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.

Heavy Legs, Must Stretch

stretch001I find it interesting how both of the issues that have plagued me over the last year can be connected back to one of the most basic activities a runner can undertake. Ever since I started running I have been plagued by heavy legs. It’s probably something that most runners have encountered, but something I could never get to the bottom of. When running, my legs feel like blocks of concrete and they become a focus of my attention. My breathing and recovery intervals are fine, but my legs feel so heavy that I often struggle to overcome the desire to slow down and walk. Amazingly, the answer was staring me in the face all along. My legs were heavy because my muscles were tight, and my muscles were tight because I was not stretching them enough.

Although it’s true that stretching was featured on my training plan, clearly it wasn’t something I paid a lot of attention to. Seldom was I in a position where I could dedicate time to stretching out my legs, back, and core muscles. I was always running here or there (sometimes with a struggle). But acting on the advice of my physical therapist, I have started to stretch more often and have developed a customized set of activities that focus on key running muscles. I also have a set of recovery stretches and strength exercises that are aimed and promoting healing and muscle building in my knees.

Everyday Stretching

  • Wall Pushups
  • Back Scratch
  • Hamstring
  • Quads
  • Heel to Buttock
  • Hip & Lower Back
  • IT Band
  • Bridge
  • Groin

Knee Rehab Stretching & Strength Building

  • Hamstring
  • Standing Calf
  • Quads
  • Heel Slide
  • Straight Leg Raise
  • Side Lying Leg Lift
  • Wall Squat w/ Ball
  • Clam
  • IT Band

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional and this information is provided in the context of my own experiences for reference purposes only. These plans were designed with my specific situation in mind. If you suffer from similar problems or are designing your own stretching program, please seek out the advice of a trained professional.

Race Day Routine

race_day_routine_001Every runner has their own race day routine – a very personal, but essential process of preparing for a run that they have developed over a long period of time. Like most runners, I learned over time how to best prepare for a race. For my first race, I arrived at the start late and barely had time to register and warm up before the starters gun sounded. These days, I plan ahead and leave enough time to get the start and stretch.

For my second race, I forgot my running socks and ended the race with some serious chaffing on my undercarriage. After months of training and numerous different running outfits, I settled on one that I feel most comfortable in and now I set that aside a few days in advance. On race day, I know where my gear is and I know it’s clean – I don’t have to stress over my preparations and I know I will be comfortable during the run.

Some runners suffer from chub rub, the result of the thighs rubbing against each other throughout a long run. I use compression shorts to avoid that unpleasant experience, but that has actually led to another problem. Chaffing on that part of the undercarriage between the front plumbing and the back plumbing. The first time it happened to me I didn’t notice until I got home and stood under a hot shower – the stinging pain shot through me like a hot knife and it was quite painful to sit for a couple of hours. Vaseline has become an essential part of my running kit now, and before a long run of competitive race I rub a generous amount in that area to help keep my sensitive regions in good shape.

One of my most challenging aspects of the race day routine is ensuring regularity and managing my bowel movements. Sure, it’s not a glamorous topic and one that many people will avoid talking about – but a friend and I happened to get into it recently when we both had similar experiences of running with a full load. It seems like there’s no single way to ensure the timing of a bathroom visit pre-race, but there are common runners tricks that you can try. For instance, I am now in the habit of getting up 90 minutes before a run and drinking a cup of coffee first thing. After 20/30 minutes getting ready, I am ready to visit the bathroom. I also drink a lot of water the night before, and again during the night when I wake up and have to pee. The regular hydration encourages bowel movements. In addition, I have started using pepto-bismol or tums to settle my stomach and avoid a bathroom break during the race.

One last thing … two Aleve before I leave my place helps to keep the knee pains at bay.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Three

nyc_half_w3Let’s not forget the upcoming half-marathon, scheduled for March 18. To say I’m looking forward to that event would be an understatement, but there is still a long way to go to get myself ready. Although I am reasonably fit and at a good weight, I don’t know if I have the strength or stamina to push myself for thirteen miles and complete the run in a reasonable target time.

This week’s training incorporates three 4 miles runs on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday; some speed work on Wednesday; and two strength session on Monday and Thursday. Sunday’s run, typically the longest of the week, is actually shorter than the previous two weeks to give my legs and body a chance to recover. As the training plan prescribes, every third week the long run is two miles shorter than the previous week. I don’t know if that’s the typical approach, but it’s something I picked up while reviewing some training experts websites and compiling my personal half-marathon training plan.

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.


stretch_001Over the last couple of weeks I have been looking at various ways to get more out of my work outs and also improve my overall fitness. Obviously, I want to avoid excessive exertion and reduce the potential for injuries. Cramming more activities into my sessions was a non-starter given that I cover two or three areas in each one. It was actually Jess who pointed out, around the time of Jingle Bell Jog, that I could stretch more after and between runs to loosen up my body and help the recovery process.

I started to investigate different stretches, their value and effects, and am putting together a short list of the most beneficial activities to combine into a brief 15 minute stretching routine. Ideally, this is something I will be able to do every day and following runs to aid recovery and encourage muscle development.

I will circle back in a few days and post a summary of the stretches, once I have had a chance to evaluate their effects and choose what I believe are the best for me.