Is Running 26.2 Miles Necessary Before Racing The Marathon?

Find the balance between the optimal training schedule and getting the most enjoyment from your running.

In the past, I’ve outlined how you canincorporate shorter, more “fun-oriented” races into your schedule while still keeping the integrity of your training plan intact. You may have noticed that I made no mention in that article of how to integrate marathons into your schedule—should you be thinking of including an easy 26.2-mile run as either a long run or a fun run.

Believe it or not, it’s a question I receive often: “Would it be a good idea for me to run a marathon as a long run with my friends before my goal race?”

I can understand the sentiment behind the question. The atmosphere at a marathon is electric and with all the likeminded runners around you, the miles can fly by in a way that’s not easily replicated on a training run. Unfortunately, if you want to maximize your chances of a personal best at your next goal race, I don’t recommend running a marathon in training—either as a course-supported long run, or for the atmosphere and the camaraderie.

Here’s the short reason why: In addition to offering very little training benefit, the 26.2-mile distance is difficult to recover from (yes, even if you run easy) and you risk becoming derailed from your optimal training routine for 10-14 days. Don’t just take my word for it, however. In the next few pages we’ll explain some of the science behind why you should avoid running a marathon as a long run or fun race.

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