How to run a marathon with as little run training as possible

Hi All,

What is the minimum run miles/ run training you think is needed, whilst being a moderately fit cyclist (ftp of 194, weight 57 kg), to run a marathon?

I used to run a lot before cycling (5 miles every day/other day) for a few years, but due to injuries (shin splints and more recently knee issues), I had to give up running. When i do the odd run now, i find cardio-wise i’m fine, it’s the muscles that let me down. I’ve always wanted to do a marathon, so got thinking what is the minimum amount of run training needed, to run a marathon (ideally around 4h, but would still be happy if it was longer than that).

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.


I think you answered your own question by having to give up running due to injuries…

I think the limiter will be how resiliant your body is.

Try adding 2 or 3 runs a week with increasing millage and see how you progress.

For me (aged 53 and run on and off all my life) I guess it’d be maybe 3 months to complete a marathon without injuring myself, but we are all different


This is the classic conundrum of cyclists trying to run…you have the cardo but not the chasis. You have a 452 engine but it is stuffed into a VW Beetle body.

Start slow and add a short 1 mile run after a few rides per week and then add more distance slowly to those rides. That way you are getting an extended cardio workout but finishing it running. As you add more distance, start to reduce the bike time.

And run really slow to start…laughably slow.

I would also recommend looking into the BarryP or a 1/2/3 running plan. Those types of plans emphasize shorter duration but higher frequency runs. It is easier on your body.


When I first started running just for exercise I started running a few miles per week. I got the idea of running a marathon. I read a Hal Higdon marathon book that was meant to get a runner to the start line uninjured and ready to go. The max weekly mileage was 40 miles and that would include an 18-20 (if I remember correctly there was only 2 20 milers) mile run. There was always two days off during the week and most runs were 5-8 miles aside from the long run. The program worked out well for me, I finished in 3:54 or 3:56.

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My brother just ran a half with no training. He’s 90kg. You can do it you just need to go slow


Link to the BarryP Training Plan…;search_string=runtraining;#1612485

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Your fitness is fine from cycling and your muscles are either ok already or will quickly adapt. What takes longer is the connecting tissue: tendons, etc.

Run 3 or 4 times a week for just a really short distance (1 mile, 2 miles) at first and build up slowly. The adaptations that you’re looking for take place in like the first 20 minutes. So do little and often for a month and gradually build.

Don’t worry about running slow. If you joined a running club they’d have you running intervals. Just not too many of them. Running fast makes you run efficiently and running efficiently means that you pick up good form. Good form means fewer injuries.

A marathon is a pretty long way and it can really hurt if you haven’t adapted your legs. If you do it right though it’s a pretty cool experience. It’ll still hurt though :slight_smile:


Wow, that’s amazing!! I feel that i could do a 1/2 marathon now without training, but it wouldn’t be pretty

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Yeah, he said it was rough, his time was slow but it got done.

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Thank you and thanks to @RCC - you’re both saying the same thing. I didn’t think of doing frequent short miles, I would have just built weekly mileage to my once a week run.

The idea came about from rock climbing…how little rock climbing can you do to maintain fitness, if you’re doing upper body strength work 2-3 times/week (no rock climbing during lockdown). The answer was very little rock climbing was needed. Endurance suffered, but strength was really good (maybe better than before).

Thank you!! Quick skim of the first link, looks interesting!

For your needs, you shouldn’t have to go past the first link…everything else starts to get a bit advanced and probably not necessary, Even when I was doing IM’s / triathlons, I never really got past the first link as I was focused on endurance / volume.


Do you want to complete a marathon or do you want to race a marathon?

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That’s good to know, as there is a lot there :)!

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Completing will be more than expected, so would be fine.

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If your main goal is completion, I’d think you’d probably be fine with a simple ‘couch to marathon’ plan- the main focus of those is just progressively building volume and the weekly long run, so as long as you’re keeping most of it relatively easy it’ll do the job without being overly specific or having to worry about speedwork etc. Depending on what you’re doing on the bike you could probably sub out some of the shorter easy runs for rides and/or move any intensity to the bike (probably a safer bet if you’re injury-prone and newer to running, plus might be more specific if your main focus is still cycling performance-wise and the marathon is more of a completion thing.)

Provided you don’t have a particular event in mind, I’d probably opt for a longer plan- keeping it easy will help as others have noted, but ramp rate is a factor in any case and a more conservative approach is usually your best bet, especially if you’ve got other sports in the mix.


I’m doing to sweet spot low volume plan, currently in base phase and you’re right, cycling is my main sport, however, just wondered how well cycling fitness translates to running and have always wanted to run a marathon.

As stated above; cycling will make you fit. Cycling uses some of the same muscles and tendons but not that many. Just as walking uses some but it’s not exactly the same as running. You will need to train your body to use muscles like calf’s in a new way.

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+1 for what @toribath said above!

From someone who was “once runner,” who now mostly mountain bikes… I think the aerobic fitness carries over really well. That said, when coming from a non-impact sport such as swimming or biking often the engine is bigger than the chassis. What I mean is, it is going to take some time for the body to adjust to the pounding and impact that comes with running.

Personally I took a break from running as it seemed after every run some old injury (from years of running) would always pop up and needed days to recover. So this time when I started out I started with a 1 min run, 1 min walk… then 2 min run, 1 min walk… etc. I also ran with my son and was running much slower than I wanted and could. Looking back, as much as I just wanted to “go,” it really helped my body adjust to the impact of running again. I get more joy from biking than running these days but I still go out for a run now and then… and needless to say it is much more fun when you aren’t injured.

My advice would be to keep crushing the cycling workouts, keep those long rides for endurance and start small with the running. As you add more running reduce the cycling until you find that balance of staying healthy and maximizing fitness.

Best of luck to you!


I have asperations to running a marathon and its on top of a bucket list of things to do for me. I’m a life long cyclist and lately have been forcing myself to run once a week. I’ve talked to many runner/bikers and they all say eventually i’d need to focus on running more and give up the bike, which i have not been willing to do. So, there’s that.
They all have said that if you question whether you can finish a marathon then go and watch one and see that you don’t have to be a crazy skinny, fast person to just finish, all types do finish.

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