Marathon training


Posted by:

Tim Windram - Running Coach

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A number of people have asked me for help with coming up for a plan for marathon training. There are lots of different plans online, and different ways you can get to the same end result. But there's also some terrible plans online I've seen which would probably just result in injury If you're doing your own thing, that's absolutely great, just scroll on . But there's also no reason why you can't make your own plan up.

There's some caveats to this, it depends on your starting point - your running history to date, your current mileage, your goals. The following is general advice which may not be suitable for you individually (depending on your circumstances), and only opinion.

As a starting point look at the marathon date and allow three weeks for taper, where you cut the runs right back, just before the race. For example, Manchester is 15 weeks away, that gives you 12 weeks from now to increase your mileage to the maximum. Increase your long runs slowly between now and then to aim to get to a maximum of 18-22 miles. In an ideal world I'd aim to do 2 runs of 20+ miles.

I'd aim to do 3 runs a week, a shorter, easy run, an interval session (you can do your own - just google, or come along to a Squirrels session) and a long run. For marathon training, the long run is the most important of the three runs. If you are accustomed to running more than three days per week, or only used to running twice a week, adapt this accordingly.

Easy runs means easy! There's a great book by Matt Fitzgerald called 80/20 Running, 80% of runs should be easy, and the other 20% (hint: intervals sessions) should be hard effort. This is also how many of the elites train. If you try and run in a faster group at Squirrels, AND try to get a parkrun PB every week or run your long runs too fast, you will probably quickly become injured. Easy running is probably slower than you think (for me, I can run parkrun in 26 mins / 8:25 pace, but my easy pace is 11:20).Don't run all of your long run at marathon pace, if you do, you will probably get injured. Some of the run should be all easy, or easy + some at marathon pace. Example: 15 mile run, run the first 6 miles easy, the next 5 miles at marathon pace, a mile faster than marathon pace, 3 miles easy. Mixed pace runs are brilliant! Save marathon pace for the race - I won't run any of my long runs *all* at marathon pace.

Fuelling: The muscles have enough energy stored to run for 60 - 90 minutes. If you run for longer than that, you will need to replenish or performance will suffer. In theory you can use anything but gels are ideal, for many reasons. Aim for a gel after 40 mins then every 35 - 40 mins thereafter. At my pace, I know to have one at 4 miles then every 3 miles after that.

Sip water regularly during the race, make sure you are well hydrated before, and the biggest one of all, SLEEP is critical for performance and especially recovery. Finally, don't be afraid to adapt the plan as necessary, don't be scared of taking a week off if you need to recover from something, or cutting out intervals as the race gets closer. Adapt the above as necessary to suit your own ability.

If you get the training right, and the nutrition right, training for a marathon doesn't have to be difficult, you don't need to ever hit the wall and you don't need to suffer. It can be a real life changing experience that makes you feel like anything is possible There's a wealth of experience at the club - marathon runners, ultra runners, all of which I know are happy to help. Also, I'm happy to coach anyone at the club individually to help with a specific race or goal (whatever that is), and write a plan adapting it each week as we go, but it's a lot of work for me so I charge £40 per month for that. I don't push this because I don't really have so much time because of Squirrels, but if you want more information message me.

If anyone has any other marathon tips / things I haven't included, feel free to comment on the post.