A marathon isn’t just 26.2 miles, it takes months of training, smart recovery and good nutrition to get to the starting line feeling strong, confident and healthy. a 4 Hour Marathon Training Plan designed for someone who has gone the distance before and is willing to bring additional pieces into play to achieve their goal.
The average marathon time in 2018 was 4:32:29; the men’s average marathon time was 4:52:18 and the women’s average was 4:48:45.
So the 4-hour marathon goal is one that requires extra fitness, focus and mental determination. It is absolutely possible with the right training, but that doesn’t always mean it will happen the first time either.
I know many runners who have taken several runs to a BQ, several races to break the sub-marathon barrier, and a 4 hour marathon. Patience with the process and getting the race day right is part of the process.
What is four-hour marathon pace?
4 hours is the goal marathon pace 9:09 per mile.
But nobody wants to finish in 4:01, so we usually set our goal pace closer 8:50-8:55.
This training plan is for finishing a marathon under 4 hours, and the strategies are designed to help you find the pieces you need to tweak to reach that big goal.
What to consider before training for a 4-hour marathon?
Before you set a time goal like a four-hour marathon training program, you need to consider a few different factors:
1. Level of experience
If you are an absolute beginner, I recommend going to one of my beginners marathon training plans or even a couch to marathon plan for your first.
This particular plan is designed for runners who already have experience training for a marathon and have run at least one before.
You’ll need a decent amount of experience to get started, given that this program is 16 weeks long. Plus, you’ll run 20+ miles in the first week of the plan.
Previous running experience is essential to hitting 4-hour marathon pace without injury.
2. Average weekly mileage
I mentioned in my previous point that this program starts with 20+ miles in the very first week. This means you should be running an average of 20 miles per week to start training on this plan.
This is mainly done to prevent injury and to be safe during training. A general rule of thumb is not to increase mileage or intensity suddenly and increase by 10% week after week. Keep this in mind before you decide to start training.
3. Average mile pace during the last marathon
Calculate your average mile pace during your last marathon and take it into account at different stages of the marathon itself.
Were you running at a fairly fast pace until a certain milestone in the race, such as mile 20? Or did you add extra minutes to your total time because of a belly break?
Before you reach this time goal, it helps to figure out how else you can improve your marathon time.
Complete 4 Hour Marathon Training Plan
All marathon training plans are divided into sections to help maximize your fitness. You’ll also find that most plans are designed with a 3 week build phase and then a reduced week.
This is because during recovery our body catches up with the work we put in and thus we see the gains. If you never rest and take a decompression week, you will either get hurt, or hurt, or just get high.
Allow yourself to take these moments in training and remember that jumping from plan to plan will make it much more difficult to reach your goal. Plans are designed to work systematically.
4 hour marathon training schedule
Ready to get started?
👉Here free software you can download and start using to hit your target. This plan is not customizable, so you will need to adjust things to fit your life, but it will give you a good guide.
Base building is the foundation of a great marathon. During this time, we focus on slowly increasing your weekly mileage while building your muscle strength.
This is the time when we want to ensure that no strength training sessions are missed and that you work with heavy weights. Building muscle before running further and harder means it will help prevent injury and you’re more likely to maintain muscle during marathon training.
We’ll also be mixing things up as week 4 introduces fartleks, followed by yoga (yes, yoga!) for your active recovery. It will help stretch muscles, increase blood flow and aid recovery.
Now we are starting to fine tune the training. That means we add more goal pace miles to help the body learn exactly what it feels like to run at race pace, and we continue to build weekly mileage.
This is the part that will ask you to do things you haven’t done before and train your body to do more while accepting recovery.
It is extremely important to stick to the schedule and include strength training as outlined in the plan. It’s designed to prevent injury and make you faster.
Peak weeks in training are when it’s the hardest. This is the point where running is at its highest, speed training is at its hardest, and it becomes a matter of working on the mental part of pushing forward.
This is where you build massive fitness that will be accomplished by the recovery to come.
Reduce race day. For the last two weeks, we have been focused on maximum recovery.
Even though you’ll be reducing your training volume, it’s good to still throw in some intensity at intervals to keep the legs fresh. You’ll also notice that we remove all strength training other than core work because we don’t want to break down the muscles.
Our full focus is on repair, rest and recovery.
4 hour marathon training tips
With the 10 running coaches on Team Run To The Finish, I got to ask them about the things they find most valuable when working toward that sub-4 hour marathon.
Many of these women have reached that goal and then surpassed it, so I love seeing what they find most important.
Optimize your nutrition
Of course, Coach Courtney, as the RD, came on strong with some nutritional advice.
- Practice your diet before race day. Never try anything new on race day.
- Fuel up early and often. One of the biggest mistakes I see runners make is waiting until they are squatting to eat.
- A general fuel goal of 30-60 grams of carbs per hour of running (after the first hour). So a 4-hour marathon should use about 90-180 grams of carbs per race.
Spice up your long run
You’ll see this in the plan, and I liked how Coach Alexis stated:
I think the biggest thing that has helped me progress in the marathon, and has made a difference with my athletes as well, is to add spice for the long run.
Start simple with some strides and jumps in the long run and then as runners progress to more advanced things like marathon pace or faster pace runs in the long run.
Learn to run easy
Coach Caitlin reiterated one of my FAVORITE things.
The biggest thing that helped me was making a clear distinction between hard and easy; no more gray areas. Once I was able to Slow Down, I was able to push it much faster on training and race day.
Easy running isn’t speed, it’s effort.
On easy days, you should skip your mile pace and instead focus on keeping the conversation going. Easy runs are about building stamina, spending time on your feet, and often recovering from hard days.
Test your finish time
Trainer Amanda Eardley had a fantastic tip for making sure your training is on point and you’ve set a realistic goal for yourself.
Find a 10K or run a 10K time trial every 10-12 weeks, and if you can run it under 52 minutes, you’re on your way to breaking that 4 hour barrier. This also allows you to perform some basic tests;
- Try on the outfit you want to wear for marathon day
- Try the type of fuel you want to use for marathon day
- Find out how you’ll handle the water during the race
Smart Cross Training
We hear the word cross training a lot, but I think runners often think of it as doing cardio in a different way. While cycling and swimming can be great, our main focus is strength training.
- Lifting weights early in training builds muscle for strength
- Lifting during exercise increases endurance and prevents injury
- 30-Day Core Program – Gives you a 10-minute pre-run to work your abs, hips and glutes.
- Neglecting power doesn’t initially seem like a problem, but it’s often the downfall during peak weeks
You can run a marathon without doing everything right.
But achieving your next-level goal requires a little more commitment. It takes your fitness from good to good, ready to warm up, power up, recover.
As things become more routine, you will find that these things can be done quite quickly.
If you haven’t already, check this out free software you can download and start using to hit your target.
And if you still feel stuck, find out how you can work with one of our 8 trainers to cram in your own customized sub 4 hour marathon training plan.
Other ways to contact Amanda
Daily Instagram fun. RunToTheFinish:
Facebook community chat. RunToTheFinish:
Sign up to receive a weekly newsletter of tips