Looking for a free marathon training plan example to give you a kick start on your journey to a sub 4 hour marathon? Well we’ve put this plan together which will point you in the right direction.
If you have any thoughts on the plan detailed, or want to let us know how you got on, drop us a line on our Talk To Me page, we’d love to hear from you.
The Sub 4 hour marathon is arguably the most popular goal to have when it comes to marathon running. Yet only around a quarter of marathon runners have accomplished this feat.
So how do you run a marathon in under four hours? Dedication, perseverance and a pinch of luck help for sure, but it’s planning (and following through with that plan) that’s going to bring it all together in the end.
So whether you’re looking to improve your marathon pace from a previous outing, or it’s your first marathon and your looking to break the 4 hour barrier, it’s a good idea to make a training plan and stick to it.
It can be daunting putting a training plan together for an race as big as a marathon, but it need not be super complicated. The plan below is an example of how you can set things out, we’ve also broken down some of the key points below for you.
***Before we continue, we would like to say that, although this training plan is written and checked over by UK Athletics qualified running coaches and run leaders with a wealth of experience between them in marathon running, this is just an example of a training plan and should be adapted to your personal needs.
Commen Athletics always recommend speaking to a physio/medical professional before embarking on any training plan***
Every runner is different, some people can rock up to their first marathon and knock out a time below four hours, but in general we would recommend that this kind of plan for you if you can/do:
– Currently run 15-20 miles a week
– Run a 10k in 50-55 minutes
– Currently run 2-3 times
So this plan is split into a few different run types, if you’re not familiar with any of these training sessions then here’s an overview, but we recommend a quick google or two if things are unclear.
What is Interval training?
Interval training is a series of alternating high intensity and low intensity segments in one workout. Sometimes with a rest period in between. In this training plan there are interval sessions with high intensity segments that stretch from 200m up to 2.5km – with the pace adapting according to distance (the further the distance, the slower the speed…but still pretty speedy). We wrote a bit more in interval training here if you’re interested.
What is hill training?
It’s essentially running up a hill full pelt, then jogging or walking back down (in the case of this training plan). This will make you stronger and improve your short term & immediate energy systems, meaning if you’re faced with unexpected incline or want to sprint finish your sub 4 hour marathon you’ll be better prepared.
What is fartlek training?
The hilariously named fartlek training is a bit like interval training on acid. A mix of high, mid, and low intensity segments in one workout but put together in essentially a random order. Put it together how you would like in terms of speeds and the distance you go for each speed, but try to put in a nice mix over the distance.
What is a long slow run?
Does exactly what it says on the tin, this one. It’s your long run, and the most important day in your journey to a marathon in under four hours. If you have to strip back your training plan make sure that it includes this bad boy, it’s designed to get your body used to the feeling of running hella long distances and key to marathon success.
What is a tempo run?
A tempo run is a run that’s undertaken at a pace above your target marathon pace (for the sake of this plan). It’s a pace that you should be able to keep up for a decent distance without being seriously out of breath, but one that means you might struggle to hold a full conversation at.
What is a marathon pace/steady run?
We’ve grouped these together because they’re essentially the same – running at a continuous pace for a certain distance. The main difference is your marathon pace runs get you used to running at a sub 4 hour marathon pace and the steady runs are there to add time on your feet and keep the legs moving during the week improving your overall aerobic endurance.
Don’t try to make up the runs. Just write them off and carry on with your plan as if you had done them. Obviously it’s not ideal to miss sessions but injuries happen, colds happen, life happens. Very rarely will a marathon runner manage to get every single session of a training plan in. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
If you miss a lot of sessions then proceed with caution and don’t push too hard. If you’re unsure about what to do, speak to a physio or medical professional.
Absolutely, this plan is purely an example of the running elements that could make up your plan. Popular examples of additional elements are stretching sessions for flexibility and body weight exercises for strength. Every runner is different so it’s impossible to give an exact answer that will work perfectly for you.
Good spot! Okay, so a sub 4 hour marathon pace is 5:41 per kilometre. That will get you to the finish line in 3:59:48.
That’s if you run exactly 42.2km (or 26.2 miles), with absolutely no additional distance run. This is incredibly unlikely. Distance is added each time you run around someone or veer off to a water station, this stuff adds up.
You might run an additional 500 metres by the time the race is over. As well as this you might need to slow down to drink, or tie your shoelace or something. With this in mind we’ve built this plan with a 4:25 buffer to allow for these bits.
No worries. Just click the link below and you can view and/or download it straight away. There’s no sign-up or anything. Just pure unadulterated training goodness.