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Weekly Miles For Marathon Training: A Complete Guide To Marathon Mileage

If you have trained for a race before, particularly a long-distance event like a half marathon, or marathon, you will likely recall that the last couple of weeks of your training plan scaled back the distance you were running from your peak weeks in order to get you rested for the race.

This is called the taper period. But before the taper, what is the ideal weekly mileage for marathon training? What factors affect the average weekly miles for marathon training you should be logging to reach your goal?

In this article, we will discuss what “miles per week marathon training” means, factors that affect average marathon mileage in training, and the typical weekly miles for marathon training for runners of different levels.

We will discuss the following: 

  • Weekly Miles for Marathon Training
  • How Many Miles Should I Run Per Week Training for a Marathon?
  • Factors that Affect Average Marathon Training Miles Per Week

Let’s get started!

A marathon runner training.

Weekly Miles for Marathon Training

Before we take a closer look at the miles per week for marathon training that you should be aiming for, it’s helpful to take a step back and cover what we mean by “weekly mileage for marathon training.“

When you are training for a race, the majority of your training program is considered a “build“ in that the mileage and intensity will gradually ramp up over the training program.

However, depending on the length of the race that you were running, the last one to three weeks of a training program will begin to pair back on training volume to ensure that you are recovered and ready to fire on all cylinders come race day.

This relative reduction in training, known as the taper, is somewhat polarizing amongst runners, with some loving the reduced training load and others finding themselves feeling agitated and anxious.

If all goes well through your training and tapering, race day will come, and you will have an excellent performance, hopefully setting a PR or smashing the goal you have set for yourself.

A runner on the road.

Generally, when coaches and runners discuss marathon training weekly mileage, they are referring to the average number of miles per week before the taper and usually after the first two or three weeks of build if you are following a beginner marathon training plan.

For example, if you are following a 16-week marathon training plan with a 3-week taper and 2-3 weeks of basic ramping up at the beginning, the average weekly mileage for the beginner marathon training plan would be taken from averaging the miles per week from weeks 3-13.

How Many Miles Should I Run Per Week Training for a Marathon?

Although there is a lot of emphasis placed on the weekly long run in marathon training and what kind of long run mileage for marathon training is necessary to get you across the finish line, there is much less discussion surrounding the weekly miles for marathon training that you should be striving for.

In other words, besides just building up to a long run of 20 miles or so, what should your target miles per week for marathon training be?

Related: Marathon Time Calculator – Predict Your Marathon Finish Time

A person running on a highway.

By and large, there is a general consensus among running coaches and most marathon training plans for recreational runners that the marathon long run training plan should build up to a 20-mile long run for most runners.

We would be remiss to note that there are, of course, exceptions to marathon long-run recommendations. 

For example, elite and experienced marathon runners will likely run significantly further than 20 miles, and runners following the Hanson marathon training plans typically do not exceed 18 miles due to the intensity and structure of the long run and a moderately long run back-to-back each week.

However, although the long run for marathon mileage is more clearly spelled out, the same specificity and uniformity in the average weekly mileage for marathon training are much less clear.

The weekly miles for marathon training that any given marathon runner will log may range from 35 to 140 miles or more.

Since this is such a wide range, let’s examine the primary factors that influence the optimal weekly mileage for marathon training to help you decide what type of marathon weekly mileage is going to be best for you.

A group of people running on a boardwalk.

Factors that Affect Average Marathon Training Miles Per Week

Consider the following factors when trying to decide how many miles to run per week for marathon prep:

#1: Experience Level

Arguably, the single most significant factor that will affect your target average weekly mileage for marathon training is your experience level. 

Beginners will almost certainly have lower weekly miles for marathon training than experienced and competitive athletes.

#2: Your Marathon Goal

Your goal for the marathon will also affect the recommended number of miles per week from marathon training you should be striving for. 

If you are just looking to finish the race, you should be able to get away with lower weekly mileage, but if you are looking to set a big PR, qualify for the Boston Marathon, place in your age group, or break the tape, your goal mileage for a marathon training should be higher.

A person running.

#3: Your Injury History and Risk

It should basically go without saying that if you are trying to run a marathon, you will need to do some amount of running every week.

Of course, there are exceptions where people do not train, and they somehow make it to the finish line, but we strongly discourage this approach.

However, if you are prone to injuries, you may be best served by reducing your weekly running mileage with marathon training and supplementing with low-impact cross-training like elliptical machines, deep water running, indoor cycling, etc.

In this case, you may even want to consider keeping track of your marathon training in minutes per week vs. miles per week since it will be easier to have a meaningful gauge of your weekly marathon training volume if all forms of cardio exercise are added in the same format.

A runner on a trail.

#4: Training Plan Intensity

One of the most important factors to consider when asking, “How many miles should you run per week training for a marathon?“ is the quality of the miles you are running on the training plan. Not all miles are equal in terms of intensity and effectiveness.

There has long been a debate about whether you can actually run “junk miles “ or if all miles are helpful.

Wherever you stand on the debate, what is clear is that speed workouts, tempo runs, long run mileage, hill workouts, etc. take more of a toll on the body than an easy jog or recovery run.

Moreover, how you structure the intensity in a training plan for a marathon also matters. As referenced earlier, the Hanson marathon training plans tend to have shorter long runs, but there are back-to-back days of longer/harder workouts.

Overall, a marathon training plan that includes just base mileage with few structured workouts or high-intensity interval sessions may have higher weekly mileage than a marathon training plan with lots of high-intensity workouts.

A person running on a bike path.

#5: Your Age

If you are a senior or older adult, you may need to consider lowering your average miles per week for marathon training to avoid getting injured and to support recovery. The body tends to take longer to recover as we age.

There are many factors that can affect the optimal number of miles per week for marathon training plans, so the range for overall marathon weekly mileage is significantly broader and up for more debate than the average peak marathon long run distance.

That said, beginners training for their first marathon often run in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 miles per week in marathon training.

Experienced marathon runners who are looking to set a PR or who have been training for many years may run closer to 40 to 60 miles per week for marathon training.

Competitive and sub-elite marathon runners might have average weekly miles for marathon training upwards of 70 to 90 miles per week.

Lastly, professional and elite runners are often well above 100 miles per week, training for a marathon (110-140 miles per week).

If you’re looking for beginner, intermediate, advanced, or time-based marathon training plans, check out some of our free online marathon training plans.

A runner smiling.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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