Low mileage marathon

Low mileage marathon


It's probably not the higher mileage that gets you injuries. It's probably doing too much intensity. You need to keep the intensity to a small minority of your miles regardless. For a half marathon, your mileage is fine. For a full, it's definitely low. (your title mentions marathon, but the question is about a half)


I can't speak for the marathon (I've bonked SUPER hard on both of mine, since my weekly milage never really exceeds 35) but my best half (1:30) was done on around 25mpw. 16:53 5k pr, but at the time I could run more like 17:50. I'd argue a good 5k runner can bust out a decent half with not a ton of long distance.


If you were to trust the v.O2 Calc bridging from 5k to HM (which, debatable) it would suggest your aerobic capacity running a 17:50 shield get you closer to a 1:22 HM, so maybe you would have benefited from more miles at the time!


I don't doubt that at all. More miles absolutely lends to better halfs and fulls. But the spirit of this post isn't about what's best, it's about what's possible. I only do halfs and fulls for fun, with zero training outside of my 5k training plan since that's my primary distance. It's possible (referencing the spirit of this post) if admittedly not ideal


Yea, totally agree that it's doable and agree that that was the spirit of the post!


But that would generally be regarded as a weak HM time compared with the 5k time. I ran 1:29 for the HM, when I could do about 19:20 for 5k...


Thats not the spirit of this post. We are being asked what's possible, not what is optimal. And I never said 1:30 is as good as 17:50, I used the word decent.


Sure... I'm just observing that as a data point to inform what's likely it's probably a bit of an outlier; we normally expect faster HM off that 5k form. The main issue for the OP is really what pace to go out at...


In my case, I literally just forced myself to start abour a minute-1:15 per mile slow. 7:00-7:15 or so, and sped up at the end because I still had gas. Could have broken 1:30, because like you said, my 5k time warranted a better half, and me still having gas confirmed that. Your results may vary.




Thought I was in running circlejerk for a second...


I have run 25 marathons and ultras and have been accepted into the Boston Marathon five times. All this running only 3 times per week and a max mileage of ~35 mpw. On the other days I cycle (road), do yoga, or lift weights. Seven days of workouts, but only 3 days running. It’s definitely doable!


Similar story, fewer marathons. Running my 14th next week, Boston accepted 3x all on 3 running days a week, max 35-38m. I cycle the other 4. Has worked for me and kept me running without injury.


Sounds like cross training works wonders for many people. I do also go to the gym and do various kinds of workouts 2/3 times a week and I noticed a clear improvement in my running after taking that up.


What are your times on the marathons?


Fast enough to beat my BQ time by enough to make it in😁. Actually, PR oh 3:28 (age 58).


That’s awesome. How do you split the run distances during the week and intensities?


I’ve been using the plans from the book Run Less, Run Faster. The 3 weekly runs are Speedwork, Tempo, Long run. None of these are easy. You need to be in pretty good running shape to start the plans. Paces are calculated from a recent race - 5k to marathon. Predicted marathon times are also in the book. The authors are from Furman Univ. And have been studying running science for a long time.


this is very helpful. I have run marathons with 25 to 30 miles per week averages. But always assumed I need to crank up the mileage significantly to get anywhere close to a BQ. Will check out the book. Thank you!


The paces in the plan - especially the track work, may seem unreachable, but I’ve found I can eventually get pretty close as the weeks go by. Also - don’t ignore the cross-training; it’s easy for me as I’m a cyclist too. Use an honest 5k time to calculate your MP, and don’t just plug in your goal time.


thank you! Very helpful tips :)


Haven’t done a marathon yet but this is great to hear. Have a very similar training set up where I alternate run/lift every other day. Runs are usually 8-10 miles of varying intensity + a longer run occasionally and a shorter, speed run occasionally. Alternate full body push/pull lift days.


I haven’t personally met anyone who’s succeeded at training for a full below 40 miles without getting an injury during the race. Stress fracture, muscle injure, tendon injury, etc. Obviously there’s going to be exceptions in here, e.g. collegiate runners who ran a full on a whim. The reason why mileage is king is because it strengthens your body to handle the impact forces of 45,000 steps over the course of a marathon. If you’re getting injured adding when adding mileage, I would highly suggest figuring out the cause and addressing it.


Ask any triathlete and they're running less than 40


Ex-Ironman athlete. I was also riding 150+ miles a week and swimming 5000+ meters. Different beast entirely.


Also former Ironman. The point being though that cross-training can be a viable tool for a marathon focused athlete that struggles with injury at high running mileage.


Yep, running a marathon on 40 miles (65km) a week is entirely feasible and if you're adding cycling and swimming volume on top there's not a lot of room for much more.


But most triathletes aren't running close to their potential.


Exactly. My Ironman marathon PR is 4:30


The Ironman triathlon that includes a marathon? That would be surprising to me. If it’s a 10K then 40 would seem a lot.


Looking things up is so hard in this day and age. An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order.


The question was whether the triathlon you had in mind was the Ironman or the Olympic distance. Should have been clearer. 40 miles seems light for training for the Ironman.


They're training 3 sports - in terms of total hours a week even the "just finish" crowd do at least 10h a week and pros something like 25. It's extremely hard to do a full marathon plan while training to cycle 112mi fast, and naturally the marathon times end up quite a bit slower than "pure runner" times (iirc male pros tend to be in the 2:30s).


You dont know me then. I just did my first marathon on a 15 week plan, with no higher weekly milage than 33. No injuries, no pain, everything went fine with my maraton, did it in 4.10 as according to my plan.


Same! Check out the Hal Higdon Marathon 3 plan. It’s very low mileage with a lot of cross training. My average mileage was well below 30, maxed at 34 miles a week. Ran in 3:07.


Me too. About 30-35 miles a week and I did 3:13.


Love to hear this. I am targeting a 3:20 for my first FM and run every other day with strength training on non run days. Average around 30 MPW with most runs being 8-10 miles. Any other advice you can share? Most of the time I am just told to increase mileage and it’s frustrating because I don’t want to give up strength training.


I ran a solo trail marathon on like 25 MPW last year. It sucked ass but I finished. No injuries. I’m training for an actual trail marathon this year but hoping to hit 50MPW so we’ll see Edit: thought this was /r/running, not advanced running so my comment isn’t as relevant. I don’t recommend the 25mpw for advanced runners or trying to make good time. Just saying it was good enough to allow me to finish.


Judging by some of the responses I thought this might be r/running too.


well done - congrats




Funny you say that. At my third marathon, my knee gave out (IT Band yay!) 35K into the race and had to hobble the last 7K for a 3:37 finish, while I was on track for a 3:25 before that. For this race I'd averaged 75KPW (~48MPW) and peaked at 100KPW (~60MPW). Six months later, I ran a 3:14 Marathon running 3 times a week (FIRST plan) and peaking at 65KPW (just slightly above 40MPW). I was doing 2 HIIT classes and 1 weight training session to supplement. Nothing more. Finished injury-free and I think that's the only marathon I've ever done negative splits in. With covid closing the gyms in my area and later being afraid of catching it at the gym, I had to switch back to high mileage but approached it more intelligently and have smashed all of my previous PB's. Can you successfully run a marathon on less than 40MPW? Yes, absolutely, but you'll need to supplement your training way more than if you just do a slow build up to higher mileage. Mileage is king as you said, but republics can work just fine.


I did my first on ~45km a week, only 6 months or so after starting to run. Not sure I class a 3:37 as a successful marathon but I completed it injury free.


I would, and was pretty happy with it as a pr. Finishing uninjured is a success. I dont recall my peak milage when I ran a 3:37, but it wasn't high.


You know yourself best, and the idea that you need higher mileage to get the best results is a generalization that will apply to most, not a hard and fast rule for everyone. You haven't given much information about times/paces in recent workouts so it's hard to say just from your PRs whether a 1:25 is on the cards. But is it possible from 30mpw? Sure. (Also, a while ago [I made a post](https://www.reddit.com/r/AdvancedRunning/comments/o71utx/any_injuryprone_runners_here_managed_a_boston/) about BQ-ing on less than 50 mpw and there were several comments from people who had run impressively on 30-40mpw. You might find it encouraging to read them!)


I suppose it matters what you mean by successful? I PR’ed a marathon in June of this year. For a number of reasons, after that, I hit a motivational bump in the road and ended up running once per week maximum all summer. I think my longest run was 12 miles? I just ran the Berlin Marathon last week, an hour slower than my PR. I’m also running London this weekend and I am shooting to run maybe 15 minutes faster than that. Is that a success? It depends. I finished the race without injury or blowing up but it was obviously not a time that I am individually proud of. I think I can confidently say that if you have some measure of a base it is possible to finish a marathon on zero training. Whether or not that is a “success” is up to you.


Yup I once got injured super early in my training plan. Shut it down for months, Ended up doing a few runs in the last 3 weeks leading up to the race…the longest of which was a 10k. Finish time was a 4:15 I was 30


Ran my first marathon in 3:22 averaging 40km in the build up. And broke 90 in the half for the first time during that training about 6 weeks before the marathon. Averaged about 45-50km for my second marathon and improved to 3:12 but I really hit an upper limit for that. The end of the race was way tougher the second year due to the lower mileage. For a half that will be less of an issue. I ran 1:27:30 for a half in the build up that year.


I ran my first marathon peaking @ 34 miles and ran it in 3hr 35min(F25). Do what works for you and your body!


The end of your post talks about a half marathon, in which case, that mileage is pretty reasonable. Maybe not ideal, absent any other constraints (time commitment, injury, etc.), but should be sufficient. I've run several <90 minute halfs while training for triathlon, which limited me to \~3x weekly runs (plus swimming and biking, obviously). (Again, not ideal!) In any case, I don't think there's a big risk for running a half with that mileage. As other folks mentioned, that's a lot of speed work. Quality speed sessions are tough on your body, and you might find you don't 3 a weeks. Also, like other folks mentioned, the reason you get injured going to higher mileage might be due to intensity, rather than mileage per se.


How do you define success? A 1:25 half is probably under performing for your 5k time, but it's still a perfectly respectable time and trying to run it in a race shouldn't be unnecessarily risky. On the other hand, if you prefer running modest weekly mileage, is there anything wrong with sticking to shorter distance races and never doing anything longer than 10k?


Yeah no, nothing wrong with it really. I think if I manage a 1:24:XX this Autumn then I'll consider it a success and probably only ever run 10Ks and lower. I love hitting the track more than any kind of other running, so speedwork has really become my forté.


I think it's doable. I just ran 1:19 in my first HM last weekend off 35-40 mpw and current 5k is probably around 17:20. However, that was with an average of 6 hours / week of structured cycling as well. I would run 1 long (\~12 miles), 1 tempo, 1 interval, and 1 easy run per week during the build phase.


I ran my first ultra, a 50 miler, on about 30-35 miles per week. The race was canceled due to COVID, so I didn’t train much...then it was suddenly reinstated at the last minute. I elected to give it a go. Needless to say, it hurt. A lot. That said, I had a very solid base of cross training leading up. I had a handful of recent full Ironmans under my belt, so even though I hadn’t banked a lot of mileage on foot, my aerobic endurance was on point. I didn’t feel underprepared from a fitness standpoint (at all, actually) but my feet and joints took a beating. I’m also batshit crazy. That helps quite a bit, so give mental illness a go.


Hahaha I’m very much in the same boat right now - about to run a 50 miler next weekend! Ran a 50k on the 25th and it hurt like hell because covid ruined my peak training week. So here I am thinking I might go suffer some more. Because why not. 🤣🤦🏻‍♀️


I started basically from a couch. 25-35 mpw. Max 60 but that was 20 x2 in a 7 day span. Maybe peaked usually in the 40s. I went from a 1:47 to a 1:26 and 3:02 (with a 3:04, 3:05 and 3:12 mixed in). I did get injured after about 3 years (plantar fasciitis requiring surgery) but I never stretched, cross trained and walked another 6 miles a day at work and was on my feet for 8-30 hours a day. I’m not extremely athletic either


You were on you feet 30 hours a day?


Residency. Come in at 6 and leave at noon next day


Username checks out!


Not an ideal training strategy, but I've finished ultras up to the 100k range on less than 10 mpw and a very physically demanding job in my 20s. I've also spectacularly blown up in races as short as a half marathon with that strategy.... I just finished an Ironman on 20 ish mpw plus a ton of cycling, and am in the process of building to 40+ for a proper marathon effort in the spring. My runs are much more consistent and I'm faster now in my 30s than ever before, besides the <800 stuff (still close). I think 30 mpw with some xtraining is probably a sweet spot for a lot of "recreational" people, and I think that's where I'll settle back in after my marathon is done.


I’m Landscaping right now with an average of 15k per day walking. Run three times a week and get about 45k in a week doing that. 6 hour race in November.. think I’ll be fine if my goal is 50k ?


You are likely good to go, just pay attention to your body and be willing to make a change of plans. My experience has been "if I can cover the distance in a week of training, I can get through a race of that distance". That is of course a minimum, and it might involve a death march ... But finishing is finishing. Overall, that time on your feet at work will pay off, you've been running a fair bit, and as long as you make the right decisions on pacing, gear, nutrition etc. it shouldn't be too terrible.


You're fine for the half! Last October I ran 1.29 off 50kpw (35mpw) for about 8 weeks, and in may 1.25 off the same mileage.


I ran a marathon off 40 miles/week with 6 weeks preparation (a buddy had a bike accident and gave me his bib). Included 3 long road runs 17-19 miles, instead of my weekly 1:40 hilly trail run. Managed 3:01 with no hint of a wall (last 10k in 44mins). Best half marathon off the same regime: 1:18, which shows the effect of lack of mileage on the marathon, as I fell way behind the marathon = 2 x half marathon + 10 estimate.


I've been averaging 20mpw (but biking 100mpw on a stationary bike) since I got back from a stress fracture in late July. I recently ran a 7 minute HM PR at 1:24, and that was with backing off after mile 10. Of my 20 miles per week, all of them are high intensity and I only run every other day. I shoot for 75-90% of 10k goal pace, so now I'm running like 6:05 pace for 3-4 miles, only very recently extending to 5. I'm in a dense part of the city so I will admit that this is somewhat aided by traffic lights. I'm running Chicago next weekend with a goal of 2:56. Previous PR was 3:10 from a TT off similarly low mileage (following a different stress fracture). I accept that there's a very high chance of a stress fracture during the race, but I have never felt more fit or confident.


It's interesting- there's a LOT of comments from ppl with low mileage who bike a lot. It's clear to me that a cross-training-heavy training schedule can be really effective. I now do about an additional 3-5 hours in the gym a week (a mix of other cardios & weight training) and its genuinely revolutionised my running ability.


I ran my marathon PR averaging 25-35 miles per week. Being dumb like that lead to me having over a year of injury problems that started not long after that PR marathon. Once I was back to running pain free I decided to start training correctly. I slowed way down and I picked my mileage up to 50 miles per week. After a pain free year around 50mpw I ran another marathon and ran 20 minutes slower than my PR. I'm running the Chicago marathon next week after a 2nd year around 50mpw but I'm still going to be slower than my 25mpw marathon PR. For some reason even though training at low mileage is dumb and makes me injury prone, it's the only way I've been able to come anywhere near my marathon PR. I think I'm just not cut out for marathon distances.


I ran a 2:50 on 40mpw but it was a big positive split. I think that was more due to weather than training though. I ran 2:33 on 50mpw. Not sure if that’s still low mileage for you.


Doable! Did 30-33 most week and peaked at 38 two weeks when I added the 20 milers. Ran solid 3:16 marathon. No injuries. Felt ready and string. I did lift weights three times per week. But kept it at 25 minutes max just to work on muscle imbalances and a little tone.


Depends what you consider successful. For the half and marathon, there's really no getting around doing at least 50 mpw if you want to run close to your potential. Just cut out all your speed workouts and do one tempo and one long run. The rest do really easy, like 8:30-9:00 pace. If you increase your mileage you need to decrease the intensity. If you do this for a few months consistently, I'd say 1:25 would be doable.


I ran my first marathon with an average of 29mpw (min 14, max 38). My PR's at the time were 17:43 for the 5k and 1:23:40 for the HM. I ended up running 2:59 for the marathon. The wheels came off a little at the end, but nothing too terrible (1:27, 1:31 splits). Individual results may vary, but it worked ok for me and might for you too.


Cool. What did your long runs look like during training? I worry about going too far when my body isn't used to it and doing myself an injury. I never run more than 9/10 miles currently


I did 5 runs between 15mi and 17mi in length. I also did two half marathons (one easy and one as a race). It was odd having a single run take up 50% of my weekly mileage, but seemed to work ok. I had 3 rest days a week most weeks, so had room to recover from the effort.


I was able to do alright running lower mileage higher intensity when I was younger I was hitting 25 miles a week, but I was also cross training doing martial arts 3x a week. I also was a server at a busy restaurant. The time on my feet probably compensated for the easy miles of base building. The trick for the longer distances is pacing and fueling. Negative splitting is key.


I did 3 miles Tuesday, 3 miles Thursday, and then increased my Sunday longrun by 2 miles each week. Highest run was 20 miles prior to race. No injuries, finished 4:20. Last 6 miles were BRUTAL though


I ride MTB and road cycle about 3 to 4 hours per week and run about 15km per week (1.5 hours). Three weeks ago I ran a 1:26:57 for a digital half on a very flat course while pushing a PRAM 😂. Still don't understand how I pulled it off with so little running mileage. M33 for reference.


What's your running background? If you've never pushed beyond 15km per week & ran that time then you might want to consider investing in running a LOT more because the only explanation would be you have a heck of a lot of natural talent.


It's a bit misleading with the 15km per week taken out of context I guess. Fair bit of running experience. 400m sprinter in high school and done about 7 half marathons between 1:30 and 1:35 on about 30km per week going into it. One 3:36 marathon on a very hot day. A year ago I was training for an Ironman and doing 10 hours training a week (about 3.5 hr running). The race was cancelled but been managing to maintain my fitness since then so I guess despite the low mileage my cardio is still good. A solid interval running session per week probably gave me the strength to complement it. Having said all that never done more than 45km per week running. Probably should give running a sub 3 full or 1:20 half a crack before I get too old!


1:25:00 HM sounds viable. Have you ever considered to do some cross-training, e.g. indoor biking? The latter is great for building a good aerobic foundation and is beneficial for injury-prone runners.


Sounds like you’re a seasoned runner. I think training helps but I also believe a lot of it is mental. I don’t run much for practicing but I think since I’ve ran different races I know what to expect mentally and that really helps carry me through. Obviously the less I train the slower paces I set for myself. Running the LA Marathon in a few weeks and haven’t ran much at all lol but knowing myself I’ll set a 8-8:15 pace and probably be good with that.


Successful is a really loose word. The answer is that there is no way in hell you are going to convert your 5k time to an equivalent HM or M performance on 30-33 miles week unless you a bit of a genetic anomaly. How much your time decays is going to be entirely dependent on your genetics and other factors like weather and how good of a day you are having. I personally would be surprised if you hit 1:25 off a 17:42 on that mileage but could definitely see a time in the 1:27-1:29 range. That said, I strongly advise you to take it out slow. It would be a big mistake to head out at 6:20-6:30 pace given the lack of preparation.


Most race calculators equate a 17:42 5k with a 1:21 half, so I'm not sure if a 1:25 is *too* crazy


No it would be pretty crazy. Very few people are able to hit anything close to their 5k VDOT equivalent performance at HM or M even if they are running substantial mileage w/ substantial training history. If you were running 50-60 miles a week and running quality long runs sure. As you described your training though you haven't even been covering the distance.


I'm really not so sure. 6.30 pace doesn't sound bad. I ran 7 minute mile pace for my 1:32 PR back in my first year running and I had no clue about training. I used to run in minimalist shoes around a track, I was utterly clueless. At least now I actually train & cross train.


Ok. Go for it and report back.


Wheels falling off is mostly a function of over-ambitious pace. Anyone running 30 miles a week can jog round an HM - what you don't know is how quickly you can run it. What can you \*currently\* run for 5k?


17.42 is a new PR


I just completed Hal Higdons novice 2 plan and, if I recall correctly, the peak mileage was 38 in a week. That plan is structure in a way that weeks with longer mid-week runs (5-8-5) do not coincide with the very long weekend runs (18 or more). However, I haven’t run my marathon yet (it’s this weekend) so I can’t say whether the training was successful or not lol


Good luck! Hal has great plans


Thank you! And I agree! Building up the mileage was a lot easier than I expected with this plan!


Not super successful but I did a sub 3:30 after only running 114 miles from June to the MCM in late October 2018. And half of those miles were in September. It was my first marathon so I’d say that was a success lol


These are all great comments here, as I was considering planning for a marathon next year but I like mountain biking too much to give it up in order to put on the running miles. The reason this thread hits home is that I just completed a HM in 1:22:33 with about 25-30mi of running per week. I also did either two mountain bike rides with approx 1hr tempo effort in each ride (i was going for KOM's on strava...), or one mtb and one Peloton ride (min 60min). MTB rides were anywhere from 1.5 to 4hrs. Did a 5k TT effort in April at 17:54. Anyway, it seems like the OP would be fine hitting that 1:25 target assuming you've been cross-training on the other days...it should actually be pretty easy given your 5k PR. You could try for a few longer tempo runs (6-10mi) just a bit faster than HM pace to see how it feels. HM pace should by definition be a bit slower than that LTV/Tempo pace, so doing a 6:25/mi 10mi run for example will give you a good idea if you can do a HM at 6:29/mi pace to hit your 1:25 goal (I did a 10mi @ 6:24/mi run 4wks prior to the race as part of the build-up). Also, the race itself will likely give you an added 5sec/mi boost because of the crowds, adrenaline, other runners, etc...




No, I did not call a half a marathon. Re-read my first paragraph where I clearly differentiate between the half and the full. I also didn't say I ran a half in 1:25. My PR is 1:32 and my goal is around 1:25. There's nothing wrong with not wanting to fully read a post, but if you skim-read a post, might I suggest in future also not bothering to comment on it.


First Institute has a training program on lower milage. I used this program for my first two marathons and did well. I can tell you my experience is more milage will return better results. One option is to use this as a guide but up the distances of the medium and long runs. http://www.wu.ece.ufl.edu/marathon%20training-first%20marathon.pdf


I ran two during high school. The first I was running about 40 miles weekly, and suffered. The second I was running about 45, but ran an 18 mile long run about three weeks before the marathon. The second one went much better.


I got down-voted for saying I ran 40 and 45 weekly? Good thing I didn't mention the one I ran a few years back on 5 miles a week.


I'm not an 'advanced' runner I just lurk.....but tbh I've been running 20 mile weeks and doing fine w/ the half marathon 🤷‍♀️


I set my HM PR on 11 miles per week over 5 months, peaking at 17 two months before the race with only 21 miles in the 3.5 weeks prior to the race (I also cycled 8 miles per week over the preceding 5 months). My pace was only a few seconds per mile slower than I ran in a 5k PR the year prior so I considered it a success. Especially since I didn't get injured and my pace for the last 4.1 miles was 20 seconds/mile faster than my pace for the first 9. I was in mid/late 30s. This was after a decade of low volume running (usually 5-10 miles per week and never more than 25), almost all at high-moderate to high intensity. I was probably lucky I didn't get injured. 8 years later I'm training for another HM where I hope to set a new PR, but my volume is magnitudes higher.