Q&A with Hal Higdon: 20 Miles Max?

BY Hal Higdon

None of Hal Higdon's training programs have long runs over 20 miles. Here's why.

Got 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.


None of your training programs have long runs over 20 miles. Do you recommend against running over 20 miles in training?


It’s not so much “against,” but more “why?” Based on my own experience, I don’t see a lot to gain from going much past 20 miles in training – unless you are an ultramarathoner. Could you improve your fitness and/or tolerance for longer runs by doing more than the three 20-milers that serve as the limit even in my Advanced 1 and 2 programs? Suppose on consecutive weekends, you ran 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and then 26 miles. I would not anticipate a major improvement in your aerobic capacity, thus your ability to turn a fast PR. I hate to scare everybody, but looming over your head would be the specter of overtraining, or even an injury that may have been prevented if you stepped off the road or trail at mile 20. If someone with 5-10 marathons under their belt wants to experiment with longer long runs, fine – I’ll get out of their way. But I don’t endorse 20+ running.

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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.