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A Beginner’s Guide To Running Back-To-Back Marathons

Two finish lines are better than one. But make sure you train right so you can cross both.

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For some it’s not about how fast you can finish a marathon but how many marathons you can finish.

While you won’t find me running 52 marathons in a year any time soon, I have been known to run back to back marathons.

Crossing the finish line of one marathon per season never feels like enough to me. Once I get a taste of that post-marathon high, I want it again and sooner rather than later. With spring races being deferred to the fall (looking at you, Boston) this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more people might be in the position to join in the thrill of back-to-back marathons.

If you want to run multiple marathons in close succession, it’s easier if you figure out a plan ahead of time, rather than signing up for another race last minute after you had a disappointing one.

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It’s important to consider the effects this feat will have on your body before you decide if this is for you. If you are a newer runner, there is a higher chance for injury than someone who has been consistently running for years. The cardiovascular system develops faster than your muscular system. This often leads to an “I Can Do It” feeling when the question that matters more is not can you do it, but should you do it? A runner of any level should also consider the amount of cumulative fatigue on the body, as well as whether there is an insufficient amount of time for you to recover.

If you decide the benefits outweigh the risk in your case, then the planning begins.

Timing Your Taper

Tapering if the last chance for your muscles to completely repair before race day, so you’ll want to be precise about the process between your two races. You don’t want to skip all running between races, but you definitely don’t want to overdo it.

Here’s how you should expect to taper depending on the time between your consecutive races.

When your marathons are three weeks apart.

3 weeks apart is ideal timing, since you can use the first marathon as your very last and longest run before your second marathon.

In that scenario, your long run taper would look like this:

  • 26.2 miles
  • 16 miles
  • 10-12 miles
  • 26.2 miles

When your marathons are two weeks apart.

If you wanted to do two marathons 2 weeks apart, I recommend very light running four to five days after the first marathon. The distance should be shorter than you were accustomed to in your training and the pace should be in the recovery/easy zone.

Recovery should be the main focus during this two-week period. Hydrate, rest, foam roll, take Epsom salt baths and possibly get a light running specific massage to work out the kinks.

RELATED: Recovery Runs 101: Everything You Need to Know About Taking it Easy

In that scenario your long-run taper would look like this:

  • 20-22 miles
  • 16 miles
  • 10-12 miles
  • 26.2 miles
  • 10 miles
  • 26.2 miles

When your marathons are one week apart.

If you want to do two marathons one week apart it’s ALL about recovery. Light running would begin at 4 to 5 days after the first marathon with the distance being under 3 miles and in the recovery zone. Any running you do this week is not adding to your fitness level. It’s only about getting the legs moving. If you are the type of person who likes to run the day before a marathon, I would keep the distance to one or two shakeout miles. The most I would suggest running during that week period is twice. Many runners who run back to back marathons weekly don’t run at all during the weeks between.

The key to running successful back-to-back marathons is to think of the marathons in the same way you would think about a relay race. If you go all out on your first run, you are going to pay for it. Not only will you likely run slower but you will be in physical pain from the stress of too many miles or miles run too fast. Patience is extremely important when it comes to back to back marathons.

Think about the first marathon as being the warm-up for the second and the second marathon your victory lap for finishing the first!

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