Congratulations! You’ve decided to run a marathon. Running a marathon is an adventure and one that only about 1% of the world population ever takes on. Deciding to actually commit to running a marathon is half the battle. The other half is tackling the training and juggling that training with other aspects of your life.
The first step to training is to find a marathon training plan that works well for you. To accomplish this goal, you need to identify how training will fit into your life and if you want to run to finish or if you have a difficult time goal you are targeting. So sit down and list out all the other things in your life that are a priority: your job, your family, vacations. If you have kids, will you need a babysitter in order to fit in your runs? Also, consider if you are a beginner or a more experienced runner and whether or not you already have any minor injuries that will affect your training.
Once you’ve gone through this exercise you will be able to put yourself into one of these four categories: 1) beginner with little time for training 2) beginner with lots of time for training 3) advanced runner with little time for training or 4) advance runner with lots of time for training. If you have any injuries it would be wisest to put yourself in one of the beginner categories so that you will not choose a marathon training plan that will cause you to over train and hurt yourself again. Now that you know which category you are in you can search for plans that are right for you.
If you are a beginner with little time to train look for a plan that has you running three to four days a week with the majority of your weekly runs being five miles or less. Don’t worry if this seems like not enough miles, you will be able to slowly build up to the full twenty-six miles by increasing your weekly long run every other week. You do not have to run sixty miles every week to finish a marathon.
If you are a beginner with lots of time to train it is still recommended that you find a plan that has you running three to four days a week, but you could increase your shorter runs to six or seven miles. It is not recommended that you push your shorter weekly runs much further than that as your body does need time to recuperate. You should also consider some cross training like cycling or yoga. The different exercises will make you stronger, and in the case of yoga, more flexible.
Moving on to the more advanced groups, these are the people that are typically more interested in meeting a time goal. If you are an advanced runner with limited time to train, you want to select a marathon training plan that has you run four days a week in total with one to two of those days as interval training. The interval training is key to reaching your time goal so make sure to use a plan that includes plenty of interval training. You may also do some cross training if your schedule allows.
The advanced runners with lots of time to train will probably want the most difficult training plans, but do err on the side of caution. If you over train you may be disappointed with your results. For this group, seek out a plan that has you run four days a week with again one to two days of interval training. Your short runs may be around seven miles, but give your body a chance to heal and recuperate. You should also add one to two days of cross training to your schedule since you have the time. The cross training will make you overall stronger, but may not make you a faster runner. It can help reduce repetitive motion injuries though.
Now go sit down and make a list of the other priorities in your life and decide if you are a beginner or advanced runner. Those questions are the key to finding the right marathon training plan for you.