sub 4 hour marathon
A friend of mine sent me an email the other day which got me thinking about this post. How does one conquer the sub 4 hour marathon?
People may not be looking to run a marathon under 2.30. 3.00 or even 3.30.
The sub 4 hour marathon
I hope this post can give you an idea of how that can be done.
The main thing you have to keep in mind when training for a marathon is to enjoy the process the best you can.
Training isn’t easy and often times it can be boring and time consuming but you still have to keep your eyes on the prize.
Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success magazine said it best
The moment you resolve to take hold of life with all your might and make the most of yourself at any cost, to sacrifice all lesser ambitions to your one great aim, to cut loose from everything that interferes with thus aim, to stand alone, firm in your purpose whatever happens, you set in motion the divine inner forces the Creator has implanted in you for your own development. Live up to resolve, work at what the Creator meant you to work for the perfecting of His plan, and you will be invisible. No power on earth can hold you back from success
You already have the capability to run a marathon under 4 hours.
The trick is staying motivated throughout the hardships that training does bring about.
Marden’s quote is not only important but brings up a vital point.
You can never lose sight of what you want, no matter what.
A marathon in 3.59.59 is averaging 9.09 per mile pace.
So how are we going to do that.
Do you think running 20 miles a week will help you get that time?
Well, you will gain fitness from training like that but you have to prepare your body to hold that 9.09 per mile pace for the entire 26.2 miles.
This is what has plagued me in past marathons.
I would be on pace to run 2.18 through 18 miles and ended running much slower.
I ran out of fuel and was not spending enough time practicing running at my goal race pace.
What good is there in doing 15 mile runs at 5.45 per mile pace when I needed to hold 5.18 per mile for 26.2 miles?
Sure, I was still building strength but wasn’t able to sustain my goal race pace long enough.
The same goes for marathon racing regardless what your time goal is.
Focus on spreading out the length of time you are spending practicing running at 9.09 or faster per mile.
Practice it in long runs, track workouts, tempo runs. The trick is to gradually lengthen the distance spent at that pace.
The marathon is a complex race. It is more then just putting in easy miles that can get you under 4 hours
There are no guarantees for a perfectly executed race.
There have been times where I have done the best training I have ever done and still missed the goal I had set for myself, better to have tried and failed then to have never tried at all.
I was 100% certain I was in peak shape and the race didn’t pan out.
What will guarantee you success and breaking that time is a whole lot of persistence.
I believe that this is the one characteristic you need to achieve your marathon goals.
You have to have a resolve to keep training and preparing even if you have a bad race.
You have to have a long-term approach. If you run 4.15 then keep training until you nail 4.10.
Your very next race could be a 3.55.
You can drop several minutes off your marathon time in one performance.
Breaking 4 hours for the marathon is certainly a time goal that can be achieved.
You have to have that ‘no slack’ attitude. Nothing will stand in the way of you accomplishing your goal.
You can run a great marathon and certainly break 4 hours.
You have to stay motivated and stick to your plan.
You don’t have to run into the dreaded ‘wall’ provided you have trained the proper way.
A Few Things You Will Need to Break 4 Hours For The Marathon
Persistence – Stick to your goal.
A sub 4 hour marathon entails you holding 9.09 per mile for 26.2 miles.
You may run into snags along the way i.e. lack of sleep, family responsibilities, stress, difficulties in training etc. You have to stay persistent.
Patience– If you are in the race and your hitting 9.30-40 per mile pace then ease into the first few miles.
Don’t get caught up in trying to hit every mile right on 9.09 per mile.
There will be ebbs and flows throughout the race.
Some miles will be much faster, some slower.
Your goal is to ‘average’ 9.09 per mile so be patient.
Read How Patience Can Bring You A Breakthrough Marathon Performance for further guidance.
Stay Relaxed– Remember you can control this in your race.
I do this all the time in training and it has payed off in my racing. You waste a lot of energy with tight muscles.
How many times have you been out on a run and noticed your face tensing up?
Your shoulders? Next time your out on your run monitor how your body is feeling.
You can consciously tell yourself positive statements that can go a long way in getting you in a more economical, relaxed state i.e. ‘relax’ ‘I’m relaxed’ ‘drop the shoulders’.
I have used ‘relaxed and smooth’ several times on hard long runs, especially when I was really getting tired.
#1 Increase the length of your long run
You want to gradually span your long run out as far as you can. I wouldn’t advise going over 18 miles if you are running your first marathon.
Try going from 8 miles than gradually lengthening it a couple miles each week until you have adapted to the workload and are doing long runs of 14 to 18 miles every weekend.
The amount of strength you will gain from simply getting long runs consistently in every week will make breaking 4 hours that much easier.
#2 Gradually lengthen the last few miles of your long run at your goal race pace
What I mean by this is how I have trained to get my marathon times down.
I follow the philosophy of Italian distance coach, Renato Canova, who states
The goal of training is to reduce the consumption of fuel at race pace
I go into detail into breaking the sub 4 hour marathon in the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Blueprint.
How Can I Burn More Fat as Fuel And Less Carbohydrate?
Practice running longer at goal race pace. It doesn’t have to be complex. You want to hold 9.09 per mile so running at that pace.
You want to burn more fat and less carbohydrate at race pace.
The longer you can spend running at goal race pace the more adaptation that will occur, the less dependent your body will be on carbohydrate as its fuel source and the easier running at race pace (once tapered) will be.
A suggestion would be to run your first 10 miles of your long run relaxed.
Focus just on time on your feet then try to run your last 4-8 miles at 9.09 per mile pace.Do not get upset if you, initially, can’t hold the pace. The key is to gradually build into running for longer period of time at that pace.
My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment-Oprah Winfrey
This is crucial and will make the task of running at 9.09 pace much more doable.
You have practiced it in training so you know 12 to 16 weeks down the road that it is nothing you haven’t already handled in training.
# 3 6x1mile at 9.09 per mile rep with 800m jog recovery between reps
5x2miles at 18.18 per 2-mile rep on the track with a 1 mile jog recovery between each set
2x5miles in 45.45 each with a 2 mile easy jog recovery between each set
This a great set of workouts I use in my marathon training.
Do you see the similarities between the three. You are practicing the pace you want to hold. Running easy every day will not prepare you for the demands you are asking of your body to run under 4 hours.
Your body will adapt to the long runs and stress you are placing on it. In closing, remember, stay persistent, patient and practice relaxing your muscles as your running.
It is very easy to drop your shoulders (if they are riding high as you run) and relax your face as your running.
Keep your face relaxed and your body will follow suit. Gradually lengthen the distance of your long run, then practice lengthening the time you spend running at 9.09 per mile pace.
The more time you practice it the easier it will be for you to maintain it in the race.
You will have people to push you in the race.
Practice running at your goal race pace without the cheers of the crowd or people running beside you. Why? How much easier will breaking 4 hours be for you if you have already run at your goal race pace with no assistance?
If you have the sub 4 hour marathon as as a goal check out the sub 4 hour marathon manifesto. I am certain you can do it.