Two back-to-back marathon training cycles, similar training: what happened? (Read 972 times)


    If you had a really solid cycle where you trained hard, got in the miles, etc., ran a marathon, then did it all over again and had yet another good training cycle, say, w/in 6 months or so of the first race, how much did you improve your time?   

    I'm curious.  I see a lot of people who drop mad time from one cycle to the next, but there are lots of other factors at play (i.e., they up their mileage considerably, lose a lot of weight, or start doing speed work when they had not done any prior).  Obviously the two training cycles in question won't be identical, but assuming that you trained similarly as hard for both, I am wondering how much you improved, personally.  If you fit the description, I'm interested in hearing about how much time you slashed off your PR. (I'm not asking you to guess what will happen to me...that's impossible to do; I just wanted some first-hand accounts, if possible).

    Jeff F

    Free Beer

      There are so many factors, as you state in your message, that impact performance.  Here is my experience. I highlighted the marathons where I PR'd.  Since 10/2009 I have not trained as hard and therefore my times are going the other direction.  I also happen to be 53


      Oct 2006 - 4:28, first marathon

      May 2007 - 3:59

      Sept 2007 - 4:10, crashed and burned in the heat

      Jan 2008 - 3:44

      Oct 2008 - 3:56, first BQ attempt, crashed and burned in the heat at Chicago

      April 2009 - 3:51

      Oct 2009 - 3:34

        I dropped 2½ minutes off my half marathon time following a similar training schedule a year later.  (same race)


        I'd say I was fairly well-trained for both, if you can say I've ever been well trained .


        My second marathon will be this spring, same sort of idea, slightly improved version of the same training plan. I've basically taken 6 months off this year, so we'll see the effect of having done it before.

        [Competitive] Jerk

          Depends on how long someone's been doing it. If you're relatively new to marathoning you can improve off of the same mileage and type of workouts drastically. However I think most people start tweaking their plans and increasing mileage for each successive marathon experience so finding runners who do the same cycle twice in a row will probably be tough to do.


          BTW, hi from Dailymile, I recognized your photo!


          I improved 23 minutes on my marathon PR in 2 years but I had injuries, different cycles and running higher mileage than before.

            Someone on here posted a really good article/blog a while back about training cycles with a metaphor of gears in a car...anyone still have that link?



              BTW, hi from Dailymile, I recognized your photo!


              Hi, Greg!  I am a DM drop out...I felt like I was over-extended/had to record my stuff in too many places so I dropped out.  Or maybe it was b/c you were always #1 on the leaderboard and that pissed me off.  Big grin  No - kidding - I'm not on there anymore.


              You all gave me some great input/information.  I appreciate you taking the time to do so! 

              Feeling the growl again

                Running improvement is not linear.  Similar training has gotten me anything from nothing to 7 minutes off an already solid time.

                "If you want to be a bad a$s, then do what a bad a$s does.  There's your pep talk for today.  Go Run." -- Slo_Hand


                I am spaniel - Crusher of Treadmills



                levitation specialist

                  What's your goal, RM2B? You amazed everybody with your first one, is this for the race AT Boston?


                  Chief Unicorn Officer

                    My marathon times are pretty bad compared to the rest of my race times, but I'm just not a marathoner.  For what it's worth, though, my first marathon was a 4:25, and my second a 4:07.  Mind you, I wasn't doing a WHOLE lot of miles and zero speedwork.  At any rate, one big factor that I thought made a huge difference was simply the experience of having already run a marathon.  You know better what to expect, you know what the later parts are going to feel like so you can adjust and anticipate earlier, stuff like that.  I think experience is a big help.

                    Mile 5:49 - 5K 19:58 - 10K 43:06 - HM 1:36:54

                      I commend you on your marathon time after 7 months of training. That is great. The more you run over time, makes you a stronger and more efficent runner. It is like adding money to your bank. Adding miles and not necessarily more speed work will also continue your improvement. More and more speedwork is not the solution to a faster marathon time. You have talent! Train smart and you will get better and better.

                      Those who try, fail! Those who do what it takes to succeed, succeed!!

                        I've run marathons 6 months apart off of basically the same training plan 5 different times and to Spaniel's point my progress has been quite non-linear and includes all manner of weather, sickness, injury and race execution.


                        1. Oct 2000 / April 2001:



                        3:11:42 (+ 2:02)


                        2. Apr 2002 / Oct 2002:



                        2:57:46  (- 3:27)


                        3. Oct 2007 / Apr 2008:



                        3:03:57 (+ 8:52)


                        4. Apr 2008 / Oct 2008:



                        2:49:19 (- 14:52)


                        5. Apr 2009 / Oct 2009:



                        2:53:25 (-1:28)

                        Runners run.

                          2010 I ran Paris in April (3:30) and Amsterdam in October (3:21). In the build up to both I got minor injuries that meant a little bit of time out.


                          Amsterdam remains my PB... and was the last in a sequence of about 7 marathons where I had improved each time. Since then I've had a couple of runs where I was probably in at least as good shape on the day, but very hot weather meant I couldn't run as fast. Amsterdam was near-perfect marathon running conditions on that occasion.

                            I think I've said this to you before, but I think you can drop some sick time off your first, just by doing similar training again. But now you have one training cycle of experience, so you can use the signals you learned to know when to back off and when to push during training.


                            Sorry, like GTR mentioned, I'm one of those who tweaked something, so I don't fit the profile of the runner you're looking for to answer your question.


                              I'm interested in this as well.  Today was the start of Pfitz 18/55 for me for a spring marathon.  I did the same program for TCM in Oct.  That was my 3rd marathon, but the first that I trained for with a non-beginner program (the kind that are just focused on getting your long run up to 20 miles, basically.)  My marathon times have been 5:01:45, 4:25:44, and then 3:53:21 off the Pfitz 18/55 cycle.  I'm hoping just repeating the same training, but now having more of a milage base, and more of an idea of what training paces should be in the ballpark of will be enough to PR again.  I don't realistically have time to run much more milage ( I do add some easy miles already, and I like to run at least 6 days a week so I end up a little ahead on milage from the printed schedule) and Pfitz worked well for me last time, so I'm giving it another go. 

                              Of course, as you mention, many factors are at play, and who knows what will happen along the way.

                                The body adapts when we stimulate it with new training. The first time you did the plan, your body may have adapted really well, and your fitness improved greatly. But those very adaptions will keep you from growing the next time. Often what we need is not "the right" training, but simply new training that works the body in different ways.


                                This, incidentally, is a primary reason why so many runners improve when they get a coach. They start doing something different and lo and behold they see improvement.