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How to Adapt to Missed Marathon Training

BY Hal Higdon

A first marathon should always be a joyous experience, not a Bataan Death March. Hal provides some feedback to a runner who has missed some of their key workouts.

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 am desperate for some marathon advice. I have done many half marathons and am about to do my first marathon in only 10 days. My dilemma is this. I went to Thailand and returned last Friday. I did a half marathon the day before I left in California. I only did a five-miler and a six-miler while away on a treadmill due to the unavailability of a place to run on my tour. I did a 15-miler when I returned, but the majority of that single workout was not very pretty. Also, I contracted some sort of bug and just finished taking antibiotics. I’ve had a horrible time adjusting to the time difference as well, being in a sleepless fog for a week, all during this, the most crucial time of my training, the taper. The weeks prior to that I did get in three 20-milers and two 18-milers as my longest runs. Because of all this, I am concerned about my ability to complete this marathon. I don’t know if I should run the marathon as planned or wait to the following month when I’m scheduled for another marathon. What do I do?


Please do not take too much offense, but you are a train wreck waiting to happen. If this were going to be your tenth marathon, I would say you can probably float your way through the distance, accepting a finishing time slower than your best. But you do not have that option. This is number one! A first marathon should always be a joyous experience, not a Bataan Death March. I would strongly advise you to punt and play defense. Skip the planned race and defer to that second marathon you apparently also have on your schedule. But I worry even whether that race may be too soon. Given your background as a half-marathoner and with all those long runs before you buzzed off to Thailand, you should have the physical ability to cruise 26.2, but when to do it is the question? You certainly are not fully recovered from your trip. More the problem, you probably are not mentally recovered. Skip the planned race and focus instead on the marathon after that.

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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.