Every few years, I get the marathon itch. My mind, legs, and heart start dreaming of long runs, finish lines, and the utter satisfaction that comes with completing 26.2 miles. The problem comes in the time it takes to train for that race distance.
With a full time teaching career, a Health Coaching business, a one year old, and just the regular to do list of keeping up with life, training for a marathon isn’t a practicality using a traditional training plan. However, there are a few things I have done to still train for a marathon without spending more than five hours a week running.
That being said, my marathon time is 4:17:00. I’m not looking to qualify for Boston, or to beat my time by anything significant. My marathon goal is always to finish the race feeling as good as possible. If you’re in the same, “finish-the-race-alive-and-feeling-somewhat-good” boat as I am, here are seven ways you can train for a marathon when you’re short on time:
Increase the time you spend on your feet. You might only reasonably be able to fit in two runs a week – your long run and one other. Those runs alone are not going to be enough to train your body to do what it needs to over 26.2 miles. You need to increase the amount of time you spend on your feet each day. During the race, you are going to be on your feet for anywhere from 4-6 hours while actively moving. When was the last time you did that without a sitting break?
A few things you can do to increase the time you spend on your feet include:
Using a pedometer and hitting a higher than normal step count.
Purchasing a standing desk for work
Playing more actively with your kids
Going for short walks during breaks or lunch
Don’t skip the long run. Yes, running 20 miles might take 3-4 hours on a Saturday morning, but you are going to be so glad that you accomplished that distance. Physically, you will be able to see how your body handles that kind of distance. Mentally, you will know that you can finish 20 miles and gut out the remaining 6.
Almost every marathon training plan emphasizes the importance of the long run and I have to agree. The long run is where you learn the best nutrition for your body, what pace you can reasonably keep up, and if your clothes are going to chafe. If your week is so busy that you can only fit in one run, make it your long one.
Make your weekly runs and workouts quality. In looking at your weekly schedule, you see that you can only fit in one other run that week besides your long run. Well, you need to ensure that you are making that run a quality one. By that, I mean you are doing some interval or hill training to strengthen your muscles, increase your speed, and perfect your form. I talk more about the importance of interval training here.
Include some strength workouts. Lift weights during your marathon training. As an endurance runner, you don’t need to lift heavy, but doing some quick strength workouts that focus on leg strength, core stability, and shoulder endurance will help you keep good running form when your body ultimately wants to throw it all out the window (around mile 16 for me). For strength workouts, you want to focus on high reps and low weight to build that endurance.
Eat well and watch your alcohol consumption. You may not be able to fit in all the recommended runs and strength workouts, but you can easily focus on your food. Nutrition directly affects how your body will react to running such a long distance, so you want to be sure you are giving it what it needs to be successful. Focus on tons of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains during your marathon training.
Be mindful of your alcohol consumption as well. Alcohol can dehydrate your body, and if you’re gunning for the ultimate 26.2 miles, you need as much hydration as you can get. You don’t have to cut out alcohol completely, but just be mindful of how much you are drinking. Plus, most races now offer a post-race beer, so you have that to look forward to after the finish line!
Consider a different distance. Before you get upset, this is not me telling you to give up on your marathon dreams. It is me telling you to consider the time commitment and where you are in life right now. Maybe going for a personal best in the 5k, 10k, or half marathon would be a better use of your time right now and not set you up for disappointment.
If you want to try a 10k or a half marathon first, you can get a 10-week half marathon and 10k training plan complete with interval, strength, and core workouts here for $29! I’ll email you your marathon training plan directly once you order. You can learn more about the training plan here.
RQ: What do you focus on when you don’t have time to fully train for an upcoming event?1