It's basically a given that training for a marathon requires a lot of running.
But what amount of weekly mileage makes for the most optimal training program? Well, the short answer to the question: for most runners, the more miles covered, the better.
As trainingscience.net points out, there is a pretty significant amount of literature indicating that a runner's marathon performance will improve with more weekly mileage covered over the course of a training period.
The site’s author writes:
"There is a school of thought that basically states ‘you can’t really race a marathon until you are averaging at least 60 miles per week.’ The meaning being that you may be able to complete a marathon on less than 60 miles per week, but to perform optimally (i.e. ‘race it’) requires a minimum weekly mileage of 60 miles."
In other words, when training for a marathon weekly training volume likely plays a significant role in overall race performance.
Not only is there plenty of research to back up this claim, but a recent analysis of data from 27,000 RunKeeper users supports the same idea.
Over the course of a typical 16-week marathon training period, Runner's World and RunKeeper compared the app users' average weekly training mileage with their marathon finish times and found that on average, runners who covered more weekly mileage wound up with faster finish times.
According to the report, 62 percent of the users who averaged 31 to 38 miles each week finished their marathon in four hours or faster. That means, the recommendation of 60 miles per week mentioned earlier is a bit on the extreme side (an elite runner might cover that kind of distance), but that if you're aiming to finish in a specific amount of time or hope to set a PR, increasing your training volume is likely a step in the right direction.
However, as writer and runner Kieran Alger pointed out on his blog Man v Miles, just because there's a good amount of research that supports this training strategy, doesn't necessarily mean it's the right approach for every athlete.
"As ever, I think it’s really important to understand that what works for some might not work for you, he wrote. “It’s vital to find your own training pattern. Just upping miles isn’t any guarantee of better performance particularly as you get to into higher weekly mileage."