Ironman: How much run training do I need?

Do you want to go long but worry about niggling injuries? We take a look at how to prepare for the marathon

(Image: José Luis Hourcade)

Assuming you have the correct equipment in place (well-cushioned, supportive shoes that have less than 600 miles on the clock), time management is the best area to concentrate on. Running is all about learning your own body and how it reacts to different training loads.


Ironman is going to require some kind of mileage base, but probably not much intensity. The good news is you can log in some easy, long miles on forgiving surfaces such as well-manicured parkland or woodchip trails. Don’t worry about getting up on your toes or forcing anything, that’s often when the worse cases of shin splints hit.

Next, you need to ascertain at what distance problems start to occur. A world record-holder for the mile discovered he couldn’t run further than five miles without pain, so on longer days (he believed in 100-mile weeks), he ran three five-milers to get the miles in! Similarly, on an Ironman long run training day, can you do two one-hour or even three 45-minute runs?

Being triathletes, we’re lucky in that we can manage training levels simply by doing the swimming and cycling elements – cycle two hours, then run just 20 minutes afterwards and you’ll have a good endurance day. Indeed, there are many national-class runners struggling with injury who have used exactly that formula on their endurance days.

If you work to roughly three runs a week, you should just about be okay. Yes, you’ll read of many more (these very pages included), but that’s in a ‘perfect world’ scenario and few of us occupy that. However, if you make a plan to run three times a week, you’ll be surprised at the mental confidence hitting that goal provides. And just to get you in the right frame of mind, the latest research says three times a week is actually better for you than any more.

You also have to make sure you don’t hurry anything. The athletes I coach who have suffered with shin splints are the ones who have jumped into full-out training. They’ve gone from nothing to training every day (and often in track spikes). Ease yourself into it. Marathon preparation is all about building pyramids – and the Egyptians took a long time over them!


For lots more Ironman advice head to our Long-Distance section