Adjusting Marathon Training for Illness/Injury

So back to some running talk today! It’s taken me a lot longer to get over my cold than I originally thought – typically when I’m sick, it affects my running for a day or two so I either try to make up missed workouts later in the week or just jump right back into my plan when I’m recovered. But this time around, my cold affected my running for much longer; after two low mileage weeks, I knew I couldn’t just jump right into the next week as planned (going from 20 miles to 40+ miles=not a good idea).

Here’s how I adjusted my training to account for the low mileage weeks and ramp back up again, and some tips for how to adjust your training plan to do the same.

Training Plan Before
plan part 2 v2
Training Plan After
plan part 2 v3

  1. Adjust mileage to ramp up slowly – Rule of thumb: if you’ve been sick for a week or less, you can ramp up 10% from the week prior. For two weeks off, I’d recommend repeating a similar mileage to the week before you were sick and ramping up from there (that’s what I did in this case). Increasing weekly mileage by more than 10% is the surest way to cause overuse or other running injuries, as I can attest! If you’ve been sick for longer than 2-3 weeks, you might want to start over from a reasonable base mileage-type week again – whatever your mileage looked like prior to training.  I also gave myself an additional cross-training/rest day for the first couple of weeks in place of a run day for a slower ramp-up.
  2. Be conservative with intense workouts – similar to the above tip, you may want to replace the first couple of intense workouts with easy runs or easier workouts. Give your body some time to strengthen and toughen up again. For me, this meant re-doing some skipped speed workouts on Tuesdays, pushing the first strength workout on Tuesday into week 12.  That means I’ll miss a strength workout later on, but I’m okay with that.
  3. Re-consider your race goal – this is a big (and painful) one.  I know from the past that I’ve tried to jump right back into training with the same paces for workouts as before so that I didn’t have to change my goal for the race.  But I’ve learned that even two weeks off can significantly impact my training, and it’s far better to back off an aggressive goal and relax my expectations than to drive myself to finish workouts at a punishing pace and get burnt out or injured.  In my case, I’m adjusting my goal race time from 4:00 to 4:10, which makes my workout paces doable and more enjoyable :) In the past, there have been times when I abandoned a time goal altogether and focused my training on getting fit enough to finish the race.
  4. Make sleep/nutrition a priority – This isn’t related to your training plan, but it’s so important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as you push your body back into training.  I’m making sure I’m getting lots of protein/veggies, drinking water, and getting to bed early to hit those AM workouts again ;)

I know it’s hard to abandon time goals and change training plans when you’ve paid for the race/ travel and have your heart set on a big PR.  I guess it helps me to remember that there will always be another race, another training cycle and the miles I put in now will help towards future goals.  For me, 4:10 will be a big PR anyway, and given my long illness/injury (hamstring, hyperthyroidism) earlier this year, I’m treating this training cycle as solid base-building for an awesome racing year in 2017.

Week 6 Training Log

Week 7 Training Log

Week 8 Training Log


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