I have got caught in the trap of thinking marathon training at 80 miles per week or higher was essential to succeed as a marathoner.
So untrue. Running an 80 mile week, week after week, doesn’t necessarily guarantee you marathon success just as much as running 140 miles a week does.
How am I so sure?
I have tried both and received better results on lower mileage. Marathon training at 80 miles per week is a sure bet to get you fit.
There is no question about that, but you also have to keep in mind that running at a slower pace for the majority of those miles has a purpose and teaching yourself to run fast, also has a purpose.
You have to have a little of both to get the best results when preparing for a marathon. Marathon training weeks at 80 miles per week is just a number.
It certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all option for runners trying to excel at the 26.2 mile distance. What works for some may not work for others.
Let’s Discuss Marathon Training Above 80 Miles A Week
Mileage Isn’t A Guarantee
I have run as high as 142 miles a week in training. What did it get me? It surely didn’t help me break my current marathon best of 2.19.35. It may have fed my ego a bit that I was running over 140 miles a week (not consecutively), but that was about it.
Matt Fitzgerald wrote an article called A Short Cut To The Long Run which bring up some points I am trying to make here. He states that there is no definitive minimum distance that every runner must cover in training before running a marathon. I agree with this.
Marathon Training At 80 Miles Per Week Isn’t Neccesarily The Smartest Route
Marathon training, at 80 miles per week means you must average a little over 11 miles per day for a 7-day training period, more if your trying to fit it with less days. There is no golden rule stating that marathon training should consist of at least 80 miles a week.
Runners training for a marathon are constantly torn between how much weekly mileage is needed and how much is too much.
I am one of them. I found that I ran my best marathons running between 80-110 mile per week.
Keep in mind my background and ability level (built up from many years of consistent effort). I caution myself even writing ‘ability’ level because I never really thought of myself as an athlete with a great deal of ‘ability’.
I suppose ‘skill’ would be a better description based on sharpening the skill it takes to run at higher intensities.
There are some runners who need to run 130 miles a week to get the same results someone running at 80 miles per week and vice versa.
What Is A Better Choice And The Best Chance Of Running A Great Marathon?
As Kevin Beck, author of Run Strong, mentioned, a maximum of at least 16 miles for your long run is best. I have found that most runners training for the marathon, get the most benefit from a long run of around 16 miles.
Keith and Kevin Hanson, the coaches of the Hanson’s Distance Project out of Rochester Hills, Michigan advocate long runs of 16 miles for some of their marathon training plans. It works.
The important thing to remember is not so much the length but the quality of the miles you are putting in.
If you want to hold 7-minute mile pace for a marathon running 16 miles at 9-minute mile pace will not do the trick, working your way to doing 8, 10, 12 and gradually working your way up to 16 miles at or near that pace will provide the physiological stimulus needed to earn your goal.
In conclusion, marathon training at 80 miles a week isn’t the secret to a strong marathon performance.
High mileage alone is not the answer. There is more to running 26.2 miles than mileage alone. Are you stressing the systems? How much mileage you need can only be determined by you.
It is probably one of the most difficult paths to finding marathon success and it takes time. It took me quite awhile to get over the mileage myth and focus more on the pace of the mileage I was running, rather then the volume.
If someone tells you they ran 100 miles in a week. Ignore them. What the hell difference does it make. The magic is in the person, not the 100 miles – Bill Bowerman
I ran my current PR of 2.19.35 off of running 80-100 miles per week. I had several weeks leading into it under 80 miles. It may be you need to run 60 miles a week or even 140 miles a week to get the best out of your body.
Mileage is necessary but counting numbers to tell your friends, should be irrelevant. How you run those miles and focus on your long runs will answer if marathon training at 80 miles, more or less, will bring you the success you are seeking.
I wrote this post because I have seen so many runners, myself included, who get caught up into believing they have to run high mileage to run a great marathon. The more serious you get the more mileage (and the quality of those miles) come into play.
I have not known many marathoners who have broken the 2.20 marathon who were running 80 miles a week who accomplished that goal but some did. Marathoners who are running times like that are usually running anywhere from 90-140 miles per week.
That being said, a 4 hour marathoner can get great results off running 50 miles per week. It is all relative to you, as the athlete, to determine where you perform best at. The most important thing is to enjoy the process and it is quality, over quantity, that counts in the end.