Smart Marathon Training: Training Smart, Running Healthy

For all the benefits of running—or of any kind of training, for that matter— there’s always a risk of getting hurt. That just comes with pushing your body beyond its comfort zone. I knew that, and so did all of my clients and team members.

But still, it was hard for me to see any of my runners get injured, especially when they were relying on me to keep them healthy and strong. I knew that I’d written and implemented a training program based on reasonable, widely accepted training principles, and I had not exposed my runners to any unreasonable risk, but I still couldn’t help but feel responsible. I kept asking myself, could I have done anything differently?

I thought about the running magazines I subscribed to. The cover of almost every one of them offered advice on how to deal with hurt knees, Achilles tendons, iliotibial (IT) bands, and hip flexors. I realized that most runners were either in the process of recovering from an injury or on their way to getting sidelined by an injury.

There had to be a better way.

There was. I had to flip the notion that “more is better” on its head and instead commit myself and my runners to setting a mileage limit and making the most that we could out of the miles we ran. We would aim to achieve everything we wanted from our running by doing less. Why would we do more than that?

I devised a plan that includes three runs a week, totaling no more than 35 miles, consisting of speed and hill work, a tempo run, and a long endurance run; core strengthening, strength training, running drills, and balance work two to three times per week; and aggressive cross-training, recommended as cycling, at least twice per week.

I presented this plan to my clients and found that they not only were able to avoid injury, but they also were able to run stronger. I then shared this plan at talks I gave at race expos and wrote about elements of it in articles. Now I want to share it with you.

This plan is intended to bring common sense back to running. You may not want to race as many marathons as I have—or run a marathon at all— but you should be able to run the races you choose pain-free.

This article was adapted from the book Smart Marathon Training with the permission of VeloPress. Old-school marathon training plans ask runners to crank out 70 to 100 miles a week. It’s no wonder those who make it to the start line are running ragged. Smart Marathon Training maps out a healthier, more economical approach to training that emphasizes quality over quantity. This innovative program eliminates junk miles, paring down training to three essential runs per week and adding a dynamic strength and cross-training program to build overall fitness. Runners will train for their best performance in less time and avoid the injuries, overtraining, and burnout that come from running too much. Download a free sample and preview the book at


About The Author:

Jeff Horowitz is a certified running and triathlon coach and a personal trainer who has run more than 150 marathons across six continents. Formerly an attorney, he quit law to pursue his passion for endurance sport and now works with DC Tri; The Nations Triathlon; the nonprofit summer camp ACHIEVE Kids Triathlon; and Team Hope, a charity fund-raising training group that benefits the Hope Connections Center, a cancer-patients service organization. Learn more about Jeff at

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