Running is a beloved sport that continues to grow in popularity. If you have a pair of sneakers, a road, and a bit of determination, there’s no reason that you can’t transform your desire to run into the reality of crossing the finish line at your first marathon. But training for marathon isn’t something to do randomly or sporadically. Marathon training must be purposefully planned and implemented in order to prepare your body for a very long 26.2 miles.
The Ground Rules
It’s easy to look at a weekly chart and understand how many miles to run, but it’s important to keep a few key principles in mind. First of all, always apply quality over quantity. Over the course of a 20 week training period, life will inevitably interrupt a few workouts. When it does, you will need to prioritize to maintain your progress. Long runs are the most important since they build endurance, so when you need to sacrifice a workout, let easy workouts and tempo runs fall by the wayside. In addition, don’t forget to rest! Believe it or not, rest is every bit as important as active training because your body cannot perform at its highest level without time to recover.
Chart your schedule as it fits your life. Many pre-made marathon training schedules use Sunday and Friday as rest days, but if you work long weekend shifts or have other obligations, shift your days to match your routine. Make Day 1 a Rest Day, and then on Day 2 enjoy a 5, 6, or 7 mile easy run. You’ll know you’re running at the right speed if you can talk comfortably and in complete sentences. Day 3 you will give your body a break from running by indulging in 30-50 minutes of cross training like biking, swimming, yoga, weight lifting, and pilates. It is crucial to work all muscles to keep your body strong enough to run.
Your exercise on Day 4 will increase in intensity throughout your 20 week training. Begin with a 4-6 mile easy run, then add in hills. Day 5 should match Day 2 until Week 19, when you will limit your mileage and add rest days to prepare for the race. Day 6 is a Rest Day, and Day 7 is your slow long distance run that will begin at 6 miles and grow steadily over the weeks to 20 miles. By Week 20, you will rest 3 days, run 4 miles on 2 days, practice 25 minutes at your marathon pace, and then it is race day!