Can you REALLY train for a marathon on 3 runs a week?

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Cortina5    pirate
22/10/2013 at 08:42

From the other end of the telescope, I've used FIRST's 5km plan with some healthy success. Now working on the half-mara plan. Did the first long run yesterday.

I had viewed the paces as brutal in the past, but the HMP and I guess MP runs are that little bit slower, so it's not all bad.

You do need to do the 2 x-training sessions (remember it is 3+2 sessions). Last year I also squeezed in some quality bike sessions instead of easier sessions and injury visited. Ensure the x-training is easy paced or follow the plan.

AgentGinger has the crux of it.

23/10/2013 at 16:36

I am very tempted to take the 3 run approach purely due to work commitments but VLM will be my 3rd time only marathon and desperate to achieve a PB this time.

My 2010 experience was with Bronchitis/ inhaler in tow, finished it but so disappointed so this time I want to as prepared as I can be and in tip top form.

Will a 3 run approach work I wonder .

28/10/2013 at 20:36

Im also looking for a 3 run plan for VLM, it will be my third marathon but I have issues with a collapsing foot and tight itb, I have recently taken up OW swimming which I will continue throughout the winter, so want a plan I can incorporate lots of swimming!

28/10/2013 at 21:10

I ran my first marathon in 2007 using FIRST and as I had never done anything before it was the structure I liked. Result 4,36.

From that point till today have always run 3 times a week but always faster than I should. Its not structured to the same level but every week will include a long run at marathon pace and a 10k at close to race pace, but for me due to work/family it works. I will never be fast but over the years now have a pb of 3.41, (29 marathons/ultras)

31/10/2013 at 15:30

Going to try First as convinced, due to history of injuries, that I can do no more than 3 runs per week. In fact last week I started getting cocky and did following.

Sun - 15 k 1:20

Wed - 6k 32:00

Fri - 5k 24:00 (pb)  All above on cushioned treadmill

Sat 5k 27:02 This was first run outdoors in years and was a Parkrun event. Due to traffic got there late, no proper warm up and result was grade 1 calf strain.


Lesson is at my age I need to be careful/not stupid , follow a plan and do plenty of stretching, strenghtening and warm up properly.

Cortina5    pirate
31/10/2013 at 18:26

FIRST is not a plan to follow if you get injured easily. You must do the 2 days of cross training to get some recovery or easy sessions in.

Remember that the shorter the session the longer the warm up too. Heal well!

31/10/2013 at 20:14



I used this as a base for 3 runs a week - at 58 and first and only marathon it suited me well, didn't get any injuries - didn't do the bike either, but did do 2 strength/conditioning sessions each week, which I think helped enormously.

31/10/2013 at 21:29

Im doing the hal one...did my first run today 24 week plan for london.  Aready one run behind but did run 7 on sunday so not freting.  Anniesophie how did it go for you?

Britrisky    pirate
01/11/2013 at 23:56

I did FIRST for my first marathon in Brighton last year (April) - didn't quite manage all the cross training, then did a varied version for an autumn mara.

This year I trained for Snowdonia with pretty much a club speed session on Mondays, a mid-week hill session (8 miles usually) and a long run Saturday mornings, with very little else other than a bit of cycle commuting (max 15 miles some days, 8 others). The marathon went really well 

03/11/2013 at 18:35

I did London this year, and considering it was unusually warm,  congested, and I made the classic mistake of going out too fast, I was really pleased to do 4:33:33. I'm very tempted to do another one to get sub 4:30 but not sure yet, this running lark gets really addictive!

Edited: 03/11/2013 at 18:37
05/11/2013 at 22:45

I'm glad you posted this. I've done two half marathons and am toying with the idea of a full in May 2014. Problem is that I don't have a lot of time to spend training. I don't know whether it's better to stick to the half (and go for a PB) or give the full marathon a whirl on 3 days a week training. I'm guessing I'd have to be prepared for a pretty slow time though?


06/11/2013 at 07:10
But it's not three days a week training Betty as you also have the two days of cross-training on top of the three intensive runs making five days in total. Anyway, this plan worked really well for me when I was preparing for a half in the spring and I will probably use it for a marathon in 2014. Good luck with the marathon.
06/11/2013 at 08:22
Stockholm Syndrome wrote (see)

For my next marathon, Rome in March 2014, I am thinking about following the full program. But I have also get hold of the Shades marathon program which seems a bit less demanding than First. I shall compare them soon and maybe I mix them and make up my own three days a week program.

If you want to find out about Shades there is a long thread in the Training forum. PM the user "Shades" to get the program.


I was also going to suggest this. http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/forum/training/shades-marathon-training/72631.html here is the thread link. I've used Shades's plan to get me through my first 7 marathons and it worked for me. I only added in the additional run when I had the time but found that it really did make a difference

06/11/2013 at 18:05

And here is another 3 days a week programme:


I have just made up my own 3 day programme for Rome. It consist of the distance runs from Hal linked above, the tempo runs from Furman/FIRST and the long runs from Shades. I will start it on monday the 18th and see how it works out. As I have only done 2 runs a week before I expect some sort of improvement...

Edited: 06/11/2013 at 18:08
Cortina5    pirate
06/11/2013 at 19:22

It still requires activity on 5 of 7 days though, similar to FIRST.

What are Shades' LSR paces like?

06/11/2013 at 20:24

Iron5 - this is taken from the plan:

6 Training pace is important, if you need to know the exact paces you should be training at, please complete the attached and I will provide your training paces for each type of run. Many runners train too fast, particularly on the long runs, this can lead to injury and you will not peak for your marathon race at the right time.

Print out the spreadsheet and the recommended paces are on the footnote, but for those. of you that don't print your schedule, they are:-

MP = Marathon pace

Recovery = MP less 90 secs to 2 mins per mile

Long = MP less 30 secs to 90 secs per mile

Easy = MP less 30 secs to 60 secs per mile

Tempo = 1 mile easy warm up then however far the run is @ 10k to Half M pace, followed by a 1 mile easy warm down

Fartlek = 1 mile easy warm up then however far the run is as Fartlek, follwoed by a 1 mile easy warm down

06/11/2013 at 20:25

For any of those with questions - i do recommend asking Shades. She's really friendly and helpful!

06/11/2013 at 21:54

Miggito that was a nice summary.

A couple of years ago I was curious so I set out to do the first interval session I would do on the plan. 3 x 1 mile @7:40 with 1 min recovery. I thought it sounded a bit tough but you don't know until you try...

Did a mile in 7:40

Waited a minute

staggered home

picked up my Hal Higdon marathon book.... 

FWIW I think you can do a marathon on 3 runs a week - off the top of my head, long run (durrr), then the two others would be...

a midweek midlong run which goes up to 10 or 12 miles, done at marathon pace every other week (say),
a 30-50 minute run which (when you're not doing the MP run) could be hills or tempo or fartlek or intervals (or not, if you're knackered).

Not optimal but it would do.

The FIRST thing actually seems pretty hard because you're doing intense work 3 times a week and then have to faff with swimming pools /bikes/ whatever for the crosstraining too ... so when people say they followed it and did well, I do believe them!

07/11/2013 at 12:42

I followed this roughly for my first marathon and thought it was great so it's interesting to hear other people's experiences.  I found three runs a week ideal as I do other sports so I didn't have to cut back on them as much as I would have to fit in some of the other plans because they counted as cross training.

For my next marathon I think I'll do this but spread out over more than 16 weeks to make sure I get all the runs in as I didn't feel I had enough time to recover between sessions - it'll be spread over about 22 weeks if I start this weekend but I know I'll be missing a week in January.  I'll be doing more cross training than it says as I found after that last marathon that my upper body strength was rubbish as I'd neglected it too much.  Not good as my friend wants us to do Tough Mudder! 

Cortina5    pirate
07/11/2013 at 14:06

Ta Emmy

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