How to track running mileage to maximize marathon training



If you geek out over numbers, you’re gonna LURV this.

Let’s talk about tracking workouts. Do you do it…or nah?

For most of my running life, I did not keep a log of any kind. Mainly because I didn’t know it was even a thing. However, when I realized the benefits of a running log, and how much fun it is, I started tracking every single mile. I haven’t stopped.

A log doesn’t have to be fancy or technical; many major runners from past decades used a simple notebook. The point is just to keep a record of your running so that you have a way of understanding trends or patterns, as well as a way to see progress!

There is a ton of helpful information out there from more accomplished and knowledgeable runners than myself. Here’s a great resource forΒ keeping a running log, and another one discussing the power of a running log.

For me, the tools that I have found most useful for tracking my miles are my Garmin watch and my Google Doc spreadsheet.

After I’m done running, my watch sends the workout data via wifi to the online Garmin platformΒ where I can easily view it from my phone or computer. My watch is a couple years old, so it doesn’t do everything the fancier models do, like heart-rate monitoring, but it gives me all the data I need and more.


The above is what my 12×400 intervals looked like (more on that workoutΒ here). Look, it looks like waves in the ocean πŸ™‚ Each bump is “speed” — there are only 11 bumps, but I ran 12. There’s something really satisfying about the visual evidence of hard work.

That time I ran a marathon in the rain

The above is what my GPS tracker looked like after my second marathon. It was one of the more miserable days of my life haha. Firstly, see that cute little cloud in the top right corner?… yep, it rained theΒ entire time. Secondly, I was freezing for the second half of the race due to intense wind coming in from the water. Thirdly, everything on me was completely soaked, including my shoes, leading to the weirdest running mishap ever. My shoe insert came loose and folded itself in half, inside my shoe! I had to stop multiple times in the last 6 miles to remove my whole shoe and unfold the insert. And fourthly, being soaked meant I had the worst chafing I have ever experienced in my life. Sure, I applied body glide to the usual hotspots (lookin at you inner thigh), but a thousand warriors could not have saved me from the ring of chafing around my NECK from my shirt! Just thinking about that day makes me cringe.

But I digress…

In addition to Garmin data, I like to also record some key data in my Google Doc spreadsheet. I have columns for each of the following:

  • Date. I like this format: 011217 instead of Jan 12th 2017. I have data going back years.
  • Workout type. Tempo, intervals, long, or easy, I always record what I did. For example, “6m easy” means I ran 6 miles at easy pace. And “7m (12×400)” means that I ran twelve 400 meter sprints, each followed by a recovery jog,Β covering a total distance of 7 miles – with warmup and cooldown included.
  • Splits. The Garmin data comes in handy for keeping track of paces and splits. I just copy these from the Garmin site to the spreadsheet. I put any fast miles or speed intervals in bold so that they stand out from the easy/recovery miles. This way, it’s easy to quickly get a visual of how much speed I’m doing each week, and also easy to see progress over time with a quick scroll.
  • Duration. How long the workout took. I like this notation for anything over an hourΒ “1:05:34”, and this notation for workouts less than an hour long “0:53:20”. This way, all the times look “uniform” in the column.
  • Shoe miles. I track the number of miles I run in any given pair of shoes. I have noticed that I am more injury prone if I don’t switch out my shoes after 400 miles or so.
  • Comments. This is a column I use to note anything of relevance. For example, I record whether I skipped a planned workout due to fatigue, travel, or injury.
  • Weekly mileage. It’s helpful to see how many miles I run in any given week. When building mileage, I’ve seen reputable running sites recommend increasing mileage by no more than 10% per week. Additionally, if I have too many weeks of high mileage in a row, I try to take a “cutback” week of lower mileage. This helps to prevent injury by letting my body recover from #allthemiles.
  • Monthly and Yearly mileage. I have columns for these, but I rarely look at them unless I have a specific goal. For example, my goal last year was to run 2,016 miles in 2016. I was on track until about August when the wheels came off. Spoiler alert, I didn’t meet my goal. -_-

It’s really not too difficult to get a spreadsheet set up like this. Once you have your formulas in place to populate things like weekly/monthly/yearly mileage, you are set.

exhibit A (not real numbers)

Above is an example of what one week in the log might look like (minus the monthly/yearly mileage column). The paces/splits aren’t real as this is just for illustration purposes.

I should also note that I originally started my log in Microsoft Excel, but switched to Google Docs because it was more convenient to view from my phone or any device connected to the internet.

One of my favorite things about keeping a running log is being able to look back and seeing progress. Knowing you just crushed a workout that you couldn’t have done last month is a pretty great feeling.

It’s also pretty cool when all these memories come flooding back when you look at data from a particular workout… although I suppose some memories aren’t as pretty, case in point, my marathon situation above!

Do you keep track of your workouts? Have you ever run in the rain?Β 


33 thoughts on “How to track running mileage to maximize marathon training

    1. The shoe insert thing still puzzles me to this day… i have no idea! I’m glad someone out there likes running in the rain lol! I like the “how i felt” thing, great idea! 😊


  1. I’ve tried tracking, but I find it just gets me frustrated that I’m not progressing as much as I would like. At my age, I’m happier to skip the tracking and remain happily under the delusion that I’m progressing much more than I really am. As for running in the rain, that can be fun…until it’s not. Alanis Morrissette used to have a poplular song in the 90’s called “Ironic”. One of the lyrics was “It’s like rain on your wedding day.” I screw up lyrics as a rule, so for the longest time, I thought she was saying, “It’s like rain on your running day.” The ironic thing is I totally connected with that lyric. I thought Alanis really got me. Of course, when I finally discovered the real lyric, I supposed it was probably relevant too… πŸ˜€


    1. That’s hilarious! I much prefer your interpretation of the song! And i totally see your point about tracking. I had to take 8 weeks off running due to a lower back injury, and seeing those blank columns/rows are a little depressing!


    1. I’m training for a half marathon too! Yes, tracking mileage can be fun and super informative. All the best with your training! 😁


  2. Okk! That is almost something I was looking for. So far, stuck on my 28 km and couldn’t make more… Hope to run my first marathon in 2018. .


    1. I have had the Forerunner 620 for a few years, it’s been awesome! I love the Garmin Connect features too! It’s such a cool way to keep track of everything! 😊


  3. I’ve kept a journal/blog of every run I’ve done since I started couch to 5k (2009), and also maintain a spreadsheet log of running mileage. The blog helps me connect with my twin brother who trains in another part of England – we do the big races together. It’s also good to get feedback from other runners. I don’t do a lot of analysis of the stats but have found the blog and spreadsheet useful to track back to the source of injuries, to inform physios and to guide me on managing mileage, etc.

    I’ve had the spreadsheet in both Google Docs and Apple Numbers, and agree compatibility across devices is important.

    Running in the rain, snow and wind is part of the sport and only to be expected in the U.K. with its varied climate. I like beating the conditions, it gives me a kick.

    I had Garmin forerunners for years, but last year got a Fitbit Surge and a Tom Tom Runner, and switch between the two. They both have good features but neither does everything. Both are set up to load data into their own apps and then upload to Strava.


    1. I agree, its so informative to look back at the data, especially during a time of injury… more often than not, i can tell from the stats where i went wrong. Eg, building up too fast, no “cutback” weeks, not enough rest, too many fast miles in a short period of time, etc. I haven’t used Fitbits or Tom Toms but have heard good things! πŸ˜€


  4. Awesome posting! Lots of great information and links. Sounds like you really have a ton of knowledge when it comes to training. I like data and numbers too and just the process of tracking my workout when I get done or when I’m writing out a training plan is rewarding. I do the same thing as you with tracking shoe mileage too and say goodbye at 400 miles. A lot of shoes to go through in a year when you’re running high mileage.😊 Keep up the great work!!


  5. I use MapMyRun on iPhone πŸ“± but I hate it. It randomly pauses during a run πŸƒ. I may actually buy an old school mechanical stopwatch because… old technology just works. And why is a nice educated decent thoughtful girl like yourself reading horrific prurient scatalogical ghastly Yog Sothoth-conjuring Demonic-shrieking-Woodrow-Wilsonish depraved useless-adjective-stoked filth like Botendaddy?

    Peace be the Botendaddy


    1. Hey there! πŸ™‚ i have only used map my run a couple times before i got my garmin. This was years ago. I didn’t have issues with pausing but i remember not loving it (can’t remember exactly why now). You’re totally right, a regular stopwatch would work just fine for tracking your splits! I stumbled upon your blog from the reader! 😊


    1. I haven’t tried runtastic but it sounds awesome! I feel like a light drizzle is fine, but pouring is no fun lol. Especially if it’s cold… brr!! 😊


      1. Actually, now I do remember running in the rain once. It wasn’t intentional. I was about a mile from my van on an outside path when the sky opened up. My husband and I were running together and we ran back to the car in the pouring rain. That was a miserable run. I was so wet and cold and it was an hour ride home. I was miserable for days, especially my feet. It actually made them peel. It was awful. No wonder I didn’t want to remember it :/


      2. That sounds awful — sitting in cold wet clothes & shoes for an hour, no wonder your feet peeled! I would have blocked that memory too lol! πŸ™ˆ


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