max mileage musings

Thanks Leah and Miriam for our weekly gossip session, with some running thrown in:IMG_0222We ran to Petworth and saw the lake in the dark.IMG_0220Then I hung out (upside down) with Anthony for a while at CrossFit. We did GHD situps, which make you really tired AND dizzy. And strong!2013-03-20Speaking of dizzy, I’ve been thinking a lot about running during my final weeks of marathon training. I’m starting to reach my “peak week” of training and one thing I want to know is: how many miles should I put in?

FYI the rest of this post is all running geek stuff so if you are not interested then I suggest moving on to this Paula Deen explosion and having a great day.

So. I feel like I come to the same conclusion for about every running science discussion I have on this blog, but, the answer is: it depends. (On things like your finish time goals, your vulnerability to injury, and, honestly, the amount of time you have to run).

If you’re a beginning marathon runner, I think the average weekly max mileage is somewhere around 40 miles. Hal Higdon’s Novice program (probably the most popular marathon training program out there) peaks at exactly 40 miles, with the longest long run at 20 miles. Following this program will probably be enough to “get you through” the race and to the finish line. People that follow this program aren’t trying to race the marathon, they just want to finish it. Which is a truly amazing thing, so applause to all of you.

But, of course, after you have a couple marathons under your belt, you’re probably looking to get faster. This is when you start doing more speed workouts and more miles in general. This is where I start to get a bit lost. How many max weekly mileage is “right” for me? Of those miles, how many should be “work” miles and how many should be “easy” miles?

For my last marathon, I peaked at about 65 miles three weeks before the race. Before that, I would guess I peaked at about 55 miles for other marathons. My last marathon was a (tiny) PR, so maybe those extra 10 miles during peak week helped?

Let’s see what other people recommend:

  • 55 miles: Hal Higdon’s Advanced I Marathon program peaks at 55 miles; his Advanced II program also peaks at about 55 miles, but with more speed work.
  • 80-100: This 2:19 male marathon runner says that his “sweet spot” for max weekly mileage falls between 80-100 miles per week.
  • 60-65: This 3:22 male marathon runner says that he found peaking at 60-65 miles per week the best for him, and then says this:

The question should be, “How much is the most I can handle?” Not, “How little can I get away with and still run good marathons, or even improve?”

  • 80-200: This article tosses around some ideas based on world-class athletes’ stats — run 110 miles, like Paula Radcliff (marathon world record), 80-90 miles like Julia Armstrong (former international marathoner), or 200 miles like Dave Bedford (former record holder for the 10,000m) does. Um, yeah.
  • 100: And back to Higdon. Here he suggests that, perhaps, the 100-mile max week is key for advanced marathoners, with 70-80 mile weeks beforehand. It’s believed that depleting and replenishing your glycogen stores at this rate will make your body more efficient come race day.
  • 40: This is an interesting forum of what seems like mostly beginner marathoners who averaged as low as 32 miles per week and as high as 62; most suggest somewhere around 40.
  • 80 miles a week, recommended by a 1:33 half marathoner.
  • 60-80: This Pfitzinger report says that your body can benefit from higher mileage and sort of suggest 60-80 miles per week, but doesn’t really elaborate on why that range was chosen.
  • 55-60: In my running club, it seems like most semi-experienced marathoners peak out closer to 60. Most are sub-4 marathoners, men and women, running maybe their second or third.
  • 70-80: This morning Miriam said that she falls at about 70-80 miles during her peak week; for this marathon, she’s trying for 80 as an “experiment” to see how it affects her race time. There are a couple other runners in the club that also hit 80 miles or higher (3:20-ish marathoners); however, we also know a girl who runs no more than 55 per week and also races in the 3:20s. ?!

So, I have no real conclusion, other than I think you have to do what feels best and right for you. Push yourself as hard as you can — without risking injury — the third week before the marathon, cross your fingers, and see what happens. I think that for me personally, this marathon training cycle I’ll aim for 70-75 miles in my peak week. I hope this information was useful to someone! 😉

  • What’s your max mileage for marathon training?
  • Do you get dizzy easily?
  • Thoughts on Paula Deen?



  1. Janet

    No Lie — I totally clicked on Paula Deen and ignored all the running stuff. 🙂 By the way, there’s a lake in DC? I had no idea.

    • totally fine! most casual runners could care less about the geeky stuff but you know, i put it out there for the nerds! 😉
      It’s not really a lake… more of a resevoir. Near Howard University if you’re familiar with the area!

  2. My body does not like high mileage…the marathons I’ve done when training 50 miles per week have been train wrecks and the marathons I’ve done running 30-35 miles per week have been stronger!

    • interesting. good that you know what works for you! risk of injury is always a major concern for high mileage weeks. i’ve also found that “less is more” for me with marathon training, it seems — but am going to see what happens with 70-75. fingers crossed!

  3. Chelsea

    So, I recently hit a four mile run and felt like I wanted to die 😛 It’s so inspirational to read miles like this and think “one day, though”! My hubby HATES Paula Deen (he can’t stand the accent) but I think her food is to die for. Sometimes literally (ALL THAT BUTTER) but that’s southern cooking, and it’ll always have a sweet spot with me!

    • haha butter is a blessing! it should be eaten in moderation!
      when i started running i could barely run 2 miles. i hated it and thought i would die. seriously. it took me a year or so to get up to 6 miles, then another year to get up to 10… so yeah, a slooow but rewarding journey! hang in there!

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