How to Decrease Your Weekly Marathon Training Time Commitment

By Rick Morris

Do you need to decrease your marathon time commitment? For many distance runners, marathon training brings visions of countless hours and endless miles of running and training. It’s true that most marathon training programs come with a significant time commitment. In my opinion, the most efficient marathon plans include between 5 and 7 training days per week with a long run at least every other week. A plan of that type is the most commonly used, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. Are you time challenged? Are you not able to commit to running five or more days per week? Is getting in those 2 to 4 hour long runs a problem for you? No worries – while not an ideal situation, you can get by with less weekly training time and still meet your marathon goal. Here are a few ways to decrease your weekly marathon training time.

Focus on Quality

The first thing you want to eliminate when your training time is limited is any type of junk miles. Instead of doing easy recovery runs or training runs with no real purpose, focus on performing your quality workouts. Get in your long runs, tempo runs, lactate threshold workouts and interval training first. If you have remaining training time you can still do those easy, calorie burning, easy day workouts.

Avoid Cross Training

Don’t get me wrong, cross training can be a valuable type of workout. They are great for providing some balance to your training. However, you are training for a marathon so you should concentrate on your marathon running workouts. If you need to eliminate workouts, get rid of your cross training first.

Long Run Multi Tasking

Even though your training time is limited, you still need to get in your most important workouts to meet your training goal. The bad news for a time challenged marathon runner, is that means doing a weekly long run, tempo or lactate threshold run and speed building interval workouts. They eat up a lot of training days. The good news is that you can sometimes consolidate two or more of those training days by doing long run multi tasking. Instead of doing a long run completely at an easy endurance pace, consider combining a long run with a tempo run and maybe even some speed work. For example,  if you’re doing a 18 mile long run you could do the first 10 at an easy endurance pace, the next 6 at tempo pace and the final 2 as hard as you can manage. Not only are you gaining the benefits of three workouts in one, but you are also doing a great job of training your marathon finishing ability.

Lose Some Long Runs

I usually like to do a long run every week up to 12 miles and then start doing them every other week to allow for full recovery. While I think that does the best job of preparing for a top marathon effort, you can actually get away with one long run every third week. You are not going to lose endurance within that two week recovery period. Once you hit the higher mileage long runs of 15 miles or more, you can save some training time by going to the every third week long run schedule. Many runners actually perform better in their race with that type of schedule because they are more fully recovered and avoid any risk of over training.