So you want to get faster, maybe break three hours in a marathon or maybe … just maybe qualify for the Olympic trials. No matter where you are in your running career, you can.
But, Jasmine! A lot of these competitive women train a whopping 80, 90, 100 miles or more per week. I don’t have enough time to do that. How can I ever be that fast?
You can. I want to put to rest the misconception that training for big dreams requires an ambiguously large amount of time and nothing better to do. The truth is that putting in the work to train at a competitive level doesn’t really take up that much time.
I don’t want to tell you that you can have it all. But even if you have kids, a demanding career, or need to go home every four hours to let a dog out, you probably have time to train as much as the average elite runner. I want to reinforce that the amount of time it takes to train for big running dreams is finite. It is not a full time job. Actually it isn’t even close to being a job. Something like 70-80 miles per week is probably only a few more hours than you are doing right now especially if you are in a fitness routine and maintaining very good athletic shape.
The amount of time it takes to be dedicated to taking on your big running dreams is probably something you can handle with a full time job and maybe even kids. For example, I peaked at 93 miles per week training for my 2:54 Columbus race. In the longest week, I didn’t even hit 13 hours. I did this while ultracommuting between two states and working a full time engineering job.
Women training at 120 miles per week may be around 16 hours per week…. but that is still a manageable level. Canada’s top marathon runner, Lanni Marchant is a criminal defense attorney. My pick for the third spot on the US Olympic team, Annie Bersagel, is an attorney living in Norway. Hanson Original Distance Project’s team runs twice a day while working in the stores and doing their side coaching gigs.
I think the misconception that elite-level training demands so much time comes from the desire for an excuse and from things elite athletes say that get taken out of context. When American running hero Desiree Linden says something like training for a marathon is a lifestyle she doesn’t think she could have balanced as a full time student, we are all quick to assume that means she didn’t have time to train as a student.
On Sunday Alana Hadley lined up to race the NYC Marathon only for her day to end in a severely disappointing DNF. She and her father stand as a high profile example of an athlete and coach criticized for all the things we would expect: 18 year-old woman trading grades and social life for running 120 miles per week and having it backfire. See! She’s spending too much time training!
But at 120 miles per week, how much could Hadley be running? 16 hours? if she was just a responsible eighteen year old, she would already be showering and doing some sort of exercise every day anyway. Aren’t her classmates already spending more time than this on football, band or beer pong?
So guys, what would it take me to convince you that to shoot for big dreams you don’t have to dedicate an impossibly unpredictable amount of time to running? There are a lot of women at the top of this sport that literally have nothing better to do, but there are also a lot of women like Lanni and Annie than have high stress full time jobs. Some have jobs and kids. Some hove jobs with lots of travel.
We write about all the tricks here, like multitasking and run commuting. But what I’m proposing to you here is that the amount of time you need to train like an elite is manageable and predictable. It is something you can write on your calendar and something you can figure out how to fit in every day. If you are already a responsible adult that showers every day and exercise enough to be in very good shape, it is just a another level of dedication and not that much more time.
I’m not saying that out of your 168 hour week, you should be able to recoup a bunch of waste. We are all busy. What I’m saying is that if you are dedicated to your dreams in this sport, something like 13 hours is a reasonable amount of time to fit into a 168 hour week for a few months out of the year. You just have to choose this sport over whatever other sports, hobbies or time wasters you spend your week on and take multitasking bonuses when you get the chance. (Personally, favorite multitasking bonus is getting in an hour and a half of TV on the treadmill every day in the winter.)
You have the time to train like an elite. Will you take it?