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5464 Views 5 Replies Latest reply: Jan 4, 2013 4:44 AM by PatrickHansen6917
SlowestTurtle Amateur 14 posts since
May 14, 2012
Currently Being Moderated

Oct 29, 2012 12:44 PM

Running 20+ miles long runs in marathon training

I just ran my first half marathon a few days ago. I want to try to run a full marathon in May. So I am attempting to put together a training plan for myself based on everything I've read so far and by referring to the available training plans around the Internet.


The question I have is about the length of the long runs. The longest run I've done so far was 16 miles. Beyond that distance I am in uncharted, for me, territory.


Most training plans that I find take you up to 20 miles on your long runs. I've seen some people arguing that even 20 miles is too long and unnecessary.


There are others, like Jeff Galloway, that suggest that you run as long as 29 miles long runs in preparation for a marathon.


Matt Fitzgerald in his book "Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel" talks about the importance of doing whatever makes you feel confident in your ability to achieve your goal. I really think it's a good point. I certainly wouldn't feel confident racing a distance that I never covered in my training.


I do, however, understand the argument that running 20+ miles in your training puts a big strain on your body and requires for more recovery/easy runs which prevents you from running more quality workouts.


However, I feel like I should run 26.2 (and probably more) at least once before the race day.


What are your thoughts on running over 20 miles in preparation for a marathon?


Thank you.

  • Jasko123 Legend 461 posts since
    Apr 18, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Oct 30, 2012 2:04 PM (in response to SlowestTurtle)
    Running 20+ miles long runs in marathon training

    There are a lot of different opinions and training plans, as you suggested.  I also agree with the notion that the considerations of potential injury have to be considered with the long run schedule and it is also important to monitor your personal comfort level along with methods that work the best for your performance. 


    In general, the risks of doing extended long runs probably outweigh the benefits.  I understand your thought process and think it is a valuable theory for a 10k or even a half, but preparing for the full is very different, so I think you will do fine focusing on tempo runs, a regular schedule and averaging 17-20 miles for the long runs. 


    The key is consistency and slowly building the additional endurance (without just focusing on pushing out the total miles). 


    Another option to consider is splitting the miles.  I had to do this for my first marathon.  It is certainly not the same as additional time for the LR, but if you do one route in the morning and another in the evening (same day), and then increase the distance by about 20% per week, it would reduce the physical strain.  So, in that case, you could max out doing 12 miles early and 12 miles later, for example. 


    Best of luck in your training. 

  • BOSNPM We're Not Worthy 2,482 posts since
    Nov 20, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Oct 31, 2012 7:54 AM (in response to Jasko123)
    Running 20+ miles long runs in marathon training

    Everyone is different I never ran over 22 for my 1st and now only do around 18!  No right or wrong answer but most will not have you do over 22.  A more important number I think is your miles per week (MPW), the higher that number the better.  It's a very fine line to getting to the start line healthy, mentally ready and somewhat fresh.  Good luck

  • BOSNPM We're Not Worthy 2,482 posts since
    Nov 20, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Nov 6, 2012 11:46 AM (in response to SlowestTurtle)
    Running 20+ miles long runs in marathon training

    #1 thing is to show up at the start  trained with little to no injuries!  It's a fine line and overuse injuries happen at once and it's often to late to correct them once they happen, be smart 29 is a lot of miles!

  • PatrickHansen6917 Rookie 2 posts since
    Oct 28, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Jan 4, 2013 4:44 AM (in response to SlowestTurtle)
    Running 20+ miles long runs in marathon training

    I'm not a trainer or a doctor, but here is my personal experience on 20 mile runs.  This past January, i did my first marathon at age 46 in 4 hours, right on goal, with never doing more than 18 miles.  I set my next goals to be 3:45 for this past October with the subsequent goal of 3:25 for this coming March in hopes of qualifying for Boston.


    If you can't tell, I'm a bit competitive and with these goals, I sought out ways to make this happen.  I was right on track with my parrot predictor for the October marathon to be 3:45 until my first of two 20 milers, about 8 weeks before the marathon.  That first 20 miler went fine, but my second 20 miler caused me to tweak a hamstring (due to overuse) and with only five weeks to recover, caused me to basically treat the hamstring and loose all momentum I had gained.  I got lots of treatment, nursed it and taped up my thigh the day of the marathon.  Ultimately, i was able to gut out the October marathon, but ended at 4:20 due to my overuse injury, so instead of gaining the 15 minute in PR, i lost 20 minutes.  On top of this I had to take a full 2 months off just to let the hamstring heal fully.  I am slowly building back up for my March marathon, but with that back story, my goal is back to the 3:45 that I missed in October and I'll have to plan out my Boston qualifying once I accomplish my 3:45 goal.


    Your call on 29 miles, but there is no way I'd push it that far pre marathon without a coach monitoring your progress and a close pulse on your core work, quality runs, etc...  Once you are hurt, there is little you can do to fix it.


    Good luck!

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