Once you have a little experience then you might want to break the 4 hours barrier. This means running consistently around the 9 minute mile mark. This programme will help you get there and is suitable for runners hoping to break 4 hours for the distance. Do not jump straight to this schedule if you have not done any running before.

This is suitable for runners hoping to break 4 hours for the distance. Do not jump straight to this schedule if you have not done any running before. Extra training does not always mean extra results - sometimes the opposite. This is easily achievable if you are a regular runner or club runner. You’ll probably have already run a marathon or couple of half marathons. There are no real secrets – just a determination to put set a period of time aside to concentrate and follow a schedule.

A sub 4 hour training schedule will start to incorporate the following elements:

Efforts or Speed Training

  • You’ll see this schedule now incorporates regular “efforts or speed training”.
  • These sessions will help you maintain pace over the coming weeks and build you into a “runner” without falling into the trap of becoming a long slow mileage plodder.
  • Make sure that you recover from each speed/effort burst before you start the next one, especially if you do them within a group session. Far too many runners begin the next “effort or burst” simply because most of the “group” has set off on the next one. Always run your own session - and for that matter your own race.
  • Recovery is such an important part of reaching your PB. It’s no good running an effort session if the last burst is barley a crawl simply because you ran the first two flat out. Better to run them all at “tempo” rather than two flat out, two steady and two jogging.
    Learn to pace yourself and build up the number of quality efforts within each of your sessions. The only change to this would be if your recovery has to be a “set time” in between each effort/burst.

Hill Training

  • Hill training is also a great way of building stamina and maintaining tempo for race day. Find a training route with a series of hills somewhere within it – a distance of around 5 miles in total would be perfect. That way you can in-corporate a warm-up run, then the hills at pace followed by a warm down run.
  • It’s much better if they’re gradual climbs rather than something that pokes through the clouds.
  • What you’re looking for here is to run them at a steady consistent pace and to continue over the top and on to the next one without slowing down.
  • Your usual running pace through to the end of the hills will raise your heart rate and improve your stamina. Over time you can build up your stamina and really attack the run.
  • If finding a series of hills is a challenge then one gradual climb will suffice. You simply run up the hill and jog down as a recovery.
  • Repeating this and maintaining the tempo on each up hill run. The same rules apply about keeping to a set pace throughout rather than an initial burst followed by a lack luster jog.
  • Try to build the session up to about 50 minutes including a warm up and down.

Other terms used in the sub 4 hour marathon schedule:

  • Strides: Strides are short, fast runs of between 50 and 200 metres.  Run at a "comfortable sprint" pace.
  • Fartlek: Periods of intense effort alternate with periods of less strenuous effort in a continuous workout.

Below is an example Marathon training schedule for a runner who is aiming to beat 4 hours to complete a Marathon.

Weeks 1 to 4

Week 1

Monday - 5 miles easy

Tuesday - Rest

Wednesday - 10mins easy, then 10 x 30 secs fast, 60 secs slow, then 5 mins jog

Thursday - 5 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 5km race (aim for 24 mins) or 3m timed run (24mins)

Sunday - 9 miles steady run

Week 2

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 6 miles steady

Wednesday - 10 mins warm up. then 8 x 40 secs uphill, jogging back down, then 10 mins warm down

Thursday - 5-6 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 5 miles steady

Sunday - 12 miles easy

Week 3

Monday - 6 miles steady

Tuesday - Warm up, then 4 x 60 secs fast, then 4 x 30 secs fast, both with 60 sec recoveries, then 10 mins jog

Wednesday - 6 miles easy

Thursday - Rest

Friday - 20 mins jog and strides

Saturday - Rest

Sunday - 12 miles easy

Week 4

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 8 miles easy

Wednesday - 10 mins jog, 8 x 40secs uphill, recovery down 10min warm down

Thursday - 6 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 20 mins moderate

Sunday - 10k at race pace or 10 miles easy

Weeks 5 to 8

Week 5

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 6 mile fartlek

Wednesday - 10 mins jog, 10 x 40 secs uphill, jog down, 10 mins jog

Thursday - 5 mile easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - Rest

Sunday - 13 mile training run moderate pace

Week 6

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 6 mile steady

Wednesday - 6 mile steady including 10 x 1 min fast, 2 mins slow

Thursday - 2 miles steady, 2 miles brisk, 2 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 25 mins easy

Sunday - 10k race or 10 mile fast training run

Week 7

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 6 mile fartlek

Wednesday - Warm up, 3 x 1 mile timed, 4 mins recovery, warm down

Thursday - 5 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 25 mins easy

Sunday - 10 mile race or 14 mile training run easy

Week 8

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 2 miles easy, 3 miles brisk, 1 mile jog

Wednesday - Warm up, 10 x 40 secs fast uphill, jog down

Thursday - 6 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 20 mins easy

Sunday - 18 miles easy training run - aim for 3 hours.

Weeks 9 to 12

Week 9

Monday - Rest

Tuesday -  6 miles fartlek - as hard or easy as you like

Wednesday -  7 miles including 8 x 1 min fast and 8 x 30 secs fast

Thursday -  5 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday -  20 mins on grass including strides

Sunday - Race 10 miles or half marathon. Aim for 1 hr 20 / 1 hr 52

Week 10

Monday - Rest

Tuesday -  6 miles easy

Wednesday - Warm up, 4 x 1 mile timed with 4 mins rec.

Thursday - 6 miles steady

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 20 mins jogging and striding

Sunday - Race half marathon (aim for 1 hr 50) or 16 mile training run.

Week 11

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 5 miles very easy off road

Wednesday - 6 mile fartlek

Thursday - 8 miles steady

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 30 mins easy, on grass

Sunday - 20 mile endurance run - aim for 3 hours.

Week 12

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 4 miles easy off road

Wednesday - 6 miles steady

Thursday -  6 miles including 6 x 2 mins fast, 2 mins slow.

Friday - Rest

Saturday - 30 mins steady

Sunday -  Race 10 miles with long warm up.

Weeks 13 to 14

Week 13

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 6 miles easy

Wednesday - 6 miles, including 8 x 1 min fast, 1 min slow

Thursday -  5 miles steady

Friday - Rest

Saturday - Warm up, 3 miles at marathon pace, warm down.

Sunday -  13 miles steady

Week 14

Monday - Rest

Tuesday - 5 miles steady, 6 x 1 min brisk

Wednesday -  Rest or 20 mins easy

Thursday -  3 miles easy

Friday - Rest

Saturday -  Rest or 15 mins jog

Sunday - RACE DAY!!