/ 4 weeks to train for a Marathon?

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Run_Ross_Run - on 06 Nov 2012

So I've just entered a local event and managed to get the Trail Marathon route (waymarked 26mile) and not the Ultra. Event date is 2nd week in December and I would like to get a good (for me) time for it, somewhere between 4 half to 5 hours

I run quite a bit, about 1-2 times a week on average, and mix up road running with trail/mountain running.

10k flat time is around 48 mins and I did a 10k mountain run yesterday in just under the hour (man flu equiped).

Furthest I've run is around 15/16km a while back.

Gear wise I'm fine and I do a lot of mountaineering so weather doesn't bother me.

So the question is do you think that 4 weeks is long enough to train and condition my body for the event.

Any training tips greatley appreciated


wbo - on 06 Nov 2012
Quite simply no. You do not have time to condition your body to the event. You do have time tho' to do two runs of 20 - 25 km to give yourself some idea of what to expect. Don't make it too bumpy either unless that race is (I am not familiar with it), and do the second a 2 weekends before the race so you have a couple of weeks to recover.
digby - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Doesn't sound like you are running enough at the moment. 1-2 times a week is not quite a bit. Start running every day and you might have a chance of simply completing. There's probably a cutoff time though.
Heike - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:
It's probably going to be a mind over matter thing, I would say. 4 weeks is not very long, but then if you do couple of long runs this week and next (hilly trails I would say) and step up your training without overdoing it and you are the determined type you might be able to make it.. I think good nutrition before and during might help you, too.
Good luck
Run_Ross_Run - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Cheers guys.

I know time isn't on my side but just felt I needed to push myself and set a challenge with this one.

Appreciate all your advice.
Nutkey on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to digby:
> (In reply to Darren09)
> Doesn't sound like you are running enough at the moment. 1-2 times a week is not quite a bit. Start running every day and you might have a chance of simply completing. There's probably a cutoff time though.

He'll stand a good chance of not making the start through injury if he does that...

Is this the Dorset Trail Series?

If so, there's 6000ft of ascent, and the record is 3:47, so based on your 10K you're kidding yourself with a 4.5-5 hour target time *even if you trained for it*. The average finish time for this race is listed at 5.50. Nothing you've said so far suggests that you'll beat that - your 10K time is average, and your training is well below average for this sort of event.

If you really want to do it, my advice for what it's worth is to go for a long run in the next two weeks and figure out what you're going to eat in this event.
tom_in_edinburgh - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Try and run at the same time of day as your actual race especially for your long runs. If you train in the evening and then ask your body to run 26 miles in the morning it wont like it.

If you are going to try something special for nutrition during the race (e.g. carb loading the night before) then try it out first on a training run and make sure your body is OK with it.

4 weeks isn't enough to do it properly. It's really only 3 weeks since you want to be taking it fairly easy the week before the race. You may be able to run for 15 miles and then hold on to walk the rest and finish under 5 hours.

If it was me I'd just do the 1/2 distance this year and try and get a respectable time for it then next year train properly for 4 or 5 months and go for a sub four hour marathon. If its not under 4 hours its not really running ;-)
kevinknights - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: I assuming that's the MCN winter one (I'm doing it). On your mileage + speed you'll be going very well indeed to do 4.30 - 5 (I'm thinkint about 4.30 for me and I'm a fair bit more practiced); do some more running in the next 3 weeks than normal, and on race day be really careful not to burn out too fast - treat the 1st 2 hours as a warm up, and if you get it right you'll be able to sustain that pace.

Steff - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Getting to finish is probably possible (but hard) and if you are some natural talent you might even do reasonably well. However, in my opinion it's not a very good idea. First of all, you are unlikely to enjoy the experience. Secondly, the risk of injury is just too high. You simply need to run more and get your body used to the pounding and this cannot generally be done safely in 4 weeks. Whilst you might get away with it, I would not attempt it myself.
Nick Russell on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Sounds like the sort of thing I'd try. Go for it, but don't expect too much. Most important is to be careful of injuries: if you finish but knacker your knees, you'll look like an idiot; if you dnf but keep your body in tact, it's still a good effort.
Banned User 77 - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: Agree with WBO... you generally race off your training up to 2-3 weeks before a race.. so you probably have 10 days 2 weeks to anything meaningful and even that will be minimal.
AndrewHuddart - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

I managed a 4hr50 road marathon without any training as a lardy boy a couple of years ago so you can do it but it's gonna hurt.

Can you condition your body in 4 weeks? No. Can you build a little extra fitness and core strength to help you keep going - probably.

My top tip - don't under estimate how much difference good nutrition can make.
AndrewHuddart - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to hindu:

And good luck!
Ciro - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

I went from regular 10km runs to a flat 16 miler signed up on a late whim a few years back and it took my knees a week or two to recover.

I then went for a marathon again without enough training, finished it, and it took my knees two months to recover.

Now I follow more orthodox training plans for such events.

You may of course have no such issues... good luck!
Al Evans on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Ciro: I guess I was young when I ran my first marathon, in my 30's I'd started jogging to keep fit and my first marathon was THe Peoples Marathon in Surbiton, I did 3.5 hours and thought 'hey I could be ok at this' so I trained for my next one , the first London Marathon and got my time down to under 3 hours with maximum weekend runs of 12-20 miles, but I was still only running maybe 30m per week. A huge increase in mileage, one week of 80 miles got me down to 2.50, but many of the miles were little more than run/walks on Kinder.
I finally gave up for various reasons that I won't go onto on here, but I do remember I had to do serious interval training to get below 1hr for ten miles.
I just think my body was designed for long distance, if you are a 100mts man, stick with it
JamButty - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Steff: +1

Shorter distance, but I was thinking about a road HM in a few weeks. I'm a standard slow 10K runner, so a few weeks back chose a 17K run all on roads. After 15K my achilles' were screaming and my knee was struggling.

I think it was a leap too far in a short time scale, so I'm going to gradually increase over winter and get a HM in earlier next year.
I've had injuries before so am cautious!!

Good luck if you do it, but be prepared for the aftermath!
digby - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Nutkey:

> He'll stand a good chance of not making the start through injury if he does that...

Maybe - but starting with a short distance of a couple of miles and working up, maybe not. Probably a better bet than only doing a couple of long runs over 3 weeks. It would build up a bit of endurance.

If there really is 6000ft of ascent then it's a very different ball game to a marathon on the flat. Very tiring, hill climbing!
Karl Wooffindin on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: 6000ft of ascent sounds pretty brutal - Edale skyline which is an AL fell race only packs in 4500 (i think that is if you do the drop and then climb back to ringing rodger?)

Either way, don't worry about it. I didn't train for the Grindleford gallop and did it in 2:57 - think it is 21 miles - i just had to suffer a lot towards the end.

Good luck.
tony on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

If you do choose to run it, you'll need to run quite slowly in order to get to the finish. Given your lack of preparation and the hilly nature of the course, I'd reckon you'd be lucky if you do better than 11-12 minutes per mile. It might be useful to try running at that pace over a distance of 13 miles or so to see how it feels. If you can manage that and feel okay, you might be all right. If not, I'd suggest you set yourself another challenge and give yourself a better chance of achieving it.
Toby_W on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: People make such a fuss. You'll be fine, I never do any running and have managed (without much style) to stumble round the end of a couple of ironman races, it's great, most people are wrecked by then and it brings everyone down to my level of running ;-)

Just don't expect to be super fast. If you want an extra bit of fun go into a running shop and buy yourself some new trainers being sure to tell them you're doing a marathon in 4 weeks.


Ander on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Depends on the cuttoff time- if you eat plenty you should probably be able to grizz out a 42km walk.
Ander on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

In terms of training, just carry on with what you're doing. I wouldn't up it- unless you wanted to go for longish, maybe brisk, walks on the weekend, I suppose.
Steff - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Toby_W:
> People make such a fuss. You'll be fine, I never do any running and have managed (without much style) to stumble round the end of a couple of ironman races,

Yes, that clearly means everyone can do it. It's all easy and there is no risk of injury ... stupid advice really ...

Eric9Points - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

With 6000' of ascent and several 500ft hills to climb you can expect to walk for quite a few sections. I wouldn't be suprised if you only manged an average speed of 4 mph.

The thing you don't have experience of is burning up all the energy stored in your body and keeping going after that. As others say, think carefully about nutrition and don't wait until you're feeling drained before you take on gels or drinks.

I'd definately suggest trying a 20 mile run up and down some hills at least two weeks before the big day. It'll give you a much better idea of what's involved and enough time to recover.
richyfenn on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Eddie Izzard managed to run 43 marathons in 51 days with only 8 weeks training, and you sound way fitter than he was at the start.

Don't push too hard and you can do it.
grumpyoldjanner - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: In reply to Darren09:

Having recently gone through I similar experience to you I would say it can be done provided you are naturally fit and have a good mental strength. Recently completed the Snowdonia marathon with very little training (signed up early on in the year with the expectation of getting lots of miles under my belt over the summer, which never happened due to work and other reasons). The lack of longer runs became blindingly obvious at 16 miles when my pace dropped considerably! Managed to stagger round though. Be prepared to ache for a while afterwards though!

Found miles 20 to 24 the hardest as the finish line still seems an age away (also had the last of the three big hills which didn't help!) After 24 miles the finish becomes tantalisingly close and you get a steely determination to finish. Don't forget to think about the weather as well, going to be cold and possibly wet so when you hit the wall and your brain is telling you to give up it is going to be that little bit harder to keep going as you'll be cold and wet as well as tired, hungry and in pain!

As has been mentioned, I would focus as much on how you plan to fuel yourself on your run over the next couple of weeks as you do on how much mileage you want to get under your belt. I survived on a diet of energy gels and PowerBar Energize sweets but craved for something a bit more substantial like some squares of flapjack. My body got pretty fed up with so much sickly sugar based fuel but it was a case of having to keep shoveling it down at regular intervals or not refuel at all!
Toby_W on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Steff: don't get your shoe laces in a twist and please don't put words in my mouth. I think I said he'd be fine just not to expect to be fast. I'll bet he'll do alright, have you seen some of the people who complete the London marathon?

My attempt at humour was wide of the mark it seems.

Toby_W on 06 Nov 2012
Ah now I see why you're teed off. While my post was poking fun at your type of advice ( stay home and don't risk it you're only a fit 30 something who runs on and off road a couple of times a week) it was not directed at you personally. No offence meant, just failing to be funny.


dsiska on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:
Just to say I injured my knee doing something similar (and I didn't fall it was simply too much). That was possibly mainly because I wore the wrong shoes (don't ask how it happened but I wound up with my brothers crappy trainers instead of my usual Salomon running shoes). But I would still worry about my knees.

Also I was in a very similar shape with a weekly run of 10k in 50 minutes. My knee then took about 4 months to sort itself out. And I'm not heavy guy (recent BBC article placed me in Ethiopia in body mass index terms).

Steff - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Toby_W:

No offence taken. I probably missed the humour.
However, I do think the risk of injury is relevant. Those that are lucky enough to have sufficient natural talent to just go out and do a marathon without training, often don't realise how difficult it can be for most people and how easy it is to break yourself.

For me personally, my first marathon was a huge psychological barrier. Once I had done the first one, I have never suffered the same way, even in times of low fitness and being overweight. Even my first 100k felt easy in comparison. Apart from the injury risk, I think most people are in for enough suffering in their first marathon, even if they are well prepared. So going out unprepared is something that does not appeal to me at all, and hence I discourage it.
Run_Ross_Run - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to all:

Thanks for everyones advice and encouragement/discouragement.

I’m under no illusion that the prep and race will be nothing but an uphill struggle hence the reason I asked for advice and tips from you guys.

Just to put things in perspective a bit I have, and I am not naïve enough to suggest this experience/training is anyway near enough for the marathon distance, had some good runs in the last few months while out in Europe including Alps-The grand Sud Balcony from Montets to Flegere via Lac Blanc circa 900^, Chamonix/Lac Bleu circa 800^. Pyrenees- Gavarnie to Soldats circa 700^ and also a lot of MTB’ing and road running so my core strength is pretty good.

Over 80% of my running is done on Trails/Mountains.

My main concerns are obviously overdoing the prep/training and causing an injury, Nutrition on the actual race and not being able ‘condition’ my body for 26 miles of, hopefully, non-stop running.

Mental strength is there in abundance and that may pose a problem in itself!!

I’ll take on board the suggestions about mileage training and will start with walking the route tomorrow and breaking it down into 2 or 3 sections for training runs which I’ll do between now and the end of Nov. I’ll mix that up with road runs, including some interval training and my usual 10k mountain run. There are a few training plans on the internet so I’ll gleam as much info from them as poss in regards to distance for training runs.

Can’t wait.
mrchewy - on 06 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: Best of luck chap - just remember, 'relentless forward motion'.
mattrm - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

I don't think you've got a chance personally. Too old for sure. :P

Seriously tho, you know the area well, you've run most of that course before. You're fairly fast up hill (unless you've really got unfit). The MCN races are incredibly well marked. I reckon you'll get round in about 5-6 hours. Not sure that the 4.5 hours is going to be a goer really.

I'll come out and return the favour re photos if I get the time.
mick.h on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

No, 4 weeks is nothing like long enough........4 months maybe. If you're in decent shape and you aim for 4-5 hours then you may be OK. If you've never run more than 10 miles, you should definitely go a lot further before the race. Slowly. And don't run every day if 1-2 pw is more usual.......its very easy to get injured when you up the mileage.
nw - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to richyfenn:
> (In reply to Darren09)
> Eddie Izzard managed to run 43 marathons in 51 days with only 8 weeks training, and you sound way fitter than he was at the start.
Depends on your definition of 'running'.

ruttingstag on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: personally i wouldn't do it. it will still be there next year. proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance. i'd look at what events are in the spring and build up properly, you'd get a faster time, enjoy the experience more and less likely to injure yourself and recover quicker. if your heart is set on this event then do it next year. there are no short cut training programs. a marathon taper should last 2-3 weeks.

anybody can get round 26 miles with little or no training and i've no doubt that you would get round, but if you want a good time then i'd give yourself longer to train.
Mark Torrance on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

So is this the Dorset coastal trail? Apparently this is Extreme. This might be the only time in living memory that Dorset and Extreme have appeared in the same sentence.

I'd play to your strengths. Get out for a couple of long (20 miles plus) walk / runs in the next couple of weeks. Make sure that these are hilly and off road. Because this will be more fun and you'll do yourself less damage. On the day aim to walk large parts of the first half - all of the ups, obviously, but some of the flat too. Then pick it up a bit for the second half if you're feeling good. Again, this will be more fun and you'll do yourself less damage.

If you enjoy this, then take the next one more seriously and train properly. Aiming for a particular time when you've done no focussed training sounds a bit pointless to me.

Have fun, though. I wish I was doing it.
mattrm - on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to Mark Torrance:

It's the Might Contain Nuts, Brecon Beacons Trail Marathon, which is held alongside the 40 mile Winter ultra.
richyfenn on 08 Nov 2012
In reply to nw:
> (In reply to richyfenn)
> [...]
> Depends on your definition of 'running'.

Ha ha fair point, certainly a bit faster than walking
Run_Ross_Run - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Update** Update** Update**

Went out and ran a half marathon distance on the route today. Used the good advice given and took it very easy.

1st 10k was ran at 10kmph and i slowed down for the 2nd half which was all climbing (500mtrs). Got to 20km in 2hrs 18mins. I would have liked to run it slower but i'm having difficulty slowing the pace down, which i know i need to do to stand a chance of completing the marathon distance.

Worked on nutrition and liquid intake. Found it worked, for me, having something to eat every 20 mins and using the Platypus to hydrate really helped.

Overall its been a good week. Covered 70km in total and don't feel too bad as a result.

2 days rest and see what comes next.
Mark Torrance on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Sounds good. Keep the updates coming.

I think we need a sweepstake on your time.

I'm going for 5:46.
Jon Jones - on 11 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

sounds good, keep it up
Banned User 77 - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09: Sounds good...

You're obviously fairly fit then, but the last half will feel somewhat different to the first half..

The big thing with an event like this, which is essentially an ultra due to the hills, is house keeping.. eating and drinking, so if you get that right you'll have a good chance of finishing..

Beware at the start.. you see some horrifically bad starts, guys sprinting out, gasping for breath and you know its just suicide.. so make sur eyou don't get caught up in the competition.
ben b - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK: I always thought ron turnbull's sage comment of "you will be tired at the end, so no point getting tired at the beginning" was sound. Start really slow - you can always speed up later should you have an abundance of energy left at 22 miles.
Irk the Purist - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to ben b:

I'm the opposite, I go out hard and try to do the second half harder. I did a half marathon yesterday and I was gasping after less than a mile. It tends to ease at about 10k and it gets easier from there. In my mind it's easier to run a few faster miles at the beginning than at the end. Your legs tend to 'learn' the turnover speed as well so even when you tire they seem to just keep ticking over.

I have to confess I haven't extended this approach to a marathon yet but that's the plan for next year!

Banned User 77 - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Eric the Red: Well in a half I think you can go off hard..

Marathons are strange, Es Tressider did a good blog on his 2:34 run recently.. and its true you set off running a pace you couldn't do in training, just chatting away, its so easy. Its lovely how training and taper work..

I did a 10 miler recently, I'd done a 20 mile training run the day before, went off and was running about 5:50 for the first mile and felt OK, some runners were a good 30 seconds ahead of me.. they'd knocked out a sub 5:30 mile yet had no chance of a sub 1 hr finish... sometimes you feel like having a word.

It used to bother me as I'd react thinking 'shit I should be with him'.. but now I know my pace and trust that I'll finish how my trainig dictates.
Irk the Purist - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to IainRUK:

I know a marathon is different but the tactic has worked for me on a 30k, very hilly route too.

People are just different. Some people like to save something, some just dig in hard and make it hell. If I ran how my training pace dictated my pbs would be about 10 minutes slower than they are. When I ran to 7 min miles, I'd hit it near enough every time. Then one day I thought, lets see how fast I can go over 10k and try and hang on for the rest of the half. Result - pb by some distance.

The day I stop going off hard will be the day I accept my pb as my pb for life, rather than my fastest time so far. I can train at a known pace, that's what it's for. But race days always give you that something extra, but you don't know how much more til you try. I'd rather tire too fast than reach the end wishing I'd given it another 20-30 seconds a mile right from the off.

I think at the very top level it might be different though!
FrankBooth - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:
I've only done two marathons, both in 2007. First was the London, and to be honest I was very disappointed with my time (4hr 30ish), so immediately entered another local one which was due to take place about four months later.
In the meantime I read some American book which was suggested the way to get a good time (for the less physically capable of us at least!), was to train normally, but then during the marathon itself, to walk for 1 minute at every mile marker. It got me some funny looks early on ('poor bugger, he's already walking'), but it got me the 4hr finish I wanted.
Banned User 77 - on 12 Nov 2012
In reply to Eric the Red: I don't know.

I've never ran within 2 mins of my first half for me second half of a marathon.

I'd rarely run at my race pace when training.

Our team manager has a 2:20 pb and his advice is always go off hard and hang in.. 5 k to 100k.. constant same advice..
hmcooke on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:
Just do it. Your body is used to running, you've run a few hills and you're a mountaineer. Just go out with the attitude that you're there to enjoy it, if it gets tough, slow down and walk a bit. A long trail run with a bunch of people is a great way to spend a few hours so go and have fun. Forget about your time if you haven't trained up to now. Better to do it in 6+ hours than not do it at all! Good on you for taking on the challenge.
Run_Ross_Run - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:


45km ran in total this week.

Feeling a lot more tired and achy this week due to the upturn in exercise.

Trying to get the balance between getting the distance in and not going too far and causing injury. It’s difficult.

Bit of a wake-up call yesterday. Target was 32km circular run from Pontsticll Reservoir, around the highest summits of South Wales. Only managed 25km as cramp started to set in and my right shin was hurting. The time was slow, just over 3 hours, but there was over 1100mtrs of ascent and the route was partly over rough mountain terrain with no paths. Eating was a chore and I had to slow right down every time I ate.

I didn’t drink enough which probably didn’t help the cramp, only 1 litre over the 3hr period as I thought the platypus was empty. It wasn’t.

Need to consider whether compression socks/Calf guards will help.

Just 7 more days of training and then just some slow jogging in the week preceding the event.

mattrm - on 19 Nov 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Positive Mental Attitude! You'll be fine chap, I'm quite sure. I don't think that 15 miles in three hours is bad at all. You'll always have to slow down to eat, that's just the way things go. If you carry a bottle of energy drink, then that's a handy way to get some juice in the tank without having to stop. I use this stuff:

It's cheap and seems to work. If you do buy some, drop me a line, I've got a referrer code.

I like running in compression tights personally, but that's me.
Run_Ross_Run - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Final post.

Well, i did it. 5hrs 23 mins.

Took it easy for the 1st 15k, walked the steep bits and ran the flats/downhills.

Nutrition was fine but cramp slowed the pace in the 2nd half.

Need to get more organised with my kit, spent too much time faffing at a checkpoint and changing jacket. Moving time was 5hrs 5 mins.

I learnt so much from the event and know where i went wrong, so late 4 3/4 hr mark next time.

Thanks for everyone's advice and encouragement along the way.


p.s. (Well done Kevin)
Steff - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Well done. Congratulations!
Anonymous on 01 Dec 2012 -
In reply to Steff:

I've been hoping that you'd post again with an update. Many years ago I ran a marathon after 6 weeks training, had no idea what I was letting myself in for, and ran it slightly quicker than you did. Really good effort. Well done indeed. Oh, by the way, the following year I ran another, with what I thought was a serious amount of training and knocked about 1/2 an hour off my time. Good luck for the next one.
mrchewy - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09: Top work chap - you kept moving, that's all that matters.

DancingOnRock - on 01 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09: Well done. On those type of events you can lose a lot of Tim stopping to do things. More practice getting stuff from your kit back on the move. I did a 29mile LDWA event across the South Downs, included map reading and 4000ft ascent.

Let us know how your thighs feel on Tuesday.
Eric9Points - on 02 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09:

Well done!
kevinknights - on 03 Dec 2012
In reply to Darren09: Thanks - glad you enjoyed/learnt from it. I was having to fight off the cramps as well... happy recovering!

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