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Prepping for a Plan B marathon

Plan B marathon: how to prepare for your second chanceA few years ago, I spent months training for a marathon. Race day came and let’s just say that it did not go according to plan. I ended up dropping out of the race at mile 12.

As soon as I got home, I scoured the internet for upcoming marathons. With all the training under my belt, I wanted to try to run another marathon soon.

My situation is not unique. Many runners need a “Plan B” marathon for various reasons. Your Plan A marathon may have been canceled, maybe you missed it due to travel hiccups or illness, or perhaps you just had a bad day like I did and you want a do-over.

(Note: for the purposes of this article, we’re assuming you did not finish your Plan A marathon. If you’re training for two marathons a couple weeks or months apart, check out this article.)

When searching for a Plan B marathon, keep in mind that timing is everything – specifically, the time gap between the two events. Here are some things to consider depending on how many weeks are between your races:

1 week out 
With only a one week delay, it’s best to just taper for an extra week. Some runners perform better with an added week of tapering, so you may not have to adjust your time goal. Keep runs short – follow the same training approach that you took the week before – but add some spurts of speed to one run – just a few minutes at marathon or half marathon pace.

2 weeks later
This is a tricky time gap, so avoid it if possible. With just two weeks between races, you don’t have enough time to dive into training again, but it’s not typically a good idea to taper for an extra two weeks either. Keep weekday workouts brief, but add some speed pick-ups to a few runs, and aim for a 10-12-mile long run one week before race day.

3 or 4 weeks out
A race that is three or four weeks out is doable. However, you may need to set a more liberal race goal because the number of total taper weeks leading up to the race is more than usual.

If your race is three weeks later, resume hard training for the first week – cap off the week with a 12-14-miler – and then taper for two weeks.

If your race is four weeks later and you’re a marathon veteran, you could repeat the last two weeks of your training plan before the taper (that would be weeks 12 and 13 if you’re following a 16 week plan with a three week taper) and then do an abbreviated, two week taper. However, if it’s your first marathon or if you need a full taper, it may not be a good idea to do another 20-miler. Aim for long runs of 16 miles, 12 miles, and 10 miles respectively in the weeks leading up to your Plan B event.

5 or 6 weeks later
If you trained well for your Plan A race and were not physically – or mentally – burnt out, this may be an ideal time frame. You could pick up training and then have ample time for another full taper, and you may not have to tweak your race goals. Just repeat the last five to six weeks of your marathon training plan, and you should feel ready come race day.

Written by Jen Matz.

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