Marathon Training Plan

26_predictions_001I have just finished creating my marathon training plan. I’ve spent some time looking around online and discovered that there are a large number of outlets that actually charge for this service. I’m not going to mention the fee-based services here, but a simple web search will reveal them if you’re interested. I can’t say I’m that surprised that someone has figured out how to monetize training plans, but the reality is that most of the information needed to create an effective plan is available online, and for free. With a little work, any runner can build their own customized plan and save themselves a few dollars. After all, most of these outlets are just reselling a set of canned plans that are tweaked slightly based on the individual parameters that a customers provides. The reality is that nobody knows the athlete better than the athlete themselves! I took the time to create my own plan for the half-marathon and it worked pretty well … so I’m going to do the same thing for the marathon, and fingers crossed I’ll see similar results.

In addition to using the same sources as before, I am incorporating some additional wisdom gathered from fellow runners, online resources and my own experience over the last few months into what I hope will be a well-rounded marathon training plan.

Having never run a marathon, I am vaguely aware of the amount of work required to bring my stamina and endurance to the level required to sustain me for four or more hours of running. I need to be careful not to over train and risk injury, while ensuring I do enough to meet my bodies needs. I am looking at an 18 week plan, with five days of running per week and gradually incrementing long runs on a Sunday (the only day of the week my schedule can support 2+ hour runs). I am planning on incorporating two rest days into the schedule, probably Monday and Friday, to allow myself sufficient recovery time between activities but also to accommodate some cross training such as cycling or swimming to use alternative muscle sets. In addition, I plan on including some variation in the running in the form of tempo runs and speed work. The speed work will combine Yasso 800s, Fartleks, and hill repeats. Essentially, this is the same half-marathon plan with some minor adjustments for the increased distance, workload, and time span.

As the marathon takes place on a Sunday, all my long runs are scheduled for Sunday mornings. I believe consistency is key in preparation, and helps reduce the risk of injury. However, I deviate from that model in weeks two and six because I am taking part in organized races.

Entries highlighted in red are organized races – more information for those can be found on the race information page.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Nine

nyc_half_w9It’s week nine and I am into the final stretch. The big run this weekend is eight miles, a drop in workload from the previous two weeks but the rest of the activities follow the same pattern. My training plan suggests some speed work consisting of 9 x 400 meter sprints on Tuesday, followed by a typical 5 mile effort on Wednesday. I will continue my light workloads on Monday and Thursday, combining 15 minutes on the stationary bike with some weights and swimming. Saturday is going to be a short paced run, around 4 miles.

However, Jess and I have plans to go skiing this weekend and because my quads are still hurting, there are going to be some changes in the order of activities. Instead of taking rest on Friday, I’m going to switch that to Monday. The extra day will help me recover quicker and hopefully allow me to get back up and running on Tuesday. We’re leaving for the ski resort on Friday night, so I’ll run earlier in the day and skip the long run on Saturday. This means I should be able to squeeze in the short paced run on Sunday evening. I know it’s not ideal to skip a long run at this late stage, but the problems with my quads has me worried and I want to give my legs plenty of recovery time.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Seven

nyc_half_w7This week steps things up again after a relatively easy week six. Despite the race on Sunday, there’s no real rest until Friday. According to the training plan, Monday is focused on strength and conditioning. With the addition of swimming to Thursday’s list of activities, I have backed off the bicycle a little and will swap some of that time for pool time to allow me practice time. Tuesday is another speed session, with 8 quarter mile sprints interspersed between 9 quarter mile jogs. Wednesday’s easy run also increases from 4.5 miles to 5 miles.

Saturday and Sunday are reserved for a short 4 mile run and a longer 9 mile run – notable in that it will be the longest distance I will have ever run. Although the schedule calls for them in that order, I am flipping to two days to free up some personal time. I can’t see there being any harm in juggling runs like that; although the forecast is predicting snow for the weekend, so who knows how things will pan out.

Speed Work

speed_work_001I have found that Wednesday’s are my least favorite training day, mainly because of the intensity required for the speed work on that day. The other three runs in a typical week are paced runs, starting at 4 miles and increasing in length on Sunday’s. Paced run’s are quite easy – I tend to take them at about 80% effort, raising my heart rate to the high 140’s for the duration. The purpose of these runs is to log miles, build stamina, develop good habits, and ultimately condition my body and mind to deal with the rigors of long distance running.

Speed work is a different animal. Running at the same pace all the time builds stamina for distance. Speed work is a valuable tool in a runner’s training arsenal, and is the only way to condition the body to run at a fast pace. For anyone interested in improving their race times (and that includes myself), speed work will add an additional gear or two to the runner’s motor that they can use during races.

For the purposes of the half-marathon, my speed work consists of alternating quarter mile stretches jogging and sprinting. The following table provides a guideline for pace setting during speed work:

Distance Pace
200 meters 112-115%
400 meters 108-112%
800 meters 105-108%
1 mile 103-105%


My typical run pace is 6.66 mph or roughly 9 minutes per mile, which is equivalent to 2:15 for a quarter mile. Using the high end of the speed pace guidelines, I should be running 400 meters at 7.46 mph or approximately two minutes. Just for fun, I actually round that number up and set my sprint speed to 7.5 mph. for the jogging intervals, I tend to drop my pace to 6.3 mph to aid my recovery and ensure I have something in the tank for the next sprint. In addition, I increase the workload every other week by adding one extra quarter mile sprint.

Now that I am on week six, my interval training consists of nine quarter mile jogs surrounding eight quarter mile sprints – total of 4.25 miles. By the end of the session I am completely wiped out, I literally have nothing left in the tank. It’s a good thing that the next two days on my training plan consist of circuit training and a well deserved rest.

Note: speed work is great for improving running times, but it can also be the cause of a wide variety of running injuries. Speed work should only be added to a training plan once the runner has developed a sufficient level of strength and stamina to support intense athletic activity. The training program described here has been tailored for my personal goals. Please consult a certified coach or medical professional before embarking on a similar training plan of your own.

Half-Marathon Training

half_training_001This is my training plan for the NYC Half-Marathon on March 18. I put this together after researching a number of different sources and approaches, primarily based on Hal Higdon’s half-marathon program for intermediate runners. Unlike the original version, I have allocated time for stretching every day and set specific cross training targets on Mondays and Thursdays. Typically, those cross training sessions involve cycling and swimming respectively. I believe that this plan will give me the gradual improvement in strength, stamina, and distance to allow me to comfortably complete the half-marathon in a good target time. As of right now, I am looking at a two hour target but may revise that down over time – depending on how I progress.

As the half-marathon takes place on a Sunday, all my long runs are scheduled for Sunday mornings. I believe consistency is key in preparation, and helps reduce the risk of injury. However, I deviate from that model in weeks two and six because I am taking part in organized races.

Entries highlighted in red are organized races – more information for those can be found on the race information page.