18 Week Marathon Training Program
So you want to run a marathon? That is great! This training program will help you reach your goal in 18 weeks. It is recommended to have a base of 20-25 miles per week before starting this program.
The biggest concerns in marathon training is over training and injury, but by following smart training plans and listening to your body, marathon training can be fun and injury free. If you feel like you are burning out or need an extra day off, then take one. Taking a day off here and there is not a big deal, but overall try to follow the plan best you can. Symptoms of burn out or overtraining are: elevated heart rate, irritability, trouble sleeping, and sluggish running.
I am a firm believer in cross training and added it to the schedule. Cross training can be one of many activities-- yoga, elliptical, biking, swimming, stairstepper, spin classes, etc. Find something non-running that you enjoy and try to do 30-60 minutes of that activity on your cross training days.
On the days marked with an asterick (*) next to the mileage, that is a day where you can do optional speed work. Not everyone enjoys speedwork and many are just running the marathon to finish, however, speedwork will make you a better and stronger runner in the long run. I will discuss different types of speedwork shortly.
Long runs may seem daunting when you look at them on paper. I remember when i first started marathon training, i saw that in the end of the September was our first 10 mile run, it haunted me day in and day out, but when that day came, it was no big deal, because i had followed my training plan and worked hard.
Long runs should be run at a slightly easier pace than your normal weekday runs. During your long runs you want to practice with hydration and nutrition, as well as what you plan on wearing race day. If your clothes are not comfortable, it can be a very long 26.2 miles. If you experience chaffing try some body glide or hydropel on those areas. Also, it is highly recommended to be fitted for your running shoes at a local reputable running store. They will look at your old shoes (bring in old pairs) and analyze the wear pattern as well as analyze your gait. The right shoe is key in proper training as well as getting new shoes before the old ones are worn out. A good, trusted running store can help you with these issues.
As far as nutrition, most marathon runners prefer gel/gu packs or a similar product like clif blocks, jelly belly sports beans, sharkies, etc. These small packages are loaded with electrolytes and fuel. Most runners who use them consume 1 serving every 45-60 minutes during long runs and races. Some runners find that some of these products can upset their stomach, this is why it is critical to try different items during training runs, and not the race! Also make sure you are drinking enough water or sports drink during your long runs. If in doubt, you can always weigh yourself before and after each run to see if you are losing too much weight. After each long run you want to make sure you refuel with at least 200 calories, some of the best post run snacks are chocolate soy milk or regular chocolate milk, and fig newtons.
Somewhere in your busy schedule, it is important to do ab work and arm work. After my first marathon what hurt the most was my arms, not my legs! It was so bizarre. Once i started doing light weights several times a week, my arms felt fine after a marathon or long run. 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a week is fine. I prefer to follow a short dvd of abs and arm workouts for motivation, but these exercises are easy enough on their own
Now onto the speedwork. There are a few different types of speedwork you can do-- intervals, fartleks, and hill repeats are the most common. Intervals are where you vary your pace, you can start with a short warm up of a mile or so, then to start, try running a little faster than your race pace for 1 minute, then jog for 30 seconds and then repeat and follow up with a cool down. Fartleks are another popular choice. This silly word is actually Swedish for “speed play.” You can start by warming up for a mile, then you will vary your pace for 30-90 seconds at a time, you can include uphills as well into your fartlek, and then follow up with a cool down mile. Hill repeats are just what they sound like-- After the obligatory warm up, run hard up the hill, then easy down, and repeat, and end with a cool down.