Four runs a week for a marathon?

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05/11/2002 at 13:13
I started running about 5 months ago and am hoping to take part in the 2003 London Marathon. In last month's Runner's World there was an article about running doing 4 sessions a week. I have started doing this, it breaks down into a long (80 mins so far) run on a Sunday, easy (30 min) run on Tuesday, Tempo on Wednesday and Speed Session on a Friday. I also swim on a Saturday morning and get a sports massage once a week. Will this schedule be enough to get me through the Marathon? I would aim to build up the long run to 2.5 to 3 hours plus in time - any advice gratefully received!
05/11/2002 at 14:38
Thousands of runners complete the London marathon each year on a lot less that that - some of them in decent times.

OK, a 4 day week will never see you get to your ultimate potential, but this is your first marathon. Anyway, my experience of following marathon training schedules, usually including only 1 rest day a week, is that often they leave far too little time to recover from the exertions, and I risk ending up exhausted, de-motivated, or ill or injured. The body needs time to recover and build strength. This is the major threat to novice marathon runners, so many are forced to drop out because they over do the training, build up mileage too quickly, or don't build in enough rest days. The intense training schedules are aimed at experienced runners who are more likely to have the sense to back off when they are over-doing it.

I have in the past usually tried to trim the suggested schedules down to the core days, as advocated in last month's RW, and so run only 4 or 5 days rather than 6 per week. I have found this works much better - it has delivered times which while nothing special have left me very pleased, as I consider them to be a fair reflection of my (limited) abilities.

Maybe I am a wimp who needs more rest than most. But, the 4-session schedule sounds sensible as despite neing a novice you clearly are starting from a reasonable base of running fitness (the mix of tempo and speed sessions would be a strain for someone without an established base). The usual rules everyone says apply - build up the long runs and overall mileage very gradually, have an occasional easy week, mix in some variety (different surfaces, hill work, different routes and times etc) and make sure you get some race experience - there are several good half marathons towards end of Jan/start of Feb?

Best of luck.
05/11/2002 at 14:38
Due to hip problems, one of our blokes does just 3 days training a week for his marathons. he's 60+ age group and does 3.29 marathons - usually FLM and one other a year. He does a fair bit of cycling to keep fit between runs.
His longest run is 22 miles done 4 weeks before the marathon.
05/11/2002 at 17:10
Thank you for your advice on this - I'll keep going and see how I go - have done a couple of 10ks and have got a 10 miler on 1st December so will keep on going!!
05/11/2002 at 17:46
I think Dougie's advice is far from wimpish and entirely sensible - you want to be able to finish the marathon, not be injured weeks before the event because you trained too hard. Or am I sounding like an insurance salesman?
06/11/2002 at 11:34
Not at all - very sound advice and I'm going to stick at what I'm doing and hope to stay injury-free and motivated!
06/11/2002 at 12:45
Definitely all good advice.
Four days a week is what I always AIM for when training for marathons. One long run, one short and a couple of 50-70 minuters.
Doing this I've run 3:05 and 3:10.
Indeed the only period I have run more than 4 days in a week I ended up on the physios couch. Rest is as important in training as learning to keep going when tired.
We've all got are own tolerances and I have learned that running for 2 consecutive days regularly inevitably leads to injury.

You are on the right path.
06/11/2002 at 13:23
If the training is going well, the mileage on Tuesday's easy run could be built up, maybe to an hour or hour and a half a month or two before the marathon. Most schedules have a pattern like this. But this run should still be done at an easy pace. As ever, listen to your body. But I am confident it is possible to do a very good marathon on 4 days a week, if you make 3 of the sessions good quality and cut the junk mileage.
06/11/2002 at 13:24
Oh, it's so nice to know other people think it's OK to run only 4 days a week. I'm a relative beginner (my longest run is currently 75 minutes) and I have no plans as yet to run a marathon.

Although - I may have changed my mind, reading this! The main thing that has put me off the idea of a marathon so far is the 6-days-a-week training schedule so may advocate as being essential for such an undertaking. I would find it very difficult to run virtually every day, taking into account other commitments and the need to fit in a life as well!

I'm interested to know that people have run some very good times on a 4-day a week training schedule. I may even consider a marathon now, once I have a few shorter-distance races under my belt.
06/11/2002 at 13:39
Yes, Minkin, know what you mean. Single mum and all that. Four days a week was enough for me
06/11/2002 at 13:55
Well, I have just done the Dub marathon on 4 times a week training. basically I do one long,one 6 miler hard, one 6 miler easy and one session where I either do speedwork on the track (which is on a school playing filed at the end of my road)or a 5k interval in the gym if the weather is bad. AT the later stages I changed one of my six milers to a 10 miler.
06/11/2002 at 17:46
4 days a week sounds so much more manageable than the usual 5 or 6 day schedules you see. Does anybody know where I can find a good 4-day a week training schedule? I'd like something inbetween the 'get u round' and 'intermediate' schedules that are on this site.
06/11/2002 at 18:09
I definitely agree with the 'less is more' approach. I do 3 runs a week and a couple of cross training sessions and this works for me ;-)
06/11/2002 at 19:10
I too am looking for a schedule somewhere in between the get u round one and the intermediate. I am currently running 4 days a week with my long run at the weekend being 7 miles and the 3 in the week varying between 2 and 5.
06/11/2002 at 19:12
I was a beginer last year and did a maximum 4 days. I over trained at the start too many miles and lost September and October. And still didn't learn the lesson ending up with physio again and loosing four weeks of Feb & March. My final long run resulted in a knee injury two weeks before the big day which my physio put right. I got to 15 miles on target for sub 4, when the knee injury kicked in. A quick call on the mobile to my physio (who was waiting at the end of the race) advised ne to take the last 10 miles on a 3 minute walk per mile. Result I completed in 4.26.

Lesson take note of the advise on overtraining. also of structured training. 4 nights is fine but learn also from my mistakes. This year if I'm in I'm after 3.30 which I know I can achieve by 4 days and learning from last years mistakes (due to lack of knowledge)
07/11/2002 at 09:01

I haven't seen a 4-day week schedule. I wondered if there would be support for a 4-day week forum discussion through the FLM training period, discussing the best way to modify the RW schedules (or others) to this approach.

It should be possible to modify the existing schedules - take out the 'junk' days, but recognising that the harder days must be made to really count. For example, the mileage on the longer runs would probably need to be built up earlier.
07/11/2002 at 10:28
There was an article about the 4-day week approach in last month's RW. It wasn't specifically geared to any particular distance, but broke down the runs into long run, recovery run, tempo run and speed session. It gave suggested pacings for each of these sessions depending on your other race times - might be helpful to you.
07/11/2002 at 10:38
If I remember right, you could use it for marathon training by adding mileage/time to the long run.

I see people here have completed marathons with only 4 sessions a week but surely they must be the exception. I'm doing my first next year and I wouldnt dream of trying without running 5-6 days per week, as per the intermediate marathon schedule in rW for instance.
07/11/2002 at 10:52
Thank you everyone for your input and advice - all much appreciated although now this seems to be going round in circles - Dougie, I'm sticking with you - thanks for the great advice, I'm very impressed and will keep doing what I'm doing. I think that at the end of the day it's all down to what's best for the individual!
07/11/2002 at 12:12
If any of you are looking for a 4-day week schedule for a first marathon, Hal Higdon has one:
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