When most runners think about marathon training, the first thing that comes to mind is time consuming long runs and training throughout the week. Marathon training is notorious for its massive time commitment, leaving runners to joke that there is no way to have a life while training for a marathon.
As I prepared to take on my first marathon, I was fully ready to embrace the intense running schedule. I was committed to the long runs, mid-week miles, strength training, recovery, and everything else that comes with it. After 4 months of training, my first marathon was a success – leaving me eager to hit the roads again for more.
The cycle continued, and I began to train for marathons consistently each year. As training progressed, I began to understand my body better, figure out what was actually important, and get rid of some of those junk miles in my marathon training schedule.
Training for a marathon now feels much more manageable, thanks to my realization that not every mile in those training plans had a purpose. This past year in particular has led me on a journey to discover the benefits of purposeful, low mileage running, and I’ve discovered that marathon training can indeed follow this pattern. How?
With a marathon training schedule that includes just 3 runs per week.
Marathon training is meant to involve quite a bit of running – I mean, the point of running a marathon is challenging yourself to conquer new distances and run further than most other humans ever will. However, just because marathon training is all about the long runs doesn’t mean that deciding to train for a marathon means you will no longer have a life.
How to Train for a Marathon with Low Mileage Running
My addiction to running has grown tremendously throughout these past 7 years. But even as my love and addiction for the sport increases, I’m still wanting to be as efficient as possible with my time. As a new season of marathon training approached, I was determined to find the most efficient training plan.
A low mileage marathon training plan.
I first stumbled upon running lower mileage this past winter, as I began to train for a 25k in the spring. I was struggling to find a balance between maintaining my health, battling the winter storms, and fitting in enough mileage to prepare myself for a good race.
It turns out that this struggle was one of the most beneficial challenges I’ve faced as a runner. Being forced to think outside the box and get creative with my training plan was a blessing in disguise. For the first 5 months of the year, I was challenged to accumulate the appropriate amount of mileage and purposeful runs while running just 3 days a week.
The training plan I created for myself allowed me to train for a 15.5 mile race with just 3 runs per week. The success I experienced while training with lower mileage was completely unexpected!
Eliminating one run per week helped me find time to fit in weekly strength training, cross training and yoga sessions. These different workouts helped me get stronger, stay healthy, and avoid burnout throughout the entire training plan.
When I did run, I made sure that each run had a purpose. There were dedicated tempo runs, interval training, long runs, and easy recovery runs to increase my running fitness. My mental state was strong and physically I felt better than ever before.
I am excited to transfer this 3 day per week concept to marathon training.
If you’ve ever trained for a marathon, you’ve no doubt experienced mental and physical burnout at some point along the way. The miles begin to pile up, mixed in with some hard workouts and cross training that continue to increase in frequency, and suddenly you have very little time left for anything else.
Let alone a social life.
If you’re struggling to fit in those weekly runs, or wanting to train for a marathon but worried that you might not have the time or commitment needed, think again. I’m here to tell you that it is possible to train for a marathon and still have a life.
Here’s what marathon training with 3 runs per week looks like.
When we take a marathon training plan and strip it down to its core, we’re left with the most important aspect of training: the long run. Long runs are crucial for any runner preparing for a marathon, and are an element of the training plan that needs to remain in place.
Related: How to Have Your Best Long Run Ever
Since the long run is here to stay, we’ve got one run accounted for and two runs left to fill. With all those long miles, recovery becomes even more important. Having one slow, easy run each week that is dedicated to recovery is a great way to fit in more miles. This easy run helps flush out lactic acid and keeps your muscles fresh.
With a long run and easy recovery run, the last spot to fill will be a harder workout to keep our legs fresh and gain mental strength. With that being said, the third run each week will be dedicated to speed and intervals. These intervals increase the efficiency of our heart and give our legs great practice with quick turnover when they are tired.
A low mileage marathon training plan might look something like this:
Run #1: Tempo Run or Interval Training
Run #2: Easy Recovery Run
Run #3: Long Run
Marathon training while running just 3 days a week is entirely possible. If you’re looking for a marathon training plan that won’t leave you burned out or injured, try training with lower mileage. The overall lower mileage emphasizes the important workouts and provides plenty of time for cross training and recovery each week.
Mentally, knowing that there are just three runs each week helps keep us motivated and lowers our excuses to skip a run or workout.
Anyone can train for a marathon, as long as you are healthy, motivated and committed. If running a marathon has always been a dream of yours that feels out of reach, now is the time to give it a try. Marathon training is just like any other running schedule, with a few extra long runs.
Running a marathon is an experience of a lifetime, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to do it more than once. Don’t ever sell yourself short. If you want it – go for it. And if the time commitment scares you, remember that there is always a way.