Lessons Learned From Marathon Runners

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Marathon is a classic distance of 42,195km and is the ultimate challenge for a runner. I have run Hamburg Marathon a couple of years ago and I learned some lessons from the experienced marathon runners that I think many cyclists can take advantage of: 

1 - Focus on a main goal

Marathon runners are very selective when they plan their season. They choose two or three main goals during the year and use all their effort to make a top performance on race day. I know that cyclists do a lot more races than runners do, but it is recommendable to select specific races to peak in.

One of the big differences between Lance Armstrong and other riders is that he used to focus on the Tour de France as his main goal, where his opponents had several other goals during the season (World cup, Pro Tour, World Championships, Olympics). With only a few main goals it is possible to reach a higher level of performance in these hand picked races.

2 – Make a training plan with a specific goal

Marathon runners have a training plan focusing on peak their form at the main event of the season. I believe it is easier to stick to a training plan when there is a goal to achieve. That is exactly what marathon runners have: The last day in their training calendar is the marathon itself.  

3 – Use a tapering protocol

Marathon runners use different kinds of tapering protocols the last two or three weeks before the marathon race day. Again, these runners are very selective and are not afraid of deselect races as a part of preparation for the big event.

4 – Train with higher intensity

Even though marathon is a long distance event most training is performed at a relatively high intensity compared to long distance cycling. By training with a higher intensity marathon runners achieve better results in less time.

Learn more from marathon runners: Important lessons from marathon runners.

3 comments… add one
  • Dennis Jurs Link


    I did the 2 week VO2 max program as you outlined. It is very structured and challanging, but it does not leave you drained like longer consecutive rides may do. After words I did another 5 min max test after about 6 days of easy riding and my data showed a 70 watt improvement (functional threshold power accoring to Power Tap power Agent software ). Is this for real or am I looking at the wrong thing?


    Dennis Jurs
    Team Mack Racing

  • 70W improvement is probably not a real imprvement. If you’ve performed your absolutely best at both tests then there is probably an error in your measurement or analysis. Most riders have reported improvements in the range 10 to 25W.


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