The 5 Hour Marathon Pace Chart + Training Guide, By Our Expert Coach

Beat the 5 hour benchmark with this training guide.

In my years of working as a Certified Running Coach with runners of all levels, I have found that many runners aim to run a marathon.

However, plenty of runners, especially beginners, are shy to voice their interest in completing the iconic 26.2 mile race distance for fear that they are “never going to be able to“ or “are too slow to run a marathon.“

I work hard to help runners develop tools to build self-esteem and confidence through running so that they feel empowered to not only voice their interest in such a seemingly lofty running goal but also to help them instill their own belief that they can indeed finish a marathon.

The good news is that you don’t have to be an elite runner or even “fast” to train for a marathon or “race“ a marathon.

The 5 hour marathon pace is a relatively modest marathon goal and reasonable goal for beginners or runners of a variety of fitness levels, even those who consider themselves to be “slow.“

In this guide, we will discuss 5 hour marathon pace, training tips for how to run a marathon under 5 hours, and elements of the best 5 hour marathon training plans you can use in your own quest to run a sub 5 hour marathon.

We will look at:

Let’s get started!

People running a marathon with a 5 hour marathon pace clock.

How Fast Is A 5 Hour Marathon?

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers.

Therefore, a 5 hour marathon race time means that you need to hold an average race pace of just under 11:27 minute miles or 7:07 minutes per kilometer.

You will want to run slightly faster to build a buffer on race day.

Being able to run a half marathon in under 2:30 is a good indication that a 5-hour marathon time goal is reasonable.

How Do I Pace Myself For A 5 Hour Marathon?

Here is how to run a sub-5 marathon pace chart in miles and kilometers:

5 Hour Marathon Pace Chart in Miles

MileSpit TimeMileSplit Time
The legs of people running a marathon.

5 Hour Marathon Pace Chart in Kilometers

KilometerSplit TimeKilometerSplit Time
A runner leaning against a tree, smiling.

What Training Plan Should I Follow For A 5 Hour Marathon Finish?

Almost every marathon training plan includes the same types of workouts, whether your goal pace is 11-minute miles, 8-minute mile pace, or even a faster pace. 

Moreover, the best sub-5-hour marathon training plan will have the same types of workouts or “training sessions” you probably followed when training for a half marathon or previous marathons.

All marathon runners need to develop their aerobic base with a long run and regular easy runs, and then there will be more structured workouts such as tempo runs, fartlek workouts, speed work, race pace intervals, and potentially hill workouts.

The best sub-5-hour marathon training program will also build in enough recovery modalities, such as cross-training workouts, rest days, and supportive strength training workouts, to help reduce the risk of injury.

Two people running down a road.

Here are some of the key workouts in a 5:00-hour marathon training plan:

  • Easy Runs: Runs at a conversational pace to aid recovery from hard workouts.
  • Long Run: Long endurance workouts to improve physical and mental stamina. You should run at a comfortable, conversational pace, at an effort of 6 on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is your max effort.  
  • Threshold Interval Workouts and Tempo Runs: The lactate threshold occurs around 83-88% of your VO2 max or roughly the pace you could hold at max effort for an hour of running. For most runners, the threshold run pace is about 15-20 seconds per mile (9-12 seconds per kilometer), slower than your 10k race pace. 
  • Cross-Training: Non-running aerobic training sessions. Examples include cycling, swimming, rowing, elliptical, aqua jogging, and hiking.
  • Rest Days: No structured exercise. Focus on rest and recovery (stretching, foam rolling, taking it easy).
  • Strides: Accelerations where you reach your max sprinting speed by the end of each one. 
  • Speed work: Interval training or fartlek workouts at goal race pace, 5k pace (parkrun race pace), or VO2 max intervals. These speed workouts get your body used to running fast and build anaerobic fitness, improving VO2 max and running speed.
  • Warm up: Easy jog before speed work or a race pace effort.
  • Cool down: Slow your pace at the end of a workout, downshifting to an easy jog to recover.
People running on a track.

How Do I Run A Marathon Under 5 Hours?

There are a few special considerations that runners should bear in mind who are following a 5 hour marathon training plan as opposed to runners who might be covering the marathon distance at a faster pace.

While “slower runners“ may envy the speed at which the top finishers end up crossing the finish line, running a marathon at 5 hour marathon pace requires a tremendous amount of mental strength.

This is because the runner maintaining the average pace for a 5 hour marathon time will not even be at the half marathon mark on race day when some of the top finishers are already done with the 26.2 miles and are enjoying the post-race festivities.

Faster runners only have to focus and push their bodies for potentially half as long, while someone moving at 5 hour marathon pace essentially has a half marathon still to go.

Therefore, slower runners need to develop a massive amount of mental strength, especially for the second half of the race since they will be pushing at their race pace for 5 hours.

Sticking with anything physically uncomfortable for 5 hours is a feat that requires determination, dedication, and certainly practice, which is why the longer training runs are super important even if you plan to incorporate walk breaks into your marathon.

Moreover, when you have a slower pace or are incorporating walk breaks into your marathon training workouts, race day experience requires special consideration for fueling and hydration.

For one, you may need more calories and fluids for the race.

Depending on if you are running at a relatively easy pace and incorporating walk breaks, or are pushing yourself to hit the 5 hour marathon pace, you may or may not have more flexibility in your fueling options relative to someone running at a high intensity.

A running pack.

The harder you work, the more your body relies on carbs and stored glycogen for fuel. 

However, if you are jogging or find that the 5 hour running pace is relatively easy for you (perhaps you are helping pace another first-time marathon runner, and you can run faster yourself), you may be able to tolerate some fat and protein in your race fueling.

It is also important to have electrolytes in your hydration beverages.

Studies have found that the risk of hyponatremia increases with slower marathon finish times.

Hyponatremia is a potentially life-threatening condition in which sodium concentrations become too diluted because plain water is consumed without electrolytes.

This is because beginners or runners who have a slower race pace or average marathon pace have been found to drink more water during long training runs and long distance races, increasing the risk of hyponatremia.

Finally, depending on the size of the marathon you are running, it can be a good idea to carry your own hydration, energy gels, or other fuel that you intend to use in case the aid stations run out.

People handing out water in a race.

Some poorly organized marathons do not stock enough fluid or energy gels for runners who have a slower goal pace.

As a running coach, I have heard harrowing stories of some of my athletes who complained that the race ran out of even water at the aid stations in the second half of the race.

First time marathon runners are often unaware that this can be a risk, so they do not come prepared with their own hydration pack, handheld water bottle, or fuel belt, or they do not have energy gels with them on race day.

Don’t forget to join the Marathon Handbook Facebook group for more training tips from fellow runners!

To find the best marathon training plan to reach your 5 hour marathon pace goal, check out our marathon training plan database. You’ve got this!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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