The biggest question most beginning (and many experienced) marathoners have is: how long should my training runs be and how many times per week should I run?
The answer, of course, varies for the individual person and their goals, but there are some general rules and suggestions. While an elite marathoner might run two workouts per day and over 100 miles per week while training for a marathon, the body of most mortals could not take such pounding (and who can find that time anyway?). In general, the important components in developing a marathon training program for most people are these:
- Gradually increase the overall weekly distance until two to three weeks before the marathon.
- Include two long runs spread across the week, perhaps one midweek, the other on the weekend.
- Include one day of faster running and/or integrate pickups into your regular runs.
- Try to run six days per week.
- The runs between your long runs do not need to be any longer than 3-6 miles.
The longer runs:
The point is this: Your body won’t get used to running long distances, unless it has run those distances on a regular basis. But, the body needs rest between those runs, which is why we suggest no more than two long runs per week and moderate distance on the other days.
At the beginning of your training program, those long runs could be 6 miles each. Then, as the weeks go by, gradually increase them. Perhaps week two would see the long runs as 6 & 8 miles, week three 7 & 9, week four: 7 & 10, etc. Gradually increase these until your two runs are closer to 12 and 18 miles.
At this point you have built an excellent base. And, remember, the other runs are there to serve a different purpose.