Minimum training for a decent marathon

Illness and injury have curtailed my marathon training a bit.  I was planning to race Luton on Dec. 2nd, but only if I feel that a PB is possible.

I've only managed one 3 hour / 20 mile training run so far.

The rest of my training has consisted of weekly 2.5 hr runs, 2 x hard hour runs (or a cross country race) and one speed session.  Total weekly mileage of about 40+ miles.

So, is that enough training to still get a PB marathon ?

What's the least training you've done and yet still raced a decent marathon ?



  • Hi T2B

    I would say it depends on what your last marathon time was and what base you had before injury. 2.5 hour runs are still long runs so you still seem to have put in some longer sessions.  Nobody can tell you whether you've done enough to pb really, only you will know if you're in shape to do so.

    Best of luck

  • Thanks hilly

    I guess I'd like to believe that I'm ready for it, but marathons are the great unknowns in running terms (for me at least).

    In the past I think I've always over-trained for marathons - and run them a month or so after I've reached a peak. So I was toying with the idea that under-training might actually be an advantage.

    What was your training regime for your marathon PB ? 

  • My best so far is 3.13 - so I'd be happy with anything quicker than that.

    But for 'decent' I really meant anything that you were pleased with : I wanted to know what limited training other runners had managed to get away with when still producing a marathon that they were happy with.


  • You git - thats my PB too ! image

    I'd think that with the training you have done - you could be pushed to beat it, but you know your body best - what form where you in for that PB ? Do you need lots of long runs or not ? Does heat affect you, or do you run well in the cold ?

  • Cougie - but have you got a lot of marathons left in you ?!  I don't think I have !

    My training has changed a lot since that PB. I now do those regular 2.5 hour runs.

    And I might still have some of the training left in my legs from this year's London Marathon .... where I was affected big time by the heat.  I much prefer the cold - hence training for Luton in the first place. 

    But even this coming weekend I won't get in a 3 hour run. I'm planning to do a 5 mile cross country race on Satruday and a 10 mile road race on Sunday. But I guess that if I can do well in both of those then that must be an indication that I'm in good shape.

    Finally, of course, there are always the train companies engineering works on Sunday morning to scupper any chance of even getting to Luton image

  • I'd be a bit more optimistic than Johnny but ultimately it's an individual thing - on 60 miles a week I'd expect the average runner to be around 3 hours - but ultimately it's educated guesswork - the important thing is if that's the training you've done then get on and run Luton and tell us what happens - it's enough training to get round at a reasonable pace whatever happens.  

  • T2B - 40+ is a fair mileage, but how well one runs a marathon off this mileage depends on natural ability as well as the training.  When I did that mileage I achieved around 3.36 for the marathon.  Over the years I've built a large base and now train around 70+ miles and by pb came off 80 mile weeks.  I think most females have to put in a few more miles to achieve similar times to menimage
  • T2B you will suffer a bit at the end as you wont have done enough long runs but suffering is what the mara is all about.  If you are feeling strong you could run a PB and surely Luton should be better for PBs than London?.  What was your mileage for London and how have your recent races been?

    My PB (3:19) was ran off 25-30 miles per week for 10 weeks.  I am going to do Edinburgh next year and will try and follow a proper plan to see if I can get a bit quicker.

     Good luck at Luton

  • WardiWardi ✭✭✭

    T2B.. I have run 7 sub 3:15 marathons and they have all come from an average mileage of 55-75mpw.  I know that If I dropped my mileage to my old level of 40mpw I would run about 3:30.

    There are a few talented souls who can run good times off 30-40mpw but they are a rare breed.  I would predict a decent run for you but no PB.  Your regular 2.5 hour runs will help but I reckon you need a regular run of 10-15m during the week and 18-23 at the weekends to give yourself a decent chance.

    Lack of mileage tells in a marathon; I've passed quite a few runners in the later stages who have beaten me soundly over 10k's, half marathons etc in the build up.  FWIW I averaged about 70mpw for my FLM campaign this year, managed a 3:06 PB in the heat and my highest ever position.  I'm a V50 now so my best marathon days are also numbered!

    Good luck to you if you decide to have a go, I would be delighted for you to prove me wrong!

  • T2B,

    just curious, but would the sunday race be stortford 10? I'm nowhere near you in pace (stortford 10 being my first race and all, hopefully blackpool 08 being first marathon) but i'm wondering how many forumites will be there.


     ps I agree with you on the cold front, I started running in summer and i'm now running in Preston, Lancs most evenings. Much better...

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭

    T2B, It is possible, mainly because you've been doing your 2 1/2 hour weekly run. When I first went sub 3 (2:57), at the 2002 FLM I'd had a few weeks off due to illness and only 8 of the preceding 16 weeks had mileage above 40. My PB, previous to this, was 3:08, 7 months earlier.

    I started the race 100% positive that I was going to beat 3 hours.

    For you to get a PB you really have to believe that it's going to happen and start off at PB pace. You'll probably suffer over the final few miles, but that's part of the fun of doing a marathon.

  • Just looked back at my old running log and I was only averaging 40 miles per week for my 2004 PB.  So I'm doing similar weekly mileage now - just without those very long runs.

    I am in awe of anyone who can average 60 or 70 miles per week ... how do you find the time ?  aren't you continually tired ? when do you get any rest ? 

    Its the Epsom 10 I was planning on doing - and the South of Thames xc the day before.  did you really write your message at 2.57 this morning ?!

    What you  say is very encouraging.  If I run Luton then I was intend to start off slightly quicker than PB pace in the knowledge that I am bound to slow down in the final few miles.  Just out of interest what kind of times were you egtting for your half marathons in the lead up to your marathon PB ?

    As a side issue does anyone have any thoughts on using half marathon times as marathon predictors ?
    I read somewhere that you should double your half marathon time and then add 10 minutes to get your predicted marathon time.

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭

    T2B, at the time my 1/2 PB was around 1:25. The Sunday before FLM I'd done a 10k in Lincoln in 38:03. I believe Tom beat me that day!

    Predicting your marathon time works, if you've trained correctly and the conditions are right for you.

    With my current 1/2 PB of 1:17 I should be running sub 2:45 but haven't even broken 3 hours since 2005, although that's because I've started at either 2:50 or 2:45 pace and blown up dramatically every time. I do start each marathon believing 100% that I will achieve my goal. Doesn't always work though!

  • TTB - it's not always a case of finding the time for the high miles, it's making the time.

    Drew - there was a runner who looked a lot like you who came storming past me in the 2nd mile at FLM going considerably faster than 6.17 pace!!

  • T2B - to be honest once you've built the mileage up it doesn't take that much out of you.  The first time I did it was for Cardiff marathon and I went from 40 to peak at 70 and I was very tired, but now I've been running that kind of mileage for a few years I recover from each run very quickly.  I find the time because I want to run.  This is done with a short run in the morning before work and a longer one later in the day.  It's also important to run each run at the right pace in other words not too fast, then you don't need rest days.  Although I can take a rest day and still do 70 miles a week, which I do occasionally.  I think you'll find there's lots of people of RW who run 60-100 mile weeks, it must be a growing trendimage

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭

    BR, but the 2nd mile is quite a steep descent....and the mile markers in FLM are way out anyway image.

    The only way that I'm going to get my sub 2:45 (which I will) is by using my HRM.

  • Drew - you're on the wrong thread here, you need to go to BR's descent threadimage
  • Drew
    Just looked at your profile - do you really only race up to 11 times a year ?
    If so, I guess you target races, and aim to peak for them. 
    Funny my PBs are quicker than you for the shorter distances (37.27 for 10K, 1.24 for half) but nowhere near you for marathon.

    Hilly, Barnsleyrunner
    Yes, I'm sure you could get used to it.  Its the early morning week day runs that would be difficult for me - I'd be falling asleep at work image
    Hilly - do you also fit in speedwork within that high mileage ?

  • T2B - are your Pbs for the shorter races faster because you dont do enough long runs ?

    I think you have to be pretty comfy running 20 milers before you will do justice to a good marathon time.

  • drewdrew ✭✭✭

    T2B, I'll need to update my profile! 21 races this year, although I do target a few select races each year, maybe 2 or 3.

    With your PB's I'd be quite confident of a sub 3 hour marathon, but you do need to put in the long runs of 2 1/2 hours plus.

  • T2T - I don't do much speedwork most of the year, but within my 18 week marathon programme I will do.  The cycle will be focussed on strength, speed endurance then sharpening.  BTW you're pb's are similar to mine.  Except my 10k is a bit slower at 38.08, but done on a flat multi terrain course.
  • My 10K PB was a bit of a one off - next best is 38.26 - but both done on the same course, so at least I know the first one is legal !

    So when you first started morning runs what was your approach ?  Did you start at once a week for 30 minutes and gradually build up ?

    I went to a great talk by Mike Skinner (Enlgand cross country runner and won the Croydon 10K in 31 minutes) about planning to peak for one or two races a year.  I came away from that inspired to follow his plans .... and then the reality of a four month cross country season where I need to stay at my best scuppered those plans.

    btw I love the way forums throw up ideas and points that I never would have considered image

  • I started one morning a week doing 3 miles then the next week twice and yes gradually built it up so I could do every morning if I wanted.  Sometimes I do, but not always.  Much depends on what I did the day before and what I'm training for.  I also have easy weeks where I'll do one run a day and half the mileage.
  • TRTR ✭✭✭
    The rest of my training has consisted of weekly 2.5 hr runs, 2 x hard hour runs (or a cross country race) and one speed session. Total weekly mileage of about 40+ miles.

    If you were born in the right gene pool (and have lots of previous years of running under your belt) then yes PB o'clock.

    Weekly 2.5 hr runs + 2 hard hour runs and one speed session. You're only missing some "padding" miles, on another 2 days.
  • Hilly
    Thanks. Morning runs sounds like something I should start doing at some point. Your sensible approach looks liek the way to go. Though its too late to benefit my possible Luton effort, I guess.

    A reasonable gene pool but only 7 years running under my belt. 

  • Hello all,

    This is probably a silly question but why does a high weekly mileage affect your eventual marathon speed?  I would have thought that speed training affected speed.  I can see that a very high mileage makes you very fit and strong.

    Yes you guessed right - I haven't yet done a marathon but I have done several halves and the grizzly once (for me getting to the finish line was the achievment - speed did not figure!!!)

    Seriously I would like to know as I do intend to build to a marathon next year even if I don't get a place in London.  Having said this I don't think that speed and me should be mentioned in the same sentance but hey ho info is good.

  • Hi Flipperjane

    The theory is that because the marathon is such a long race distance you need to have a training regime that gets your body used to running long distances.

    I'm probably arguing myself out of running the Luton marathon here but ..... if your body isn't used to running for 3 or 4 hours then when you come to race 26 miles you will suffer when you hit the 'wall' (usually between 18 and 20 miles).

    I recall that there was a study a while back that showed that the human body normally only had the capacity to keep going for those 18 to 20 miles. Anything beyond that would need to be achieved by training specifically to go that extra distance.

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