5 Marathon Workouts That Take 45 Minutes or Less

fast marathon workouts
Get faster in less time with these quick marathon workouts. Robin Skjoldborg

Training for a marathon is no easy task, but it doesn't have to take over your life. Yes, long runs are a necessity for endurance, says John Henwood, 2004 Olympian and running coach, but there are also time-efficient ways to build your speed, running economy, and lung capacity. We reached out to the country's top marathon coaches for these compact workouts that, in 45 minutes or less, will prep your body for its best (or first) marathon. Do one or two of these every week in addition to your long run. 

Threshold Intervals
This interval workout pushes your aerobic threshold — the limit at which your body can work before lactic acid begins building up. "This workout is designed to keep your heart rate up long enough for maximum benefit, but it's also great for burning calories," says Henwood. The result? Your goal race pace feels easier.

  • Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy running, building to a normal training pace.
  • Intervals: eight x two minutes at 80 percent effort, two minutes recovering at an easy pace
  • Cool down: three-minute jog and stretch

Sub-Race-Pace Miles
These one-mile repeats are long enough to challenge both the aerobic and anaerobic systems, says Andrew Kastor, head coach for the ASICS Mammoth Track Club. "It’s a great workout to boost a person’s VO2 Max, which raises their fitness ceiling."

  • Warm-up: eight minutes of easy running
  • Intervals: four x one mile at 10–20 seconds faster than goal marathon race pace with 45 seconds recovery jog between reps
  • Cool down: eight minutes of easy running

Hill Progression
Add this workout to your program if you're racing a hilly course, says Kastor. "We need to beat our legs up in the lead up to the marathon so that they are stronger for the race." And this workout does just that. The 12-minute portion at 10k pace also adds a cardio challenge to help strengthen your lungs, and make you a more efficient runner.

  • Warm-up: eight minutes of easy running
  • Progression: 15 minutes at moderate pace (goal marathon race pace), then
  • 12 minutes at a hard pace (goal 10K race pace)
  • Cool down: eight minutes of easy running

Race Pace Repeats
This interval session is an old favorite of Luke Humphrey, owner and head coach of the Hansons Coaching Services, who ran a similar workout in his college days. Now he prescribes it to his runners working on time-crunched training schedules. As you improve, Humphrey recommends reducing recovery time to only one minute.

  • Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy running
  • Intervals: five x five minutes at marathon pace, with a 2:30 recovery jog in between bouts
  • Cool down: five minutes of easy running

Intuitive Tempo
This workout is ideal for first-time marathoners and runners new to speed work, but it can also be scaled up for more advanced racers, says Hal Higdon, whose third edition of the Run Fast training guide comes out this October. Higdon recommends forgoing mile markers or a GPS watch, and running this on perceived exertion, or how tough it feels to hold the pace. Note that you shouldn't finish feeling exhausted. "Graphed from the side, this workout would look like a bell curve tilted to the right," says Higdon of the build up to 10k race and then gradual deceleration. To scale up, advanced runners can add a second or third peak at 10k pace.

  • Warm-up: 10 minutes of easy running
  • Workout: over 10 minutes, gradually building up to slightly slower than 10k pace
  • For the next five minutes: hold 10k pace
  • For the final 10 minutes: gradually slow to cool down pace