Treadmill Training For A Marathon

Is it really possible to train for a marathon on a treadmill? Find out how the treadmill can aid your marathon training.

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Treadmill training can be an ideal alternative especially when presented with unappealing or treacherous conditions outside. You wouldn’t really want to train for a marathon solely using a treadmill, after all, your race will usually be outside, but the treadmill can still be a really useful method of training.

Starting in treadmill training

When getting started in treadmill training, ensure you do the following:

  • Wear lightweight breathable gear. Indoor training will make you sweat bucketloads. Wear lightweight, breathable kit to help keep you cool.
  • Hydrate well. Ensure that you have a ready supply of water and/or a sports drink to keep you hydrated through all that sweating you are doing.
  • Get a fan. Mount a fan in front of your treadmill so that you get a constant flow of cooling air.
  • Set 1 per cent incline for standard runs. If your treadmill has a gradient feature, to more closely replicate an outdoor running action, set the gradient to a 1 per cent incline. You can set other gradients when trying to replicate hill sessions.  
  • Emergency stop. Many treadmills have a safety emergency stop cord. A cord clips to your clothing, but should you slip, the clip becomes unattached and the emergency stop function is activated. If your treadmill doesn’t have that feature, ensure you can reach the emergency stop button.

Treadmill session ideas

There's no reason to have to depart from a regular training plan just because you are training indoors on a treadmill. A good marathon schedule should include a balanced mix of long runs, recovery runs, speed-work, hills – all of which can be completed on a treadmill.

Combine your plan with some of the following treadmill tweaks to help keep your focus and maximize your training.

Long runs

The long run is essential to any marathon training program. Running for up to  three hours or more during peak weeks  can be challenging outdoors, nevermind on a treadmill, so to help keep you on track, try some of the following:

  • Vary speed or gradient  running at a constant pace for a long period of time is key to marathon training but to add interest to your sessions, try altering the speed, or gradient every ten minutes or so, just for a couple of minutes. It need only be a small change but it will help add variety and replicate the challenges of running outdoors.
  • Run with a training partner – try and find a training partner to help those long runs fly by. Your partner can use the treadmill next to yours and you can even chat as your run. If you can't comfortably hold a conversation during your long run, this probably means you are running too fast, so turn the speed down a touch.  


Speedwork helps make you a faster and more efficient runner. However, speed training alone can be tough, so try the following session ideas to keep you motivated:

  • Race a friend –  Train stride-for-stride with someone who is either faster or slower than you by setting speed and gradient that is suitable to your respective abilities. If you are both of similar running ability, then do the same session as a competition.
  • Race the treadmill – most treadmills have in-built programs for hill training, fartlek and time-trials. Use the program as your motivator.

Recovery runs

Recovery runs should be easy sessions, intended obviously to aid your recovery. However, as the session is purely recovery, it can be a little boring as there is no specific focus. This is the time to to use the TV or iPod  to break the boredom.

Here are a few tips that will help you combat boredom when training on a marathon.

Music for motivation

Music can be a great motivator, whether it’s running to a particular beat or just feeling uplifted by your favourite songs, so investing in a good player will help you beat the boredom when pounding out the miles on a treadmill.


If you need another distraction or motivator while on the treadmill, then TV can be just the ticket. Most modern gyms feature a TV, often showing the latest music channels, while some of the very latest treadmills incorporate on board LCD screens. If training at home, position your treadmill in front of the TV, but be mindful not to get too distracted so you end up missing your step.

Vary your workout

Let's face it, treadmill training can be boring. One solution is to continually vary your workout. Experiment with different programs, inclines, interval sessions and recoveries to add some variety to some of your sessions and also mimic the varying terrains of running outdoors.

Can you do the treadmill challenge?

Marathon training on a treadmill is genuinely achievable provided you employ some or all of these session ideas to help keep you fresh and motivated.The further the race distance, the more mental strength is required when treadmill training. If you've completed months of training on a small strip of moving rubber indoors, then you must have a good mental focus. This means that when you eventually are let loose on the roads for your event, it should feel almost like being liberated and therefore easier than your long runs on the treadmill. Good luck.