Is it okay for my longest long run to be over 20 miles while training for my first marathon?

I'm training for a marathon in October and I'm trying to plan out my long runs a bit. I've heard of a lot of people "hitting a wall" after mile 20 in a marathon, and for a lot of them their longest long run during training was around 20 miles, which makes sense. I was thinking of building up to a slightly longer distance, like I would want to do 22-24 once before the actual race to kind of avoid/delay hitting the wall. My plan was gradually building up to it by adding 2-3 miles per long run until I get to whatever the longest distance I choose is, and then dropping back down the next long run to something like 16-20 miles and holding it around that until I need to taper. So my questions are basically:

1) is this a horrible idea? 2) if this isn't a horrible idea, what would be a good upper limit to set on long run distances? 3) for a farther long run, I was planning to go roughly at my goal pace and up to ~15s/mile slower. Would that work, or should I slow down more than that? 4) if I were to do a farther long run like this, roughly how long before the race should I try to do it?

This is purely hypothetical at this point, so I don't have specific details on how this is going to fit into my training plan overall yet, and I'm open to pretty much any suggestions/advice because I quite honestly have no clue what I'm doing. For a bit of background: I'm 19F and have run competitively and pretty consistently for about 8 years, the longest run I've done so far was 15 miles in one go (at roughly 1 min/mile faster than my marathon goal pace, but I was admittedly in better shape then than I am now) and 18 miles total in one day (did a 5K park run with a few friends, then ~1 hour later one friend and I did a 15 mile long run), so I'm not completely new to longer runs but I'm also not experienced with things in the ballpark of 20+ miles.

Edit: sorry a lot more people answered than I expected, I really appreciate everyone taking the time to respond, I'm trying to reply to people but I've also got an exam to study for lol


I have used Higdon on Pfitz training plans. The Pfitz plan goes to 22. In his book he explains that running longer has minimal benefit. You would see more benefit from channeling that energy into your MP or interval workouts. He also talks about time spent running. If you can do 22 under three hours at a comfortable pace, no big deal. However, if you are running slower, going over three hours seems to have diminishing returns for the extra stress and potential injury.


Yeah I haven't worked out my entire workout situation yet as I'm totally new to marathon workouts, but it makes sense that those would be better than dragging out my long runs. I'm using a different plan but the long run details in the Pfitz plan make sense, so I might incorporate those. Thank you!


Hitting the wall happens when you deplete your glycogen stores and usually happens around mile 20 as a result of underfueling. There are mental benefits to running a 20+ miler before the marathon but it doesn't guarantee you won't hit the wall, plus you're risking injury or not recovering properly from your long runs. I've personally run 4 marathons and BQ'ed without ever running more than 18 miles in a long run so it's definitely not necessary to do 20+ milers as part of training.


Yeah that's true, part of the reason I wanted to do a longer long run is to treat it as sort of a test run for my gear/fueling but I can probably work that out on >20 mile runs reliably enough. Thank you for the advice and congratulations on the BQ!


It's also very easy to glycogen deplete on a shorter run too if you decide not to eat carbs for the day and run an afternoon workout. If the goal of a run is *just* to get experience hitting the wall and there's a fear of injury from longer efforts, I'd recommend that strategy and doing a 16-18 mile run instead to get a similar result.


I’m not terribly well versed in the nuances of marathon training, but I believe that long runs are capped at 20 miles in most plans because the risk of injury exceeds training benefits past that point. It seems like you have enough lifetime miles under your belt to run >20 miles, but I think the relevant consideration is whether the psychological benefit you receive to doing such a run (i.e., you know you can continue to run past “the wall”) is greater than the injury risk you incur. Your call at the end of the day.


Ah yeah that makes sense, I honestly didn't think of it that way. I'll probably just end up playing it by ear and cutting it off at 20 if it starts feeling rough, or just not even attempting over 20 if that feels too rough by itself. Thank you!


It's because after 3 hours, there is no more physiological adaptation (i.e. training benefit) If you want to practice for not hitting the wall (bonking) there's several other ways to do that. First understand where your body gets energy from: from burning fat (infinite supply 'slow" energy) and from glycogen (2 hour supply, "fast" energy). When your glycogen runs out and you are working harder than fat burning allows, that's when you hit the wall. So you can train your body to get better at burning fat by doing your long runs glycogen depleted. Do this early in your schedule only, because in the later weeks you want to be practicing your fueling and intake during long runs. Lots more to it, but that's some basics.


Very informative response. Is it a norm to carb-load during long training runs as well? * edit: grammar


I agree too, I prefer to train on a carb depleted state, eg, just get up and do your long run on an empty stomach throughout your training plan, then eat normally on marathon day, get up and have a normal breakfast. It's not carb loading where you just overeat carbs on one day, but rather you get your body used to running all the time on depleted carbs. Obviously everyone is individual, but that strategy seemed to work for me.


Not in my opinion. Carb loading is a bit over hyped. Main goal in training for fueling is figuring out what your stomach can handle, which is different for everyone. Also take into account that your digestion will not work well, or at all in later parts of the race as your body gets stressed.


There are a number of great books on marathon training, and I recommend getting your hands on one or two of them. Your approach would be well outside of the normal approach (especially for a first timer), and the number of considerations in planning goes well beyond what we could put in a response here. Very short answer is that for advanced marathon training (which is what you're contemplating) there are a number of important sessions in a week, and going 20+ will generally require too much recovery to be worth the investment -- better to go 20 for the long run and then be able to hit a speed session and a marathon pace workout during the week than to go 23 and be limited to easy running during the week. Also, marathon pace if you're planning to race it is a reasonably hard effort. Running long runs at 1:00 slower than goal pace is the general recommendation.


It's not a horrible idea, but you need to have the consistent weekly volume to support it. If you're going to run a 23 mile long run, you better be closing in on a 60 mile week that week and an average of at least 50MPW around that time. THAT is where your training improves. It's not the long run length, but rather to cumulative miles across those 4 months that you run. People who only think of their training in terms of the long runs are doing it wrong.


Yeah I wanted to start figuring out my long run situation now while I'm still building my base up, cause I definitely don't want to make a huge jump from like 30mpw to doing a 23 mile run because my knees would probably implode. I'd only do a run that long once with a lot of buildup before and a drop to recover right after. Yeah cumulative mileage is definitely the main thing, for me I'm just looking to add mileage in the long runs because I get kind of busy so having a solid chunk of mileage that I can do in one day on the weekend would make my schedule more manageable. Not the best idea so I'm still trying to smooth out the edges of my plan. Thank you!


A good rule is that the long run shouldn't be more than a third of your total weekly mileage that week (and you have to have built to that weekly mileage gradually). So for a 23 mile long run, that would mean the total for the week would be about 69 miles. You can make the occasional exception to that ratio, but if you are more than a third consistently, you are asking for trouble. You have to run the miles to support the long run length.,


For my first marathon I ran 36km for my longest run for the exact reasons you mentioned. It gave me the confidence that on the day I would be able to run those final 6 kilometres. Its a big difference to thinking about the final 10km or so mentally. As long as you can recover it should be fine. I think I did it about 5 weeks out from the marathon although this was dictated by races on the other weekends. That was my highest volume week of training at 61km. For a few marathons there I only went to 33-34 as my overall volume was much higher and I felt I already had the experience. But I just finished a training cycle and went to 36km again and I really felt it benefited me again. So Id say go for it if you feel able. My Dad who has trained many people through marathons usually gets people to do a 22 mile run (he works in miles) as their longest usually about 4 weeks out from the marathon.


After running 100 marathons, anything over 18 miles is unnecessary. Being a senior citizen now, I rarely run more than 13 miles as a long run. I am slower than I used to be…. 5 hour marathons as opposed to being under four.


Sure I didn't write this?


Too slow.


Just wait, we all eventually become masters runners.


I know. I was joking that you were too slow to post it. I hope my knees survive.


My knees are still good and I am near 100 kg.


Couple things I would suggest as someone who is 2 weeks from fish I use their 3rd marathon training block…so not new…not super advanced. But few things I’ve gone through going from finishing one running, 3:20, to hopefully a new PR low 3 hours in less then 2 years. 1. Running your entire long run @MP or 15 seconds slower is not a great idea. You gotta remember your marathon pace is a race pace. You don’t run every 5k run at your race pace. The point is to just get time on your feet. I run many of my runs 8-9 minute pace, when my goal marathon pace is just under 7. 2. For your long runs pace it is really going to be a guide based upon your goal pace. For example let’s say you run a 1:45 HM. If your goal is truly to break 4 hour marathon then you just need to log the miles( ⬆️⬆️⬇️ or ⬆️⬆️⬆️⬇️) increasing mileage exactly as you said 2 miles a week then dropping 4 or so on the down weeks. However, if you have a 1:45 HM time and want to break3.5 hours you really need to push yourself when your legs are tired during your long runs. Example…8 miles warm up slow pace then run 8 miles progressing down from just over MP down to just under. 4 mile warm up then on off mile repeats for 10 miles with 2 mile cool down. 3. As for distance of long my first block never got past 18 but 16 was my mental hurdle I’ve never surpassed. Race got cancelled due to covid and never did a race but could have finished one. My second block I was in better shape so pushed training hard did a lot of progression or steady runs on back half of my long runs. Did a 22 miler on accident cause I took wrong turn was only supposed to do 20. That day just went out and cruised felt good just got distance in. First time doing 20+ so it was all about just cruising to feel comfortable with 3 hours on feet. This last block farthest I’ve gone is 20.5 but I did it twice with one week block in between doing 3X4 miles @MP in the middle of the workout. Though this is still 10k short I feel good the distance of 10k isn’t scary. 4. As for when to do these workouts personally I would say if your doing 16 week plan. Your biggest workouts distance wise 18-22 range would be week 11 and week 13. Good luck….try not to get addicted….between training…shoes…gear/gadgets…and new challenges you never thought you could do….its a lot and good luck!




> Lmao shit I'll just run those ones first This was really funny to me for some reason lol But yeah it's definitely mainly a mental thing for me. You're right though it'll probably feel like 6 miles is nothing once I'm 20 miles in. Thank you!




This is the way! I do mind tricks as well, it works every time..


I’m on week 13 of Higdon INT 1, so I just did 8 miles Saturday 18 Sunday. This is my first time running such distances and to say my body hurts is an understatement. Not injury, but every minor ache and pain I’ve had the past 6 months aches now. If you can do 22-23 miles in 3 hours go for it. But being on your feet for that long hurts. It just hurts. There seems to be consensus that runs over 3 hours see diminishing returns.


I’m contemplating Higdon Int 2 for my first marathon in the fall. Three 20-milers seems like it’s going to suck.


I had the same fear training for my first marathon. I extended my 20mile run to 22 miles and felt confident I could finish after that run. I did not hit the wall during training nor the marathon itself. Having said that, I agreed that it’s not necessary to run longer than 20 for your longest run. If you can run 18-20 mile during one training run, you have the ability to finish the marathon.


>For a bit of background: I'm 19F and have run competitively and pretty consistently for about 8 years Most people who run marathons are not competitive runners - we are merely competing against our personal performance. Since you are a competitive runner, I would seek advice from a couple of coaches for what fits your situation.


Yeah I just mentioned that part for context to explain that I've been running and racing for a pretty long time and have the experience to not mess myself up at lower training distances - like I didn't just wake up after never running in my life and decide I want to do a marathon with a 24 mile run in the training block, I've done training blocks before and know how/when I need to make adjustments. Basically a long winded way to say that I included that part to say that I'm not a new runner, just new to marathons.


It depends on how fast you are and what your running history / injury history is. Two rules of thumb: 1. Your long run should be between 10% - 20% slower than your goal marathon pace. (This is excluding long run with marathon pace runs, which are usually shorter than your true long run....usually like 16-18 miles total because of the higher intensity.) 2. You don't want your long run to be longer than three hours. That's when physical and mental fatigue increase....so risk of injury increases and reward of additional time on feet diminishes. So, if your goal marathon is 3:03 hrs (7:00 min/mile), you should be running "true" long runs at an average of just over 8:00 min/mile. (This would be a Pfitz style long run...first half at easy pace, 20% slower than MP....second half at steady pace, 10% slower than MP). You could do a 22 mile long run in under three hours. Provided you've got the mileage base and running history to do this, this would be standard for one or two runs in the Pfitz 18/70 or higher plans. If your goal marathon is 3:30 (8:00 min/mile), you'd be doing the same 50/50 style long run at an average pace of 9:12 min/mile. A twenty mile long run is already taking you over three hours. I would not go beyond that, without having a history of longer than 20 mile runs. If your goal marathon is slower than 3:30, I wouldn't consider running more than twenty. The best advice I can give is to find a good training plan that's appropriate for your level of training (Hal Higdon is more basic, Pfitz / Daniels are more advanced), follow it closely, run the plan at the correct paces, and run the distances that are prescribed in the plan.


It's fine, but bear in mind your overall volume and consistency in workouts is a much bigger factor in how well you'll do than how long you manage to get your longest run. Getting a 20 miler to 22 alone isn't going to do much to change the effect of your overall average volume during training.


My longest was 22 and I think it worked great. I honestly felt like running that far though, I didn’t force myself through any negative pain


The majority of reputable marathon plans include multiple runs that are 20 miles or longer. You can see a comparison in [this table](http://fellrnr.com/wiki/A_Comparison_of_Marathon_Training_Plans-Characteristics). There are a few exceptions, but it's pretty common to run that far if only to mentally prepare yourself for race day. Of course, the total distance is only one part of it. It's what you do during those runs that matters most. They don't have to have to be done at one particular speed, but running portions of them at marathon(esque) paces/efforts is fairly common.


There's a big difference between what's ok to do and what is most effective/efficient to do. Advice here and elsewhere clusters around avoiding injury on the one hand and maximizing performance output for training input on the other. There is not much said about the huge grey area in which you are not risking injury, but also not training maximally effectively, just squeezing in what you can manage given the constraints of your life. Working up to a really long long run is not the most effective training physically but it is hugely valuable when you have literally zero experience of running that far. It's the only chance you have to learn what it feels like, what might go wrong and what you can do about it. If you're going to do such a run at a similar pace to race pace, just realize that you will probably have to pad it with a little taper and recovery.


OK? Probably Ideal or necessary? No. You cannot avoid hitting the wall. It's going to happen. Especially because you are making the classic mistake of thinking long runs simulate the first miles of a marathon. They don't. If your training is structured properly they should be simulating the middle miles. Additionally you will be rested and fueled come race day and will likely run faster than in training. So different situation with different risks. Experience helps prevent a bonk. And even then it happens to everyone. Elites bonk sometimes. You don't need to run excessive long runs in training to be prepared for race day. Your long runs shouldn't make up more than 30% of your total weekly volume. If you are on a typical newbie training program almost certainly it's already violating that rule putting you at risk for injury. Don't compound that by extending the long run. If you want to be better prepared for race day ensure you are running a higher weekly volume (ideal is over 50 miles a week average). Don't know your training program being laid out but you probably would benefit from more weekly miles than long run miles. Again breaking that 30% rule adds risk, especially when your volume isn't high and you don't have experienced miles under your belt. It's better to show up to race day slightly under trained rather than show up over trained, under recovered, or injured. If you want to be well prepared for a marathon I recommend you get up to running 30-40 miles a week regularly for 3-4 months. Then start a solid quality training program like Pfitz, Hansons, Daniels etc. and again be running 50+ miles a week. Total weekly volume is what matters the most with long distance running, not long runs. Bonking is far more dependent on fueling and being well trained for the distance. The long run is only one run in your whole week. You are making the mistake of thinking only one run in your whole week matters. That whole week matters more than the long run. Tempos and threshold training will be more important to success than a long run.


Counter-argument to what appears to be the prevailing sentiment here. Consider your marathon to be just another part of your forever progressing training, potentially leading you to ultras. As such, a training 20 miler would clearly make sense.


I think my longest run before my marathon was 21 miles. On race day, I was in good shape until mile 23 and then my one knee and foot started aching. Last 3 miles was pure determination and will, but I think a lot of people would take that tradeoff over hitting the wall at 20.


I HIGHLY recommend training up to 22 miles! My first marathon, I only trained up to 18 and that was simply not enough. I crashed hard at mile 22. I finished, but it was brutal. My second marathon I trained up to 22 and never hit a wall. (To be fair I think I was more mentally prepared for my second one though). As for training, I would recommend a “drop down week” every 4-6 weeks to give your body a rest (below is a hypothetical example): Wk 1: 12 Wk 2: 14 Wk 3: 16 Wk 4: 12 Wk 5: 18 Wk 6: 20 Etc


You will need to run 26.2 miles for marathon.


Yikes I didn't know about that 😬😬😬 thanks for the warning




I'm training for a marathon in December but I insist on doing at least one 24 mile run, just to prove that I can get in the ballpark of a real marathon run. Now of course I'm going to back that up with 60-70 miles per week. IMO if you want the best possible chance of success for a first time marathon runner, it's better to do at least one run longer than 20 miles. Now if you don't care if you have to walk the last stage of the marathon then it's probably not necessary to take those extra long runs, but I want to be confident that I can run the whole thing without walking.


Plenty of people run their first marathon (and I do mean run) and never run more than a 20 miler in training. It’s the weekly volume and the consistency that really matters.


You'd like the guy I buy shoes from. Accomplished ultrarunner, 2:20 marathoner, who told me he's a big fan of the 30 mile training run and therefore zero surprises between miles 20 and 26.


Yeah I think the main reason I feel like I "need" a run >20 miles is a mental thing. I'm planning on walking through aid stations because that seems like the best time to do it so I can actually get water/drink properly, plus I've a friend who's done 3 marathons and she says she always walks the aid stations as a kind of controlled break.


All the other posts I've ever read on here say just don't run the full distance, not sure if that helps LOL.


No, it’s not okay.


Any run in training over 90-120 mins is just mind game. after that amount of time your chances of injury spike and you aerobic gain go to 0. better.


Follow a plan. Since you’re fast I’d recommend reading and doing Advanced Marathoning by PFitz. What people are not mentioning is that it’s not recommended to run longer than 20 miles because 20 miles takes 3-4+ hours for the average runner. Being on your feet and running for longer than 2 hours has shown to not offer significant improvements to the cardiovascular system. Being on your feet and running for longer than 3+ hours has shown to increase the risk of injury. 20 miles for 3 hours happens to be 9 min/mile so if you’re faster you can increase the miles a bit. Since it’s your first time I’d recommended getting up to 22 only if your body is healthy and feeling good. If anything is nagging or lingering or if your body is telling you to save yourself for marathon day listen to it and stop because anything over 2 hours will not improve your cardiovascular system significantly enough to aid your training.


I did 22 as my longest run for my first Marathon. For me it was just to know I could make it past the infamous 20 mile mark. I’ve done it for other marathons as well since it worked the first time. For my next however, I don’t plan on going more than 18-20 prior to the race.


A lot of what is sensible depends on you. For me to do 22-24 miles is over 4 hours and that has higher chance of injury and low chance of being beneficial. You can look at cumulative fatigue runs -so like say 10 miles Sat 22 miles Sunday. Plans like Hansons use this technique a lot and usually don’t have runners do single runs of over 18 miles


Some interesting comments here I’m also running my first marathon in October. Have previously done a 65k race over the Pennines but because of the terrain we were walking the steep inclines. It took us 10 hours to complete and came in the top ten teams. We had a hydration strategy of eating 60-70 cals every 20 mins throughout. Through training i experimented with precision hydration soluble tabs that kept cramping at bay. Hope this helps others


I'm part of a group training program for my first Marathon and this past weekend was my first 20 mile run. I will be running the marathon April 30th. I don't pretend that I expect to put down awesome numbers. Most of my training I've been doing over the past few months has felt like I'm hanging on. BUT I am seeing improvement, so I know I should likely finish, barring some unforeseen issues that crop up during the race. You sound like you're better acquainted with long distance runs so I'd expect it would be certainly doable.


Yes you can. BUT you have to give yourself time to recover from it. Some plans do up to 22-24 but you will see the last time you do that would be 3 weeks before race day as you begin your taper down.


Before my first marathon I ran a half marathon two weeks before (my longest run ever to that point) and assumed that was training enough. Not a good idea. I somehow survived it. I stepped in a hole on mile 19 and got a cramp that led to another cramp and then another...etc. Rough ending. Since then, I don't go above 20 to train mostly because I don't have the time to do much more than that. I feel like if I can get to 20, I'll figure the last 6 out.


It’s different for everyone. It’s important to remember your risk of injury goes up when you do runs past 20 miles, but I personally do at least one long run above 20 miles because it benefits me to know I can do it. I just keep it easy pace.


I think this depends on your goals. Mine have always been just to finish, in which case, if you can run over 20 miles go for it. If you are running for a specific time I’m sure there are various methodologies arguing for and against it and you should research those independently of my dumb advice haha.


Honestly, as long as you feel comfortable increasing your range, go for it. But make sure you also give yourself enough time to taper down before your race (2-3 weeks). Also, be sure to go by feel. If you’re doing a long run every week, “adding 2-3 miles per long run” sounds excessive. I’m in the throes of training for a race right now and I’m adding .8-1.0 miles per week on the long run, while adding 5-6 MPW. I’d prioritize a regular training schedule over just getting in a 22 mile run.


I've never ran a marathon before, so this is just my assumptions based on things I've read over the years (I'm signed up for one next year though!). But to me, it seems like it is more of a time issue than anything. People typically do 16 weeks training leading up to the marathon, and so if you're only increasing mileage by 10% each week, then that only leaves so much distance to increase your long run by. Similarly, doing a full marathon distance in your training takes up a lot of time. 18-20 miles vs 26.2 miles for example could be an extra 1-1.5 hours for most people. Then there is also the fact of for a lot of people there isn't much benefit in going past 20 miles. It all comes down to personal situation though. Taking me as an example, I am in a much more unique position to most probably. In that I am running Tough Mudder Infinities this year where I am hoping to manage 60km within the 9 hour time limit. But I am also running a half marathon a few months later, but because of the TMs I will probably be doing training runs further than a HM. Similarly, next year I have my first ever Marathon, but because it is a full year out (Next April) I can use this time and my TM training runs etc to slowly and constantly push my long runs to longer and longer distances, and there is no reason why I can't go past 26.2 miles given enough time and dedication. I also am tempted to try an Ultra once I can get a Marathon under my belt too, which gives more reasons to increase my training runs to be longer than the usual 18-20 miles most do. TL;DR - I guess my point is that yes it is fine to do longer training runs, it all comes down to personal situation and how your body copes with the plan you have set out.


I ran the full marathon distance once in training, I don't think it was a bad idea to get a sense for it, even just the psychology, I also thought "I'm nearly there, if I do one now, then at least I achieved it, in case something bad happens before race day". Remember the wall doesn't always apply, if you're moving at a sustainable pace for your level of fitness and you remain hydrated and well fed then you won't hit a wall at all. But you'd have to be conditioned beyond the requirements of your race day goals, and extra volume in the week is going to pay more dividends then pushing your long run further and further... Even ultra runners don't often train at those distances. There are other things you can do that are less risky.


Yes it's OK.


It's fine to go as long as you want. Just remember that your fitness increases when you are recovering from and adapting to your run, not when you are putting in the effort itself. Most plans don't have you going past 20, because for most folks doing so can add a day or two to your recovery. So, you're making a trade-off: getting a few extra miles in your long run, in exchange for a day or two of miles, or one workout, you could be doing the next week. For some, this would be an OK trade-off - having confidence that you can go the distance needed is important, and if this is what you need to do to get that confidence, go for it. Just recover well, let your body adapt, and don't get injured. First-timers and young folks tend to thing that, in training, doing more more more faster faster faster will always benefit you. It's not true. Sometimes less is more. At the very least, make sure you get to the starting line uninjured and with frisky legs.


You're less likely to hit the wall with increased overall training volume/weekly mileage than increasing length of individual runs.


I think it’s a sound plan but try adding in a half marathon before you tackle 20 miles. I’m running the virtual marathon in October but only run a half so far. The aim is in the summer to run 20 miles and then September another half. If you’re in the UK and nearby be happy to have a running buddy