Fitness Marathons

Two Words That Can Really Help Your Marathon Training

Mileage goals
Written by Charlie

Here are two simple words that could really help your marathon training! Believe it or not, there is a method to those runs in a marathon program and these words can make that effort count!

A lot of runners have begun their marathon programs for their fall marathons – that time is upon us! Personally, I can’t stand fall marathons for the simple fact that it involves training in really hot weather! But, that makes these “two words” even more important and they could be a big help to you as well!

Two Words That Can Really Help Your Marathon Training

Put simply, those two words are “SLOW DOWN”. This may sound strange but let’s break down why this is so important!

My Own Experience

I have run almost 60 marathons/ultra marathons over the past 12 years and it took me that long to finally reach a goal that I had had from the beginning – to run a sub-3 hour and 30 minute marathon. Part of that reason had to do with the fact that probably 80% of those marathons were not serious efforts and more for the location/review/training runs.

But, I firmly believe that another reason had to do with the training program I was using (Hansons Marathon Program) and the focus on the off-day runs being run at slower paces.

The Basic Elements of a Marathon Training Program

A marathon training program will typically have a few elements – the easy run, the long run, and the speed/tempo runs. The speed runs will include things like tempo runs and repeats. The long run will get your body conditioned to staying on your feet for longer periods as you prepare for the 26.2 mile distance. Finally, the easy run. These runs are typically to help you get your miles in and to help you aerobically.

The Brain Takes Over…

Many times, runners attack these slow days as if they need to turn in quality performance runs every time they hit the roads. This means running these slower runs at paces that are between what they should be and the speed workout paces.

This actually does not help in your body recovering between workouts and instead treats these miles and runs as workouts, instead of slow and comfortable paces to help your body and muscles recover while still covering the miles.

There are even a couple of programs that recommend not even doing those slow runs but instead doing cross-training on those days and only running for tempo runs, repeat workouts, and long runs. This is again because those slower runs are meant to help in recovery while still helping your heart and blood flow.

Slow Down on Slow Run Days!

Here’s an example. I just started a new marathon training program with a goal of a 3:20 marathon for this September. On my slow days, of which today was one, the schedule (again from Hansons Running/Luke Humphrey Running) called for a 9 mile run with an average pace between 8:51 and 10:07 per mile. That slow end, the 10:07 mile, is a full 149 seconds slower per mile than the goal marathon pace!

Believe it or not, it actually can seem harder to run those slow paces than it is to run at faster paces, which is one of the reasons so many runners just kick it into a run of around 8:15 per mile instead (in my example). A run at that pace puts more stress on the muscles and will make it that much more difficult to hit the speed workouts with your best effort.

I am not saying to slow down on speed days or the long run days, if your plan calls for a particular pace range for long runs! Just slow down on those easy days and that will help tremendously!

Running Faster on Slow Days Can Cause Stress and Injury

That is best case. In the worst case, you put too much stress on your body and piling it on with more speed work and no easy runs could cause injury (which could seriously derail your running goals).

So, while it may seem that running slow on slow days is not very beneficial, it can actually be one of the most important parts of a training program! It allows you to continue to get the benefits of a workout and the mileage while not taxing your body more than it should be for the “easy” day of the program.

I do know this – my last training program was more fun and more productive than any program I had ever used before and I feel that I owe a lot of that to the fact that I actually forced myself to slow down on slow days to a pace that was much slower than I had ever run before on slow days.

Remember – while each run can have a purpose, every run does not have to be fast. Slow down on those easy days and trust your body and the program.

And if you need a great marathon training program, check out the Hansons Method! I really enjoy those programs!

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.