Thursday, 20 September 2012

Marathon Training Thursday - Long Run Questions?

I need your help and your running expertise?!

I am just 25 days away from my very first full marathon, and I am starting to question my training plan.

I ran my longest distance to date this past Monday, and I hit 35km (21 miles). I had planned to do one more long run before I started to taper. And I had planned to run the full distance - 42.2km. The reason I wanted to run the full distance was mostly for the mental game. I thought if I ran the distance before, than when I am racing and fading, I can say to myself "you can do this, and you have already done it".

That being said, everyone I have talked to lately, has recommended that I stop at 35km or even 32km. And almost everyone I have told about my plan says, "Don't do it! Quit while you are ahead!". Everyone is advising me against running the full distance. There are questions of muscle fatigue, recovery time, and fear of potential injury pre-race.

And now...I am official confused...and I just don't know...

I am new to distance running, and just figuring it all out. This is my first marathon after all!! I want to be as prepared as possible. But I also don't want to over train and peak before for my race.

So friends, I am turning to you and the wonderful world of the internet. What are your thoughts?
Quit while I am ahead? 
Or go the full distance for sanity's sake?

Love Your Favourite Darwinian Fail,


  1. Whatever you do, DO NOT run the full distance before the race. I've run 7 marathons and the farthest I've run in training is 36km. Trust in your body's ability to get you to the finish line. Those last 7km are probably going to hurt but you WILL finish, of that I am certain. Your body takes a LONG time to recover after a marathon and you're also risking a potential injury by running the full distance before race day. Getting injured at this stage would suck immensely after all your hard work.

  2. My longest was 21 also. Everyone advised me not to go longer than 22. Since its your first I wouldn't risk it this far out. You're ready, those last few miles would probably do more harm than good. Trust your training. I know you've been training hard. You've got this!

  3. I ran my first full marathon last year and my longest long run was 20 miles. To be honest, I wish I hadn't even ran it and stopped at my 19 mile long run (which was amazing). I felt like all the 20 miler did was wear my body down. I ended up finishing the marathon pain-free (or as much as you can finish a marathon pain free) and was really happy with my time, but an injury appeared about a week later.

    Obviously, I'm not super experienced.. but I think the only reason to do anything longer than 20 would be a confidence boost, otherwise I'd recommend going into your first marathon healthy and undertrained rather than trained and injured.

  4. I also agree - do not run the full distance. The farthest I have ran in training is 33 km. Alike what Phaedra said - you will finish the last lag on the run day - with all the movitation of the people cheering you on and with all the emotions going on while you complete this goal. I cried when I finished - lol - it's a tough goal to accomplish and it takes a lot and when you are done you will be overcome with emotion and will be so proud of yourself! Good luck with the last few weeks of your training but make sure you don't run anything longer than what you have.

  5. I totally agree with the first two replies. My longest run was 22 miles and that is plenty far enough. It takes the body along time to recover from long distance running and the risk of injury is increased. My marathon is on the 7th October and I am already beginning to taper as regards weekly mileage. Concentrate on some good short sessions, including fartlek, intervals, and some nice easy runs. Now is the time to smell the flowers, you've done the hard work so relax and look forward to your marathon.

  6. I haven't run a marathon before, but I've run 9 half-marathons. I know it's not the same thing, but wanted to share my experiences.

    For my first half, I did what you're doing - tried to add more long runs, make sure "I'd done it" before I did it. Of all of my races, that was my worst performance. I was worn out at the race. I finished, but my time wasn't what I'd hoped. Based on this, I would certainly recommend against running more long runs before your race.

    In a few subsequent races I cut down the long runs, but still peaked out at about 11 miles, vs. 13.1. Those were better, but still not my best.

    Then I tried doing more weight training, plyometrics, and short burst running (tabatas). I combined that with shorter distances (in my last half, the longest I'd run was 8 miles before the race). In each of my last two races using this method I blew away my previous times. In fact, in my last race it was a 5K on Friday night and a half marathon on Saturday morning. In both races I set PRs at the distances, knocking almost 7 minutes off of my previous half time in that same race 2 years prior, and 4 minutes off my previous half PR.

    So, I guess what I'm "promoting" is doing more mixes of weight training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) to improve your body's ability to perform under pressure, while reducing the constant stress of long runs prepping for the race. For me, and others, it has done wonders. I know it's too late to do that for this race, but something to consider for your next one (which I'm sure you'll be doing).

    Of course, now I don't do "just" half-marathons any more - I've moved onto the Tough Mudder, which is essentially a half-marathon combined with 20+ obstacles. I'd highly recommend it or others like it, as it's a great mix of running and strength.

    Best of luck on your marathon!

  7. I ran the full distance once and a 50K distance before my first marathon race. I just love to get out and run for a long time. I don't think it would hurt you as long as you do it far enough out and take you time during the run.

  8. I finished my first full last Saturday, and I would say DON'T. Our longest run was 21.3 miles, and it was exactly one month beforehand. In theory, I thought I could run one more longer run, but then I thought about my goals. Which is more important, getting that last, perhaps not needed long run, or making it to the marathon? My only goal for the marathon was to finish, so it was much more important to rest and be ready than to try to squeeze in too much.
    My finish time is nothing to bag about (5:41), but I can say this: I was rested, I was ready, and best of all, I HAD SO MUCH FUN! I have my own history of issues to overcome, and those last few miles ended up being more of a wog, but I proved everyone wrong who has ever doubted me or told me I'd never be a runner, let alone a marathoner. It was so much more important to make it to race day uninjured, so I'm glad I didn't do too much.
    GOOD LUCK! You can do this!

  9. Different things work for different people. Just about 3 weeks from you first, don't try to question what you're doing too much. To me, the first marathon was so much more about my time or the actual distance covered - it only makes sense until it happens. My advice would be to stick to whatever you originally planned.

  10. Screw what everyone else says. The #1 goal of your training should be to give you confidence! While physically you do not need to run a 26.2 mile long run, if you mentally want/need to run that distance, than do it.

    However, I would recommend to stop at 25. Just to make that first 26.2 mile run (in the race) that much more special :)

  11. You're only four days from when most first marathoners are beginning their taper -- I definitely wouldn't advise any more long runs. As others have mentioned above, you're unlikely to recover physically from another big effort. Good luck with your first marathon - hope you enjoy it!

  12. Trust your training plan, is your goal for your first marathon to race or to finish? You need to answer that more than anything! If you are going for a certain time at that distance do what is right for you - you have run long enough to know what you need to do, we all are different. However knowing the background you have, your body is still recovering from your surgery (it takes longer than we think). Be conservative but do what you know is right for you. You are the one who will learn from your mistakes and the one who will benefit from your knowing how your body will handle the distance.

  13. my longest was actually 18. I was supposed to do 21-22, but I was feeling like I was about to get injured so I stopped. I say you are good to go!

  14. I'm doing my first full marathon in November, and all the advice I've gotten and training plans I've looked at say not to do more than 35km for your longest run (there is an exception for seasoned ultra-marathoners).

    I get your reasoning for building confidence, but here's something to consider: Think about that moment on race day when you hit 35km and realize that every step you take is THE LONGEST DISTANCE YOU'VE EVER RUN, plus you're surrounded by people who are doing the same thing and crowds cheering you on.

    You only get to run 26.2 miles for the first time ONCE, so make it a memorable experience!

  15. Everyone trains differently but, personally, I wouldn't run much further. It's not really necessary - your body is already conditioned and ready for the 26.2 miles (the last few might just hurt a little!). Why risk injury now?
    Good luck with your training!

  16. Okay clearly everyone has different advice but....DON'T WORRY about the mental game! The experience of the marathon is WAY different than the experience of a training run. The adrenaline, energy, prep, totally different. I wouldn't do ANY more than 21-22 miles max. You are fine! Part of doing the marathon is that last bit and you WILL be able to finish. Trust your training, it will be great! --Ericka @ The Sweet Life (

  17. I only did 20 for my longest run and made it through my marathon fine..and I was injured. If I can do it, then you certainly can. DO NOT RISK THE INJURY. I've never known it recommended to do the full distance and always heard to max out at 2-3 long runs of 20-22 miles in the plan (preferably broken up with lighter mileage on the weeks between). That's the max...for the first marathon or two the rec I always heard was just 1 or maybe 2 20 milers.

  18. I am very new running so I couldn't give you any advise based on my own experience.

    Honestly, I just run. I don't even have a watch (unless I borrow it). I only know my KMs when my friends tell me it at the end of our run :)

  19. I'm really against the idea of trying to run the full 42km in training. It will do a lot of damage that you might not heal from before the race and realistically you could start to subtly taper now which might actually be more beneficial for you on race day. That's going to apply to both the physical and mental part because the race momentum and adrenaline will carry you the rest of the distance. I promise!!
    What about dropping back down to 28-32 and then continuing with the taper as planned. Its still a great distance and a substantial amount of time on your feet but you won't stress the muscles, tendons and ligaments nearly as much?? Just a thought!!!

  20. Oh that's tough. I think because it's your first the comments above are right, and the risk (injury/over-doing it) is probably more likely than the reward (mentally knowing you can do it - which you can).

    But I am on the same schedule as you (22 days out) and it's my first as well - so what do I know?!

    I did see one plan (on cool running) that suggested going the full distance, and a comment on another blog where a man finally got his BQ after doing training runs of more than 32km.

    Personally, after my 32km today, I have no desire to do anything longer if 32 is enough!