Help me Crowdsource my Marathon Plan!

November is finally upon us, and that means the start of marathon training for a newbie like me. Overall I’m really excited to begin training, although slightly dreading actual race day. And of course me being me, I like to plan in advance. SoΒ I slightly stole this idea from a fellow blogger, but I need help from you, my internet friend, about marathon training.

Some context: my goal race is Manchester Marathon on 11th April 2016. Eek!

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Nobody panic.

Here are my general thoughts- this is a bit of a brainstorm:

  • I’m still in active recovery from injury, meaning I’m allowed to run 3-4 times a week and I still get symptoms.
  • I’d rather have a looser plan since I don’t like to feel too restricted (running is a treat for me after all) but I also know that come race day, I need to be able to trust in my training.
  • I’d like to have a long training season (16-20 weeks)- if I fuck up a week, it won’t matter quite so much.
  • I’m not keen to run more than 4 times per week- that’s how I got injured in the first place.
  • I already swim, cycle and strength train regularly
  • I need to avoid further injury!
  • I’d like to follow a plan of 3 weeks building mileage + 1 week ‘easy’ week
  • I’m self-employed. This means I can be more flexible, but also that my work schedule will be less predictable. I need some wiggle room in my plan!
I’m thinking out loud here, but I would really appreciate your thoughts!
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Please, if you have any thoughts, leave me a comment- I will be very grateful!
Lots of love,
Pippa
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26 thoughts on “Help me Crowdsource my Marathon Plan!

  1. Based on what you described, it sounds like the Hal Higdon plans might be a good fit for you. They are free online and he has several plans, broken up by Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.

    I’ve never used one, but from what I’ve gathered they seem to be good plans for beginners – the mileage is kept (relatively) low and the midweek runs are mostly easy and on the shorter side (you could easily sub one out for a cross training day). From what I’ve heard and what I gathered looking at the plans, the emphasis in the non-advanced plans is more on just finishing a marathon, not racing one, so they lack the intensity of some other style plans, which is good for you since you are a first timer and still recovering. Since most of his plans don’t include strict instructions for every workout, they are very easily customizable too http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51135/Marathon-Training-Guide

    Good luck!

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  2. There are so many choices and methods for marathon training, it’s enough to drive you nuts, and they all seem to make perfect sense, so picking one can seem overwhelming. I’ve followed different plans over the past 3 years but for my last marathon , Chicago, and my next, Maui, I basically put together a combination of 3 previous plans, then tweaked it for my own preferences. A typical week for me consists of 2 easy runs, 1 at target marathon pace, 1 interval/speed workout and the standard prescribed long slow run. Mileage builds for 3 weeks then drops back for a week to recuperate. Usually I plan for a half-marathon or 2 during the training. If you search on Higdon intermediate plans, you’ll get an idea…just drop one of the easy runs. You can also tailor the speed work to what works best for you. You have plenty of time which allows some flexibility as well. Good luck..cheers!

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      1. Yeah, I like being able to customize a plan to suit my own strengths and weaknesses,..I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach, at least if there is, I haven’t found it!

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  3. i always use the Jeff Galloway training plans to prepare for my races and they do pretty well. I have never done a marathon though so I dont know how his plan is for those but for the half is every other week mileage building. Dont know if you already know Jeff Galloway or not though……

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  4. I don’t follow a specific plan–I just map out my long runs during each training cycle and then fill in the blanks for the rest of the workouts as my time, energy, weather, etc permits. I don’t like to overthink it too much. It sounds like you might be more comfortable with a more formal plan, but just remember that missing a few runs here and there (especially speed work, which is really great for getting faster but less important if your goal is just to finish). Based on my experience, under no circumstances do you need to run more than 4x per week. Use those other days to cross-train (including core work) and rest. I sleep so much more when I am in training mode, but our bodies really need it. It sounds like you have a great attitude and plenty of time. Good luck!

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  5. Hal Higdon gets my vote too – you could do it in app form too if you like someone chirping in your ear. I also would recommend the RunKeeper app plans. I just used it for my half and full training this year and both times they were right on track! good luck!!!!

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  6. I greatly recommend the Run Less Run faster marathon plan. 3 runs a week and cross-training. It allowed me to stay injury-free and PB despite taking a 4 weeks taper before the marathon due to being busy with med school. I never though that I would enjoy marathon training so much. You can read my weekly training recaps on my blog (pink heading pictures)

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  7. I do better without a plan than with one. A good basic guideline is one long run, one speed work a week, with easy runs sprinkled around. I did well with 35-40 miles per week (and soccer/bike riding every other day).

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  8. You’ve got some great answers here! In my first marathon, one of the aspects of my that gave me a ton of confidence for the marathon was running one longish midweek run (7-10 miles, increasing as training progressed). These runs also included some speed and/or tempo paced running, but you haven’t been doing speed work I would recommend easing into it or skipping it altogether.

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  9. In all honesty, if you still have injury symptoms I wouldn’t recommend training for a marathon until your injury is cleared and you truly know how to avoid it next time around. Aside from that, my vote is for Hal Higdon as well. I use his plans, but don’t run the days consecutively as he prescribes because that doesn’t work for my schedule. I believe his Novice 1 plan is only 4 days of running per week. On a side note, the amount of days you run per week really shouldn’t cause you to be injured unless you’re having a sudden huge jump in mileage. I harp on this a lot on my blog, but so many runners do their easy runs too fast. Make sure you take your easy runs easy! Everything shouldn’t be done at race pace.

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    1. Thanks! Hal Higdon sounds like the winner here! Luckily I have my physio on board and I actually have to run with the injury- because the arch is weight-bearing, it has to get used to bearing the weight of running, so I’m very carefully building up my mileage and checking in with him! Thanks for the advice πŸ™‚

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  10. Hello Pippa. You’ve been given some really good advice and I definitely agree with Racingoprah about a mid week long(ish) run being beneficial. Runner’s World have some good training plans but I think as long as you stick to your 4 sessions a week, with one tempo run or hilly run, one easy run, one long(ish) run and a long run, you will be all good. All the standard advice – don’t increase mileage by more than 10% a week, make sure you are eating properly and getting enough sleep, take proper rest days (no cross training!) and every 4 weeks, scale the mileage back.

    I’ve trained for marathons every winter / spring for the past 6 years and this year I ran 4 or 5 times a week rather than 6, didn’t do a long run every week, only 2 out of 3. And guess what? I finally ran the sub 4 hour marathon that I was certainly capable of before, but had been eluding me because I had overtrained.

    From my own experience, I would recommend getting a sports massage every 4 to 6 weeks during training, ice / cold water baths for 20 minutes after you get back (not pleasant I admit!) after your long runs and try to make your longest run 22 miles. It’s psychological – you’re only 4 mile off the full marathon distance and it will boost your confidence. Also, I don’t know what you use for during race fuel, but I switched from using gels (which tend to make me feel nauseous if I have more than a couple) to banana baby food pouches. They work a treat! Try the Ella’s Kitchen ones.

    Good luck Pippa! I really hope you enjoy your challenge!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh yes I need to get on the sports massage/bath game! I’ll try to see my massage guy in the next few weeks. I weirdly don’t mind ice baths- think I’m the only one! I mean they’re not the most pleasant but I don’t seem to find them as hideous as everyone else!

      I actually really love the baby food apple puree pouches- everyone thinks I’m a weirdo so I’m glad there’s someone else who likes them! I also find Sesame Snaps great as they’re basically seeds and honey- great energy! I’m lucky that my stomach doesn’t really respond badly to food right before/during a run so I have a bit more wiggle room πŸ™‚

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  11. Loads of great advice there, and definitely second the comment about getting fit first. Is this your first marathon? Hal Higdon is great; used his plans a couple of times, but they are limited if you stay in the basic offering. It’s well worth putting in some hours in research before putting in the hours on the road. Only you know where you’re at in terms of fitness, and an off-the-peg plan is going to work perfectly for you in the same way astrology dices up the world into a dozen neat packages. Too easy, and you may reach the race without enough quality miles and speed work completed. Too complex and you may burn out or pick up another injury. The only advice I would humbly offer is to make sure to rest up if you feel a tweak. Best of luck; you’ve plenty of time to pick the right plan for you.

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  12. Hi, Thought I’d give you my approach too, this is what I would look for. (Sorry, its a long comment!)
    4 runs a week = 1 long slow run, 1 tempo run, 1 hilly run/or progression run, 1 easy run.
    Probably a good idea given your history to knock one of these out hough. So…
    3 runs a week = drop the easy run and keep the quality sessions.
    As Manchester is your goal and its flat, I would drop out the hilly sessions without about 8 weeks to go to concentrate on distance. You’ll have developed a good base of leg strength by that point.

    Key points – Keep your Long Run EASY. You should be able to talk. Its more about time on feet.
    Progression run – start at your long slow run pace, take between 10-20s off each mile until your final mile is at (provisional) goal marathon pace. Build up to a max of 8 miles.
    Tempo Run – Warm up then 30mins at an effort you can just sustain for perhaps 45-60mins. (Given your injury history, I would actually make this an easy run for the first half of the training plan)
    Hilly run – easy on the flats, work hard on the hills. 3-5miles
    Easy Run – easy pace, 3 miles.
    Nutrition, Sleep and rest days are just as important. It might mean dropping out your core sessions or cross-training as the volume increases.

    Wait until your 2 weeks out from your race to decide what time you’re going to aim for.

    If you feel tired – have a rest day, if you want to swap a hard run out and just do a few easy miles, do it. If you miss a few runs due to a cold or whatever, don’t stress about it and don’t try and catch up, just forget about them.
    Massage is good if you can, a good therapist will keep you injury free. If not, then re-aquaint yourself with your foam roller.

    If you want to pick my brains on anything please ask, I’m happy to help. I’m an England Athletics coach and work closely with runners over a variety of distances. And more importantly, I’m a runner who understands the issues that you’ll face.

    Good luck – listen to your body.

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