Marathon Training WITHOUT Speedwork

I haven’t 100 % fully committed to a marathon plan yet – but there’s one element of my plan that’s been decided: NO SPEEDWORK.


But how do you expect to shave 15+ minutes off your PR, Michelle?  (my imaginary internet friends are asking)

Good question!

First let me defend my choice… While I really dislike speedwork, it’s not about love or hate… it’s all about my ankles. The peroneal tendonitis in my right ankle to be specific. I can either run higher mileage – or I can do speedwork, but I can’t do both.

I DO think you have to run fast in order to get faster, but I also think I’m capable of running a 4:15 marathon without it.

So what DO I plan to do?  (the imaginary internet friends are still skeptical)

*I’ll be running higher mileage than my first marathon, for starters. For Savannah, I peaked at 30-35 miles. That’s really not THAT high. Actually it’s pretty low, although it’s also not horrible for only running 3 times a week. For Chicago, I’m hoping to peak at 50-55 miles and run at least 4 times a week – with one of my mid-week runs between 7-10 miles.

*I’m planning on incorporating Hal Higdeon’s 3/1 Runs into my long runs —  where the last quarter of a run (so 4 out of 16, 5 out of 20) I will be running at a faster pace (although not necessarily race pace). I tested this out with my 12-miler this weekend. I ran the last 3 miles at a faster pace and I was surprised I could do it. Apparently I just need to apply myself (nope.. never hear that one before).

*And then of course, I plan on running some runs at marathon pace… if I can tolerate running a 9:30 pace in ridiculous humidity.

*I also plan on running the majority of my runs OUTSIDE. I spent a lot of time on the treadmill during marathon training last time – and I can’t say I enjoyed it or that it was really THAT helpful.

*I’m going to continue to do strength training. While I’d like to do two strength training workouts a week – I will be happy with one. Squats, Kettlebell Swings, and Deadlifts have been ESPECIALLY helpful this past year while I’ve transitioned from postpartum blob into a badassmotherrunner (that’s sarcasm, but I’m serious about the strength workouts) – and I’m not giving those up.

*And finally… I’m going to live every week like it’s shark week. Duh.


I will probably be getting up earlier than ever. I predict I will be hungry 24/7. I already know I’m going to be tired — but when I cross the finish line at Chicago (regardless of a PR or not – but definitely a PR) I know it’s going to be worth it!

And if it DOESN’T work? At least now I’ll know — and the next time I train I’ll focus on speedwork — but not mileage. You never know until you try, right?

Have you trained without speedwork?

Do you have imaginary friends?

What’s your favorite {upbeat} song right now? I need some new music.


  1. Stephanie Vanos says

    I don’t know the first thing about marathon training but speed work and distance training at the same time got me injured too. And I totally had imaginary friends when I was in preschool. Their names were Mimi, Gaga and Gobbi Casa. One day they got on a bus and left IL (I think I told my parents they went to Ohio?). I don’t remember the details. If I had a blog i’d definitely have imaginary adult friends too:)

    • says

      Ha ha about them getting on a bus and leaving! I remember having imaginary friends when I was little too, but I’m not sure where they went. There’s probably still up in MA looking for me :)

      Injuries SUCK!! Are you back to running again? Are you doing any races later this year? Hoping to see you at Book Club next week!

  2. says

    You’ll do great!! I’ve never done a full & at this point have no desire to. I like the half but I’d like to do it faster. I’ve done 2 & my pr is 2:19:45. I really like under 2 hours but I’m not sure if I’m capable of that at 40 (41 for my next half). The only speed work I do & I’m not sure it can be called that, is just run faster for the last quarter of a mile or so of whatever mileage I’m running. My 5K time has come down considerably since I trained for the Half & that was without speed work.
    Traci recently posted..Third

  3. Melissa says

    I hadn’t heard of the 3/1 training, but I like it! How much faster will you do those miles? I didn’t do much speedwork before my marathon, and I think it’s what kept me from getting injured. Of course, I helped myself with that by falling a lot and spraining my arm. There’s no training plan for “clumsy.”

  4. says

    You’re so speedy! 4:15 is bonkers to me… hmm… then again, because running a marathon at all amazes me. You’re amazing! By the way, does Evan wake up at the same time each morning? Does hubs take over or at least help with morning kid stuff on run days?

  5. says

    Normally I train doing speedwork, but I just started training for a 1/2 Ironman & I’m thinking of not doing speedwork during this training. I don’t know. We’ll see. But…you have to do what’s best for you & your body. :) Keep up the awesome work!
    Ara recently posted..Race for the Cure 5k

  6. Lori Connors says

    GO FOR IT! I did my first marathon on no speed work and probably topped out at 30 miles per week. Best marathon time yet. Sometimes I think we over think plans and forget that we just like to run:-)

  7. Melissa says

    I have something you will want to hear. I did no speedwork for my marathon in Feb, and ran a 4:16. I changed my socks and shirt mid-way, and also had a quick bathroom stop. You are slightly speedier than me and so I know 4:15 is going to be attainable for you, and I predict better! Just get on those tempo runs, and those higher weekday runs help. I also maxed out at 35 miles. I wanted more, but that is what I could do with a polar vortex winter and a husband that had to do some traveling for work during training.
    The new Coldplay song (stars) is upbeat. New album sounds like it will be great with the three songs they have released! The new Foster the People album is good if you haven’t checked it out yet. Different from their last, so it takes a couple of listens to adjust.

  8. says

    Well I’m definitely going to have to follow your training. I start training for MCM in a few weeks and I think I’m going to follow the how to train like a mother plan. I ran my first marathon with no speedwork and felt great matter a fact that was in Chicago. The course was great practically no hills and I could’ve kept going. I also think its great that your sticking with strength training and I’m following that plan also. That post partum blob that I am also needs some major strength training especially my hips! Darn babies messing with my pelvis! Anyhoo I’m looking forward to reading your coming posts!
    Jen recently posted..WI Half Marathon

    • says

      I’ll definitely have to follow your training as well! I’m happy to hear that you followed a similar plan for Chicago and it worked.

      And yes – my hips and core are STILL recovering, but strength training has really helped.

      Happy Mother’s Day!

  9. says

    hey! i’m a new reader :)

    i totally support your plan! i think that high mileage training can have just as much impact on endurance and speed as the ones that focus on speedwork. besides, getting sidelined with an injury does NOT help improve marathon performance, so you are definitely making the right choice.

    once i tried the “run less run faster” plan, but all the speed and tempo runs would stress me out before i even went out to run. the anxiety it cause didn’t help me run faster at all! as long as the plan works for you and stretches your comfort level appropriately then go for it!
    dawn @ running the dawn recently posted..weekly stats May 10

    • says

      Yes – the speedwork and the tempos really stressed me out. I felt like I wasn’t really running for fun anymore – it was all about my time. I’ve realized that while time does matter to me – that’s not the runner I “want” to be. High mileage is definitely going to get me out of my comfort zone!

  10. says

    Definitely looks like you have a great plan! You are already a fast runner so plus the strength training and your high mileage no doubt will you run a 4:15. Oh, and you do know that Chicago is FLAT. Well, a little Mt. Roosevelt before the finish line but everything else is easy peasy lemon squeezy.
    Zenaida Arroyo recently posted..April in Review

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