Q+A: How should I train between marathons?

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