How To Run A Marathon (Without Much Running)

You can run a marathon on one or two training runs per week, says Christina Macdonald

If you dream of running a marathon, but you’re unsure whether you could commit to the volume of training (or you’re worried your body won’t hold up well), there’s good news! You can still run a marathon on one or two runs per week, providing you’re reasonably fit and not new to running. Check out our top advice:

Long run length

While training on one run a week may not make for the easiest marathon experience, and you’re unlikely to get a PB, it can be done. “The critical thing is the length of this run, which should be gradually extended each week to at least 20 miles,” says Professor JohnBrewer, Professor of Applied Sports Science at St Mary’s University ( and author of Run Smart (£12.99, Bloomsbury). “While you won’t break a world record on one run a week, you should be able to complete the distance, as long as the single run is long enough.”

However, there is an injury risk, so it’s best if you’re already a runner so your body is used to the impact.

Cross train

If you’re limiting runs, cross-training should form an essential part of your training. Add in two or three other cardio sessions, such as cycling – and make sure you’re working at a high intensity. Your heart and lungs don’t know the difference between running or cycling, so your cardiovascular fitness will improve.

“From a cardio perspective this is true,” says physiotherapist Mark Buckingham, from Witty Pask &
Buckingham. “It’s the limbs that know the difference. The bones and tendons are the slowest to adapt – they take several months to get used to running. Therefore, you need to expose the bones and tendons to enough stress to get a response.”

Get leaner

When you run, at least three times your body weight is absorbed through the joints, meaning a modest weight gain of half a stone will increase impact through the knees by around 21 pounds. It will also enable you to conserve energy on race-day. “A gradual reduction in body weight can be beneficial to performance, but remember this will only happen if energy intake is less than energy expenditure, which is not always advisable when training, as it’s an easy route to fatigue,” says Professor Brewer.

Build strength

“Squats, lunges, calf raises, leg press, hip/glute extensions, foot inversion and lateral (side) glute work are basics for the legs,” says Mark.

Listen to niggles

“If you get aches and pains regularly in different parts of your body, you need to have your running mechanics checked out by a running physiotherapist,” says Mark. “Aches are the body’s early warning system that something’s wrong.”

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