You’ve set yourself the goal of completing the London Marathon in under 4 hours… Great!
You’re probably thinking to yourself… How on earth do I get there?
Completing the London Marathon in under 4 hours is definitely achievable with the correct training plan, professional guidance, race day strategies, and mental strength to stay motivated throughout the entire process. Of course, also depends on your previous experience too
We’ve put together a London Marathon training plan, specifically for runners wanting to cross the finish line feeling strong and uninjured in under 4 hours.
Let’s have a look at…
- Approach To a Sub-4-Hour London Marathon
- How To Run a Sub-4-Hour London Marathon
- Sub-4-Hour London Marathon Plan Overview
- London Marathon Route Guide
- Sub 4-Hour London Marathon Tips
Approach To a Sub-4-Hour London Marathon
To achieve a sub- 4-hour London Marathon finish you need to run at around 9:09 min/mile and 5:41 min/km.
The first place to start is to look at your overall training program.
What sort of training are you currently doing? How consistent have you been over the last 4-6 weeks? Are you doing any strength training at the moment?
This will dictate your training moving forward and which training plan you would use
Secondly, do you have the potential to run a Sub-4-hour marathon? The way we do this is by checking whether your 5km, 10km, or half marathon times correlate up to the 4:00 marathon time you are hoping to run.
Finding the correlation between your times is not always an easy thing to do. It’s not just a matter of “doubling your time” from 5k to 10k. An example, if you run a 30min 5k that doesn’t mean that your potential for a 10k is 60mins, it’s more likely around 62 mins. As we run longer we require more aerobic capacity and this is very often the aspect people neglect.
As a result, the jump from a half marathon to a marathon is not linear at all and is far more exponential.
For example, if you run a 24-minute 5km, this indicates the potential to run a 50-minute 10km, a 1hr 53min half marathon, and then from there, you should be able to run a 3hr 59min full marathon.
There should be a correlation between your shorter distance times (10km) and your long-distance times (Marathon).
If the correlation is poor, for example, if your half marathon times are slower relative to your 10km time then you need to work on your endurance, and make sure that you are not doing your long runs too hard, and that you are doing long runs and that your long runs are the appropriate distance for the London Marathon.
If you get relatively faster the longer you go, 10k’s are slow relative to your 21s and 42’s then we know that endurance is good and we have to focus on speed. A focus on shorter distances will lead to exponential improvements over longer distances
For most people, there is work to be done on both shorter and longer distances.
Program selection is key to ensuring the success of the framework and the program.
To run a sub-4-hour marathon you should be capable of running 10km in close to 52 minutes.
Now that we know how to approach tackling your goal of completing the London Marathon in under 4 hours… let’s have a look at how to achieve the goal.
How To Run a Sub-4-Hour London Marathon
To determine who should be looking at running or following this particular sub-4-hour marathon program it is important to note that there are a couple of time goals you have to achieve.
We often get athletes who have a goal of running a sub-4-hour marathon with a current marathon time of 5hrs or a 33min 5km.… This is an example of unrealistic goal setting.
It’s not to say that you will never get to a four-hour marathon … it is however important to note that if you are currently running a five-hour marathon, you need to take smaller stepping stones to make sure that your easy runs are easy enough, the long runs are at the correct paces and you’re not doing too much too soon.
Your half marathon time should be close to 1hr55.
Let’s have a look at an overview of the sub-4-hour London Marathon training plan…
Sub-4-Hour London Marathon Plan Overview
The Coach Parry sub-4-hour London marathon plan is structured like most of our other plans. It is a 12-week plan, however, you cannot progress from no running … to a 12-week marathon plan and then run a sub-4-hour marathon.
This plan assumes you have been doing at least 8 – 12 weeks of consistent training or that you have progressed from a 10km or half marathon plan in the lead-up to starting the sub-4-hour plan.
We break those 12 weeks into 3 smaller cycles of 4 weeks. Each 4 weeks cycle is broken down into 3 weeks of loading and 1 week of recovery.
For example, weeks one, two, and three will be building volume and some Intensity, and every fourth week will be what we call a recovery week where we reduce the volume of training, keep the frequency of running the same and perhaps keep the intensity the same (this differs plan to plan though on your ability).
During each of the 3 cycles, we use different interval sessions to focus on building the different components of running fitness and address the requirements specifically for the London Marathon.
The long runs build up through each cycle and through the plan to ensure that you progressively prepare for the London marathon without risking overuse injury.
In some of the recovery weeks, you will do a time trial. Time trials are used to measure progress.
Note: The platform is flexible so it’s possible you load a sub-4-hour plan, however, once you run your 1st 5k time trial and run a lot faster than the required time – we need to look at moving you to a faster marathon plan.
This plan is a four-day running week, meaning you will be running four days a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday. (We do allow for flexibility so the days can be changed around)
There are long intervals built into some plans – dependent on ability, these are there to build muscular endurance so that you can sustain the higher intensity for a longer period of time.
The intervals in the first cycle of the plan are four-minute intervals. These help build speed endurance, to limit the loading, they will not increase in number over the 3 weeks.
Thursdays are usually easy runs starting at one hour and building up to 1hr15 to 1hr30. We drive home that easy means that you should be able to have a full-on conversation if you’re running with someone or if you running alone- break into song if you dare!
Basically, you should be able to breathe really comfortably, have a light sweat, and at the end of that session feel that you can actually go a lot longer.
Saturdays are usually the long run day. For example, a 2-hour long run followed by a Sunday recovery 45-minute run. But you can interchange these if you wish.
This is a sneak peek into what your sub-4-hour plan would look like:
If you are looking to do your 1st Marathon, have done at least 1 half marathon recently, and can tick off at least one of the following time checks, then this is the program for you to start your marathon journey with.
If you have done a marathon at 4:15 or faster or have achieved the appropriate time goals at shorter distances but not the marathon, then this is your program too.
If you have run a 10km recently and are close to the times listed below for a 5 or 10km race then this is your program, if you have not yet completed a 10km, you need to start with a 10km program.
- 5km: sub 25
- 10km: 51min
- 21km: Sub 1:55
- Marathon: 4hrs12
- Easy Runs: 5:40-6:13/km (9:07-10 min/mile)
- Long Runs: 5:45-6:30/km (9:15-10:28 min/mile)
- Recovery Runs: 6:20-6:45/km (10:12-10:52 min/mile)
What you do in the 12 weeks leading up to the London Marathon will either set you up for success or failure…
Ensure your success with 12 weeks of access to the Coach Parry London Marathon Training Roadmap
Let’s have a more detailed look at the 2023 London Marathon detailed route breakdown, GPX file, and map description. Everything you need to know if you’re a participant.
The London Marathon 2023 will take place on the 23 of April. The race has a staggered start in this order: 08:50 (Elite wheelchair men’s and women’s races), 09:00 (Elite women’s race), and 09:40 (Elite men’s race and mass start.)
We’ve put together a detailed route breakdown here.
Sub 4-Hour London Marathon Tips
- Go into training knowing you’re at the correct level and that this is an achievable goal for you.
- Run your long runs at an easy pace to build a solid aerobic base.
- Strength training is vital.
- Stay consistent with training
- Pace yourself well in the race.
- Stick to the plan and trust the process.
- Try a variety of nutrition products specifically on your long runs to make sure you have a sound fuelling and hydration plan that has been practiced come race day. (London Marathon: The PERFECT Nutrition Strategy)