How to Train for a Marathon: Jay Johnson on Long Runs, Cutback Weeks, and Maximizing Your Potential

There’s no shortage of information about how to train for a marathon. Just search the web and you’ll find countless marathon plans, articles, and advice.

But if your goal is to do more than simply finish, what advice should you trust?

If you want to run a big marathon PR – maybe even a 100+ minute improvement like Matt – or qualify for Boston, where should you go?

I always seek advice from those with more experience than myself. I love talking with experts at the top of their field – the insights are far more valuable than those who aren’t in the trenches of the running industry.

Surrounding yourself with knowledgeable coaches, researchers, and running authors shortens the learning process and helps you accomplish your goals much faster than if you were to jump from plan to plan.

I find this especially true when you’re training for a marathon. 26.2 miles is challenging just to finish – how can you run it fast?

The training strategies used to race a marathon are different than those used to finish a marathon.

To train for a marathon more effectively and improve your finishing time requires a smarter approach.

And I’m thrilled to bring you the expertise and experience of Coach Jay Johnson.

Jay Johnson on How to Train for a Marathon

Coach Jay Johnson

Johnson was a Division I athlete at the University of Colorado at Boulder under Coach Mark Wetmore, one of the most successful college cross country coaches of all time.

He ran personal bests of 14:20 in the 5k and 30:15 in the 10k (“average times,” according to him…) before graduating to start his own coaching career. He began in Kansas before moving back to the University of Colorado as the assistant cross country and middle distance coach.

After six years, Jay left and began coaching recreational and elite athletes. He’s since coached three athletes to three separate US National Championships in indoor track, on the road, and in cross country.

He is also the creator of the wildly popular Running DVDs series.

Today Jay is going to explain how to train for a marathon if your goal is to improve (or run fast), not just to finish.

My favorite quote from our talk – and something that I find myself coming back to regularly – is this:

“The long run is the key marathon workout. So why would we get away from emphasizing that every week?” – Jay Johnson

What you’ll learn in this interview:

  • How do you maximize your potential in the marathon?
  • What is the optimal long run distance
  • What’s the best long run effort?
  • Who should run cutback long runs (and who shouldn’t)?
  • A lot more…

This is an excerpt; the full interview is available for Run Your BQ members. You can sign up for a series of free marathon resources here and we’ll let you know more details about the RYBQ community.

To listen now, just click the play button below.


You can also click here to open the interview in a separate tab (or right click and “Save As” to save as an MP3 file).

The full interview is 30 minutes of marathon training wisdom. The other topics we cover include:

  • Should beginners focus on mileage or faster runs?
  • Orthotics and salt tablets – yay or nay?
  • Why processoriented training is ideal
  • What is the optimal marathon recovery time frame?
  • Exercise to include in the weeks after a marathon (and what to avoid)
  • Can you avoid the marathon bonk if you already feel like you’re hitting the wall?
  • What does Jay recommend to focus on during the last 10k of the marathon?

A BIG thanks to Jay for sharing his time and coaching expertise with RYBQ members. Run Your BQ is a community of runners who want to improve their marathon and qualify for the Boston Marathon.

Membership includes monthly live video webinars with me (and Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete), a library of marathon and post-marathon recovery training plans, 70+ lessons and video demonstrations, and immediate access to a thriving form with over 500 other members just like you .

We rarely open to the public, so hop on the notification list and we’ll let you know when we open.

And until then, we’ll send you a collection of free interviews, videos, and lessons to help improve your marathon.

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