How to Shorten Your Marathon Training Schedule

By Rick Morris

It would be nice if we lived in a perfect running world. In perfect running world we would never need to worry about limited training time or interruptions in our training schedule. Alas, nothing is perfect, including our marathon training. I hope your marathon training program runs smoothly and your timing is perfect. But, there are always going to be those times when you either don’t have time for an ideal marathon training plan or something goes wrong during your training that sets you back. What do you do when there isn’t enough training days before your race that will allow you to complete a full marathon training program? Do you bag your planned marathon on look for a new one? That’s one solutions, but there are other options. You can shorten or condense your marathon training plan to meet your new timeline. It may not result in the ideal training situation but, in most cases you can make adjustments that will make it work. Here are some ideas on how to successfully shorten your marathon training schedule and timeline.

Accelerate Your Long Run Progression

While there’s no hard rule on long run distance progression, most programs use a moderate progression of a 1 to 2 mile increase for each long training run. When you are in a training time crunch you may need to accelerate that progression. I think the best way to do that is to increase your progression to 2 miles for each long run when you are at 12 miles or less and go to a 3 mile increase for over 12 miles. While an accelerated progression like is far from ideal, it will help you make up time very quickly.

Condense Your Long Run Schedule

There are a number of long run schedules used in marathon training plans. Some include a long run every week, while others have long runs scheduled every other week or even every third week. I personally favor a schedule that incorporates a long run every week up to 12 miles in distance and then switches to every other week for additional recovery time. When the training time before your marathon becomes an issue, you probably won’t have the luxury of enjoying the extra recovery time that bi-weekly or tri-weekly long runs give you. Include a long run every week when time is an issue. If you have any extra time that would allow a week of extra recovery, save it for the very long training runs in the later stages of your program.

Increase Your Recovery

A more rapid long run progression and a condensed long run schedule will place a lot of stress on both your mind and body. To offset that additional stress and to minimize your risk of injury or over training, you will most likely need some extra recovery time. I would suggest always using the day after your long run as a complete rest day and adding in an additional rest day later in the week. When you reach the high mileage long runs late in your program, you may want to consider taking off two days after your long run.

Minimize Your Taper

You are already aware of the importance of a taper so you enter your race fully recovered. I think that a three week taper is ideal. Three weeks of decreased distance and intensity does a good job of letting your body and mind regain full strength. However, in an accelerated marathon program you won’t have that luxury. Instead, go to a two week accelerated taper. Since your taper is only two weeks in length, increase the number of total rest days and decrease your mileage at a faster rate.