View Full Version : Marathon Swim Training

December 31st, 2002, 06:21 PM
I have 10k ocean swim experience but want to venture to marathon swim training, this being 24-26 miles. My best 10k is 3hrs 21 min and my best river swim for 4.8 was 2hrs 10 min. I learned to swim late in life 29 and have been gaining open water skills. I'm now a master swimmer and want to swim the above distance. How many months training to reach the above goal , mileage necessary, and swim workouts? I realize currents and weather conditions are a factor in the successful completion for this distance as well. Thank you.

Leonard Jansen
January 2nd, 2003, 10:34 AM
You might want to look at Penny Lee Dean's book, "Open Water Swimming". It has decent info, but the organization of said book is somewhat lacking. Also, Marcia Cleveland's book, "Dover Solo" has some good info in it on how she trained to swim the English Channel and it is better organized. (I bet PLD is right-brain dominant and MC is left-brain dominant.)

There is a lack of good LD/open water training resources, especially written ones. I have seen several articles on the internet, but most of them aren't detailed enough.

Other than that, I believe that there are several people who coach marathon swimmers, although I have no idea as to what they charge.


Rob Copeland
January 2nd, 2003, 04:06 PM
You asked “How many months training to reach the above goal , mileage necessary, and swim workouts?”

There is no simple answer to this. As you mentioned weather and currents can be a factor. However, they also dictate what kind and how much training you will need. Cold water (55-65F) training requires a longer period of acclimation training than warmer swims. Also, training for a fresh water marathon will vary from salt water
Marathons. Also, if the swim is a race (such as Manhattan Island or Tampa Bay) as opposed to an individual swim (such as the English Channel) you need to decide if you are swimming to compete or complete. Training to win a marathon is a lot harder than training to finish.

You mentioned that you swam a 10K in 3:21, so you must be somewhat comfortable with feeding. In a 3+ hour swim feeding is important, in a 10-14 hours proper feedings are critical. As you work up to longer training swims, 5 to 7 hours, make sure you work on the feedings as well as the swim. I personally like feeding every 30 minutes, while others prefer 15-20 minute intervals. Go with what works in training.

As for training distance, the elite marathon swimmers are logging 100,000+ meters per week in preparation for races and 40 – 60,000 in the pre-season. Now with that said, most masters don’t have the time or the shoulders for that kind of yardage. 30 – 40,000 in-season and 20 – 30,000 pre-season worked for me. However most marathon experts recommend 30 – 60% more. What limited my training were personal time constraints and the desire to lift my arms without excruciating pain.

The second limitation, the bodies ability to withstand training injury, dictates how long you need to train to get up to your training distance. If you try to dramatically increase yardage without a proper foundation, you greatly increase the possibility of injury. And the last thing you want to do is to attempt a marathon with sore parts. 45,000 strokes in pain is no fun.

Now, I’ve rambled on for some time and still haven’t completely answered your question. My best answer is Leonard suggested, find a marathon coach or a marathon swimmer and talk with them to set up a training program. And who knows, there may be a marathon swimmer in your area who you can train with.


January 3rd, 2003, 12:03 AM
Thanks for your replies. It is amazing the amount of mileage the elite marathon swimmers are logging! :eek: I am gearing my training for the Tampa Bay swim within the next two years to finish. What do mortals do for training miles in a week?
I have Penny Dean's book but will seek out Dover Solo as well.

Kim aka Fish

Leonard Jansen
January 3rd, 2003, 08:05 AM
In response to the "mere mortals mileage" question, I think that the first thing to ask is do you intend to race the distance or just try to finish it. If racing, quit your job, get divorced and sell the kids and then just train, train, train.

For just finishing, you should assess your life and how much time you can fit in for training and then GRADUALLY increase your mileage until it fits that time or your shoulders start to get grumpy or your brain starts to melt. Furthermore, you also want to consider not just the quantity of training, but the quality also. Quality as in speed and in technique, too. Get "comfotable" with strong efforts over 2 - 3 hours in the pool as well. The point being that you should not try to match anyone's else training, but use what you have to the fullest and then hope for the best.

Terry Laughlin, of Total Immersion fame, had a series of pieces about his training for the Manhattan Island Marathon race this past June that may give you a decent idea of a fairly practial approach to getting ready for something like this. Not surprisingly, it has a strong TI slant. Not sure of the URL, but you could poke around at www.totalimmersion.net and see if they still are there somewhere. Also, the MIMS website, www.swimnyc.org, may have some links to same.

Back when I was a racewalker, I asked my coach how fast I should walk a certain National Championship based on xxx mileage, yyy intervals, zzz intensity, etc, etc. His reply was "As fast as you can." I try to keep that in mind for training/racing in swimming: Namely, that the bottom line is don't get hung up on endless details and just do what you can. (Same coach in response to the question "What tactic should I use in this race, given that walkers A, B, & C are in the race?", said "Go like Hell.")


January 3rd, 2003, 10:47 PM
I appreciate your reply. It puts things in perspective. I'm trained in ultra distance endurance events, but I look at training and finishing a marathon swim a unique challenge. Also I appreciate the links and will update on this forum my training as I pursue my goal. Any info is welcomed and I look forward to future posts from experienced swimmers out there.

January 4th, 2003, 07:36 AM
Having been quite interested in the 'longer' distance events in recent years (both in the pool and open water - say up to 3 or 4 miles or so) - I'm considering a pool 10km event in March.

Whenever I've done 5km events I've never bothered with drinks/supplements during the race, but now wonder whether I'd run out of muscle glycogen in a 10km event. I always work on being well hydrated before entering the water + ensure I'm sipping an electrolyte drink in the last hour before I start.

I normally do around 63mins for 5km and would hope for around 2h 10 - 2h 15m for the 10km.

Any specific 'feeding' advice anyone?


Rob Copeland
January 6th, 2003, 08:36 AM

Since you are swimming the 5K in 63 minutes, you are already in great shape (aerobic and swimming.) Congratulations. Now to your question. Again your personal results may vary, but my suggestion, for your expected pace is to take a quick 8-12 ozs. at the 5000 and again around 7500 (feeding at the hour and then at 30 minutes). From talking to 10K swimmers it seems like many of those who tried to go it straight , without fluids, ran into some dehydration / muscle fatigue between the 6000 and 8000 mark. Not enough to stop them but it was quite evident from their splits. However, some can swim for the entire 2+ hours without a drink or any significant drop off. I try to err on the side of caution and keep hydrated, instead of pushing the limits

With a little practice, you should be able to do an open turn, chug your drink and be off again in about 5 seconds. It helps to have your timer or counter set the open bottle (lid removed) where you can quickly grab it.

If you typically have a water bottle at practice and take a drink now and then your body will most likely need a little more fluid than someone who goes the whole workout without a drink.

As for what to drink, opinions vary, electrolyte drinks or water. For short swims (??) of 10K to 10 miles, either seem to work fine. As you go longer, the electrolyte drinks become more critical.

And most important have fun!!!

January 6th, 2003, 08:50 AM
Thanks Rob. I'll try what you say. First, I need to 'up' my basic yardage a little. (I'm currently doing perhaps 4 or 5 x 4000 metre sessions a week.)

In the past, I have encountered twinges of cramp, usually around the 4000 metre mark during a 5km event, so, psychologically if nothing else, I do think I'm going to have to take on board some fluid at some stage.