In the world of marathon running, advice and strategies for improvement abound. From specialized diets to high-tech gear, from cadence drills to altitude training and strength training exercises, there’s no shortage of factors that a runner might consider in their quest for a personal best. However, amidst this vast amount of recommendations, separating the noise from sound principles is crucial.
Though each improvement can make you run faster, when we talk specifically about running a fast marathon, increasing your marathon weekly mileage is critical.
A World Record Example
At the Chicago Marathon 2023, Kelvin Kiptum broke the marathon world record with an impressive time of 2:00:35, 34 seconds faster than Eliud Kipchoge at the Berlin Marathon 2022.
The number one thing that’s popping up all over the internet is the remarkable amount of mileage Kiptum runs each week.
According to a conversation between Kiptum’s coach, Gervais Hakizimana, and AFP:
“In the first month, he runs around 900 km (559 miles) in total, and the second month, between 280 and 300 km (173-186 miles) per week. By the fourth month, we gradually reduce the volume to have some rest before the race.” In the end, he runs between 225 and 300 km a week.
By comparison, Eliud Kipchoge runs between 180 and 220 km a week.
A Down-to-Earth Comparison
Last spring at the Mississauga Marathon, I ran a marathon PR of 2:54:31, averaging 54km/week (33 mi/week).
Last weekend at the Chicago Marathon, I ran a 7-minute personal record of 2:47:36, averaging 76km/week (48 mi/week).
That’s 40% more each week. I believe that I still have room to improve if I can increase my mileage to 100km/week on average.
Risks of Overtraining and Injury with Too Much Mileage
While increasing weekly mileage is clearly beneficial, as shown in both Kiptum’s and my own marathon experiences, there’s a crucial point to understand: more isn’t always better. Pushing for higher mileage without proper rest and adaptation can lead to two common issues many runners face: injuries and overtraining.
When someone is overtraining, they’re not just feeling the regular fatigue from a good run. They feel constantly fatigued, even when they shouldn’t. Their mood might shift, becoming irritable or downhearted. And the most telling sign? Injuries. Running too much, especially without adequate recovery, can lead to injuries. These might manifest as foot problems, knee issues, or leg pains.
So, while it’s essential to run those miles, it’s equally important to listen to your body’s signals. Pain, distinct from the usual post-workout soreness, is a clear warning. It’s the body’s way of saying, “Slow down. Take it easy.” Remember, the goal is to run better and faster, not to run yourself into the ground.
Tips for Safely Increasing Weekly Mileage
Increasing your weekly running mileage can be a game-changer, but it’s vital to do it the right way to avoid injuries. Here are some simple tips to help you ramp up safely:
- The 10% Rule: A widely accepted guideline is to increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10% each week. For example, if you ran 50km this week, you’d aim for 55km the next week.
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how you feel. If you’re constantly tired, sore, or experiencing pain (different from regular muscle soreness), it might be a sign you’re doing too much too soon.
- Rest and Recovery: Ensure you have rest days or easy running days in your training week. These allow your muscles to recover and get stronger.
- Quality Footwear: As your mileage increases, a good pair of running shoes becomes even more essential. They can help prevent injuries and keep you comfortable during long runs.
- Stay Hydrated and Eat Right: With more miles, your body needs more fuel and hydration. Drink enough water and eat a balanced diet to support your increased activity level.
- Cross-Training: Mix in other exercises like swimming, cycling, or strength training. This can help strengthen your muscles and give your running muscles a break.
- Warm-Up and Cool Down: Before starting your run, do a quick warm-up to get your body ready. After finishing, cool down with some light stretching. This can help prevent injuries and muscle stiffness.
- Flexibility and Strength: Consider adding a routine of strength training exercises for runners and flexibility exercises. These can make your muscles and joints stronger and more flexible, which can help prevent injuries.
- Gradual Terrain Changes: If you’re adding more hills or running on different surfaces, do it gradually. A sudden switch can lead to strain and potential injuries.
- Keep a Log: Track your runs, how you felt, and any soreness or pain. This can help you see patterns and adjust your training if needed.
- Think Long Term: Remember marathon training is a marathon itself, not a sprint. Set long-term goals and understand that consistency over time will bring better results than rushing the process and risking injury.
Marathon Weekly Mileage vs Finishing Times of 148 Chicago Marathon Finishers
The Chicago Marathon is renowned for attracting a diverse group of runners, each with unique training regimens and goals. For enthusiasts and athletes alike, understanding how training mileage correlates with finish times can offer invaluable insights into optimal training strategies.
To shed light on this, we delved into the data of 148 Chicago Marathon finishers, exploring the relationship between their weekly running mileage and their marathon finish times. Here’s what we found:
- General Trend: As the weekly mileage increases, the target time seems to generally decrease, suggesting that more weekly mileage is associated with faster times.
- Density: There is a higher density of data points in the range of 50 to 70 weekly mileage. This could indicate that most of the participants or data samples tend to run between 50 to 70 miles per week.
- Variability: Within the 50 to 70 weekly mileage range, there is a wide variability in target times, ranging roughly from 3 to 5 hours. This suggests that while mileage is a factor, other factors also influence the target time within this range.
- Outliers: There are a few data points that seem to be outliers. For instance, a point near the 30 weekly mileage mark has a target time close to 6 hours, which seems much higher than other points with similar mileage.
- Diminishing Returns: Around 70 miles per week and beyond, the target times seem to plateau around the 3-hour mark. This might suggest that beyond a certain point, increasing weekly mileage doesn’t result in significant improvements in target time.
- Optimal Range: The lowest target times (fastest runners) seem to be concentrated around 60 to 70 miles per week, suggesting this might be an optimal training range for achieving the best times.
Marathon Weekly Mileage Conclusion
The marathon, an emblem of endurance and dedication, presents athletes with a complex challenge: how to optimize training to achieve peak performance.
This deep dive into the relationship between weekly mileage and marathon finish times emphasizes the significance of consistent and increased training mileage in enhancing one’s marathon outcomes. Kelvin Kiptum’s groundbreaking record at the Chicago Marathon 2023 exemplifies the heights that can be reached with an intensive weekly mileage training regimen.
The analysis of 148 Chicago Marathon finishers further elucidates this narrative. It’s evident that increased weekly mileage tends to yield better finish times, but there are plateaus and diminishing returns. Moreover, while some runners push beyond the 70-mile weekly mark, this isn’t necessarily a golden ticket to record-breaking times.
Once you maximize the number of miles you can run per week, getting as close as you can to running 70 miles per week, it’s time to focus on doing other things to improve as a runner, whether it’s doing strength training, improving your nutrition, adding intervals, tempo runs. But first, the best thing you can do to maximize your time is running more miles per week.
I analyzed the training of Boston Marathon Runners here