Yesterday, Monday, July 19th, marks the first day of marathon training for both of us for the Philadelphia Marathon!! Many others out there training for fall marathons may have already started programs and others may be just about to start.
The 2010 Philadelphia Marathon will mark Mary’s fourth marathon and Christina’s second marathon. Other marathons she has ran include the 2008 & 2009 Philadelphia Marathons and the 2010 Boston Marathon. Mary ran a 3:33:43 and qualified for the Boston Marathon in her first marathon on November 23, 2008. Christina ran her first marathon on November 22, 2009, at the Philadelphia Marathon. She also qualified for the Boston Marathon her first time by running a 3:39:12.
In this post we will present some helpful information on how to pick an appropriate Marathon Training Program. Whether this is your very first marathon or you are a veteran marathoner who is looking to fulfill your dream of qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon, there is a plan out there for you.We are by no means marathon experts, but we do have some information to offer that some readers may find helpful!
When deciding to run a marathon there are a lot of things to consider. But because this post is just about picking a training program, we will stick to one topic. But if you are interested in reading up more on training for your first marathon: the importance of rest days, nutrition, and most importantly… if you are ready to train for a marathon- go to our Marathon Training page.
Before starting a marathon program, you should have been “running for about a year. You should be able to comfortably run distances between 3 and 6 miles. You should be training 3-5 days a week, averaging 15-25 miles a week. You should have run an occasional 5-K or 10-K race.”
It is important to follow a training plan when you decide to run a marathon, even if you are a long time veteran. Training plans provide the right proportion of rest days, cross training, hill workouts, long runs, pace runs, etc that allow you to train effectively so you do not end up injuring yourself. The weekly mileage is designed perfectly to increase and decrease at the appropriate time. There are TONS of training plans out there but Mary and I particularly love Hal Higdon’s plans. He has Novice (I and II), Intermediate (I and II), and Advanced (I and II) plans.
In this training plan, the long runs are on the weekends and build from 6 miles in Week 1 to 20 miles in the climactic Week 15. After the one twenty miler, you will taper to get ready for the marathon in Week 18.
The weekly long runs get progressively longer, but every third week is a “stepback” week. In the stepback week, the mileage is reduced to allow you to gather strength for the next push upward. Midweek runs on Wednesdays build from 3 to 10 miles. Cross-training (walking, biking, swimming, rowing, etc) will help you relax and recovery the day after your long runs. Cross training also helps to break things up and prevent boredom! The Novice II program is similar to Novice I but just a notch higher in terms of difficulty.
**note** the novice plan is not for people who are brand new to running (if you are training for a marathon you should have SOME level of experience). But even if you are a great runner and this is your first marathon, the Novice plan is a great way to go. Both of us followed this plan for our first Marathon and BOTH of us qualified for Boston! We are not saying we will guarantee that you will also qualify for Boston on your first marathon using the Novice plan but we can promise that if you are loyal with this plan, you will make it to the start line and have great success!
In the Intermediate I program, you start with a long run of 8 miles instead of 6 miles in Week 1. You get to 20 miles for your long run by Week 13 and run a second 20-miler in Week 15. Mid-week mileage is slightly higher, but instead of cross-training on the weekend, you get more serious about your running and do a second run of 5-8 miles, often at marathon race pace. You do your cross-training on Monday, instead of resting. The bar has been raised. The intermediate II program is similar to one but just a notch higher in terms of difficult
In the advanced programs, the weekend runs follow the same pattern as the intermediate schedules. The difference is in the midweek runs, which are more difficult. Tuesdays are devoted to speedwork, a combination of hill repeats, interval training and tempo runs. Thursdays feature tempo runs and more training at marathon race pace. If you have no idea what we are talking about- these types of runs will all be explained in another post!
For Christina’s second marathon (Philadelphia 2010) she decided to go for the Intermediate I plan. Christina changed this plan around a bit (while still keeping the same foundation) to work better with her schedule.
Mary chose the Advanced I program. She also made some changes to it in order to better fit her schedule.
**note: if you are having difficulty reading the schedule you can click on the schedule once and then click on it again on the next page.
A coupe of things to keep in mind when training:
- Long runs should NOT be run at marathon pace; instead they should be run VERY slow, the reason for this will be explained in another post. You should conserve your energy and concentrate on quality runs the rest of the week. Long runs should be anywhere from 45 to 90 seconds per mile slower than your marathon pace.
- Consistency is most important. You can skip an occasional workout, or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs.
Remember, there are a number of other great marathon training plans out there, not just Hal Higdon’s plan. Find one that works best for you!