Marathon and cycling training?

Hi folks,
Some help from any duathletes out there….
I’ve just signed up for the Loch Ness marathon in October 2022. I have always been a keen cyclist - not particularly strong but an enthusiastic mountain biker with some road riding thrown in for fitness gains. Having been a keen runner over the years (running a bit of road, the English Lakeland fells and completing the London marathon in 2009 in 3hrs 46mins) the last couple of years have not been so focussed on running at all. I’ve been so focussed on cycling and trying to improve my weakness of MAP.

So, I’m starting to build up my running focusing on speed and strength sessions and still complete yoga and the all over body strength sessions in the SYSTM app. I’m beginning to realise that the amount of training my body needs requires more and more rest so I can complete quality training sessions.

Any advice on how to maintain and improve my cycling whilst marathon training?
A triathlon training plan maybe with swimming sessions swapped out?
Many thanks


I picked a higher volume tri plan than I wanted then deleted the swims to bring the time commitment back down.

I think there’s also an interesting coach post about why if you go for a long course plan, there’s quite alot of running Vs cycling. Will see if I can find the link

This one:

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Thanks very much for this thorough response. It confirms my thoughts although I do need to work on running speed and strength rather than endurance so I’ll substitute more hill and speed drills into the mix with care as the weeks progress.
Thanks again for your sharing tour experience.

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The two marathons I’ve trained for became the primary focus for the ~4 months leading up to them. For me, the speed and endurance running training sessions were key. Cycling was useful for some non-weight bearing exercise and recovery, but I wasn’t doing many hard interval sessions on the bike. I had to accept that my bike fitness was going to go backwards a bit during the marathon training period.


I had the same questions, Wayne!

I’m looking to run the Oklahoma City Marathon in April 2022. Would have run in in April 2019 but for Covid. Switched to cycling for most of my training, got the Sufferfest last winter, and haven’t looked back since. I wish there was a duathlon plan.

In my previous marathon build, I was trying to follow one of the Jack Daniels’ 2 quality workouts per week plans. Only running. I didn’t have an indoor trainer then and spent a cold winter running outside in Montreal.

Did you settle on a training plan?

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For my first marathon, I followed (mostly) the Strava marathon training plan. It was good for giving me a range of long runs and some variation in the tempo runs. I didn’t do enough speed work, so if I do another marathon, I will make sure I focus on that.

For my second marathon, the training was a bit less structured, other than following a similar buildup of the long runs. Again, I didn’t do enough speed work.

Good luck with your preparation for the Oklahoma City Marathon!

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I ran my first marathon in March, 2019 (right before lockdown). I had been doing sprint triathlons and was using marathon training to get myself prepared for Olympic and 70.3 distance tri’s.

My marathon training consisted of 3 or 4 days of running and I used 2-3 long cycling days to supplement my running with 2-3 days of swimming overlaid on those days so I was doing usually 6 days of exercise a week with one full day off every Sunday.

I didn’t do too much intensity on the bike. Mostly long steady-state rides or FTP over/unders. The bike fitness really helps your overall cardio and can be used as a replacement for some of your running days. This helps a lot because your body bike workouts are low-impact. So it’s nice to be able to get in some good cardio days without the high-impact of running. Especially for someone like me with lingering back and knee issues.

If you’re not swimming at all, then that gives you the flexibility to have even longer bike days. You’ll likely still lose some of your cycling fitness as you focus more and more longer running day and use some of your bike days as recovery, and do less intense bike workouts, but you’ll still have keep a nice cardio base to your bike fitness that will give you a nice foundation once you complete your marathon and if you then decide to do more bike-specific training with intensity.

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Hi Jason_Blakeburn,
Thanks for the response.
Yeah, I developed a plan around a SYSTM Tri plan. I deleted the swimming and replaced the SYSTM runs (which need a lot of work to be useable with wearables - I have an apple watch) with those guided runs on the Nike Run Club marathon training program. It’s a brilliant way to align the run and cycle training to maximise recovery. It also allows me to use the swim days that were there for extra rest or get out on a fell run or bike ride outside as I feel.
I feel the folks at SYSTM need to do some work here. Both with duathlon plans and on the coached/guided runs that you can use audio when outside. After all not everyone stays inside on a bike or tread mill for every session. Some folks like to go outside - LOL.
Until then I guess we’ll need too keep bodging our own training needs into our own plans across the multiple apps and platforms it takes to get what is right for us eh?
Hope this answers your question?

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We are working on Duathlon plans (running plans) but as you mentioned we need to make some improvements in our outdoor training functionality before we launch too many of them. If the demand is there to release duathlon plans before the running workouts are improved in SYSTM we would be happy to do that, but we want to make sure a running-only plan is a good seamless experience.
As far as combining the two, the best thing to do is use cycling for the longer endurance sessions as others have pointed out. The impact from running adds to the total recovery time needed after any session compared to the same intensity session while cycling.
You want to keep the race-pace and intensity sessions as runs to ensure you have the structural integrity to get through a Marathon, but replacing a long run or longish tempo run with a similar cycling session will give you the desired cardio without the added strain from the impact. Though I still suggest getting in several long runs pre-marathon to ensure your body is up for it and keep the running confidence.
Cycling is also great for active recovery days. It can be really difficult to jog at a low enough intensity to be considered a true recovery pace. Active recovery is a fantastic tool to speed up recovery (increased blood flow and keeping joints moving) and it’s easier to go easy on a bike (if you are disciplined!).
Hope that helps!


Thanks everyone for all the responses. Good luck with your training goals! Yep. that answered my question.

@Coach.Mac.C thanks for working on the program.

I’ve been working through the Mental Training Program and am working on building a focused plan for the marathon prep. Looks like cycling for active recovery and some endurance days. keep the high intensity runs. and some long runs. expect to lose some cycling specific fitness but the cardio should be a good support. i can live with that!