Marathon pace training

Hi all,

I'm not new to marathon running but in my first three I've always just wanted to get there in about 4 hours. This time I'm going for a particular time, from 3.40 to 3.45. However, I made this decision quite late so I sort of improvised my training for that time. I did my 14 and 16 milers at marathon pace and I was encouraged to see that I could keep the pace for my target allowing for a few slower last miles. So far so good. I intended to keep on that strategy with my 18 tomorrow and 20 in a week but my friends at the club warned me I'm going to wear myself out by always doing my long runs at marathon pace. Indeed, in one interesting and sensible article on this website I read one of the training strategies is to do half of the long run on marathon pace or alternate one week marathon pace long run and one week easy long run.

Now my question: I've done two weeks marathon pace long runs and I've got two long runs left and two weeks of tapering. My legs don't feel very tired but I was wondering what would be best to avoid starting too tired on marathon day and, at the same time, do some marathon pace training in the last stage, considering that I normally do three weeks tapering rather than two. 

Half of my twenty miler at marathon pace? Half of my 18 miler at marathon pace and easy 20? No more marathon pace on my long runs and some speed work in my short runs next week?

Many thanks for any advice,



  • Couple of things to be aware of, Marathon Pace should be dictated by your current performance ability, not the time you would like to run, although if you are estimating accurately they may prove to be similar.

    Your friends are also correct, in an 18 week training plan there's no need to do more than a few long runs that feature M pace running, and 12 miles is the limit that most coaches recommend (unless you're at the elite end of the performance scale) the rest of the miles should be done at an easy pace.

    You can also split up the Marathon pace sections into 2 so on an 18 miler for example run: 2 easy miles, 6 marathon pace miles, 2 easy miles, 6 marathon pace miles and 2 easy pace miles to finish.

  • Many thanks, Ross. That's what I'm doing, trying to go for the time I think corresponds to my performance ability. I did my 18 today, and although my legs are responding relatively well, I think they need a bit of a break. So I think I'll do a bit of speed work during my week sessions next week or a couple of miles at marathon pace on my 20.

    I've just improvised, that's the problem. I wanted to see if I was able to keep a certain pace on a long run but I realise now that you can't just keep marathon pace on every long run all the time! I've learned my lesson and I'll do things properly on the next one probably in spring, with speed sessions during the week and some M pace running on long runs. 

    Thanks again,


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