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The 16 Best Tips for Treadmill Marathon Training

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

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There could be a lot of reasons why you are going to run a treadmill marathon. Whether you are running early in the morning or late at night and you’re worried about running out in the dark. Or you’re worried about potential safety issues, traffic issues, or air pollution issues. The treadmill is a great running tool, but because we’re stuck inside sometimes it can be a little boring.

In this article, we are going to give you the 16 best tips for running a treadmill marathon indoors.

An athlete doing a treadmill marathon
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Dos and Don’ts of Marathon Training on Treadmill

1. Interval Training

Some of the things we can do are interval training. Those are definitely going to help increase our pace in our actual overall endurance levels. 

Interval training (HIIT) has proven to help us with our endurance levels more than just endurance training, which means keeping a pace over a certain period of time and holding that pace. Also, interval training has shown that we can increase our amount of endurance in a quicker time.

2. Bring a Bottle of Water

Make sure you bring a water bottle. You are going to get a little dehydrated. Especially if your room or gym is a little warm.

Two women at the gym performing a treadmill marathon
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3. Reach Nearly That Distance During Training

How far do you need to run in order to train for a marathon? The first thing you’ll do after signing up for your first marathon after maybe having a slight panic is to figure out your training. And the only thing scarier than realizing that you’ll be running 26.2 miles, is knowing that you’ll have to reach nearly that distance, at least once during training.

There are a few different schools of thought when it comes to how long your longest run should be when you’re training for a marathon. And before we dive into looking into what those are, it’s important to recognize that actually spending time on your feet can be just as important as focusing on the actual mileage that you’re doing in the long run. 

And after all, there’s a big difference between an elite marathon runner going out and running 24 miles in training, which might only take them about two and a half hours, and a novice marathon runner, who’s looking to break. And for them, 24 miles might take four and a half hours.

4. Use a Training Plan

You need to be sensible in your buildup to long runs. Don’t come late to your preparation and then try and suddenly hit some long runs out of nowhere. 

To get the maximum benefit and to minimize your risk of injury, to recover properly, you need to be following a sensible structured training plan. And with that, you’ll see a gradual increase in mileage, both in terms of your overall training and also your weekly long run.

5. Don’t Run Too Long

The thing with long runs is that it’s going to take you a long time to recover afterward. So you don’t want to dig yourself so deep in training that you then don’t give yourself enough time to recover, ready for race day. And the thing with not being able to recover can lead to fatigue and also a poor performance come race day. 

So you need to make sure that you don’t run too long in the long run on your treadmill so that you give your body time to recover.

If you’re training, the upper limit is say three hours and 15 minutes for your long run, then stick to that, regardless of what mileage you’ve actually reached in that time. That’s going to give you a good run in the bank come race day, without risking pushing you over the edge. 

So bearing in mind what we’ve just said about an upper limit, let’s have a look at what some of the traditional marathon training plans say when it comes to running your long runs. Also, let’s talk about the things that we should take into consideration when approaching it too. So there are several different approaches. For example, there’s the Hanson marathon plan.

6. The Hanson Marathon Plan

Now that takes the approach that you’re running six, maybe more runs a week with a pretty high overall mileage, but your longest run is only 16 miles. The Hanson Marathon Method works on the principle that you’re already running on tired legs. So the term is cumulative fatigue. Now this plan isn’t for everyone. So that’s something to bear in mind as well.

7. Individual Needs

Now, if you’re paying a coach to set your training plan, then that should be tailored to your individual needs. But a lot of the good online plans look towards a long run of something around 20 miles. Now, a lot of coaches do agree that pushing much beyond 20 miles, isn’t going to bring you any benefits and might actually bring drawbacks in terms of increased injury risk and a longer recovery time. 

8. Don’t Focus on Long Runs

Another thing that these plans also agree on is that the long run is just one component of marathon training and should run alongside things like interval training and tempo runs, and even some easier running as well. 

Your entire training for an indoor marathon, shouldn’t be solely focused just on your long run. While you’re building up your long runs, the temptation is to go out there and just get it done and know that you can cover the distance or hit a certain mileage in a certain time. 

9. Hit Marathon Pace

But another thing to think about on your long runs is hitting the target marathon pace. Especially, if you have a goal target time in mind for your entire marathon on a treadmill. And it’s really important to get an idea of what that target pace really feels like. Doing it in your long run can really have a big training benefit. It can also help break up those long runs and get through them a little bit easier. 

So, think about trying out your target marathon pace during some of your longer runs. So you could maybe look at doing four 15-20 minutes at a target marathon pace with five minutes of easy running recovery in between. Or you could also have a go at alternating your kilometers, during your long runs. So, do a kilometer at a target marathon pace, and then a kilometer at an easy pace for 10-20 kilometers of your long run. 

10. Perform A Progression Run

Another thing that you can do is look to hit that marathon goal pace towards the very end of your long runs. You could do this as a kind of progression run where you start very slowly and build up through hitting the marathon pace right at the end. The nice thing about that is as soon as you’ve got to that race pace and done a bit of work there, you can stop. 

So we mentioned building up sensibly, and what you don’t want to be doing is running too far. But when should you run your longest workout?

People at the gym doing a treadmill marathon training
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11. Don’t Run Your Longest Training Too Close to Race Day

Don’t run your longest workout too close to race day because you’ll go into race day, having tired legs then. The most common advice is to run your longest run around three to four weeks from race day. And it’s important not to be tempted to bring that long run closer to race day, just because you had to miss some training through illness or through a niggle. You’re going to compromise your ability to recover.

Once you’ve banked your longest run on a treadmill, you are going to still need to carry on training up until race day. But make sure that you use that time to focus on recovery.

So we’ve talked about the distance and the time that you should be covering on your long runs. So let’s have a little look at some of the other things that you should be considering when going on long runs as well. 

12. Create Your Hydration and Nutrition Strategy

So one of the most important things that you need to get right, and to practice well ahead of race day is your hydration and nutrition strategy. Check out when you’re going to get the hydration, nutrition, that energy, and water that you’re going to need. 

13. Walk Breaks

The other thing that we recommend people do is to take regular walk breaks. It is counterintuitive to some experienced runners. They think that walking is failing. But taking walk breaks allows a runner to maintain perfect form longer. 

14. Slow Down Gradually

After finishing your treadmill marathon indoors, allow your heart rate to gradually come down to the normal range. 

15. Outdoor Running

If you are looking to run a marathon outside, you are going to have to do some outside running. Especially if you have some races in the summertime. You need to get accustomed to those outdoor elements, running on those surfaces in order to see any results. 

Probably the best way to decrease your running time is to run outside and stay away from the treadmill. Although there are some things that we can do on the treadmill that will help us outside. But there is nothing better to help us to accomplish our goals than running outside.

16. Don’t Forget About Towel

Make sure you bring a towel. Especially if you are going to run a marathon. You’re probably going to sweat a lot and drip all over the place. That’s always a nice way to mop yourself up.

A woman preparing a treadmill marathon
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Treadmill Marathon: FAQs

Can you run a marathon on a treadmill?

You can run a marathon on a treadmill. But you should consider all the pros and cons. However, running on a treadmill can be a useful training tool. The treadmill is going to be useful especially if we are in a race season. The treadmill is going to help to save the joints in our lower body by not exposing them to the outside elements.

Is it easier to run a marathon on a treadmill?

Using the treadmill to run a marathon is a good thing for many experienced marathon runners because the deck does absorb some of the shocks. It can help to reduce the impact of the many miles that you’re putting on throughout the months of training. Additionally, for those of you who find long runs to be a little boring, this might be your opportunity to catch up on one of those TV shows.

If you want to train on a treadmill, this cardio machine ensures that you can mimic the route where you’re going to be running your race. If you don’t have hills in your area, this is a great way to utilize the incline function and make sure that you’re mimicking exactly what you need to do on race day.


Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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