can you and I.

Closing Thoughts

I would love to keep in touch with you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. You can click on the YouTube video above or the blue link above this sentence to subscribe. I create new training and racing videos there each week. My overall goal is to get more runners from around the world to set new personal bests. Remember, focus on a negative split in your upcoming marathons.

Don't try to win the marathon in the first half. What pace is a 3 hour marathon? 6:52 per mile for 26.2 miles or 4:16 per kilometer for 42.2 kilometers. So, be smart about how you train in your build up. Higher mileage is not a guarantee that you will break the sub 3 marathon barrier. I would much rather you run lower mileage and work smarter than run more and miss your goal. I am a big believer in a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper.

So , don't start dropping your intensity and volume until yo are 10 days out from your goal marathon. Again, the training plans and running courses I have created will take the guess work out of your preparation. You will be doing the exact workouts needed in order to run 2.59.59.

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