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Training for two marathons a couple weeks (or months) apart

training for two marathons a couple of months or weeks apart

I’m running the New York City marathon this November, and I’m also running the Disney World marathon in January. These two races are a mere 9 weeks apart. In theory, I’ll have plenty of time to recover from marathon number #1 and prep for marathon #2, but the short turnaround time makes me a bit nervous.

I’ve been looking at training plans and talking with more experienced marathoners, and it turns out I’m not the only crazy runner. Plenty of people have run two marathons in two weeks (!) or two months. Not only that, but many runners are able to cross the finish lines of both races with respectable times and without injury.

Here’s what to keep in mind when training for marathons back-to-back:

Cross-train throughout the entire training cycle. When you settle on a training plan, make cross-training, such as swimming and strength training, a regular part of it. Cross-training allows us to train at higher volumes without an added risk of injury.

Keep expectations low. The shorter the time between marathons, the lower your expectations should be for race #2. If you want to attempt to PR in both races, schedule the marathons eight to 12 weeks apart. This way, you’ll have enough time to adequately recover, get in some quality training, and taper between events.

However, if you want to run two marathons close together without training extra, and don’t care much about your time, experts say the optimal time between races is four weeks. That gives you enough time to recover between races without losing fitness (i.e., you won’t have to log any more 20-milers in between). Use your first race as a training run and go all out in the second — or go all out in the first marathon and run the second for fun.

Completely recover after the first marathon. That “listen to your body” phrase we runners overuse so much is critical here. Jumping back into training before you feel completely ready will only hurt you. For the first weeks after the first race, focus on eating, sleeping, stretching, and cross-training and keep runs short and easy. Remember that the harder you ran during your first marathon, the more time you’ll need to recover.

Focus on intensity over distance between races. Experts say the body forgets how to run fast before it forgets how to run long. If you want to do well in race #2, focus on speedwork rather than long runs in the days or weeks between the recovery period and taper.

Pick a sound training plan for between races. Hal Higdon has various plans for doing marathons a couple weeks to months apart. While these plans and others are great guides, keep in mind that your body knows best and you should only resume training once you feel ready.

Who is a “been there, done that” back-to-back marathoner? Share your tips with us!

Written by Jen Matz.

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