Sub 3 hour marathon training takes an enormous dedication to the sport.
Runners who are training for this particular marathon barrier are at an advanced level.
It takes an average of 6.52 per mile for 26.2 consecutive miles to run 2.59.59 for the marathon.
Obviously, this takes a very keen eye on fuel utilization. The faster we run the more carbohydrate is consumed.
That being said, faster marathon times means the athlete must be able to run more economically, use fuel at a higher level and be able to handle lactic acid accumulation at a more sufficient level.
Fortunately for me, I was able to run 2.43.36 in my debut marathon.
This clearly doesn’t make me any better then someone running 4 hours. We all have different physiology’s and I had run many miles at shorter distances very fast prior to running the 2002 New York City Marathon.
My athletic background having run all through high school and college probably had a lot to do with my having run under 2.44.00 in my debut.
Does it take running many years before athletes can run a sub 3 hour marathon?
No, not necessarily. Runners around the world are able to do this through proper training.
They didn’t need a years of unending miles and training but they did need to have trained well aerobically and anaerobically to handle sustaining a 6.52 per mile pace.
Sub 3 Hour Marathon Specifics
If you are seeking to sustain 3 hour marathon pace you will have to learn to burn fat more efficiently at that pace.
You have already clearly shown you understand this importance if you have run in the 3 hour category already.
Increase the paces at which you do your long runs.
This is an endurance sport.
Short distance workouts are great for building your Aerobic Capacity but when it comes to the marathon sustainability at sub-maximal effort is key.
You can gain a lot from doing workouts like 6×1 mile but it is still a total of 6 miles, not 26.
It takes longer tempo runs and repeat runs at longer distances to build the strength, stamina and race pace endurance that a sub 3 hour marathon demands.
Common Workouts I Would Suggest For Runners Seeking A Sub 3 Hour Marathon
- Long runs at 6.52 pace
These could be 20 milers consisting of a 5 mile warm-up, 5 miles at goal race pace, 5 miles at 10 seconds faster than goal pace, 5 mile cool-down.
Workouts like this could than grown into the entire run done at or near goal marathon race pace building the athletes capability to handle 6.52 pace.
- HARD runs emphasizing intensities exceeding goal marathon pace
These could be workouts such as 10x1000m at 5.00 mile pace with shorter recovery floats such as 300-400m
- Long hill repetitions consisting of all-out sprints
These could range in distance from 200m-1000m in length
- 4×5 miles at 10 seconds per mile faster than goal marathon race pace
One of my least favorite workouts to do but one of the most lethal when it comes to making race pace feel more relaxed.
This workout is a total of 24 miles in length and although my least favorite is one that I have used in the past to cut time.
Sub 3 hour marathon training takes a great deal of attention to detail.
Runners at this level clearly now know that easy running will not do the job. It has its place but the faster we seek to run, the more attention has to be to developing the anaerobic system to function as sufficiently as possible.
This goes for all ability levels as well but particularly at the sub 3 hour marathon level because it involves such a high emphasis on carbohydrate conservation and use of fat at race speeds.
Runners competing at sub 3 hours for the marathon distance are using a greater percentage of their fat stores as their primary race fuel.
This has to be the goal of runners of all ability levels, whether a 6 hour marathoner, 3 hour half-marathoner or a total novice.
The greater importance placed on clearing lactic acid faster then it builds up when we race, the better results are going to come from the training we do.