Spring Marathon Training Plan and FAQ’s.

A few weeks ago, I told you guys about my tentative spring race plans.  Yesterday, I sat down and made it all official – typing out one of my favorite color-coded training calendars. 

Since there are a lot of new readers that have joined us here in the past month or two (welcome new friends!), I thought I would do a quick catch-up for them, before I launched into all the current running talk.

I started running several years ago, and you can read all about my initial running journey here.  I have run 5 full marathons and many other races in the past few years, and I was training for my 6th marathon this past fall.  Just four days after my final long 20-mile training run, I was walking to a haircut appointment when I was hit by an SUV in a crosswalk.  I had many superficial injuries, and some more severe injuries to my left knee. 

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After several weeks on crutches, and almost two months of very little mobility, I started slowly trying to run again in mid-December.  Since then, I have been trying to find my running legs – essentially starting over as what feels like a newbie runner again.  Which brings us to TODAY!

While I know that I have a long road ahead of me, I’m grateful to be as recovered as I am in just three months, and I’m excited to see what lies ahead for me and my running this spring.  My ultimate short-term goal is to run the National Half Marathon in March.  But you will notice that this schedule runs all the way through May – the Flying Pig Marathon.  Right now, the Flying Pig is more of a hope than a plan.  I need to see how training feels week by week, and see how my knee handles the added mileage.  Here is what the next 17 weeks (hopefully) hold for me… (you can click to enlarge!)

Marathon Training Plan

Since I’m focusing on running this weekend, I thought it might be fun to share some of the frequently asked questions I tend to get when it comes to running and racing.  Here goes…

I really want to run a marathon or half-marathon, but I don’t know where to start.

First of all, consider why it is you want to run a race.  Keep in mind as races get more and more mainstream, you don’t have to run a marathon.  If you are trying to lose a large amount of weight, distance running is probably not the right path to your goal.  Many people actually gain a bit of weight to support their bodies through the rigors of distance training.  If you are interested in racing, I would suggest starting with smaller distances like 5ks and 10ks, and eventually working your way up to higher mileage.  Runners World is a great resource for all sorts of running questions!

What training plans do you use or recommend?

For all of my previous marathons, I have always used Hal Hidgon’s training plans.  I have done both novice plans, as well as the intermediate plan.  I find his training schedules to be approachable and not overwhelming, which is particularly important for first time marathoners.  I like running four days a week, and I try to always just take it one week at a time.  One of my most exciting running memories was meeting Hal Higdon in person at the 2008 Chicago Marathon expo!

Do you have any tips or advice for those just getting started with marathons or half-marathons?

The most important piece of advice I always give is to do your training runs.  Having a plan is key, and I would recommend printing up a training schedule and hanging it somewhere you will see it every day.  Either on the refrigerator, by the front door –  somewhere that you pass frequently, that will help you feel accountable to do your runs.

I also really like crossing off runs once I have finished them – there is a lot of satisfaction that comes from making a big black X!

How do you balance weight lifting, cross-training, and running when you are training for a marathon?

I’ve mentioned before that I think weight lifting is essential for being a well-rounded runner.  When I am training for a marathon, I try to keep to a schedule of lifting weights 3 days a week.  You can see the on schedule above that I space these days out in order to allow for proper recovery time.  Because my long runs are on Saturdays, I’ll stick to arms, back, and core work during my Friday weight sessions, and work on leg muscles earlier in the week.

One day a week (Tuesdays), I plan to do weights and running on the same day.  Since that day is typically shorter mileage, I plan to do it on the treadmill at the gym after I finish my weight sets.  Doing weights and cardio back to back also helps increase metabolism!


How do you change your eating habits when you are in training?

I don’t really follow any particular meal plan or specific strategy.  Depending on how far I am running, I always add an extra snack before and after runs.  On exceptionally long run days (10+ miles), I will eat much bigger meals to make up for all of the calories burned during my run.  I also try to pay attention to my calorie intake during my runs – through sports drink, gels, and other snacks.  While it is obviously important to refuel, it can also be just as easy to over-estimate your calorie needs during marathon training.  I try to find a good balance.

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Training plans can range from 12 to 20 weeks, depending on the distance.  How do you stay motivated for months at a time?

One of my favorite ways to liven up my training plan is to find shorter-distance races to sign up for in lieu of training runs.  When I put this spring training plan together, I was able to fit two-half marathons and two 10-mile races into my training plan.  Having these shorter races to look forward to breaks the long 18-week plan up, and allows for different goals and milestones.

On certain weeks, like the weekend I’m running the National Half Marathon, the scheduled mileage (14 miles) lines up perfectly with a local race.  But other races, like the GW Parkway 10-Miler, are races that I want to do that don’t actually line up with what I need to do that day (20 miles).  So what I will do instead is plan to run 10 miles before the race starts, and then finish my 20-mile run with the 10-mile race.  That way, I’m not on my own for the daunting 20-mile run, and I’m much more likely to finish strong in a race environment.  

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Hopefully those questions are helpful for some of you who are just getting started, or for those of you who are still considering getting into distance racing. 

If you have any additional questions, leave them in the comments and I will plan to do a follow-up post!  What can you guys add?  What are some of your best training tips?