How many marathons should we do per year?

How many marathons should a recreational runner do per year, and what should be the interval of time between the marathons?

Answer by Luis Tavares

What is most demanding in a marathon is the preparation for it, which consists of around 3 months of specific and laborious training. Like the former Olympian Zequinha Barbosa said: "You need to train hard to race easy".

The athlete should do 2 or 3 marathons at the maximum, with an interval of 4 months between 2 marathons. Unfortunately, with a race calendar full of marathons next to one another, some runners do 2 marathons in a month.

For an acceptable recovery from the marathon, I recommend one day of easy training for each km ran in the marathon, in other words, you need 42 days resting with easy training without thinking about races.

Luis Tavares
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Answer by Carlos Gomes Ventura

The marathon is more debilitating and excessively exhausting for the people that are not prepared for the 42,195m, and do it as a hobby, just to finish it.

The well conditioned and well trained athlete obviously will have a better physical and, maybe, mental performance. In my opinion, amateur or novice athletes, and even older runners, should race at most one marathon per year and should have a period of at least 8 months between the marathons.

High level athletes should do no more than two marathons per year and have a period of at least 6 months between the marathons.

I suggest to our readers to try to distinguish between the expressions "race a marathon" and "run a marathon".

The physical effort in any sport must be well planned by the coach and countersigned by a sports medicine doctor.

Any marathon, or other kind of hard physical effort, is an advanced investment in your health condition, and, in consequence, it is critical. Good races with good training. 

Carlos Gomes Ventura


Answer by Luis Antônio Sturian

For the amateur marathoner, I recommend two marathons per year. The preparation time should be about 4 months, since amateurs need more time to adapt to high volumes of training, in particular the long runs that are important to increase the muscle glycogen stores, essential after the 30 km during the marathon. These recommendations consider that you want to do a marathon aiming for performance. If the goal is just to finish the marathon, then read my experience below.

At Curitiba Marathon, I tried a distinct experience. I went to this marathon without doing any specific training, my longer runs were a half-marathon and a 17,850m race. I ran slower than I am used to until 30 km, then I walked 1 km and ran 1 km until finishing the marathon in 4:00:01. I realized how the long runs are crucial for the marathon, since I am also an amateur runner, how good it is to be in this category! Now I understand why some athletes run every marathons. They go easy, running and walking, and finish the marathon feeling well. In this case, with my personal experience, I don't see any problem in using a marathon as a long run following a pre-determined schedule. It was what I did, watching many thing with the eyes of a coach and amateur runner, now I can share more experience helping the recreational runners that are the majority that turn the marathon into a celebration.

Luis Antônio Sturian
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Related articles:
Long runs, recovery

This article has informational purpose and  isn't a substitute for professional advice.


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