Blog Main 700×394 Hal Higdon Q And A.jpgwidth700height394ext

Using a Drop-Out Marathon as Training

BY Hal Higdon

You know that you have the strength to start; do you have the strength to stop? If you are entering a marathon for training you should have the discipline to stick to your plan.

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 feel like I know you as I have followed your programs for some time, and you have been talking in my ear for the last 400 miles thanks to your app. I am currently using your Novice 2 program for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Las Vegas in November, my second marathon. First was Honolulu in 2012: 4:39 without any real training or plan.

In this case, I have been following the plan pretty closely. Missed a couple of cross- training days, having instead to ref and coach my kids’ soccer and baseball games. But I am on for 20 this weekend. My wife and I are active-duty Army, and I was just offered a bib for the Marine Corps Marathon. It is so very tempting to run my 20 as part of a well-established marathon, right in our back yard. Vegas is still the goal, but it would be great to do a supported run, without having to carry my own water and be with several thousand other folks, but I worry about injury. And I know that if I feel okay at 20, there is no way that I would step off the course and not go the additional 6.2. Tough call. Any insight?


You’re in the military. You should have a good understanding of discipline. So if your superior tells you, “Don’t go past 20,” your response should be, “Yes, sir!”

I have done a number of planned drop-out marathons. Twin Cities one year while pacing a friend, his wife waiting at 20 to transport me to the finish line. I had no problem stopping because that was the plan. I also have run the New York City Marathon on several occasions when, immediately after crossing the Queensboro Bridge around 16 miles into the race, I headed straight to my midtown hotel instead of turning under the bridge to continue down First Avenue. (Just in case anyone asks, I do not count planned drop-out races as part of my total of 111 marathons.)

You know that you have the strength to start; do you have the strength to stop? Runners lately have been somewhat brainwashed to believe that stopping short is failure. There may be many reasons why it is not.

Avatar1501767801 7
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.