marathon training week 3

This is part 10 of my 12-week marathon training series. This will coach you through your marathon build up, week by week. These guidelines will work for the majority of runners. Runners at the extreme ends of the spectrum will need to modify.

Marathon Training Week 3: Mileage

This is the big one.  Week 3 ends (or begins, depending on what day of the week your long run is) with your longest and toughest long run.  Whether you've built  your long run up to 16 or 22 miles by now, this is your last opportunity to get in your longest run with a little bit of spice.

But be warned:  you don't want to leave your race in training.  That means, don't make this week or this long run so tough that you peak now instead of race day.  If you decide that you are going to run more than half your long run at your goal pace, you are certainly risking that, especially the more advanced you are.

The majority of marathoners should still keep the majority of the long run at an easy pace.  There are lots of ways to do this, such as a fast finish long run, adding in some surges, or doing some long intervals at goal pace.

If your goal is less about speed and more about simply finishing the race, your goal pace might be more of a moderate effort, but it's still highly challenging over a long distance.  The faster you go, the more recovery you'll need.

Also remember that you are running a steady the day before the long run that is around marathon pace.  You'll get plenty of time on your feet at your goal pace, so you don't have to make your long run too much harder.

*Note:  You may count weeks differently, starting the week either on Sunday or Monday, which might or might not be your long run day.  Taper should begin the week after your longest and hardest long run, which typically is 2 weeks and 6 days before the race, which some people count as Week 2.  I'll address this in more detail next week.

Marathon Training Week 3: Schedule Examples

As always, these are just examples and they may or may not work for you, especially if you are a newer runner or returning from injury.    These examples assume you are not racing a tune up.

If you are running 4 days a week, here's what your running schedule could look like:

  • Easy with strides: 5 miles (8k)
  • Speed intervals : 8 miles (13k)
  • Steady run day before long run: 8 miles (13k)
  • Long run with speed: 18 miles (29k)
  • TOTAL: 39 miles (63k)

If you are running 5 days a week, it could look like this:

  • Easy with strides: 6 miles (10k)
  • Speed intervals: 8 miles (13k)
  • Easy run: 6 miles (10k)
  • Steady run day before long run: 10 miles. (16k)
  • Long run with speed: 20 miles (32k)
  • TOTAL: 50 miles (81k)

If you are running 6 days a week, it could look like this:

  • Easy with strides: 7 miles (11k)
  • Speed intervals: 8 miles (13k)
  • Easy run: 8 miles (13k)
  • Easy run with strides: 7 miles. (11k)
  • Steady run day before long run: 10 miles. (16k)
  • Long run with speed: 22 miles (35k)
  • TOTAL: 62 miles (99k)

I don’t recommend running 7 days a week in marathon training unless you are very advanced, very strong, and very injury proof.  It usually causes more harm than good because a rest day is critical to building and repair.

I'm not adding in exactly when you should rest since that will depend on your unique schedule and how you are feeling.

*Note: The day of the week that you run your long run can affect how you define which week is which.  For example, if you consider Sunday to be the first day of the week, that's also your long run day, and race day is on Sunday, then your longest long run is 3 weeks from race day and you begin taper after that, not your hardest week of running.  For the purpose of this series, your long run day is the last day of each week.  The final six days before your race is "Race Week," not week 1.

Marathon Training Week 3: Nail Your Fueling Now

All the great training in the world isn't going to matter if you don't get your fueling right.  More marathon disasters are blamed on poor fueling than bad training.

Hopefully, you have been practicing your fueling on every long run.  If not, this week is the most marathon-specific long run you will have so now is the time to nail it.

Here's how:

  • Get up at the time you plan to wake on race day.  This will depend on how complicated the logistics are for your race and how long it takes to digest a good breakfast, so work backwards from the start time factoring those in.
  • Eat a carb-rich breakfast that you know sits well in your stomach.  Add a little protein and fat like nut butter to help it last several hours so you are not full or hungry before you start.
  • Plan to fuel with at least 30g of carbohydrates per hour, and ideally more.  New fueling recommendations are between 60-90g per hour as long as it doesn't cause stomach upset (certain types of fuel are more likely to do this than others).  That's 120-360 calories per hour!
  • Start fueling between 30-40 minutes into your run and every 30 minutes thereafter.  It's better to front-load your fueling when your stomach can better tolerate it.
  • Don't forget to hydrate!

After the run, eat, drink, rest, and relax.  Your biggest run is in the bank!

Looking Ahead

Ah, taper is finally here!  But that does not mean training is over just yet.  I'll go over what you need to factor in to make sure you are winding down your training to perfectly peak on race day.

If you missed earlier posts in the 12 Week Marathon series, here's where to find them:

Before you begin marathon training

Week 12

Week 11

Week 10

Week 9

Week 8

Week 7

Week 6

Week 5

Week 4

About Claire

Coach Claire has helped hundreds of runners chase their dreams and conquer big goals. Her coaching philosophy combines science-based training, plant-based nutrition, and mindset techniques to unlock every runner's true potential. She's an ASFA certified running coach, sports nutrition specialist, a 2:58 marathoner, mom, and borderline obsessive plant lover.

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