What are the maths of marathon training?

Posted on: 18 Sep 2017

Whilst out on my long run yesterday I found myself thinking about how the numbers add up for marathon training.

Obviously come the big day of the Marathon itself you need to run 26.2 miles – although in my first London Marathon, too much weaving meant I actually covered almost 27 miles.

Then during training, most training plans suggest you run no further than 20 miles, as the risk of injury seems to outweigh the benefits of training over the extra miles. I always find this a bit scary, as come 20 miles on the big day a huge voice in my head always reminds me I am now entering unknown territory.

But many plans these days talk in terms of time on your feet not miles, and suggest that 3 to 3.5 hours is the max you should do for your longest run in training. – leaving a whopping 90 mins in unknown territory in my case.

This weekend various events conspired against me in terms of time to do my long run. Saturday was completely overtaken with the emotional drama of moving my youngest daughter to Bristol ready to start her University adventure, making my home officially an empty nest.  Then my plans for Sunday were railroaded when late on Saturday night my best friend suddenly had an about turn and decided she did want a wedding dress for her wedding (in 8 weeks’ time!!!) after all, and  asked me to go wedding dress shopping with her…

Hence Sunday morning found me up at 6am, leaving the house at 7am, with  a window of 3 hours to get my long run in.  At my current pace on a flattish route I knew that I should be able to cover 15 to 16 miles in 3 hours. That’s ok, but not quite the 18 miles I would like to have been doing.

It made me wonder which of the following options would be most beneficial  

  1. Run 16 miles today and 10 miles tomorrow? Does running the marathon over 2 days count in a training plan?
  2. Run at the best pace possible, choosing a flat flat flat  route for the 3 hours, so gain confidence from max distance run ?
  3. Thinking of Snowdonia, find a route for of hills, worry less about distance covered and just run hills for 3 hours.

I suspect option 3 would probably be the best?

In the end I decided I needed the confidence of covering a reasonable distance but still needed to protect my ankle to ensure I actually get to the start line in Snowdonia, and so choose a mixed terrain, some road, some trails and some gentle hills. I covered just over 15 miles in my precious 3 hours but worryingly it felt tough.  I still have work to do – the cut off time in Snowdonia is worrying me 

Tell us your story

Inspire and be inspired by sharing your health or fitness journey. Your blog will provide you with a permanent record of your progress, with the added bonus of motivation and encouragement from our members along the way.

* Manage my blogs