Should Triathletes Run a Marathon in the Off-Season?


Here we are, late October.  For most triathletes, the season is done or maybe there is one more to go before it’s time to switch to an off-season training plan and start looking forward to 2017 race plans.  Everyone’s season is just a little different depending on where you live, your first race, your last race of the season and, very importantly, that “A” race of the season.

It’s completely normal (and beneficial) to want to do something different, switch gears a little.  As a triathlon coach, a question I get a lot: “Should I run a marathon in the off-season?”  The answer isn’t so simple.  For some people, yes, sure.  For others, no, you shouldn’t.  There are also those I would say “No, are you crazy? Don’t even think about it.”

Step back and ask yourself why you want to do this marathon.  Is it for fun? (ok, yes, marathons CAN be fun). Is it a “bucket list” item?  Are you just trying to check it off your list, say – for something like doing one in all 50 states?  Are you trying to qualify for Boston?  Are you trying to be competitive?  What is your ultimate goal?

The next thing you need to do is figure out how (if at all) it plays into your season.  Take into account your races, goals and time of year.  Are you allowing for enough training time?  Are you allowing enough time for recovery?  It can be a challenge to put it all together, but if you want to get your best result, it is important for you to take the time to map out your game plan.

Now, I’m not saying I haven’t done a marathon in my off-season.  In fact, I’ve done many of them.  I can say I have done it wrong, but I have also done it right.  I’ve worked with hundreds of athletes who have done the same thing.  Here is a quick list of whether or not an off-season marathon makes sense for you:

Reasons you should run a marathon:

  • You are a triathlete looking to build to your first Ironman
  • Your goal is to get to Boston
  • Your running goals are more important to you than triathlon goals

Reasons you should not run a marathon:

  • You have been injured for most of this year
  • You’ve scheduled an Ironman less than 6 months after the marathon
  • You are new to Ironman and marathon and want to “get a marathon in” before your Ironman and do them within the same season

Those of you who are more experienced, the same rules do not apply.  It is also different if you are just trying to “finish” vs. put out a top performance.  It’s very common for Ironman athletes to plan a marathon four to eight weeks after their race because the “fitness is already there.”  Yes, the fitness is there, but there also must be recovery time incorporated into the plan.  Unless you walked that entire Ironman marathon, you are going to need a few weeks of recovery where you are not running at all.  It’s important to make sure you are able to take some down time before a small build up and then running another marathon.  To ignore the proper recovery is a surefire way to earn yourself an injury.

Need some help planning out your racing season?  Wondering if incorporating a marathon in your off-season would benefit your training or set you back?  Contact me and we can walk through a plan together!



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