Marathon training plan for sub-4 hours

Are you ready to take on an incredible challenge? Running a marathon for the first time or aiming to finish a marathon in under 4 hours? This guide will help you prepare for a 4-hour marathon. This personalized training plan is ideal if you are venturing into long-distance running or if you are looking to achieve a new personal record.

Why aim for a 4-hour marathon?

A 4-hour marathon is an excellent goal for many runners. The median marathon time is 4 hours and 17 minutes, so if you run the marathon in 4 hours, you will be in the top half of the rankings in most marathons!

Running a marathon requires endurance, but also a balanced approach that respects your pace and lifestyle. If you’re looking for a rewarding marathon experience without excessive pressure, this is the perfect plan for you.

Prerequisites for running a 4-hour marathon

First, make sure you have a running base. If you can comfortably run 18 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers) per week, you are ready to embark on this plan. Remember, the important thing is to progress at your own pace.

Running a marathon in 4 hours means maintaining a pace of 9:09 per mile (5:41 per kilometer), which is 6.5 mph (10.5 km/h). Ideally, you should be able to run 6 miles (approximately 10 kilometers) in 50 minutes or less to optimize your chances of success.

12-week marathon training plan for 4 hours

A 12-week training plan will allow you to gradually increase your distance and endurance. It includes longer runs at a moderate pace, recovery runs at an easy pace, and essential rest days. The focus is on building solid endurance without overexerting yourself.

You can also start your preparation later, for example, over 8 weeks if you run year-round.

To run a marathon in under 4 hours, you need to run at least 2 to 3 times a week. We recommend running 3 to 4 times a week during your marathon preparation. If you are not used to running, you can do one session a week on a bike or swimming.

Additionally, physical preparation with core strengthening and leg muscle reinforcement is highly recommended.

Sub-4 Hour Marathon Preparation: 8 Weeks & 4 Sessions per Week

Marathon training plan for a 4h - 4 sessions per week in 8 weeks

Nutrition and hydration for a 4-hour marathon

For a 4-hour marathon, your diet should support your training without being overly complex. Focus on balanced meals and regular hydration. The goal is to maintain your energy and health throughout the program.

During the race, it will be challenging to consume around ten gels, as you might face intestinal issues. You can opt for a mixed nutrition strategy, alternating between gels and fruit purees. Test your race strategy during training. For example, you can aim to consume a puree after 50 minutes, then a gel 25 minutes later, followed by another puree after 25 minutes, and so on until the end of the race.

Remember to hydrate at each aid station if they are every 5 kilometers and even more frequently if the aid stations are spaced closer together. It is not necessary to drink the entire bottle or cup; take between 5 and 8 sips depending on the heat.

Equipment for a 4-hour marathon

Having comfortable and suitable equipment is crucial. Choose well-fitted shoes and breathable clothing.

You can also take accessories such as hydration belts to store your gels and purees. Hydration packs are not necessary since the aid stations are approximately every 25 minutes, but if you need one to also carry a phone, for example, go ahead. If that’s the case, run with it occasionally to get used to it.

Carbon shoes are not necessarily needed as they offer little energy return at 10.5 km/h and require proper running biomechanics, including good core strength to avoid lower back pain towards the end of the race.

Race strategy for running a marathon in under 4 hours

To prepare for a 4-hour marathon, stay positive and motivated throughout your training. Set weekly goals and celebrate each small success. The key is to enjoy the training and remember why you started this adventure.

On race day, try to maintain a consistent pace, aiming to reach the halfway point in 2 hours, or even a bit faster in 1 hour 55 minutes, as the last kilometers are often quite challenging for marathon runners due to the infamous “wall.

If needed, you can walk through the aid stations to hydrate or refuel.

Mistakes to avoid in a 4-hour marathon training plan

Be careful not to neglect rest and recovery. Avoid increasing the distance too quickly and make sure to respect rest days. Listen to your body and be attentive to signs of fatigue, pain, and even cramps.

Make sure to thoroughly test your equipment and nutrition strategy during your preparation.

A common mistake is running too often at a pace that is slightly too fast. Stick to your easy runs at a comfortable pace to ensure proper recovery and to develop your aerobic capacity.

4-hour marathon training plan on RunMotion Coach

Preparing for a 4-hour marathon is an incredible adventure that goes far beyond the race itself. It is a journey of self-discovery, discipline, and joy. Stay the course, be patient, and most importantly, enjoy it to the fullest!

Rather than offering you a fixed training plan, we recommend using the RunMotion Coach app for personalized training that adapts to your availability and feedback. You will also receive tips to ensure you don’t forget anything throughout your preparation.

Good luck with your 4-hour marathon preparation! Thousands of runners have already achieved this goal with RunMotion Coach. We look forward to seeing you when you prepare for your 3:45 or 3:30 marathon!

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for communication management.