Is Speedwork Necessary for Your First Marathon?

Is Speedwork Necessary for Your First Marathon?

When training for your first marathon, it can be difficult to know how much speed work to incorporate. Use the advice from Hal Higdon to make your training as effective as possible.

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’ll be training for my first marathon this year, and my podiatrist recommended your 18-week Novice 1 training program. In analyzing the program, I see there is no speed/tempo work involved. Do you recommend incorporating speedwork with the novice program? Is it not necessary for a first time marathon?


Your podiatrist gave good advice. For your first marathon, you are better off training as conservatively as possible, minimizing the risk that you will show up again in the podiatrist’s waiting room. Even for many experienced runners, speedwork is best left outside the marathon training window. Once you have some marathon hardware hanging from hooks on the wall then, and only then, it may be time to incorporate speedwork into your training.

My advice is to get to the finish line of this first marathon, then maybe test your ability to do speedwork later. One way to do so would be to try one of my intermediate or advanced programs for a shorter-distance races, such as 5K or 10K.