How many marathons per year is it reasonable to run?

Many of us are acquainted with runners who participate in several marathons each year, with some even surpassing a dozen within the same timeframe. While this intense schedule might be manageable for them, it’s not necessarily a practical or safe approach for everyone. The question then arises: How many marathons per year is it reasonable for an average runner to undertake?

In this article, we will explore the key factors that influence this decision. These include understanding the average recovery time needed after completing a marathon, determining the optimal duration required to prepare for a marathon, and from these considerations, deducing a reasonable number of marathons to run in a year.

How long should you recover after a marathon?

Recovering from a marathon is a crucial part of a runner’s journey. In the week immediately following a marathon, it’s common to feel a lack of motivation or physical readiness to run again. It’s important to heed these signals from your body, as they indicate the need for recovery.

Typically, a full week of rest is advisable post-marathon. During this period, if you feel up to it, engaging in short, light endurance runs can be beneficial. However, it’s crucial to avoid overexertion. The euphoria following a marathon can sometimes lead to overconfidence, but jumping back into intense activities like interval training too soon can lead to setbacks, often emerging 3-4 weeks later.

After a week of light activity, you might consider introducing short interval training sessions in the second or third week. Nonetheless, it’s still recommended to approach these next two weeks with caution, opting for sessions that are less strenuous.

In summary, a minimum recovery period of about three weeks is advised before you start preparing for another marathon. 

How long should marathon preparation last?

The duration of preparation for a marathon varies significantly, typically ranging from 2 to 6 months. For those who regularly participate in marathons, the ideal specific preparation period is generally between 3 and 4 months. This period is often referred to as the ‘marathon training plan.’

Therefore, theoretically, a cycle of 3 weeks for recovery followed by 3 months of preparation could feasibly allow a runner to participate in up to 3 marathons per year.

A practical example of this could be participating in a marathon during March-April (such as the Paris Marathon, London, Boston, Rome, or Barcelona), followed by another in July-August, and then a final one in November-December (such as the New York Marathon, Valencia, La Rochelle, or Deauville).

However, a notable challenge arises when trying to find a suitable marathon during the summer months. Running in extreme heat often hampers marathon performance. An interesting alternative during this period could be participating in a trail marathon– 40km trail runs that often take place at higher altitudes where temperatures are cooler.

How many marathons per year is it reasonable to run?

Determining the number of marathons to run in a year largely depends on your physical condition and recovery capabilities. For those in good shape, running two marathons a year is a reasonable goal. It’s even possible to aim for three, if you can find a suitable marathon during the summer months.

It’s important to note that running a marathon, even at a relaxed pace, shouldn’t be considered merely as preparation for another marathon. Doing so could lead to significant fatigue and diminish your enthusiasm for your target marathon. Instead, incorporating a half-marathon into your training about a month before your main event can be a beneficial part of your preparation.

For those who are more ambitious and wish to challenge themselves, running more than three marathons a year is feasible. While you might not always achieve a personal best in each event, the experience can be rewarding 😉. In such cases, aim for at least 1 to 2 months of recovery between marathons. This schedule allows for up to 5 or 6 marathons annually. Remember, it’s crucial to maintain your endurance and marathon pace training between events.

There are runners who participate in more than 10 marathons a year. While they may have exceptional endurance, they also risk fatigue and potential long-term slowdown. Therefore, it’s essential not to base your goals solely on what others are doing. Choose a schedule that suits your personal progress, helps you avoid injuries, and allows for medium-term improvement.

For those planning to run one or several marathons in a year, you can download the RunMotion Coach app for personalized training plans. This can help you prepare for your main goal and set intermediate objectives effectively.

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Mailis Durif-VarambonMailis grew up in the mountains, where she went hiking and biking every weekend. She loves outdoor activities where she can relax at the end of the day. At RunMotion Coach, she is responsible for community management.