Are you stuck running 4:30 + marathons? Do you want to know how to run a sub-4-hour marathon?

Going from a 4:30 marathon to a sub-4-hour marathon is a lot of improvement and for some people, that is just not possible. 

There is unfortunately more to running fast than just training, there is also a strong genetic link.

With that being said, let’s have a look at what you need to do in order to run a marathon in under 4 hours…

The Holistic Approach To a Sub-4-Hour Marathon

You need to look at your overall training program.

The first thing you need to ask is… what sort of training are you doing?

Secondly, is your 10km or half marathon time matching up to the 4:00 marathon time you are hoping to run?

Normally it is quite easy to draw a line. For example, if you run under 40 minutes for 10km this indicates the potential to run sub 90min for a half marathon and 3hr05 for the marathon. 86/87 minute half marathon, and then from there, you should be able to run around a 3-and-a-half hour 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 event you are training for.

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.

What Should Your 10km Time Be To Run a Sub 4-Hour Marathon?

To run a sub-4-hour marathon you should be capable of running 10km in close to 52 minutes.

How To Run a Sub-4-Hour 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.

Sub-4-Hour Marathon Plan Overview

The Coach Parry sub-4-hour 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 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.

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 for the specific route you are preparing for.

The long runs build up through each cycle and through the plan to ensure that you progressively prepare for the 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 25min, 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 the plan, 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 a 1hr 15 easy run. 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.

If you’ve found this helpful so far… You can find a LOT MORE detailed information about how to run a sub-4-hour marathon in this video.
If you’d like to get access to this plan or any of our other plans … Click Here!


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

Comments are closed.