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.

  • 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... Commented Oct 12, 2011 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
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 18:26
  • runnersworld.com/race-training/…
    – Jason
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 14:53

11 Answers 11


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.

  • 2
    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. Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 19:42
  • 1
    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. Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 19:43
  • @RyanMiller I've seen a 2-3 day training plan in "YOU (Only Faster)" by Greg McMillan and the runs are spread out like you say.
    – Jason
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 22:27

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.


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


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.


I also did a marathon with two runs per week. I started with three, but did not have time or got easier training injuries. With two runs, short run about 13,5 km and long run starting at 20 km and increasing by about 2 km per week to 34 km.

I made the mistake to run too fast during all of my training (around 11 - 11,5 km/u). During the marathon I maintained a speed of about 10 km/u but in the end took regularly some time to drink.


  • It's best to have a long and small run... I used a small run of 13,5 km, but can be 10 km too as you propose.
  • For the long run you should aim like having at least 2-3 runs which are 30+ km, preference one of 35, to get used to the the 'psychological' effect of continuing when you get tired. Don't do too many 30+ km runs since they might cause injury/overtraining.
  • Every 3 or 4 weeks, lessen your amount by limiting the long run to e.g. 12-15 km instead of 20+ (or the long distance run for that week).

  • -
  • And how exactly does your experience map to his? :) One might be able to read between the lines, but it's also good to explicitly answer the question.
    – Sean Duggan
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 16:38

I trained only once a week. That was all the time I had. One week short, about 8 miles. Next week long. Each long week increased by 2 miles until I hit 22 miles.

I work full time and have two young children. It can be done. I plan to run another marathon with once a week training again and hope to cut my time by 45 min. I will work on speed this time.

Mind over matter. Good luck!


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.


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!

  • 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? Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 23:44

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 :)

  • 1
    If going from 5:50 to 4:08 in half a year is "not improving much" you are living on strange standards. Commented Jun 23, 2014 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
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 23:09

Even adding short runs of 30 mins the other days of the week would be interesting though. You should be able to find time to log these runs in. Do that 4 times a week and that's 2 more hours of training. Increase the distance on your two other runs.

If you need to cross-train to avoid injury (swimming etc) you can do that too. Running is probably the most efficient time-wise because you just need to put your shoes on and get out of the house (you don't need to go a gym or pool).

As some people said already, if you have deep base of endurance training, only 2 runs a week will work, i.e. you will be able to finish. Expect a lot of pain on the day though because you will not be used to the distance, mentally and physically.


Yes, I'm doing it now and have not had any issues. I don't do any other exercise but I eat well and will walk at least 12k steps in my job. My runs consist of 5k speed on a Wednesday and a 20k run that adds an extra 2k each week. No injuries this year or even the year before. The time in between gives you ample time to recover and to get your speed and distance better each week. This method allows inexperienced runners to get to distance runs in training with some speed. It is not ideal, and not great for times, but this method allows for growth each week. NB you can't miss a session ever. If you do you would in effect be running a long run every two weeks and as I discovered running 36k fter a two week gap is hellish. That said if you are overweight or don't have a base level of fitness I would not recommend this.

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