Picking the right marathon plan for you

As I am sure many of you will have noticed, it is now December. That is bad enough. Which means January isn’t that far away…which therefore means…MARATHON TRAINING! (Or not for the sensible ones around)

I haven’t yet found myself a training plan. I’m toying between a few options, including dropping down to three runs a week (Furman/FIRST style), following a bog standard inter/advanced plan or getting some coaching advice.

I thought I would cover some of the basics of picking a training plan, as well as some considerations to make when putting it into practice. For some of you it might be your first marathon, or your fifth. But no matter what your experience levels, or your goals, you need to have some form of a rough plan and know how to tailor it for you – you are the one running, not your mum/friend/partner/colleague – so put yourself first.

I have learnt the hard way that sometimes, more miles aren’t necessarily better. The challenge personally for me is finding a plan that will get me around the 3.20-3.25 mark (there we go, I’ve written it down so it must be a real goal!) but without having to run 6 days a week because my body does not like that.

Disclaimer: I’m not a running professional and therefore I am not going to tell you exactly how you should pick a marathon training plan, nor should you heed my advice to the letter. 

  • What’s your running history?

If you haven’t run before, I wouldn’t advise jumping into an ‘advanced’ marathon training plan…no matter how good your intentions are. Take some time to look at the options and understand how ‘beginner’ ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ are qualified across different sources – it may change.

  • How much time do you have? Think again – how much time do you actually have, not ‘how much time in an ideal world will you manage to make for yourself to go running’

This is a big thing. Marathon training takes sacrifice. Something will have to drop off the bottom of the list. It’s better to start with realistic expectations than get yourself into a plan which you’ll never be able to work with. Look at the sessions per week (and remember all the ‘extras’ you need like eating time and more sleep) and think about how many runs you will actually be able to do.

  • When will this time be?

This will have an effect on where you actually do your runs – for example, there is no way I can do my long runs along the towpath if I’m having to do them in the dark after work. Mid-week medium runs can often be the hard ones to fit in. Have you got a commute you can turn into a run-mute? (coining a new term here….) Does the plan call for speedwork? When and where can you do it? What time of day do you operate best?

  • What else are you doing?

For some people, running is number 1. For me, it is, but I’m not totally going to give up the rest of it. I have been known to play touch rugby several times the week before and after a marathon. Also, everyone knows the benefits of cross-training! I know I’m going to have to cut down on cycling to work because it knackers my legs but there is no way I’m stopping everything. Maybe my social life will come off the list….I have already told my boyfriend that he will have to find ways to occupy himself on Sunday mornings (probably doing what sensible people do – sleeping)

  • What’s your injury history like?

I’ve been there and learnt my lesson. Ashamedly, having looked at my training diary, I’ve hit 100 miles per month ONCE this year. In January. When it was bang on 100. Compare that to say, 2013, where I hit 182 (!!!) in March, and then wondered why I couldn’t run at all come October. If your body doesn’t like high volume, this isn’t the time to give it a test. Half the battle is getting to the start line, so think about the miles and time on feet the plan is expecting you to give. This also helps you think about the cross-training you’ll need.

  • What’s your goal?

Survive? PB? BQ? Not get beaten by someone dressed as a toilet? This goes back to my first point – look around to find something that suits what you need. Ask around – you are bound to find some experienced runners with pearls of wisdom, or consider getting a tailor made plan and some coaching advice.

  • What events/ holidays/birthdays are you going to have to navigate?

For example, skiing. You can run on skiing holidays (in the lower down resorts) but it’s knackering on the legs and you will get tired! However, the views are beautiful and it’s an amazing feeling running along the river in the snow as the sun comes up. But anyway. You need to have some flex in your plan and be prepared to move a few things around and unfortunately, consider a couple of quiet nights in…I’m debating dry January simply because it helps me kick start my training, sleep better and save money (that can be spent on things like this and this) Ideally, once you’ve picked the plan, write it up, write in your existing plans and re-write it. Then take a check at the start of every week to re-assess when you are planning to run. Running doesn’t have to take over your life – it just takes some organisation.

  • Can you get any support?

Running clubs or buddies are great for this. Long runs can be made a lot easier with company, as can medium tempos and track sessions. But each to their own. I’m actually never sure about company on long runs, because to be quite honest, if I’m having a shit run I would rather someone else not be there to experience it so I can throw a hissy fit on the towpath by myself.  You also have the flexibility to do what you want – so I’ll be switching it in and out of group work depending on how I feel.

  • What cross training will you be doing?

More and more plans are now integrating cross training, but remember you can’t just run! What does the plan incorporate from a yoga/cycling/swimming/strength perspective? These are things you CANNOT neglect whilst marathon training as they have a big impact on your body’s ability to cope with pounding out the mileage. DO NOT NEGLECT THE CROSS TRAINING!

So if you need some inspiration, here are a few places to get you started

How do you pick a marathon plan? Or any training plan?

Who is training for what this Spring?

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One thought on “Picking the right marathon plan for you

  1. Pingback: Marathon Training Week 1 | These Girls Do

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