Marathon Training: Mileage Matters

Marathon Training: Mileage Matters

I have never been what I consider a high mileage distance runner.  I realize that everyone probably has a different definition of what they consider “higher mileage” but to me this involves consistently logging in over 60 miles a week. 

In college I raced the 1500, 3000 or 5K distance.  I never ran more then 60 miles a week.  I think it was actually closer to 40 mpw.  I never had the desire to run any more than what my coach told me to do. 

Fast forward one decade to the fall of 2011.  When I started training for the Houston Marathon I was trying to increase my mileage safely after my recent stress fracture.  I knew my body wasn’t ready to handle a lot of miles.  My marathon training consisted of running 3-5 days a week (cross training 1-2 days) and typically hitting 30-45 miles max.  I did have one week in the 50’s and one in the 60’s but for the most part my mileage was on the lower end of the spectrum.  I tried to make every run count and looking back on my training I have no regrets.  My body needed the lower mileage.  I did not overtrain and I remained injury-free which was my number one goal.  I learned so much from the Houston Marathon and the Little Rock Marathon and am very thankful for both experiences.  They helped me grow as a runner. 

I am now training for two back to back marathons (the New York City Marathon on Nov. 4th and the St. Judes Marathon on Dec. 1st) and I find myself trying to figure out what mileage feels right for me now.  The schedule I’m following generally ranges from 50-65 miles a week. It’s taken me 7 weeks but I finally reached 50+ miles (56 this week) and I must say that it feels so good! I actually ran 6 days in a row (which is something I do not normally do) and my knee is feeling good.  I realize I still have 11 more weeks to stay healthy but I am telling myself that I can do this. 

What is the right number of miles to run when your are training for a marathon? Whatever is the right amount for you.  I love reading other running blogs and learning how others train but I decided a while ago that I would not compare myself with others.  Last year I needed to run less to be safe.  This year I am upping the mileage but it is still not what I consider high.  I will not be running 70 or more during this training cycle.  Will I ever run that much?  Maybe someday but I am not ready for that at this point in my life and I am ok with that! 

Do you have a hard time comparing yourself to others?  How did you find the right mileage that works for you?

17 thoughts on “Marathon Training: Mileage Matters

  1. You run some fast races on your “low” mileage! I’m like you in that I don’t run a lot of high mileage weeks (65 is my limit and it was by mistake) but I know that adding miles really helps my speed. But a girl’s got to work and sorry, that’s my priority! Can’t run much over 45 a week or I have to start giving up eating and sleeping!

  2. I appreciate that you’re not a high mileage runner! My body has always done best with lower miles too, and it is hard not to compare to bloggers who run much more (I maxed in the low 40’s for my first full) – but like you, I’ve learned to do what’s best for my body. Glad your training is going so well!

  3. You do fantastic on that lower mileage, Tia. I think you have been very smart to build up. The other thing is that when you are racing the shorter distances, it’s hard to do that type of intensity and also do lots of mileage. It is HARD on the body. You have a ton of potential with the marathon. I am so looking forward to how you do the back to back this time!

    1. Yes, I love racing and I don’t like to go into a race on tired legs which always translates into less mileage. Hopefully this little increase will work out and I can handle back to back! Thanks for your comment Raina. Anxious to see what you have coming up this fall as well… 🙂

  4. I’ve been asking myself that same mileage question except about the half that I’m training for. You’ve had great success with the mileage you are running. The last marathon I ran I had an overuse injury that popped up right after the peak of my training (58 miles.) If I had been a more experienced runner (and not such a slave to my training schedule) I probably could have avoided it. May you stay strong and without injury through your training schedule.

    1. Thanks Carissa. Never feel bad about not following a schedule. Like I said, it’s been 7 weeks and I finally caught up to the mileage on my schedule. It took me this long to build up since I had taken off a lot of time this summer cross training so I could rest my knee. I appreciate your comment and I hope your half training goes well!

  5. I do wonder how I could do on higher mileage (especially given how slowly my race times have come down), but I also know how tired I get on the 40 or so average I’ve done for my marathons. If I ever increase it, I know I’ll have to do it very gradually. It IS hard not to compare myself with others, though.

    1. I have the thought the same thing- especially when I read how much others have improved. Adding it without getting injured is the tricky part for me…

  6. It is very difficult for me to not compare myself to fast/high mileage bloggers. I often find that I need to step away from reading blogs because I do get down in the dumps, especially because I am sort of injury prone. For me, I have to incorporate strength training/yoga to avoid injury, and it just gets so hard to keep piling on the miles when those supplementary things are necessary. I’m still trying to figure out “ideal” mileage for me. I will be very happy if I can get up to 60 miles per week (without getting injured) by my January marathon. That’s my goal.

    Sounds like what you are doing is working really well for you. NY is going to be a sweet race for you if you can stay healthy!

    1. Thanks Allison! I totally know what you mean. There is one particular blog that I just had to stop reading because it always made me feel like I was not doing enough. (And I shouldn’t care what this person did in the first place!)

      I hope you are able to have an injury-free marathon training too! My motto- sometimes less is more!

  7. I know Ill probably never win a race and never be “fast”, but I am trying to better myself and become faster than my current self. I know I can do that, but to compare myself to others and try to compete with them is just draining emotionally. Im far better off when I dont compare myself to others.. And being a slow, not-training-for-anything-right-now runner Im slacking on my miles, but like to have at least 15 miles every week minimum. I do know that I am personally slightly faster when my mileage is higher than that..

  8. I think you are doing an awesome job juggling 4 small children, a husband, and marathon training.

    I’m not nearly as fast as you. My PR is 3:31, I have attempted to break 3:20 twice in my running career. The first time I did I was 22 years old and working with a coach. We were hitting mileage in the mid 50’s and I had one week where I over did it and ran 68 miles in one week (This also included a 24 mile long run). I went in to that race about a month past my peak. My second attempt at breaking 3:20 was at the St. George marathon I was hitting mileage in the mid to upper 40’s and I felt great going into the race. I made some really bad pacing mistakes in the first part of the race and I paid for it later.

    I think 45 miles per week is my sweet spot. Any higher and my body gets pissed. It’s hard not to compare yourself to other runners. I find so many bloggers motivating and sometimes it leads to “risky” behavior.

    1. 3:35 was my PR for a few years so we are probably very similar! Pacing it right is a huge part. I am sure you can go under 3:20 with the right race pace strategy and training. 🙂

  9. What a good question! I think that is the hard thing about reading all of the running blogs out there—the tendency to compare my training with others. And frankly, mine is almost always fewer miles and slower than others with similar race times to mine. It is so important not to do that and to remember that we are each unique. What works for one may not for the other. My husband and I are good examples of this. Our marathon PRs are a minute apart (3:14 and 3:15), but we train very differently. We have learned to do what works for us.

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