A Marathon is not something to be undertaken lightly. Running 26.2miles is a huge physical and mental challenge so really making your training specific and targeted makes absolute sense.
Once signed up, working out a Marathon goal time and pace is pretty important to guide training. If you have times for recent long runs or races, use prediction charts / calculators to give you a goal finish time and pace guidance.
There are many training plans available – remember these are a guide and need to take into account how often you plan to run, work, family, social and other commitments.
Running at least 3 times a week is recommended if you are training for a marathon.
If you are ill or injured and unable to complete a particular weeks mileage, don’t be tempted to play catch up the following week; just accept it and continue to progress gradually through your schedule. It is o.k. to miss a session or replace a session with cross training.
The Long Run
Often scheduled for a weekend – the purpose of this run is to build aerobic and muscular endurance. It’s time on your feet and gets you in the mindset for a marathon. The long run teaches your body to become a more efficient fat burning machine.
Increasing your long run by 10% or 1-2 miles, at a time is a reasonable rate of progress.
It is not essential to have a long run every week, every other week or alternating with a shorter long run is easier on the body and allows for recovery.
It is generally accepted that you don’t need to run 26.2 miles in training. A maximum of a couple of 18 to 20 mile runs or 3.5 hours max should do fine.
Long runs should be done at an easy comfortable conversational pace. At 75-80% of maximum Heart Rate or Approx 15-60 seconds slower than threshold pace.
As the weeks go by, it’s good to incorporate sections of the long run at a slightly faster pace. These faster sections should be in the 2nd half of the long run when your legs are tiring, as this will make training more specific for marathon conditions.
Steady Runs/ Easy Runs
Run at the same pace as your long runs but over shorter distances. These are enjoyable training miles. You should be able to hold a conversation but be slightly breathless.
Tempo Runs / Lactate- Threshold Runs
These should be included weekly – these runs are faster. They are performed at the brink of anaerobic threshold. When training at this level you are working hard and conversation is difficult with a few words only manageable. This helps push up your lactate threshold so that you are able to go further aerobically and the body becomes more efficient at clearing lactic acid from the muscles.
Threshold training can be done in intervals- especially if you are a beginner. For example, 3 lots of 5-10mins at a hard effort followed by 2min recoveries
VO2 max training
These runs are at the absolute maximum point of aerobic ability and this level will be genetically pre- determined. Running at your hardest for short intense bursts with a relatively long recovery. Breathing will be ragged. This type of training is for those wishing to really kick their pace into the next bracket and not for those just wanting to get round.
A mix of 80% low intensity and 20% high intensity training is widely recommended.
Adding hill sessions, trail runs, cross – country runs and specific events will keep things interesting. Think what you want to get out of each session. Running with a friend or a running club can be a great support.
This is vital. Your body will assimilate training and repair itself during rest periods. Ensuring hard training sessions are not back-to-back, getting enough sleep and listening to your body is essential.
This is an important time allowing the body to rest, repair muscle damage and build carbohydrate stores without compromising fitness. It is also a time for important mental preparation. You should reach your peak long runs 3-4 weeks away from marathon day. Use the last long run as a dress rehearsal- try out your clothing, breakfast, gels and drinks.
Reduce volume of training but maintain intensity. The closer you are to the race the more you reduce volume. Be sensible at this time- you’ve done all the hard important preparation it’s ok to ease up now.