How to train for a marathon when time is tight

Never mind crossing the finish line: it takes time and dedication simply to get to the start line of a marathon. Here’s how to fit in those training miles when your schedule is already jam packed.

How to train for a marathon when time is tight

If you’ve entered your first marathon, you’ve probably realised by now that your 26.2-mile training plan is pretty full-on. In fact, the weeks of training that lie ahead can feel daunting, especially if you already have a hectic life (and who doesn’t these days?).

However, there are ways you can comfortably fit those key sessions into your busy week, if you plan well and train smart. Here’s how to make marathon training work for you when you’re already rushed off your feet…

Preparation is key

When it comes to a well-executed marathon training schedule, it’s all in the planning. Take a look at several different training plans before deciding on the one that best fits your fitness level and lifestyle. Next, sit down with your diary and enter your training sessions, week by week. Seeing the sessions written down in black and white will help you prioritise your training.

The planning doesn’t stop there. You can plan everything, from your kit (if you’re training early in the morning, lay your running gear out the night before to save time), to your recovery snacks and meals (make sure you have a banana or protein drink to hand after your runs), to make the most of every minute.

Focus on quality sessions

Of course, you can schedule everything down to the finest detail, but we all know real life doesn’t always go to plan. If you have a really busy day or something urgent crops up, of course it’s fine to skip the odd training run.

However, try to make sure you don’t miss the really key sessions each week (your tempo, hill session or long run). If you can maintain these three core sessions each week, you'll be well on your way to race day.

Make the most of each moment

If you struggle to commit to set training times each week, ensure you make the most of every opportunity to run. If you’re at home with the baby all day, consider investing in a running buggy to make sure you get those sessions ticked off (your little one will enjoy the fresh air and scenery that whizzes past, too), or you could keep some spare kit and running shoes under your desk at work, in case the chance arises for a quick speed session in your lunch break.

Alternatively, set your alarm an hour earlier on training days and get those miles in first thing. There’s nothing quite like that smug feeling you get when you’ve already completed your run before most others have even opened their eyes.

Consider run-commuting

Could you run to or from work as part of your training? As well as saving you cash on your train/bus fare, this is a great way to fit in those miles when time is tight. This could even be your long run each week if you struggle to fit it in at the weekend due to family commitments (try not to fall asleep at your desk afterwards, though).

Learn to say no

Nights out, PTA meetings, extra work projects… commitments can sometimes get the better of you. We’re not suggesting that when your best friend calls you in tears after a bad break up, you tell her sorry, you can’t be there for her because you have a training run (you’re not a d*ck, after all), but on occasion it’s OK to say no.

It’s important not to run yourself into the ground, so if it’s a choice between drinks with friends or a rest night, and you’d really rather put your feet up, decline politely and do what’s best for you. It’s OK to put yourself first, especially during marathon training.

Look after yourself

Pushing yourself until you burn out is not going to help you reach that start line. However busy you are, make time to stretch daily, even if it’s just for a few minutes while waiting for the kettle to boil. Sleep is important too, so turn the TV off half an hour early each night and get some extra shut-eye. Your body will thank you for it.

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