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How to run a Marathon in 3 to 3.5 hours

Please note - This schedule is only of benefit to experienced runners! It’s pointless to use this schedule unless you have the appropriate running base to start with.

Basic starting levels of fitness:

  • In order to have the chance of a marathon in 3 and 1/2 hours you should currently be able to run a mile in 6:20 minutes.
  • A 10K in 44:30 minutes.
  • The pace needed to run a marathon in 3 1/2 hours is 8:00 minutes per mile, every mile.
  • A 3 hour marathon needs you to run every mile sub 7:00 minutes per mile.

Using common sense

  • This schedule is based on a proven program, but not written in stone. It‘s unlikely that each runner will follow the schedule exactly everyday.
  • Time commitments, injuries and weather may alter a runner's training schedule, but you should try to follow the schedule as much as possible.
  • If you have a particular weakness, such as speed, then you may want to concentrate a little bit more in that area, without straying too far from the schedule.
  • It will also be of great benefit is you can acquire a heart rate monitor. But don’t waste your money unless you are prepared to listen and react to what it tells you.
  • This program is designed with the proper amount of rest to limit the chance of overuse injuries.

Running intensity

  • The schedules also contain the proper proportion of speed and endurance training to enable a runner to complete the race in the desired time.
  • The training involves running at four different intensity levels (easy, long, moderate, intervals) each with a specific purpose. During easy runs the runner's heart rate should be around 60-70% of their maximum. These easy runs are used for recovery from hard training as well as improving circulation and energy metabolism.
  • During long runs a runner's heart rate should be 71-80% of their maximum. These long runs at this intensity will increase the runner's aerobic efficiency and allow their body to adapt to the stresses of running for a long period of time.
  • Moderate intensity runs should be run at a pace that will elevate an athlete's heart rate to 75-85% of their maximum. These moderate pace training sessions are very important for developing speed and strength and will allow the runner to sustain high-intensity exercise for a longer period of time and thus adapt to the stresses of running at race pace.
  • Interval training requires the runner to run at speeds that will elevate their heart to 80-90% of maximum. This interval training will improve the runners aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and will teach the runner's body to run faster by adapting to the stresses of fast training. And if the schedule indicates “EASY” then it’s for a reason, so do just that.


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