Spring marathon and summer Ironman

Can you do both without compromise?

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Darkness    pirate
13/11/2013 at 13:43

I have seen some references to doing this combination in various other posts but as I am doubting my ability to train effectively for both I thought I would ask the direct question.

I have entered Manchester marathon on 6 April and the Outlaw on 27 July.  I thought that becoming a better runner would help me achieve a new IM pb in July but now having focused on running for the past couple of months I think unless I put ironman training on hold for the foreseeable future I will end up disappointing myself at both events. 

I have never done a standalone marathon before but have done 3 ironman distance races.  All the 18 week marathon plans I look at online seem to suggest 4-5 running days a week which would leave me with little or no time to fit in cycling and swimming.

Is there a way to do both without significantly compromising either or should I drop out of the Outlaw now and put my mind at rest, maybe doing a 70.3 late summer instead?

Advice from those who have been there and done that gratefully received.    

13/11/2013 at 13:52

yes - very doable

you've got an experienced base behind you with 3 IM so you know what workloads you need to do.

I did my mara PB (was my 2nd marathon) and 1st IM in the same year and my training was roughly

  1. build a big bike base on summer/autumn/early winter with 2 long rides a week
  2. swim and run as needed
  3. drop the weekend long ride (keep the midweek one) come early spring and focus on running lots
  4. post marathon, drop the long marathon training runs and get the bike miles built back up - no run longer than a 1/2 marathon

you can marathon train on 3 runs a week (what I did) but all quality - check out the FIRST method (I didn't but used similar principles).   it takes some dedication to do them both but it's very possible

13/11/2013 at 13:56

There was an article in one of the tri mags saying it was not a good idea a while ago with loads of supporting data.

I've done a spring mara before all of my iron distance races but them I'm not anywhere near the pointy end to know how much difference it would make

seren nos    pirate
13/11/2013 at 13:57

just don't do what i did and play hockey  for fun 2 days after smashing my marathon PB in the april.....

1 broken big toe cocked up the next stage of training big time

Iron Pingu    pirate
13/11/2013 at 14:16

I did FLM last year in April followed by Outlaw in July and did my best time.  To be fair the conditions at Outlaw were much better in 2012 than they were at Outlaw this year!

Cheerful Dave    pirate
13/11/2013 at 14:20

Having done VLM and either Roth or Outlaw 3 years in a row I'd say that that yes, there's some compromise.  Not necessarily much, but if you want to be absolutely the quickest you can in July (e.g. if you were going for a Kona slot, which you obviously aren't) then you'd be better off skipping Manchester.

OTOH, it's perfectly possible to get a decent result in both.  What you do need to do though is forget the marathon training plan because you're going to need to cycle and swim in the spring.  Keep the basic elements but trade some runs for rides.  My tactic was to start earlier than the usual 18 week plans wanted, so that I was running 20 milers from January, and alternate long run weekends with long ride weekends.  Not huge rides, maybe 3 or 4 hours at most, but enough so that getting longer post-marathon wasn't a problem.  Swimming was more limited, usually a lunchtime session and an early Sat or Sun morning each week (back before the kids woke up).

I also dropped the standard pre-marathon races (half marathons, 20 mile races and so on) and raced duathlons instead.  Post-marathon it was all bike, with maybe only one or two long runs, usually tacked onto the end of a ride as a brick session.

VTd    pirate
13/11/2013 at 14:27

Great question Darkness and its something I've been pondering.  I got a club spot for VLM 2014 and I intend using it, as well planned Copenhagen IM (end Aug), followed by Loch Ness marathon (end Sept) and Dublin Marathon (end Oct).

I think I'll use London as a long training run and add Sunday long training runs on top of my Sat long bike.  I plan to run only 3 times a week, which includes an interval, tempo and LSR session.  Bike a couple of times a week including a TT and long bike, and swim 2-3 times a week, including OW.

Nothing structured there and certainly nothing I've read.  I'm not advocating that it'll work because I don't know but I am also not looking to break any records.

All I'm looking for is around 4 hours for London, around 12.30 for the IM, clueless about Loch Ness and around 3:45 for Dublin.

Golden Boots    pirate
13/11/2013 at 15:24

I did before when I had a May Marathon and a September IM... but I was just trying to complete the IM.


This year I have late March Marathon and a late June IM... and want to be a bit quicker in both... will see if it breaks me or allows me to get the cycling in though!

13/11/2013 at 15:31

I did VLM 2:55 and Outlaw this year 11:37 with a 4:15 marathon.  I focused hard on London with running and little cycling/swimming before building again with a bike focus but I did very few brick sessions and ran 4 times between marathon and IM. 

You'll be fine.  Just plan the gaps and give some recovery.  I used Fink's plan as a guide but wasn't a slave to it.  I filled in a 100 mile ride a couple of weeks before and worked back breaking for marathon.  Worked out a marathon plan (aiming for 5 x 20 miles - I think I managed 3/4).

13/11/2013 at 16:44

I'm doing this again next year. I just have a run focussed phase up to the marathon but keep a 'long' bike (only around two hours at the moment but will increase to three from around February at the latest) and a threshold or interval turbo session and one or two swims a week - depending on what I can fit in. Once the marathon is over I'll tick over on the running, increase the bike and swim twice a week.

Darkness    pirate
13/11/2013 at 20:33

Thanks all, sounds like I am in good company so I had better just take some time out and get a workable plan together. 

I am enjoying my running and haven't touched the bike for about 8 weeks now and am swimming just once a week.  I am getting dropped in my swim lane as a result and dread to think what a few hills will do to me on the bike, but running is definitely improving. 

13/11/2013 at 20:52

If you can fit it then make some of your run days doubles in the marathon build up, the extra frequency/impact miles of doubles (even if the 2nd run is only 5M) makes marathon day a lot easier. Marathons off 3 runs a week are a whole lot of quad pain in my experience.

Doner Kebab    pirate
14/11/2013 at 00:40

i reckon you could fit a double iron, a 100 miler and a 24 hour and then your ironman in that time  


Darkness    pirate
14/11/2013 at 06:36

Quality over quantity DK, or I would be as slow as an ultra runner in silly pants. 

I don't think I have your levels of endurance and my body would break.

Aiming for a PB at HM, marathon and IM next year. As 2 out of 3 are guaranteed if I cross the finishing line I am aiming for sub 1 hr 40; sub 3hr 30 and sub 11.



14/11/2013 at 09:22


Again, not at pointy end of pack by a long shot but I've happily churned out one of my faster marathons and IMs when training for them consecutively and you have a lot of time between the two.

Unless you're a drowner not a swimmer, I'd suggest you keep your training largely to road in effort to make best use of time before Marathon, then reintroduce the swimming afterwards.

Speaking only from personal experience.

14/11/2013 at 10:05

I agree with CD.

I decided to give triathlon (IM) a go 4 years ago when I became fed up with trying and failing to run a sub-3:30 marathon, and the first thing that happened was that, after a winter of IM base training, I ran 3:27.

I've run VLM each spring except for this year, when my single focus was to get a Kona slot at IMUK in August, and I felt that a spring marathon would have a small but possibly critical negative effect on my IM training. I'm glad I missed it, as the strategy worked, but will be back at London again next year and planning IM Wales which isn't until September.

I think if you do a spring marathon you must keep up a good cycling base over the winter, including rides up to 3.5-4 hours from time to time when the weather's OK. Trust that the cycling fitness will help your running, and understand that you really don't need the same run volume you'd do if you weren't IM training - it took me 3 years to get that.

Crash Hamster    pirate
14/11/2013 at 13:42

Just to be awkward, I'm not sure that a flat out marathon is conducive to the bet IM you can do a few months later in the year; I'd reckon that going for a half mara PB in IM training will give you more bang for buck and less risk of injury.

And tragically, a 1:40 HM will probably get you nowhere near a 3:29 marathon. There's some lovely statistical analysis on fetcheveryone about real world HM/mara time equivalence and you need to be looking at a 1:32 HM for a 3:29 mara. I was quite pleased to be ahead of the curve with 1:34/3:29

Whether you could do sub 11 as a 3:30 standalone marathoner is probably dubious too. I wouldn't have got my 1:34/3:29 without focused run training, but because my bike and swim were light, I'd've done 13:xx at Challenge Vichy (without the bike crash) Had I have had the perfect day, I'd not have been much better than 11:59. I'm nothing much more than average and I am 47, but 10:xx off the times you quote would take a LOT of hard work and a fair amount of talent, I reckon (sorry, not trying to be negative, just explaining what happened to me...)

cougie    pirate
14/11/2013 at 14:08
The IM pros tend not to do a lot of long runs - or maybe I've not read the right training diaries.

I always race VLM but my lacklustre IM races I think I'm putting down to a lack of proper training rather than the VLM. I cycle all year round - I cant imagine taking months off the bike - I'd not want to let that go.

3.09 marathon pb and my best IM is only 12.11 (i think)
Darkness    pirate
14/11/2013 at 14:15
Crash Hamster, I did two 11hrs 2X IM this year , one with a 3Hr 5x mara and the other with a 4 hr 30ish mara. The 4 hr 30 mara was at Outlaw and had it not been for the heat I am sure I could have been sub 11.

Maybe I am kidding myself but hopefully not.
cougie    pirate
14/11/2013 at 14:26
When did you last do a half ?

If you can smash a 3hr 5 IM marathon - then I'm sure you'd beat 1.40 on a half ?
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