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How to Stay Marathon Ready

Many runners I know do about two marathons per year -usually one in the spring and one in the fall. But what about adding in a couple more impromptu marathons?

Here is a great question we received from a runner who wants to be able to jump into a marathon at the last minute.

In the following post I share tips on how to go from one race to the next without injuring yourself.

How to Stay Marathon Ready

Hello! Long time podcast listener here. Wondering if you would consider addressing this question on an upcoming podcast. Angie, how do you stay marathon-ready? I have been following 2 marathon training plans per year, but recently had the opportunity to jump in on a 3rd marathon at the last minute. I let the opportunity pass me by since my longest training run completed at that point was only 16 miles. To make a long story short, I would love to do more than 2 marathons per year. What tips do you have for doing more frequent marathons? I am assuming you follow a nontraditional training plan. Thanks in advance. -Diane

It’s very possible to train for multiple marathons per year and have a great experience. What a runner does for training will depend on how close the marathons are and your general health and fitness. Obviously I wouldn’t recommend that a person run multiple marathons a year unless they’re injury free and are committed to doing the necessary recovery and cross training work to stay strong.

Your Endurance Base
The first thing you will want to do is make sure that you lay a good endurance base. This can usually be accomplished as you train for your first marathon of the year (because I do recommend taking a few weeks as an “off” season at some point).

A solid endurance base will ensure that when you increase your mileage for your upcoming marathons that you’ll have less of a chance of injury. It’s not a good idea for a beginning runner or first time marathoner to do frequent longer race distances.

Train for the Courses
Next, train for the courses that you’ll be running by adding things like hill training, trails, etc. You’ll also want to continue with regular low impact cross-training and strength work to balance and strengthen the body.

Identify Your “A” Race
The third thing you’ll want to do will be to identify any “A” races that you have. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to PR at all of your events if you do multiple marathons so having a specific goal for each one can be helpful. Some races can be used as training runs, done with friends, or paced to support your training goals.

Peaking and Tapering
Fourth, write out the dates of your races so that you can plan tapering time before each race and also recovery time afterward. When doing close races you want to prioritize rest and recovery. My advice would be to peak your training three weeks before your first marathon, take a couple of recovery weeks after the marathon, and then jump back into training the correct number of weeks out from your next scheduled race if you’re feeling good. If you’ve run a 16 mile long run in the past 3-4 weeks then it’s not necessary to jump back up to a 20 miler before doing a last minute marathon.

Other Considerations
Factors like listening to your body and taking care of any issues while they’re minor, training smart by including plenty of easy days in your schedule, cross training, dialing in your nutrition by cutting back on processed foods and sugar, and getting plenty of sleep will all help make multiple races possible and more pleasant.

Since there aren’t any traditional training plans geared toward doing multiple marathons a year it can be a matter of experimenting a bit on yourself and modifying existing training plans that have worked well for you.

Another option is having a customized training plan made for your specific needs. Many runners who do more than two marathons a year find that hiring a running coach works well to keep them performing their best and staying healthy (plus taking the guess work out of the process).

2 Responses to How to Stay Marathon Ready

  1. Rufus March 16, 2019 at 11:24 am #

    Great advice. I think the listening to your body is the most important thing. Everybody is different so what works for some doesn’t for others but listening to your body always works. I found a marathon was a great way to break up my ultra training and get a long run in. Just had to back off on the pace and run it smart as opposed to fast.

    • Angie Spencer March 16, 2019 at 2:39 pm #

      Thanks for the comment! It’s great to hear that running a marathon during your ultra training worked out well. You’re absolutely correct that listening to your body is the most important thing.

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