How rigid are you with a marathon training plan?

I've been running for about 18 months, starting from a really low fitness base (was a heavy smoker and an active alcoholic) and have recently ran 20 miles, mostly off road too - with lots of hills.

I've got a road marathon in January, but I'm just no good at following my training plan.  I tend to do more mileage than what's required, and do little or no speed work, though I do a lot of hills (you can't avoid them around here), and I've heard hill work is speed work in disguise.

My weekly mileage varies from 25 miles per week to 50 miles per week; I tend to have two weeks of high mileage then drop it for a recovery week.  Weekend long runs vary from 12 miles to 15 miles, with the 20 miles I ran by accident (we got lost), but I still felt fairly comfortable and recovered quickish (I was fine after a rest week with low mileage).

So, my question is, for my first marathon in January (just under 3 months away), would I be okay to continue as I'm going?  This weekend - for example - I've got a 20 km cross country race (lots of climb), and then the following weekend I plan to do 17 miles, followed by a 20 miler the next weekend (total weekly mileage about 40 - 50 miles), followed by a rest week.  Maybe do about 3 or 4 20 milers with one 24 mile run before the marathon and taper.

I enjoy the long slow stuff, I'm quite happy to walk up steep inclines in my long runs, and rest if I get niggles.  I would like to run a sub 4.30 marathon (secretly under 4 hrs), but that's not that important; I just want to get around one.

Now, am I being daft training the way I'm training?  Or should I stick rigidly(ish) to a Hal Higdon training program?



  • That seems like a lot of milage for a 4.30 time ?  Have you run any half marathons to give an indication of your likely race time ? 

    I think sticking rigidly to a plan can be detrimental to performance - remember its just a bit of paper. You need to adapt it to you. If you are struggling with the mileage or tired or ill - then adapt it. 


    Good luck with the race.

  • How important is the time goal to you?

    If it's not that important, you;re fine.

    If it is important, you need to be able to run at the required pace, so you need some timed distances like Cougie said

  • The danger in doing more, rather than following the schedule is that you can end up over training -

    For my last marathon, admitedly a long time ago - I resolved that I would follow the schedule and not go over 70 miles per week - 4 weeks in and my mileage hit 100 (I had to go out and do a 3 mile run on the sunday evening to get the 100 in and I was so close!!) The following 5 weeks saw that creep up to 107 - and off that almost jogged a 79 minute half marathon and a sub 2:40 marathon was on the cards, the trouble was despite reducing the mileage I never actually recovered from running higher than normal miles and come marathon day was still suffering the effects of the over training . Crashed out some 25 minutes slower than my anticipated time. I walked away from the marathon that day. It took me 6 months to fully recover.

    Schedules are written for reason and whilst some degree of flexibility is acceptable over training can follow.


  • Two higher mileage weeks followed by a low mileage 'recovery' week actually sounds like a very sensible way to train. Most marathon plans follow the same sort of idea but the difference in mileage isn't quite as much as yours. If you look at even the basic RW intermediate training plan the long runs each weekend increase for two weeks the drop back down, so again somewhat similar to what you're doing. Some plans' recovery weeks aren't so much about dropping the overall mileage but rather about running the same number of miles but at an easier pace. I'd just say make sure for your recovery week you're not feeling 25 miles is easy and running them too fast.

    If it's working for you and you're not picking up injuries, I don't see why you should change it. Might be an idea to fit in a half marathon or 10 mile race somewhere just to see how you perform in a race situation. But if you're going to get to your marathon having done 6+ 20 mile runs in training, and a 24 miler too, you should have no trouble getting round a marathon, and you might be pleasantly surprised by your time.

    Going by all the training questions on here, the most common problem is people just failing to get in enough base miles, long slow runs to get their overall mileage up. That's definitely not a problem you've got!

  • Agree with runs-with-dogs. You're getting your miles in, particularly lots of decent-length long runs; you're including drop-down weeks. Sounds like a good plan to get round without crashing on the day. Can't say anything about your goal time without knowing say a recent half-marathon time, but I'd suggest you keep going as you are.


  • Thanks all for replying, and I shall bear in mind the experience shared about overtraining.

    I'm doing another 20 km trail on Sunday (Bog and Bryn in Cwmbran), but it's all off road, hilly and muddy (we recced it last week) and I have no plans to run a half on road in the near future, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens on the day.  To be honest, I think I just want to run a road marathon to 'tick the box'; I prefer off road stuff.

    Actually, maybe I'll have a look for a road half marathon.  Thanks all.

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