How to Train For a Postponed Marathon

If you’re one of the thousands of runners whose upcoming marathon was postponed, you’re probably wondering how to train for the new race date.

Should you keep up with your long runs? Is it better to take a break and start your plan again 16-weeks out? And have all those months of hard training gone to waste?

A cancelled or postponed marathon is disappointing but health and safety take priority. Rather than dwelling on something you have no control over, see this as an opportunity.

You’ve built some solid running fitness over winter, now it’s time to fine-tune your form, increase your strength and come back even stronger.

NURVV Community Manager and Coach James Poole recommends these smart adjustments to help you train for your new autumn race date.

Forget the Original Training Plan

From 12 to 20 weeks, marathon training plans come in all shapes and sizes but they’re all designed to do the same thing – gradually build volume and intensity to prepare you for race day. They’re not meant to be followed indefinitely.

‘Most runners need a recovery period after an intense period of marathon training,’ says James. Carrying on with another plan puts you at higher risk of injury and overtraining, which can compromise your immune system, affect your appetite and sleep and negatively impact your running performance.

He suggests dialling down the intensity and volume of your training for the next two or three months to reduce the stress on your body. That doesn’t mean you have to start from zero, though.

'Anyone who’s been marathon training will have made incremental gains and developed their aerobic system to become a stronger runner,’ says James. ‘Between now and your new autumn race date, the goal is to maintain those training benefits and look after your body.

‘It’s a good idea to reduce your weekly and long run mileage but keep it higher than pre-marathon training. Aim for around 50% to two thirds of your peak marathon training mileage. So if you were running 40 miles a week in training, take it down to 20-26 miles a week instead.’

Keep it Conversational

With race day postponed, you should be reducing the intensity of your runs as well as the volume.

‘Make the majority of your runs easy efforts,’ says James. ‘Run at conversational pace and use it as a chance to look around, listen to podcasts and music.’

Easy runs will help build aerobic and cardiovascular fitness, without the stress of more intense sessions like intervals and threshold runs, creating a strong base to build on when training ramps up again.

There’s a mental benefit, too.

‘Following a marathon training plan can suck some of the joy out of running because you’re having to do the runs and distances it dictates,’ says James. ‘Easy runs help you get some of that enjoyment back.'

Build in Strength and Conditioning

Ok, hands up if you skip strength and conditioning workouts. Yep, us too.

When you’re in the midst of marathon training, it can be hard to fit everything in around work and everyday life. If something’s got to give, then it’s usually the non-running sessions like strength and mobility that are first to go.

Now you’ve got extra training time, it’s worth adding those back in. Strength training will help strengthen muscles and joints, reduce your risk of injury and can even boost your speed.

‘If you were doing five or six runs a week, replace one or two with extra strength and conditioning to help build a bullet-proof base,’ says James.

Bodyweight exercises and core work can be done anywhere, so there’s no need for a gym membership, and will help improve your strength and stability.

Work on Your Technique

During marathon training, you might have noticed a weakness in your running form. Common areas for improvement include Cadence (the number of steps you take per minute) and Step Length (the distance covered with each step).

Cadence and step length both affect your running speed, so a few tweaks now will stand you in good stead for your autumn race.

‘Strength-based drills like hopping, skipping and bounding are all great for working on Step Length,’ says James. ‘And single leg drills will help address any imbalances.’

For Cadence, he recommends drills to improve neuromuscular activation like high knees, heel to bum kicks and fast feet. You can also try running to music. Picking a song with a certain number of beats per minute can help you speed up your foot turnover and increase your Cadence.

NURVV Run's Pace Coach feature is a perfect way to work on technique and provides audio and visual feedback as you run. You can read about the benefits of using Pace Coach and how it can be used for interval workouts, to run faster and even during recovery runs.

We have also written guides to improving Step Length to run faster and improving Cadence to run faster which you might find useful.

Make Sure Your Running is Sustainable

As we have shown there are plenty of things you can do to prepare for a postponed marathon but it all boils down to making sure your running is sustainable. Most runners will see five years of incremental gains by simply running more and not getting injured and therein lies the hard part - not getting injured.

NURVV's Running Health feature, analyses four key metrics - Cadence, Pronation, Training Load and left/right Balance - to build a holistic picture of how sustainable your running is. By analysing technique and assessing volume based on your running history it makes personalised recommendations on areas that need attention and weekly mileage. You can read more about Running Health here.

Picking the Right Marathon Plan

Marathon plans tend to cover anything from 20-12 weeks but there might be no need to go for the long option if you have been using the down time productively.

'If you’ve done a long period of base training then a 12-week plan should be enough,’ says James. Following a new plan will help you gradually increase the volume and intensity of your sessions ahead of race day. With all the extra work you’ve put in over the spring months, it might even feel easier this time round!

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