In my last post, I described what minimal run training is, and why more mileage isn’t always the key to running faster. In this post I’m going to get into the details about how I’ve used minimal run training to run two sub 3 hour Marathons, 2:55 and 2:57, while averaging less than 25 miles per week.
Both ways of training will give you the same number of miles, but I would argue that the later is more specific to the marathon and will help you run faster.
Stress + Rest = Adaptation
Minimal Training for the Marathon
Listen to Your Body
What should you do in between your long efforts? That depends on how you are feeling. This might mean taking complete rest days or going out for short easy runs at a comfortable pace. Try to go for a short 10-30 minute run at a comfortable pace if you are feeling up for it.
If you are feeling recovered between your longer efforts, but not quite up for another one yet, you could try working in some speed with a shorter faster run, or by including an interval session.
If I am feeling somewhat recovered, but not quite up for another long run, I will include a medium run of 8-13 miles at a pace that is slightly faster than marathon pace.
Race Your Way to Faster Times
Another advantage of training this way is that you will know exactly what to expect come race day. You will have trained yourself both physically and mentally for your race. In your build up to your marathon, you will have done a series of tapers and race-like efforts. You won’t have to guess what you’ll feel like on race day after a 2-3 week taper, because you’ve essentially been doing it in your training.
Here is an example of the previous 8 weeks leading up to my most recent Marathon of 2:57.
- Week 1
- Key workout: 10 miles @ 6:02/mile
- Weekly Mileage: 23
- Week 2
- Key workout: none
- Weekly Mileage: 28
- Week 3
- Key workout: 18 miles @ 7:09/mile (very hot/humid)
- Weekly Mileage: 25
- Week 4
- Key workout: 13 miles @ 6:11/mile
- Weekly Mileage: 26
- Week 5
- Key workout: 20 miles @ 6:27/mile
- Weekly Mileage: 34
- Week 6
- Key workout: none
- Weekly Mileage: none (sick w/ flu)
- Week 7
- Key workout: 12 miles @ 6:30/mile
- Weekly Mileage: 22
- Week 8
- Key workout: 8 miles @ 6:30/mile
- Weekly Mileage: 18
- Week 9
- Marathon 2:57 (6:47/mile)
Average weekly mileage for previous 8 weeks = 22 miles/week
Will This Work For You?
It is certainly unconventional and has its limits. But if you are pressed for time, or have been struggling with injuries, it may be worth a try.
Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
You don’t have to give up on running a marathon or other race, just because you can’t follow the prefect training plan. Don’t be afraid try different approaches to training and find something that fits your lifestyle.
10 thoughts on “How to Run a Sub 3 hour Marathon on 25 miles a Week”
This is exactly what I do and it works!! I go cycling on none running days to help with recovery but the only difficulty is to not keep eating ie keeping your weight down
Thanks Paul. How long have you been doing this and what have you be n able to achieve for time?
Makes a lot of sense, Aaron, however, your base 8 weeks prior is already a sustained run for 16K at a 3.43 pace, which indicates you may have been ready for the sub-3 marathon prior to these 8 weeks, and you have just maintaining it in the lead-up to the marathon. So my question would be: how did you get to that level of fitness 8 weeks prior to the marathon?
I do it this way http://paleorunner.org/2014/05/maximize-minimum-train-less-reduce.html/
Absolutely agree with this comment. The title of the article is very misleading (perhaps intentionally?). It suggests that he got to sub-3 hour marathon shape BECAUSE of the 25 miles/week running for 8 weeks, which doesn’t seem to be true based on the run paces for the first week. Week 1 running 10mi @ 6:02 is a VDOT of 58, an equivalent performance of a 2:48 marathon. What’s the running plan that got you from a 4-hour marathon to a sub-3 hour marathon? I’d like to know if that can be done on 25 miles a week.
Hey Aaron, I very much appreciate this. I’m nearing my 5th marathon and 5 days of running/week is beating me up. I am looking for something similar to this. My question for you, though, is about the other runs between the described Key Workouts. Week 2 is 28 miles but no key workouts. I don’t understand what you do there. 3 easy runs of roughly 9 miles each? No strides or tempo runs? Thanks for anything else you can offer to help fill in the blanks!
Mike, everything other than key workouts is just easy running of whatever you feel 20-60 min, throw in some strides if feeling good. Don’t worry about weekly mileage. I’ll have to look over my training log for that week and get back to you. For now I’m writing more about it and working on a book on training at http://lowmileagerunning.com
Thanks Aaron… I realize that is part of the paradigm shift…. It’s not an absolute structured running program where every workout is tailored. It’s focused on the less frequent key runs and the timing is based on your recovery. The miles in between, now that you explained it again, are rather simple and easy running. I appreciate it!
Hi Aaron, I’m a firm believer in your theory.On February 17th,I’ll be 61 and for the last 2 yes after an absence from running I only run 1 hour EZ on one day and 1.5-2hours on the other.Yoga midweek.I’ve ran a few marathons on the low 2:20 range,but cannot commit or handle the intensity.I try to include tempo,speed in the 24hr run on treadmill.