When it comes to running a faster marathon, total weekly mileage is the number one factor that predicts faster times. The more miles you cover, generally speaking, the faster you’ll run a marathon. Let’s look at how you can add extra miles whilst keeping the risk of injury as low as possible.
As I’ve mentioned many times in my blog posts, strength training, mobility work and good sleep and nutrition are pivotal to a good marathon training plan. These shouldn’t be overlooked at any time ideally, and certainly not when you’re increasing your weekly mileage.
How many miles and how fast?
The well-known 10% “rule” isn’t exactly a hard and fast number to go by, although it will admittedly often yield good results fairly safely. I’d still use this as an upper ceiling, but much smaller increments can still make a big difference.
If you previously trained for 30 miles per week on average, an additional 2 more miles each week gives 24 miles in a 12-week training block, nearly an entire extra week of work, and safely inside the 10% ceiling.
Running an extra day each week is the most straightforward and obvious way to increase mileage. Depending on your available time, recovery rates and personal preference, running more days each week might not be a great option for you.
If you’re already running 5 days per week for instance, adding an extra run might well create as much increase in injury risk as fitness. Adding another run to your weekly plan will work best if you’re currently running 3-4 times per week, and you’ll be best served by making the additional run an easy one of around 3-4 miles at most to begin with, then grow this at a later time.
Extend easy runs
If you don’t want to run more frequently then you can extend your easy runs. Often I see easy runs of 3 miles being done. Now there’s nothing wrong with that in the slightest, but if you’re gearing up and have to shower and get changed, adding an extra mile or two to these runs can easily bolster your mileage by 2-4 miles per week with minimal effort.
Similarly, you can add an extra 800m to 1 mile to your warm-ups and cool downs of more intense sessions. The benefit of adding predominantly easy miles is that the risk of injury from this increase in training load is incredibly low.
One other option that comes with a low risk, flies in the face of many popular marathon training methods. Don’t use drop down weeks.
Ditch the drop down weeks
I’ve detailed this in another blog post, but for most of us a drop down week isn’t really necessary, although often pleasant as it feels that much easier. Assuming three drop down weeks of 3-4 miles from the long runs means 9-12 miles less training overall, as well as impacting on one of the other big factors in faster marathon running, the number and length of your long runs.
How I’ve increased mileage
In the build up to my first marathon I trained 38 miles per week over 4 runs. Leading up to my second marathon, this was around 45 miles with the addition of one more easy run and a couple of extra warm-up and cool down miles. For my third I trained around 51 miles per week over 5 runs generally, with more warm up and cool down distance. As I approach marathon four, I’ve increased this to 57 miles mostly by splitting my easy runs from 2 x 6 miles to 3 x 4 miles, then increasing to 3 x 5 miles and finally 3 x 6 miles over the course of my pre-marathon and marathon block.
Mileage is an important factor for faster marathon running. If you feel you’ve maxed out training BETTER, then more miles is the way to go. Add your miles predominantly in easy runs, warm ups and cool downs, and by not dropping down long run distances and you’re in with a great chance of getting the time you want in your next marathon.
Written by Kyle Brooks, Running Coach based in Norwich, Norfolk