How Do I Keep in Training for My Next Marathon or Half Marathon?

Plan for Your Next Race

Finish of Hapalua - Hawaii's Half Marathon
Finish of Hapalua - Hawaii's Half Marathon. Cory Lum/Getty Images

Question: How Do I Keep in Training for My Next Marathon or Half Marathon?

I trained for 12 weeks to walk my first half marathon. I now plan to walk another half marathon in 9 months, and a marathon in 12 months. Is there a maintenance type program I can follow so that I will be in shape for that half marathon without having to go through the 12-week program again? Or, is it best, in your opinion, to go through with a 12 and a 19-week training program again before the half marathon and full marathon walks?

- Larry

Answer: Now that you achieved your first long distance event, you have your base built up. You will be able to start your next training program at a point that matches the mileage you have maintained since your last half marathon or marathon. It will be easier to train for the next long distance event. You can use the principles of periodization to improve your performance.

Recovery after Your Marathon

Take at least a month of lower mileage for recovery. One rule of thumb is a week for every 6 miles of the long distance event -- 2 weeks for a half marathon, 5 weeks for a marathon. Your longest walk of the week during recovery should be 6 to 8 miles. Keep up shorter daily walks of 30 to 60 minutes. During this period, don't train for speed but enjoy your walking and concentrate on good walking posture and form.

You may feel fatigue when trying to go fast or increase your mileage. Marathon coaches Patti and Warren Finke say that you will see this effect for 10 training miles for each mile of the event.

So, for the first 131 miles after a half marathon or 262 miles after a marathon, expect to not feel your best.

Maintaining Your Base Mileage

The basic recommendation for good health is a brisk walk for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Add in a long walk on the weekend, and you will also maintain your base mileage.

I maintain my base mileage by walking 6 to 8 miles each weekend day year-round. When not actively training for a marathon or half marathon, I change it up at least once a month with a 10 to 12 mile long walk. If you can fit these into your schedule, you won't have to start from scratch. I use volkssport walking events and self-guided routes for my maintenance. They offer variety as well as a chance to meet other walkers.

Strength and Core Training

During your "off-season," you should also add strength training workouts and core/abdominal workouts 2 to 3 times per week. This is especially important if you live in a climate that won't allow you to get in long walks year-round. These workouts will contribute to your overall fitness and help you maintain good walking form and posture.

Going Up to Higher Miles

Look ahead to your next event and check to see where you are 16 weeks before a half marathon or 19 weeks before a marathon. Make sure you are on schedule to meet the long mileage each week and resume the program at that point. If you have done no more than 6 to 8 miles as your long walk in the off-season, or have slacked off in doing daily health walks, you need to start with the full program.


To improve your performance at your next half marathon or marathon, use the 10 weeks before the marathon or half marathon to work on pace, endurance, and strength.

  • Endurance: Your long weekly walk will build your endurance. These long distance walks are done at an easy pace. They get your metabolism working to burn fat for energy. They also allow you to toughen your feet to prevent blisters, as well test out your gear, hydration and energy snacks.
  • Pace: One of your shorter walking workouts each week should be a 45 to 90 minute walk at or above your race pace. You should do these at 80 to 90% of your maximum effort for 1/4 of the race distance.
  • Strength: Interval workouts will push your body to its limits, improving your aerobic capacity. One of your shorter walks each week can be used for intervals.

Dave McGovern's Weekly Walking Workout Schedule makes an excellent sharpening phase for the marathon. One difference will be that you will be doing longer miles for the long Sunday walk.

Don't Forget to Taper!

Two weeks before your marathon or half marathon, reduce your long mileage by half. This will allow your body to fully recovery from the long distance and sharpening training. This will give you the best speed and endurance during your long distance event.

Source: Wendy Bumgardner is an RRCA certified marathon coach.
Marathoning Start to Finish by Patti and Warren Finke

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