View Full Version : Marathon training plan

John B
12-04-2009, 11:06
Attached is a training plan that I am using to run the April 24 KY Derby marathon. In the past I've always trained by myself and did whatever felt right on a particular day. While there is no necessary correlation, I also developed numerous debilitating injuries -- usually ITB or achilles-related. So I joined a club and the coach is using this plan for newbies and older runners -- the underlying structure is to build up a good base slowly before building distance.

What isn't mentioned in the chart is Monday is considered a recovery run, Tues-Thurs is when interval or tempos are done, and the Sat. long run is a group run, which I've found very useful.

Also what isn't mentioned is a base-building period from Oct-Jan, which has been a gradually escalating weekly mileage up to 30 with long runs being 10-12 miles.

Unlike many plans, there is no 26-mile training run, substituting instead three 20s. This is somewhat of a concern to me but I'll deal with it in March.

If I can remain injury free, long-term goals are a minimum of three marathons in 2010 and then the American River 50 Miler in April 2011. No clue what training plan I'll use for a 50 miler -- probably something from the run100s website.

For other distance runners, if you follow a structured plan, maybe share it with others here.

12-04-2009, 11:22
I've run 3 ultras and each time learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. Like thru-hiking I found it's mostly mental. For me, I always made sure a 30 mile run was the longest training run. Having sufficient taper is critical also. I think you're smart by adjusting your training schedule to minimize injuries.

I'll send you a pm with some internet links I've found useful.

Good luck!

12-04-2009, 11:35
I wasn't able to keep up with the recommendations of this scheduler (http://www.scrunners.org/ultrasch.php), (missed a good portion of the days), but plan on giving another ultra a try next year, maybe even two or three. I'm hoping to get a 16 miler earlier in the year, give the 30 another go and if I can get into top form possibly try a 50.

max patch
12-04-2009, 11:38
For me -- this isn't going to apply to everyone -- I've found over the years that if I limit my longest run to 20 miles then around mile 22-23 I really start hurting. When I started making my longest run 26 miles this problem went away.

I'm guessing that if I were to do regular weight training then restricting my longest run to 20 miles would work although I've never tested this. Weight training -- despite good intentions -- is always the first thing to go for me when time is short.

12-04-2009, 21:32
The marathon training plans that I have seen usually have their longest runs as 20 or 21 miles. The theory is that any distance over 20 miles does damage to your muscles that more than cancels out the benefits of running that far.

I have heard (but never managed to include in my program) that interval training and cross training regularly during marathon training will help you get maximum benefit. For my marathon last spring, I used this plan http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/inter1.html

I did change it by substituting a 20 mile run for the week 11 long run, and I generally ran on Mondays instead of cross-training. I think I would have done better if I had done the cross.

Good luck in your training. May every race be a pb.

12-04-2009, 22:45
In cross-training. I've seen good results recently from core work, but also bicycling helped me a lot two years ago with aerobic base while minimizing injury. I biked-ran-biked on that training cycle. It extends your conditioning again minimizing injury. If you can tack on a moderate 1 hr bike ride before and after a 3+ hour run, you're adapting to "being out there awhile" -it'll come in handy.

The plan looks good. My only change would be to run a short very easy run the day after the long run, or at least bicycle, even better maybe -swim or water run.
Like switch Tues and Sun.

A good 15 min post run ritual can make your training much more productive Check this out. (http://runningtimes.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=18221)

If you weren't under the gun from a calendar perspective I'd follow Max in doing 20+ runs. You can make if on 1, 2, or 3 20s. It's just those first few 20+ ones will hurt more, and for you're first marathon you may as well just save the hurt for race day.

If you haven't already, now's a good time to get use to some solid calories on the long runs. You'll feel and think better during the run, recover quicker, and less likely to bust something. It takes practice to digest on the run.

Next year you ought to sign up for that Feb 2011 Loving the Hills 50K. It's somewhere close by you.

First three years of running, I ate any and all the junk I wanted and still lost some weight. This year I've been more cautious about quality and that has over time taken care of the constant ACYE complex I was developing.
Quality carbs and lean protein -I've switched from soy to hemp protein suppliments.
You can buy it cheap online in bulk from Canada.
It's legal and tastes good. Of course steak works and supposedly catfish has some especially good muscle rebuilding nutrient.

Good Luck,
Enjoy your endorphins
and 4000 calorie days :D

12-05-2009, 21:58
Hi John,
I see your age. I ran a marathon at 40 and my friend was your age. Our first. We followed a plan develped by Hal Higdon, a Chicago Marathon instutution. He is probably dead of old age now. Anyway, no need to run a 26. Our longest was 20. The last six is mental anyway.
I had never run longer than a 10K when I started. The plan seems to work with middle aged runners with a decent seven mile base. Good luck and have fun!

12-05-2009, 22:37
.......We followed a plan develped by Hal Higdon, a Chicago Marathon instutution.....

Here's a second vote for all Hal Higdon's training routines. His method seems to have the best balance of increase and taper than any out there. Plus he provides novice, intermediate, and advanced schedules. All free online.

www.halhigdon.com Look under the "Training Programs" tab in the left column.

Remember, a marathon is just a 20 mile warm-up for a 6.2 mile run.

jersey joe
12-06-2009, 09:53
Here's a second vote for all Hal Higdon's training routines. His method seems to have the best balance of increase and taper than any out there. Plus he provides novice, intermediate, and advanced schedules. All free online.

www.halhigdon.com (http://www.halhigdon.com) Look under the "Training Programs" tab in the left column.

Here is a THIRD vote for Hal Higdon's training routines. I used his Novice 1 training schedule for my first marathon a couple of years ago. The top run in this schedule was also 20 miles. http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/novices.html

12-06-2009, 11:00
Here is a THIRD vote for Hal Higdon's training routines. I used his Novice 1 training schedule for my first marathon a couple of years ago. The top run in this schedule was also 20 miles. http://www.halhigdon.com/marathon/novices.html

I have used Hal's plan as well as the plans outlined in Runners World Magazine. These plans are always on their website. You choose the plan you want... Beginner, Advanced, etc.

I've run 5 marathons including Boston using the plans. One thing I strongly suggest is modifying your pace and distance. It's best to mix some tempo runs, speedwork, and EZ long runs as part of the weekly schedule. When training, I usually run speedwork on Tues., Recovery on Weds, Tempo on Thurs, EZ Sat, Long run on Sun... That's just me. I only run 5 days a week... I'm a little older than most so the mileage is less.

I agree with running no more than 22 miles in training. I usually do this 2 times; the last being 3 weeks out from the marathon... then taper from there.

Hope this is of some help,


12-06-2009, 16:53
Your plan looks intriguing. I've signed up for a May marathon, and have been starting to read up on training plans.

Currently, I'm running about 4 days a week. My vague marathon plan is to a long run each weekend, of the distance posted in your spreadsheet, one tempo run (around 6 miles), one hill run (5 miles round trip, plenty of elevation), and one shorter speed run on the track (a mile warm-up and then 4ish x 1000m intervals). Perhaps, if time permits, I'd do a 4 mile easy run on another day.

4 runs a week might seem light, but it does seem to keep me injury-free. I seem to require a bit more recovery time than I did when I was younger.

12-06-2009, 22:11
I've been running alot this past year while trying to get my weight down.
Of course running and walking help to get the weight down, but its still a struggle.

In my opinion getting your weight down to a reasonable running weight is the most important factor in running performance, and running injury prevention.
I wonder how many others are doing alot of running and walking and still have trouble losing weight.

Any others in this boat?

12-06-2009, 22:55
I like the plan though, because it is simple.

Something I would keep an eye on is the heart rate you should expect to run the marathon at. It should be base on the duration of the race, not the distance.

If you will be running a 4 hour marathon, you can't be expected to run it at 75% VO2Max. It will be more like an ultra. I'm not sure how training for an ultra is that much different that that of a marathon however. I would focus on weight loss and long slow distance, at race pace or slower, and not worry so much any running faster than your target race pace. Doesn't hurt to add a little variety now and then though, but I think weight loss and slow running is most important for 3-5 hour marathons. My 2 cents.

The Catch 22 is running to lose weight to prevent injury, without causing injury.
I think adding some long walks might help alot, if you have the time.

12-06-2009, 23:28
Thanks for the Hal Higdon. I bookmarked it.

I'm running every day that it doesn't rain, averaging about four times a week, on a 2.75 mile course.

I have been running as part of a weight loss program since this spring and have lost several pounds.

Limiting calories seems to contribute more to the weight loss than the exercise. However, if somebody was running regularly and keeping down their calories, it's hard to imagine that they wouldn't at least maintain a steady weight if not begin to shed pounds.

My weight has kind of plateaued lately but I'm still trying pretty hard to keep down the calories.

I was actually running more but my right knee couldn't take it. Since then I've added $20 inserts to my sneakers (making the inserts almost worth more than the sneakers) but I have not tried to bring the mileage up that much. I should probably try to have a day or two each week where I run a greater distance but I've gotten into the habit of running a standard course.

12-07-2009, 04:50
I went from lots of long distance hiking, to running a marathon, to running numerous ultras at almost every distance, back to running marathons. (hopefully will regress back to lots of long distance hiking again when my kid gets old enough to join me)
Anyway, my training was always basically the same: run (or hike) as much as possible depending on how much time you have to do it.
If I had the time to run 8-12 hours a day again, I'd probably be still running ultras.
I never felt better than when i was running (or hiking) 100 + miles a week.
Last year, i only had about 10 hours a week to train and did one of my worst marathon's ever and hit the wall at mile 18. (this year my goal is to double my training)

12-07-2009, 08:00
I just checked out the Hal Higdon plan. Similar to the plans on Runners World Smart Coach & Active Trainer, but without pacing.

I use McMillian Running for pacing http://www.mcmillanrunning.com/mcmillanrunningcalculator.htm Run a 1 mile or 5K to determine your current fitness level and training pace.


I've dropped 16 lbs by changing my diet and running the past 11 weeks. I am eating much more healthy foods, not dieting.

I'll be training with the rest of you for a 1/2 M on my birthday in March.

12-07-2009, 23:43
Running for weight loss is tricky. If you don't fuel properly or sufficiently for the effort load, you risk injury.
Running while overweight is more impact than an out of shape body might hold up to -another injury vector.
Over about 3 years running I've probably lost 30 lbs of fat and gained 5 in muscle.
FWIW I'm still overweight by a pound on the BMI scale, and indeed I do have a few pounds of pudge at the belt line.
I'm eating a rich, but less processed diet, now; maybe I'll make it to fitness nirvana, maybe not.

12-11-2009, 13:47
Good book:
The Runner's Body

Good for hiking as well as running. Good info on how the body repairs itself, bones as well as muscles. Also good stuff on diet and nutrition, stuff like anti-oxidants, why you shouldn't take too much Ibuprofin too often, or too much gatoraide or water, and how much salt is in sweat.

12-11-2009, 14:31
Here is a good article on Marathon Running Performance, including the effect of body weight.


There is certainly something mythically about running a marathon, and rightfully so. It's an impressive accomplishment, for sure. Still, I don't think it hurts to de-myth the marathon a little. After all, it isn't a superhuman feat to run a marathon in under 4 hours, even under 3 hours. It's actually something VERY human. Something most all of us were born with the ability to do. It's mostly a matter of getting our weight down to more or less where it should be, which is a perfectly natural and human place to be. Second to that, we need to do some running, which is also a very human activity.

The effect of body weight on running speed?
From the above article:
"In general, for every 1 percent loss of body mass, primarily as body fat, there will be an approximate 1 percent increase in running speed."

But if you dig into the article a little deeper, and read between the lines, the article is assuming the same energy output at both body weights, even though the heavier runner is going to have to keep it up for a longer duration. So in fact, the heavier runner, all else being equal, will have to slow down even more than this. For small weight gains there will be less difference, but the same runner carrying an extra 30% bodyweight, will need to run more than 30% slower, because they will have to keep it up for a longer time period.

Just saying, give credit where credit is due, but don't be discouraged. Most of us can be marathon runners, even sub 4 sub 3 hour marathon runners. We just have to lose some weight along the way. That might take some time, but that is where most of the gains will come from, and that can come from walking and healthy dieting as much as from running. Once we get down closer to running weight we can worry more about some of the other aspects of running, like V02Max, running efficiency, stuff like that, for what they are worth. No sense trying to hard and injurying yourself or getting too discouraged before you get there.

"Anyone can run a marathon. You just gotta take your time man."
- Chris Farley