Weekly Mileage Before Starting a Marathon Training Program

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 | By Hal Higdon
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Weekly Mileage Before Starting a Marathon Training Program

Have a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I want to start training for my first marathon. How many miles should I be running weekly before I start your Novice 1 training plan? I have suffered a few injuries in the past, so I want to be cautious about doing too much.


Ideally, I would like runners to be up to 15 to 25 weekly miles before starting to train for a marathon. Not every new marathoner possesses this much base, but that would be the ideal, considering that the long run in Mile 1 of my 18-week Novice 1 program is 6 miles. My question to people would be if you can handle that long of a run in your first week of training? You need to be fit enough to run 6 miles comfortably, even if taking walking breaks. Otherwise, you may find yourself struggling over the following weeks. The long-run mileage ramps up to 7 miles and beyond, climaxing with 20 miles in the peak Week 15, three weeks out from the marathon (at which point tapering begins).

So my question back to you is, “How much time remains before your goal marathon?” If more than 18 weeks, you can take advantage of the extra time to do some pre-training. This might include a 5-K or 10-K program. My Novice Supreme program offers a gentle 30-week ramp with the long run in the first week only 3 miles. The more time you take, the better prepared you can be- and the less likely to suffer an injury because of overtraining.

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