Q+A: How should I train between marathons?

Our experts answer real-life questions

Posted: 9 September 2000
by Bruce Tulloh

Q Last year I achieved my marathon PB of 2:53, and immediately started wondering what I should do next. I have run several marathons, but rarely more than two in a season. I’d like to do a few shorter runs, but with all the training I’m doing it seems a waste not to concentrate on the longer distances. How should I train between marathons, and how much marathon training can a body take?

A The advantage of having run a good marathon is that everything else (except perhaps a 100K) seems easy. What’s more, you have a great endurance base which can be used as a platform for your next venture, provided that you give yourself time to recover after a marathon. Six weeks is the minimum interval between marathon-type efforts because you need at least two weeks to recover, followed by a couple of weeks of normal training before tapering off again. During the two weeks of training you should not attempt anything which is long and hard; instead, work on shorter distances to improve your VO2max, such as fast running over 400-1000m stretches, but your long runs should be really slow.

The crucial question is how long you can train hard without taking a rest. A lot of our top marathon runners cover 100 miles a week for most of the year, but the elite cannot be regarded as normal. For those who have to work and run, a good rule of thumb is, “One day off a week, one weekend off a month, and one month off a year”. If you have a planned training period of 8-10 weeks leading up to a big race, you can then carry on racing every few weeks for another three months (following your two-week recovery, of course). But, again, I would not go for more than six months without having a rest period. And by rest, I mean two weeks doing half your normal weekly mileage.

Bruce Tulloh, RW Coaching Editor

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Discuss this article

I had a very disappointing  London marathon after running two years ago at 3.08 and last year in the heat at 3.14  I struggled this year , I was 2.25 at 20 miles but was going backwards and had to stop at the 25 mile mark, it then took me 33 mins to do the last 1.2 miles finishing in 3.44. After total rest for 4 days I am feeling good and have entered for Edinburgh which I did as well last year. Any ideas on the best way to prepare for this as I am looking to redeem myself.
Posted: 17/04/2008 at 23:49

I too had a disappointing FLM-but mainly due to the great-than-usual crowds (and partly due to mileage missed through injury) finishing in 15-20 mins slower than predicted in 4hrs 5mins.

Can you pinpoint the various factors for your struggle?

nutrition? training? or just a bad day?

Would it serve you better to abandon your targets and your watch and run without time pressure at Edinburgh?

 I might do Edinburgh if i can get a lift there but i'm thinking about concentrating on 10K and 1/2M for a few months before abingdon to try to develop better speed endurance for the later miles.

Good luck! 

Posted: 18/04/2008 at 09:25

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