Marathoners: What's the longest distance you ran while training for your first marathon?

What worked for you?

Even though I got a little behind in training (which is why I try to add extra time to any training schedule), I'm still on track at this point to work up to 26 miles before my first full marathon.

However, this schedule allows for time to get comfy with a couple of landmark distances before increasing mileage again, but I know how things work, and that illness, injury, and time conflicts can and will happen. I definitely want to be at 24 by race day, but if things don't go as planned, is it best to, say, spend a couple of weeks getting used to 20 versus upping immediately the next week?

I know I need to be well beyond 20 by race day, but I'm curious about your stories, and if you think feeling comfy with MOST of the distance outweighs being able, but not happy about, the full distance. I want to finish with a smile on my face, not looking like I need an ambulance.


  • runfoorun
    runfoorun Posts: 314 Member
    I don't run much more than 20-22 miles. If you're looking to just finish with a smile on your face you'd be fine with several solid 20 milers.
  • litsy3
    litsy3 Posts: 783 Member
    edited August 2015
    I've never run more than 22 miles apart from in the actual marathon itself. I think I'd done a few 20s and a 22 before my first marathon (and peaked at 70 miles a week). In my opinion doing enough other training mileage outside of your long runs, including a weekly midweek run of 13-15 miles is more important than hitting a specific number for your longest run.

    ETA: I'm not suggesting everyone needs to train up to 70 miles for their first marathon, just that overall volume is more important than the length of one really long run.
  • snowflakesav
    snowflakesav Posts: 644 Member
    I ran 21 miles before my first marathon. I do Hanson's plan now, I don't run more than 16 miles on my long runs... There are regular 13 or 14 mile runs midweek followed by 16 mile long runs on the weekend. I run national class times for my age group with this plan. I think the overall weekly mileage is a bigger factor than the long run.

    It is just very hard to recover from runs over 20 miles and run well the rest of the week. If you are taking the day off before or after your long run to rest up or recover you might be better to focus on overall mileage.
  • taeliesyn
    taeliesyn Posts: 1,116 Member
    Technically I'm not a marathoner yet as I haven't run one. I did do just over double marathon distance in a 12hr ultra though. I wouldn't recommend my training as such, but it worked. I rarely did a run over 16miles. However I was regularly logging 25-27miles over a two day period and was averaging 40+ miles per week.
  • kristinegift
    kristinegift Posts: 2,406 Member
    You really shouldn't run much more than 20 miles/3 hours(ish; I've done up to 3:20 to get a full 20 miles in) during training. More than that takes too long to recover from. I agree with others that overall mileage is what's more important. I never worried about being able to finish, having done "just" 20 miles during training.

    My first training cycle, I did 2 18 mile runs and only managed 1 20 miler. My second training cycle, same thing: both times I missed one of my 20 milers due to minor, nagging injury (recovery and easy running is so, so, SOOOO important!) I am currently training for my 3rd marathon, and my longest run will be 22 miles because 1) it probably won't be much more than 3-3:15 hours and 2) it's an annual social 22-mile run with my running group from one town to another town concluding in brunch :) Otherwise, I would have topped out at 20 again.
  • Carrieendar
    Carrieendar Posts: 493 Member
    I think you need to look at a combination of time and miles. Last cycle I did a 22 miler and it took me 2:55:00, but, if that same run took someone 4 or 5 hours, that would not be prudent in a training week.

    Some thoughts:
    -Most coaches look for the mileage it will take the runner to go about 3 hours and make that the top mileage of the plan.
    -Look at the percentage of weekly miles (and time running!) that come from the long run. If you are at 50% or something being the long run, you need to re-evaluate.
    -the reason most plans don't go to 26 is recovery; you get diminishing returns after about 3 hours--the time it takes to recover begins to outweigh the benefits of running longer.
    -instead of dedicating an hour+ extra to the long run, put it mid week and get yourself a good medium long run sometime during the week. This will be valuable to you in the race. It's a great feeling to get to the halfway point and think to yourself "only a wednesday, medium long run to go!"
  • litsy3
    litsy3 Posts: 783 Member
    It's a great feeling to get to the halfway point and think to yourself "only a wednesday, medium long run to go!"

    I actually did think that to myself 11 miles into my first marathon! :)
  • scarfe9991
    scarfe9991 Posts: 778 Member
    Just 1 20 miler for mine and it worked out great. I plan to do the same for my next one.
  • lporter229
    lporter229 Posts: 4,907 Member
    I also have never run more than 20 miles in training for the same reasons mentioned above. You may think you need it mentally, but you don't. It can actually backfire because 20+ mile runs can hurt and leave you dreading your marathon. The things that are important to get you through those last 6 miles on race day are proper nutrition/fueling (during the race and in the week leading up to it), a good taper (you need to be well rested and this is what will differentiate the race from your long training runs), and finally, race day adrenaline and crowd support. All of those things combined will give you that extra oomph you need to finish the race. Good luck!
  • sjohnny
    sjohnny Posts: 56,142 Member
    For my first I did a 22 and a 20 and a few 18s. The 22 was supposed to be 20 but I effed up mapping it out before hand. I ended up being at 21.5 miles when I got back to the car so I ran around the parking lot until I hit 22.

    I'll echo the emphasis on total mileage over the length of one particular run each week. I don't see the point in running 26 in training until you get to a point where that takes you less than 3 hours.
  • The_Enginerd
    The_Enginerd Posts: 3,982 Member
    I did my first marathon last month and my training plan maxed out at 20 miles (did hit 21 due to the way the courses I was training on ended up). I did a total of three 20 milers in this last training plan. I was also doing medium long runs of 10-12 miles midweek.

    I felt tired, but strong on my marathon at the 20 mile point and was picking up the pace around mile 22. If it wasn't for the sudden side stitch I got at mile 24, those last 4.2 miles would have been some of my fastest. I still ran the last miles, but they were just slower than I was capable of at that time due to the pain and trouble breathing, and I don't feel running longer long runs would have done anything to help that issue.
  • 5512bf
    5512bf Posts: 389 Member
    Unless you are faster than an 8 min/mile easy pace runner then 24 is way to much. For strictly physiological purposes 20 miles is enough if you are an over 4:30 marathon runner. Most argue that the benefits of a long run vastly diminish after 2.5 - 3 hours. Adding in mid distance runs during the week of 10-15 miles and doing an 8-12 mile run the day before a long run will better prepare you for those last 6 miles than a grueling 24 mile run at really slow pace. The recovery time for being on your feet that long will hamper more important training during the week.
  • sarahc001
    sarahc001 Posts: 477 Member
    Granted I have only run one marathon, but I have to say that I was comfortable in the race up to the distance I had trained. I do believe this was purely psychological. In the few months prior I did one 20, one half marathon race with a 6mile run to the start, one 22miler in freezing rain, and one 24 miler. I'm not particularly fast (the time for that one marathon was 4:04) but my "bonk" happened as soon as I saw that 24 mile mark. I walked a bit, then thought "this is stupid, it's all in your mind" and started running again.

    As for these long runs doing too much damage, well, I really do disagree, but that is just based on my personal experience. My very best 50mile race looked like this in the three weeks prior: oct 25- 50k (race,) nov 1- 46.5mi (pacing, ie walking and slow running through the night, about 14.5h) nov 8- easy 6mi, nov 15- 50mi PR (9:52.) Now the following week I ran another 50 and THAT kicked me in the @$$- I ran a 10:20 on a faster course than the week before. FWIW all of this was about 18 months after that first marathon. If I were to decide to run marathons again I would definitely be targeting several 20+ mile runs, probably on alternate weekends, in the months leading up to the marathon. But my goal would probably involve some sort of time goal rather than just finishing.
  • rungirl1973
    rungirl1973 Posts: 2,559 Member
    I generally don't go farther than 20 miles during marathon training.

    My first marathon was before the days of GPS watches and such and my running partner and I misjudged the distance and wound up doing a run that was close to 25 miles. I don't recommend it.
  • Shannonpurple
    Shannonpurple Posts: 268 Member
    Well I ran a 26.2 before my first marathon and that was a big mistake for me..It was a month before and on a flat course but, I should have just run a few more 20 milers or even 16 milers. I was nervous for my first full so naturally I wanted to run a marathon to make sure I Could run a marathon before I ran one.

    If I was you I would up your weekly miles and not run a full 26 before your marathon.
  • litsy3
    litsy3 Posts: 783 Member
    sarahc001 wrote: »

    As for these long runs doing too much damage, well, I really do disagree, but that is just based on my personal experience.

    I don't think long runs necessarily do serious 'damage', but they do require recovery and that means you waste your next week of training because can't do other kinds of hard training like tempo runs and faster reps as effectively. No-one's saying 'you'll be so wiped out you can't run at all', just that the very long runs might compromise the other elements in a balanced training plan and that there are more effective ways to optimise training.

    As for the psychological issue, I guess you just have to trust the training plan you've used and believe that it's prepared you for the distance.
  • Carrieendar
    Carrieendar Posts: 493 Member
    I agree with litsy. A 26 miler would affect my quality work the next week. I think goals matter as well. A time goal will be affected by inadequate balance in the plan or insufficient rest. Maybe I could run a 3:03 marathon on 2x26 in training or something, but, I think the evidence pretty clearly shows that, if I ran 3:04 doing that, I could probably run sub 3 with a bit more balance in my plan.
  • Harki46
    Harki46 Posts: 6 Member
    I've logged a few 30 milers during marathon campaigns which worked for me but I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. It wasn't as hard as it sounds. Once I got up to 18 mile I just increased it by one mile every week.
  • Curtruns
    Curtruns Posts: 510 Member
    training for my first marathon....My longest run was 21miles or 3ish hours.
  • CarsonRuns
    CarsonRuns Posts: 3,039 Member
    Nothing over 22 miles or 3 hours and 15 minutes.

    How many popular marathon training plans, like Higdon, call for more than 20?