Sub 4 Hour Marathon Training Plan

Hey guys, my sub 4 hour marathon training plan is designed around the popular marathon goal of beating the four hour clock. 

The 20 week plan is designed for novice runners and people with a reasonable base fitness level, and has been reverse-engineered to optimise your training for the goal in hand.

The 4 Hour marathon training plan is one of my most popular training plans, and has been used by hundreds of runners.

Who Is It For?:

Runners who have established an initial running base, or have an existing good fitness level – and want to beat the 4hr time.

How Long?: 

Five months (20weeks).  

4 Hour Marathon Training Plan Pace, Explained: 

I’ve built this plan around the philosophy of running a constant pace throughout your marathon (this is something I’ve written about at length elsewhere 😉 ). 

For novice-intermediate runners, aiming to run your entire marathon at a consistent pace is likely to increase your chances of success, avoid hitting the wall, and finishing on a high. 

It also means we can structure all your training around this pace.

Therefore the important pace to remember is as follows:

8:46min/mile, or 5:27min/km

If you can hold this pace throughout your marathon, you’ll actually finish in 3hrs 50mins (I’ve left in 10 minutes buffer for toilet stops, injuries, crowds, etc.)

Now we know the pace you’re going to run on marathon day, we can structure all your training around it!

Training Runs Explained:

‘Classic’ Training Runs
These are designed to get your body used to running consistently, improve your base speed, your stamina, and add to your weekly mileage.  

Aim to do these regular Training Runs at marathon pace, as noted in the training plan.

Speed Work 
These are 800m intervals, designed to improve your running economy and base running speed.

The idea is to run 800m fast, then 800m slow to recover.

During the fast interval, try to run at 7:42min/mile for 800m (roughly 1min/mile faster than the 4-hr marathon pace).

During the slow interval, keep your pace to a very slow, relaxed jog in order to recover.

Repeat as required in the training plan.

Long Runs
Your long runs are designed to increase your endurance, i.e. your ability to run far.

The whole trick with these long runs is to not worry about pace – do them at a slow, conversational pace. If in doubt, slow down. These runs are all about getting the miles on your feet, nothing else.

Cross Training
Each week has one day of cross training. I recommend some form of strength/resistance training, or yoga / pilates, as these tend to counteract the tightening and weakening of muscles like your hips and glutes that happens during marathon training!

Get The Complete Guide

My guidebook, 4-Hour Marathon, is available now for instant download.  It maps out the complete training strategy and rationale behind the sub-four hour marathon training schedule supplied.   It walks you through your week-by-week training and preparation to get you to the finish line in under four hours. 

The guidebook goes into detail with the training plan, and includes many practical tips for marathon preparation.

Download The Training Plan Here

Enter your email and I’ll send you this free training plan now, in PDF and Google Sheets formats (completely customisable), in both miles and kilometers.  

The most comprehensive plan you will find

5.0 rating
October 28, 2019

I had run a couple of half marathons and was in reasonable shape coming into the plan and it was a good rise in intensity throughout. You need to want to do an event like this – I was getting up at 3am to get my long run in before kids weekend sport etc and this was hard. When you combine the plan with the online community through the Marathon Handbook FB page and website, you get complete support. Have used this plan with great success and now looking at upping the pace in the marathon space… GREAT JOB!

Rob McCaw

Get out of my way

5.0 rating
December 27, 2019

Really good book. Not a lot of extra fluff. Here is what you need to do. Now go do it. Building for my 1st marathon. See you on the other side.


10k training​ plan

5.0 rating
December 27, 2019



50 Mile Success!

5.0 rating
November 22, 2019

Hey dudes, this is the plan to use for a 50 miler. Got me through at least – at age 42, I’m happy with that.

Ellis Kern

Training for NYC Marathon

5.0 rating
October 29, 2019

Trying to train for NYC Marathon and cane across your site! Wish me luck!

Jaime Goodall

Proven Training Plans by a UESCA-certified Running Coach 

Every one of our training plans has been developed by Thomas Watson, a UESCA-certified running coach.

Thomas is also a podium-finishing ultra-marathon runner, and has dozens of marathons under his belt.

Each training plan has been road-tested by hundred of runners, refined and improved – and are free to download and customise to suit your needs!