Adding More Workouts to Your Marathon Training Plan

BY Hal Higdon

Adding another day of training to your weekly training plan may not be the best choice. Don't get trapped into doing more when doing less might be best. 

Have a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I have been active and fit my whole life: lacrosse in college, Marine Corps for eleven years, martial arts student/instructor for five. I took on the Marine Corps Marathon as a challenge a couple of years ago and completed it, although not as fast as I had hoped, losing almost an hour off my goal time in the last six miles.

As to why I had failed, a friend had pointed me to a local running group. I learned a lot about distance running, but running in a group was not for me. I have a bad habit of setting goals that are difficult to achieve, like: Beat two-thirds of my training group. My competitive self got in the way of my marathon goal. It reached a point where I would dread each group workout on Tuesdays. That usually resulted in my worst performance of the week. While I loved the camaraderie that the group provided, I realize now that I do better running alone: just me, the road and my tunes. But I need a training program.

Looking over your training plans, I was torn between Novice 2 and Intermediate 1, but I’m leaning toward Novice 2, since I’m prone to overtraining and burning out. I figured it’s better to start with a plan I’m more comfortable with, and move up from there. I also didn’t want to pick something that was more of a stretch, and risk injury. My question stems from the fact that Novice 2 offers fewer days (and miles) than the last training plan I had, and I want to go into MCM stronger than last time, yet I worry about setting myself up for injury, burning out, or overtraining!

Question: Can I add a fifth training day: an easy three-miler on Monday 5k to the Novice 2 plan? What’s the risk/reward of taking that on?


You could add a fifth running day. Your computer will not disintegrate if you make a change. But, hey, wait! You blew up during your last marathon for various reasons. Usually when someone asks which of two programs might be better, I suggest the easier one. I sometimes feel they know the answer, but just want me to affirm their subconscious decisions. If you have one flaw, it may be your Semper Fi competitiveness. You get with a group of runners and you want to race them, not train with them. You look at a program and figure, maybe I should add one more day. Well, yes, add one day to Novice 2 and it’s close to becoming Intermediate 1. There is a logical progression in difficulty in all my programs, novice, through intermediate to advanced. Small shifts up or down can take you to one program or the other.

That’s not necessarily bad, but I would stick with Novice 2 with four days running instead of five. It’s a solid program. If you think it is too easy, you can always run some of the short runs at an up-tempo. But don’t get trapped into doing more when doing less might be best.

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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.