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I am targeting a marathon in 6 months. I have limited time to train and have recently found it easier to drop the number of runs I do a week from 3 or 4 down to 2 - one long and one short/fast. The long is currently around 16km (~10m) and the short is around 10km (~6m). When doing 3 or 4 runs per week it seemed hard to increase the distances, but on 2 runs per week I have increased by about 1km per fortnight over the last 2 months.

My question is, will I be able to continue this cycle of two runs per week with gradual increasing distances over the next 6 months, or will I start hitting limits to what can be sustained on just 2 runs per week?

For info, I am 39 years old and am reasonably fit, having been running or cycling on & off for the last few years.

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I wouldn't dare do this. From part experience, I know how much training you need to do long runs comfortably. It usually comes back and bites you, if you're not careful with the training before the races... It could be very interesting to hear - after the fact - how you marathon actual went... –  Tonny Madsen Oct 12 '11 at 21:28
12k extra by the end of the training is only around 17 miles (28k). The recommendation (from here amazon.co.uk/Non-Runners-Marathon-Trainer-David-Whitsett/dp/…) is a 22 mile long run for the final week. I've only done a half before but I know it'll be a real struggle at the end if you haven't run within 3-4 miles of the final amount –  Chris S Oct 17 '11 at 18:26
runnersworld.com/race-training/… –  Jason Oct 11 '14 at 14:53

7 Answers 7

If you have a pretty deep base, you can manage this. However you will probably not have the best marathon experience. You can get to the finish line this way.

If you do additional cardio workouts, like biking, etc that can help substitute for missed runs.

How high to plan to take your long run? You probably want to get to 30-35K mark this way, and stay in the 30K range for four weeks or so, before tapering for the marathon if you can time it right.

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I'll add my comments here since geoffc, IMO, provided the best answer to the OP question and is in somewhat agreement with what I am going to add. I can not find it now; I wish I could. But, I have seen a very non-conventional marathon training plan that used only 2 runs a week. I want to say the runs were Wednesdays and Sundays, but the point here is to space them out. One run is a ~4 mile run with either hills or speed depending on week of training. The second run BUILDS TO 29 miles four weeks before the race. I'm not saying I approve or endorse this. But, I have seen it published. –  Ryan Miller Oct 18 '13 at 19:42
And yes, I know 29 miles is more than the 26.2 miles of the marathon. I did say this was a very non-conventional plan. –  Ryan Miller Oct 18 '13 at 19:43

I have done marathons with 2 runs per week. And with my longest run being only about 15 miles, but I was working out nearly every day doing other things such as elliptical, indoor cycling, exercise dvds to strength train, etc. Be sure to add in yoga and pilates or stretches. I finished in 4:20:11. But I was also battling a pretty bad case of ITBS. Work on running form and not just miles.

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Two weeks ago I finished a marathon in 3:25 without much effort (and two months before the marathon I finished an ultra with a great effort :-) running once a week.

However, just like "jpa", I was working out 6-7 days a week (Muay-Thai four days a week, fitness/crossfit/swimming/biking two days a week). And, compared to the usual training plans, my runs were much harder. My usual run was about 20-24km including a lot of sprints and skips.

Most of the time I worked out with a friend who finished the same marathon in 3:35 --- but he had to visit a pit-stop for something serious :-) on his 30km.

So --- yes, definitely it is possible to finish a marathon running twice a week --- on condition, you also do some other exercises.

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I trained 2 times a week, one fast 10 mile run and one long run on weekend increasing 1 mile every time on long runs till i get to 22 a week before a marathon.

I finished a marathon in 3 hours 50 minutes. It was hard at last 4 miles but i did with training twice a week. I felt running more often doesn't give me enough recuperation and wears me out feeling weak and injury prone.

So yes, you can train twice a week and still run under four hours

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I'm a little confused when you say that when running 3-4 times per week, you find it hard to increase the distance, yet when running 2x per week you can increase the distance 1km per fortnight (2 weeks)? That 1km is less than a mile, and should be able to be added each week, not each fortnight.

I would recommend going back to 3-4 runs per week, and add distance weekly. The structure would be something like this:

Week 1

  1. Day 1 - 4 miles
  2. Day 2 - 3 miles*
  3. Day 3 - 4 miles
  4. Day 4 - 8 miles**

That is actually more mileage than your current week of 16 miles. Put rest days in between each of your run days. On the * day, make that a harder, faster run. On the ** distance day, make sure that about 5-10 minutes of the run are 30 seconds at race pace, 30 seconds recovery, or 1 min race pace, 1 min recovery.

Week 2

  1. Day 1 - 6 miles
  2. Day 2 - 9 miles**
  3. Day 3 - 4 miles*

Again, slightly more than your current 16 mile week, add rest days.

Now the progression is, at the end of each week add one mile a week to your longer runs, and every other week add a mile to one of your shorter runs. That should get you to right around 20-21 miles for your longer runs a couple of weeks out from your marathon, and safely build up your overall mileage at the same time.

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Yes, it is possible train to run a marathon by training only on the weekends, but running fast is a still a question for me.

I've done it several times this winter and finished three marathons, but I have not been improving much. Finished races at 5:50 Nov 14?, 4:32 Jan 19, 4:22 Feb 16, and a recent 4:08 training run.

Mind you that Feb 1 2014 I ran a half in 1:43 and do have a strong base for 4-6 miles with one 2 miler at 12 min but stopped running regularly for 4-5 years.

So finally, the time it takes to go from 6-8 miles to marathon distance is definitely at least 6-8 months with most if not all being hard training sessions. It took me about that much time.

For you I bet it was 3-4 months to do it without being dizzy :)

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If going from 5:50 to 4:08 in half a year is "not improving much" you are living on strange standards. –  Jens Schauder Jun 23 '14 at 13:33
@JensSchauder I guess I should add that the marathon weather was much warmer than usual with RH up above 95. I heard that 25% of runners DNF that one. Otherwise your right, I think I am on strange standards... –  Jason Jun 25 '14 at 23:09

I'd say absolutely no problem what so ever.

I train barely once a week, but with a lot of walking, reflex treatment (its like training and its painfull as hell) core strengthening + the occasoinal run, A marahton is not impossible. Its hard in the end and you need a really though head but that can be trained up by mentally screaming how good it feels, the pain is beautiful, it makes you forget everything else and you one with the universe, you are meditating.

My first was Oslo 2012 and i finished in 5:23, as this was my first i didnt realize that i was supposed to start slow, so my first 21 k was covered in aprox 2:28, needless to say i had a hard walk the last k's but the last one went on a 3:00 pace, pure adrenaline, i regret that though as my legs stiffened up like iron, but lesson learned. By the way i was one of two representatives for the Maraton, as i won a competition on FB, so not finishing wasn't really an option

On Sunday its Amsterdam Maraton, and i feel like a joyous kid, and i know i'll be sub 5:00 without traing even once a week running. I love it, but i dont bother training too much, its just to booring. Do some 10 ks runs and Half maratons, its fun and yuo'll get the training both mentally and physically. All this on the table, you do need a good base from earlier, have a strong body, but training is overrated. If you want to go fast you'll need lots of training. But hey anyone can walk the distance.

Good Luck!

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Just a reminder, folks. If you are going to down vote, it's always a good idea to add a comment why you down voted, else how will the poster and community benefit? –  Ryan Miller Oct 18 '13 at 23:44

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