Back-to-Backs Leading Up to Chicago

Last week I was going over my 5K time trial with my coach and I mentioned how surprised I was that I PR’d. My mileage has been so low the last couple of months and my speedwork has been almost nonexistent… so how did it happen?

Strength training.

My coach reminded me that even though I wasn’t able to log as many miles as I would have liked to while I healed from hip bursitis I put in serious time at the gym.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.15.27 PM Thank you to my friends the squat and lunge for helping me improve my running!


This training cycle my coach is having me run a hybrid of the Hanson’s method. Some weekends I’ll be doing back-to-backs and some weekends I’ll be doing a single long run.

When I was training for Portland last year I ran about 30-35 miles per week with a peak of 42 miles twice. As you can imagine, about half of my weekly mileage came directly from the long run.

Last year my long runs included two 15-milers, and only one 16, 17 and 20-miler (I never ran an 18 or 19-miler). While it would put me at risk for injury to do more than one 20-miler since it takes me well over four hours, my coach does want me to get that long distance experience more than one time. Hence the introduction of back-to-backs in my training plan.

I’ll only be doing one 20 miler but I’ll do several double digit back-to-back runs leading up to Chicago. There is a lot of research that shows back-to-back runs have the same effect on the body as a single long run. We stop gaining any physical benefit from running over 2.5 hours – in fact we put ourselves at risk for injury when we do. That’s why it’s just not beneficial for someone like me to run multiple 20-milers in marathon training.

Portland was my first marathon and my training plan last year felt right to me. A part of me thought I should probably be running higher mileage but another part of me was glad that I wasn’t. This year I know what to expect and I’m ready to train hard.

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 9.59.56 PM

This weekend I logged my first back-to-back. I was supposed to do a 6 miler on Saturday and an 8 miler on Sunday. I ended up doing 4 miles on Saturday and 8 miles on Sunday.

On Friday night I went out to celebrate a colleague’s birthday and let’s just say I drank too much and stayed out too late. On Saturday morning my head was pounding, my stomach hurt and my legs fought me through every step. I guess I’m not 20 anymore!


That look you give when you get home super late after doing shots like you’re still in college. Oooof.

Sunday’s run went much, much better even though I ran on the treadmill because it was just TOO HOT outside. Honestly the treadmill wasn’t bad; I watched a couple episodes of Wayward Pines to pass the time. Afterwards I rewarded myself with the juiciest orange ever! Mmmmmm!


After a long run there is nothing better than oranges, cantaloups or watermelon! I’m so happy that summer is here and my favorite fruits are in season again. It off sets how dreadful the sweltering temperatures are!

I hope you had a great weekend filled with friends, family and miles :).

Do you watch Wayward Pines? I’m only 3.5 episodes in right now.

Have you ever used back-to-backs in training? Thoughts?



  1. June 29, 2015 / 7:14 am

    I have used back to backs–particularly when training for a Ragnar. I think they really work to get you used to running on tired legs! I had a fun weekend–we had family visiting. 🙂

  2. Molly
    June 29, 2015 / 7:43 am

    I haven’t watched Wayward Pines, but I read all the books – they were so addicting! You should check them out if you haven’t.

    I used Hanson’s for my first marathon this spring, and it worked so well that I’ve restarted it for my fall marathon. (And by worked well, I mean I didn’t get injured and I felt fantastic while running the marathon and afterwards, not that I ran super fast!) 😉

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:31 pm

      Ohh I’ll need to check the books out! I’ve heard the show being compared to Twin Peaks which I really liked so I have high hopes. I’m in the middle of episode five right now. It’s such an easy show to run to – keeps the mind really occupied!

      Really glad to hear that Hanson’s worked so well for you! The more I hear about it the more excited I get about the next couple of months!

  3. June 29, 2015 / 8:39 am

    That sounds like a really smart way to train! I did some back to backs when I was training for Raleigh but I usually do a long run on Saturday and rest on Sunday. I think there are definitely benefits to both ways!

  4. June 29, 2015 / 9:17 am

    Training plan sound awesome, doesn’t feel good to be talking training plans lol.

    Yikes…we can’t be pulling those Saturday nights during marathon training, hopefully you got that out of your system 🙂 I’ve used back to back a few times, my Sunday’s always turn in disasters and,I end up going home early. So,I stick to one long run.

    My weekend was exactly filled with friends, family and miles. I’ll be,posting about that today.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:32 pm

      Haha it’s so true!

      I came home and said to Adam, “who ARE we?!” It’s so out of character for us to 1. stay out late and 2. stay out late and drink! SO BIZARRE. I’m sure I won’t do it again for at least five more years! haha

  5. June 29, 2015 / 9:26 am

    I usually take days off right after a long run, but I am weirdly scared of getting injured. It sounds like you are on the right track for a great training cycle. I need to do more squats. I’m sure it would help me too! Haha!

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:33 pm

      Not weird at all! I am terrified of getting injured especially after dealing with hip bursitis which was NO FUN at all. The key thing for me so far is taking the recovery run the day after the back-to-backs super easy (like 2mins slower than race pace easy!). Also, my coach advised me to take the Saturday long run really easy and then if I feel good on Sunday increase the pace, if not keep it at whatever feels comfortable.

  6. Susan
    June 29, 2015 / 10:21 am

    You look beautiful in that picture! And had to laugh at “guess I am not 20 anymore”. As much as I love getting older because you really do end up putting important things first and not caring so much about the bullshit, the body just doesn’t want to cooperate sometimes and that’s a bummer.

    If I trained for a marathon, I would totally do back to back runs instead of long runs. That being said, I don’t think I will ever run a marathon 🙂

    Rick and I are watching Wayward Pines right now. It’s pretty intense. We also started watching Aquarius which we are also loving (David Duchovny is kind of bomb).

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:36 pm

      I’ve never heard of Aquarius – I need to look that up!

      Wayward Pines is very intense – that’s what makes it such a good treadmill show. It totally distracts you from the monotony of running on the hamster wheel. My only concern for the show is that there are SO many weird things going on and I would hate it if a lot of them never get resolved. I’m halfway through episode five right now so I think I’m almost caught up!

  7. June 29, 2015 / 10:36 am

    Wow, good for you doing that 8 miler even after a night out! Now that I’m 25 I swear my hangovers last 3 days and I just can’t recover like a used to..

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:37 pm

      If this is what the mid to late 20s feel like I just really don’t want to know what mid 30s feel like! haha

      I take that back, like a fine wine we’ll get better with age 😉

  8. June 29, 2015 / 11:33 am

    it is so funny you mentioned Wayward Pines because just yesterday my MIL said she watches it so I was going to look up info about it to see if Paul and I would like it!

    It is also funny you mentioned the Hanson Method because Hanna just wrote about it today as well. I want to learn more about it. 🙂

    When I was training for my 50 miler, we did back to backs most weekends. 20 on Sat and 10-12 on Sun.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:39 pm

      I think you would like Wayward Pines more than you would dislike it! haha

      Truthfully after episode two I almost gave up on it because there are just SO MANY weird things going on and I can’t see how they can possibly resolve them all. I’m halfway through episode five now and getting more into it. Give it a try so we can talk about it 😀

  9. June 29, 2015 / 12:03 pm

    Yay for a PR! I haven’t seen Wayward Pines. I should look for it. About the only thing that makes the treadmill tolerable for me is a good show on Netflix or Amazon!

  10. June 29, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    I have tried to watch Wayward Pines, but it’s pretty crazy. I am having a time keeping up lol
    I am good proof going over 2.5 hours will get you injured i guess. I have talked with several people at races who do back to back longer runs and they swear by it. I hope this works well for you, I have thought about trying it again if I ever feel confident enough to try to run a half or whole marathon.
    I had a few too many beers last night and I am feeling it today lol It’s all fun and games at the time 🙂
    You look pretty in your orange top.
    I think short breaks and strength training are awesome like that. When I first started running a few weeks out of the boot my legs felt amazing and I was sailing! Now my body feels like a thousand pounds in the heat and I am feeling fatigued legs again :/
    It’s awesome you enjoy the TM! I can’t imagine trying to train in summer.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:41 pm

      Thank you! 🙂 I feel like I always post pictures of myself in orange/peach tops and I’m sure that you guys think I own one shirt but I swear I just like the color and have a lot of tops in that color!!! haha

      Wayward Pines is so crazy. I almost gave up after episode two because there were SO MANY weird things going on. If I wasn’t running so often on the treadmill right now I probably wouldn’t have kept going with it, but it’s a good show to distract you from the monotony of the ‘mill!

  11. June 29, 2015 / 3:44 pm

    Oh, interesting point about the long runs. I’m in the same boat – am working on piecing together a marathon training plan this week (I figured my half training would do well enough up to this point, even though it only leaves like 12 or 13 weeks from here), so I’ll definitely think about some back to backs versus more longer runs. To start with I just plugged in some numbers to the smartcoach thing (generic in terms of what types of workouts and mileage, but I like that it gives me paces to aim for and improve upon), and it had 3 20-milers, which I liked, but yeah, that’s both a lot of time and risk.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:43 pm

      Exactly – three 20 milers exposes slower runners to so much risk. Doing back to backs will allow me/us to run higher mileage without as much risk.

      Mentally I wouldn’t be prepared to run a 16-miler this weekend, but running 8+8 will give me almost the same physical benefits while being much easier to digest mentally!

  12. June 29, 2015 / 4:13 pm

    I have never really done back to backs. It wouldn’t be uncommon for me to do 5 miles one day and then like 6 the next, but it never usually went over that. I usually do one long run during the week, but I’m finding it difficult to even do that for this training plan. Hopfeully I can get back on track because I don’t have too much longer before my first marathon and I’m not prepared. I’m doing Hal Higdon’s training plan so it doesn’t call for back to backs, but I’m just trying to get miles in where I can at this point.
    Congrats on the PR!!

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:45 pm

      Thanks Annette! I’ve heard such great things about Hal’s plans. I’d like to try one someday. I hope to try several different marathon methods over the next couple of years to see what my body responds to the best!

      Make a new summer playlist and get out there! 🙂

  13. June 29, 2015 / 4:21 pm

    The closer I get to 30 the harder the hangovers hit. Just can’t power through them the way I used to.

    I think your coaches strategy of back to backs and long runs sounds like a really good fit for you. I’ve read that before, that anything over 2.5 hours won’t get you any additional physical gains. But, that being said, a 2.5 hour run for me is only 15ish miles, and I would not feel comfortable going into my first marathon with less than 20 miles. Alternating seems like a really smart way to minimize your risk of injury, but still work in the long run.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:47 pm

      I hear ya! I think one of the biggest criticisms of the Hanson’s method is that it has you peak about 15-18 miles. I definitely wouldn’t feel prepared to run a marathon on that. Getting in at least one 20-miler is really important to me from a mental standpoint, but I do think breaking up several other long runs into back to backs will keep me injury free even with increased mileage! We’ll see!

  14. June 29, 2015 / 5:02 pm

    I have had many “crap, I’m not in college anymore” moments these days!! 🙂 I love your makeup in the selfie pic!

  15. June 29, 2015 / 5:37 pm

    I’m excited to do some back-to-back runs this time around, too. I know it will definitely help my stamina. But I guess it means no more sleeping in on the weekends haha.

    I need to dedicate myself to strength training. I KNOW it will help so much, but I just don’t enjoy it that way I enjoy running.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:48 pm

      I really think the biggest drawback to running back-to-backs is the loss of sleep! I might have to do one long run in the eveningsor on the treadmill in the afternoon because I really need that one day to sleep in!

  16. June 29, 2015 / 7:23 pm

    Thanks for the link to that article. I’ve also read that long runs over 2.5-3 hours only break down muscle & don’t have benefits. I’ve heard of splitting runs over one day but this is the first I’ve heard of splitting runs over a weekend. Interesting! I’d love o know more about the specifics of your training!

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:50 pm

      As I get deeper into training I hope to have more to share. Right now I’m just doing a lot of easy running while building back up to a base of 30 mpw. At that point my coach says the training will really pick up!

  17. June 29, 2015 / 9:50 pm

    When I trained for my first marathon, I was doing my long runs with a group from Team in Training. During one of our longest runs it started hailing and thundering, so they pulled us all in and had us complete the remaining miles the next day. I was told that as long as you do the miles within 24 hours, it is pretty much the same. Some people have even said that splitting up the runs is more difficult because it not only physically challenges you, but mentally challenges you more.

    • June 29, 2015 / 10:52 pm

      I’ve heard the 24-hr rule as well and I’m hoping it’s true because … I need it to be true to reach my Chicago goals!

      The mental challenge part is interesting. I feel like it actually takes a load off for me mentally since I can say “oh this weekend I just have to do 8+8” instead of “this weekend I have another 16 miler.” I guess once I get deeper into training and the physical and mental fatigue really starts to settle in I may change my tune! haha

  18. June 30, 2015 / 7:09 am

    Thanks for sharing your training approach – I really like it and the reasoning behind it (hmmm…maybe next time). Last year (as you are aware) I ran some back to backs, but mainly due to scheduling vs. on purpose. Can’t wait to read more as you train!

  19. July 2, 2015 / 8:20 pm

    Glad to see another blogger/ runner also stays out too late drinking too much.. But then that’s okay cause we run it all off right? With the back to back runs, I’m not qualified, but would it not be better to do the run with the bigger miles the first day, and the shorter miles the next? That’s what I’d do, but like I say I’m not really qualified…