Can you train for a marathon without a long run?

Can You Train for a Marathon without a Long Run?

training for marathon without a long run


This past weekend I got married and ran a marathon with my husband as our honeymoon. It was my third and his first and, after the worst training cycle of my running career, my only goal was to finish.

I originally started off training with the Hansons Method , in July. But then life got in the way, and the only solid month of training I had was in September. While the Hanson Method is notorious for only featuring 16 mile as their longest run, I hadn’t even achieved that before marathon day. My longest run was just 15 miles, so I was left asking myself a question: can you really train for a marathon without a long run?

Considering I was able to at least finish my honeymoon marathon, my answer now would be YES.

Was I able to keep a pace I wanted? No. Was I more sore than usual after? A little. However, I did it.

The week before the race, I started doing some research to see if I was totally out of mind for even attempting it. In the two months leading up to the race, I was running 2-3 times a week, and the longest run I hit was 15 miles. That is significantly less than the “standard” 20 mile run most try to hit at least once in their training before the marathon. But, where did this 20 mile benchmark come from?

Turns out research shows that there is very little to be gained for running over 3 hours in training. The 20 mile goal was standard when most runners training for marathons in the 1970’s were completing their long runs at around an 8 minute mile pace. Back then, the 26.2 distance was reserved for the truly hardcore and elite runners. They were the one’s running 20 miles in under 3 hours with ease.

Now we have marathoners coming from a very diverse training background with many “average” people, like myself, who are working hard just to maintain an 11 minute pace. With research showing there isn’t much to gain in running over 3 hours, I think adjusting training plans to cap at 18 miles would be sufficient for most people.

In the end, every runner needs to find a marathon plan that works with their schedule and goals. I was happy just to finish this one, hand in hand, with my new husband. However, I still have dreams of a sub-4 hour marathon and I know that it will require significantly stricter training! But the end result will be so, so worth it.




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About the Author Erica House

Erica House has her Masters in Psychology and has been teaching at the University level since 2007. She is certified as a Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine as well as a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. After quitting smoking and maintaining a 50 pound weight loss she became passionate about helping others on their journey to lifelong happiness and wellness.