I 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.
It’s really hard to believe how fast the time has gone by, but here I am in the second to last week of the training plan. So far, I have managed to stick pretty well to the program, only skipping out on two sessions – although I have moved some sessions around to accommodate my schedule and various niggles and strains. Speaking of … following tonight’s resistance training I felt a little tightness in my right quad. Depending on how I feel in the morning, I may switch my moderate paced 5 mile run from Wednesday to Tuesday, and do my speed work on Wednesday evening. Otherwise, the sessions are consist with prior weeks. Thursday is another resistance training day involving stationary bike, weights, and swimming. Saturday is my final long run, a 12 mile trek consisting of two full loops of Central Park. And Sunday is another easy 4 mile run to help warm down and loosen the muscles going in the final stretch.
I have to admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 11 weeks. I have more energy throughout the day and feel a lot better about myself. I also have a lot more confidence in my ability to complete a long run – far more than I did when I first set out on this journey. Even now, the thought of running a marathon is less daunting than it might have been three months ago when the idea first took root. The two most important things I have learned over these 11 weeks are preparation and balance. Preparing properly, building up over time to the race distance and keeping to an appropriate pace will help me get the results I want without risking injury. Jess has also taught me the importance of balancing my running with other activities. She has been very patient throughout the program, and I hope that I have become a little more flexible now than in the beginning.
Entering the third to last week of the training plan, my body has recovered from the pains of a ten mile run and the skiing trip. This week I plan to get back on track with my program as I look to the half-marathon in three weeks. Monday will revert to a rest day, with 5 mile paced runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. I have swimming and weights on Thursday, followed by two runs over the weekend. One 4 mile route and a an 11 mile run to continue building my stamina and familiarity with the half-marathon distance.
Earlier today I completed the longest run of the training program so far, and the longest I have every undertaken. The ten mile route was made up one full lap of Central Park, and a second, shortened lap between the 102nd St transverse and terrace drive. I wasn’t too worried about this run given that I had completed a 9 mile route the previous week and the course avoided the Harlem Hill. The additional mile on top of last week’s effort did not significantly alter the workload.
The run itself was uneventful. I felt fine through the first lap, but the second time around felt some discomfort as I started the triple threat down the West side. I stopped to walk for a minute at the crest of the first hill, and started up running again after the feeling subsided. For the rest of the route everything felt good and as I eased up around the Guggenheim I actually felt like I could go another mile or two.
Thankfully I didn’t. Shortly after completing the run my quads started to feel like they were on fire. Hours later and I’m still feeling pain in both legs. I can’t figure out why all of a sudden I am feeling like this. I stuck to my training plan all week, and did nothing strange this morning prior to the run. I also hydrated as much as previous runs. I’m kind of lost, but I’ll keep an eye on things over the coming days and see how my recovery goes. I also think getting a good race-day routine down will help me avoid problems in the future.
I can’t believe I’m at week eight already – the first two months have zipped by but it’s clear from my recent runs that the program is working. The speed sessions have given me the ability to produce an extra kick when really needed and the long runs have gradually increased my stamina.
The biggest challenge this week will be the ten mile run at the weekend, but this should not present any major difficulties following my recent 9 mile run and provided I follow my typical run-day preparations. My training plan prescribes a tempo run on Tuesday, followed by a typical 5 mile effort on Wednesday. Monday and Thursday will again be reserved for strength and cross training, incorporating cycling and swimming respectively. Saturday is going to be a short paced run, followed by that long 10 mile effort on Sunday morning. As last week, I may switch the order of the two weekend runs depending on other commitments.
Although I have maintained a consistent level when it comes to the bicycle cross training, the workload during swimming practice on Thursdays has increased each session. I expect this to continue as my coach pushes me to learn the basic strokes and develop both kick and arm strengths, so I am curious to see how this effects my running.
This weekend promised to be a tough challenge, featuring a 9 mile run – the farthest distance I have ever undertaken and something I would never have believed possible a few months ago. Thankfully, the weather cooperated to a certain extent and by the time I set off from my building at 7:45 this morning there was no snow on the ground and just a light fall from the sky.
Wrapped up in my tights, long sleeve undershirt, wooly hat, and windcheater, I made my way to the West side of the park and the starting point for my 9 mile run. The plan was to complete a full circuit, returning to the start point on the West side. From there, my path would take me down the West side for a second time but differing slightly in that it cut across Terrace Drive and returned up the East side to finish by the Guggenheim. The course was extremely undulating, with at least a half dozen long uphill drags to test out my stamina and strength throughout the run.
The first few miles went by quickly and easily, and I was in line with my typical run pace by the time I hit three miles. Taking advantage of the relatively easy East side from 86 St., I upped my speed and made back some time that would help me on the tougher Harlem Hills section to come. By the time I completed the full loop, I was well on pace for my target time and still felt as though I had plenty of gas in the tank. The second trip down the West side was a little tougher because of the two long inclines, but the downhill stretch around the 70’s helped to move my time back within the target range.
As I turned onto Terrace Drive and passed the (mental) 8-mile marker, I knew I had it in me to finish within my target. Despite the tough uphill finish around the boathouse and past the Museum of Modern Art, I still had enough energy to sprint the last stretch and sneak across the line in just under 80 minutes.
On the jog home I couldn’t help but feel extremely proud of what I had accomplished. When I think back to those early days a year ago, just starting out and barely able to complete a full mile without a walking break, today’s achievement felt like something special. To do it inside my 9 minute mile pace just made that bit sweeter.
Week four required a little more effort than the first three, but that does not mean I get to take it easy now. Rather, the training plan for week five continues to increase the workload as the second of my incremental increase weeks before a smaller workload for a week. As always, Monday and Thursday focus on strength and cross training. Depending on how I feel, I will do two circuits of the strength program or 30 minutes on the bike and one circuit.
Tuesday’s run is again 4.5 miles, while Wednesday’s speed work alternates quarter mile jogs and sprints. Given that my typical run pace is 6.7 MPH, I take the quarter mile jogs at 6.3 MPH and the sprints at 7.5 MPH. Saturday is a 4 mile run, followed by a lengthy 8 miler on Sunday morning to round out the week.
I have some personal engagements this week, so will have to work to move things around so that my training does suffer. I try to take my runs at least 24 hours apart, but have some flexibility when it comes to the strength programs.
Let’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.
My training plan is consistent for a reason – working to a prescribed plan will help condition my body and limit the risk of injury. If you have looked over the training plan I posted, you will know that Monday and Thursday are non-running days where I focus on strength and conditioning. Typically, this involves some bike work and either one or two circuits of the weight machines at my gym to help build muscle.
This week’s Tuesday run is 4 mile runs, while Wednesday is a 4 mile tempo run at race pace. For me, that means starting out at my usual pace and then pushing myself to about 7 MPH for the majority of the session. This weeks see’s a chance in schedule because of the upcoming 10K in Central Park. Instead of running another 4 miles on Saturday followed by a longer 6 mile run on Saturday, the two are flipped around. This is not ideal, as longer runs are easier following a tempo run rather than before it. However, I want to keep to my plan and I would rather rotate the two days than chop and change my rest days.
For as far back as I can remember, I have been interested in the marathon and those that participate in the great race. I found myself wondering what motivated someone to dedicate all that time and effort to train and prepare for a 26.2 mile run. And not just physically, but also the mental and emotional preparation. A few weeks ago, Jess and I watched the NYC marathon pass through her neighborhood in Brooklyn and then at the finish in Central Park. Watching all those people making their way down the last half mile, seeing the looks on their faces as they caught the first glimpse of the finish line, and the overwhelming joy as they finished, the only thought going through my mind was that “if they could do this then so could I.”
Of course, I was under no illusion as to the work that would have to go into this endeavor. It’s not like I could go out and run a marathon then and there. Although I had been running for almost a year, I was only hovering around the 4 mile mark for most of my runs and stepping up to a longer distance was going to take time and preparation. But at that moment I made a promise to myself, just like all the other goals I had set myself in the past, that I would do whatever it took to complete a marathon.
As it stands right now, my only option for the 2012 NYC marathon is the lottery which promises very low odds. I have joined New York Road Runners and will work towards my 9+1 participation for the 2013 marathon, but in the meantime I am looking for other options in the Northeast for late in 2012.
The purpose of this blog is to track my progress, share my experiences, and keep a diary of the highs and lows over the course of the coming year.