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Marathon Training Tips

By July 27, 2009 - 12:24pm
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Does anyone have training advice for running a first-time marathon? I run pretty consistently and have completed a half-marathon a few years ago. I have run competitively throughout high school and college and have always wanted to run a full. I am going to take the battle on this year in January at the P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll Marathon in Phoenix.

When should I start training? I have looked up several suggestions online, but there are so many opinions. I want to know individual advice from real people!

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I covered a female runner from the Philippines who ran in this year's New York City Marathon. She talked to me about training, especially what it's like in the heat. The short interview can be found here:


November 6, 2009 - 4:01pm

Well since it has been so hot in Phoenix lately is been pretty difficult to run at all let alone long distances! The furthest I have run in quite a while is 5 miles, but on average it is 3 miles.

I downloaded a 20 week training program that suggested running 3 days a week with a mix between 3 and 4 miles and then 1 long day starting at 7 miles. This definitely seems doable, but I think there are other more detailed training programs available.

I am too competitive to simply have the goal of finishing. I want to not only finish, but finish with a respectable time. With that in mind, what do you think is a realistic mileage per week goal to prepare me? I know that I will also need to incorporate maybe some hill runs as well as fartlek's a few of the days to condition.

July 28, 2009 - 4:22pm
(reply to Shana O'Connor)

I hear you about the heat. We're dealing with triple digits in Central TX, as well. So, I'm working out at the gym or in the pool through July and August.

David Kuehls wrote "4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon" and I think it would be worth your reading. It's short (no pun intended); has good information on diet plans, gear and the usual stuff; and a well-broken down training schedule for 4 and 5 hour finishes. So, depending upon what your current pace is, under optimal conditions, and what you can train yourself for, you can certainly finish in a respectable time.

However, never go into your first marathon expecting anything more than to finish. You still need to build base miles, stamina and endurance.

3 days/week for runs, with one of those being your long run, is perfect. During the week, focus on minutes, your speed training/fartleks, hills and tempo runs. Also pay attention to your X-training. Over time, you'll find that all the work you do during the week will prepare you quite well for that long run on the weekend. Always allow recovery time the day after your long run. You don't need to do back-to-back long runs (say, Sat/Sun) unless you're training for an ultra marathon, lol!

Do get David Kuehls book, if even just checking it out of the library. When you get it, work backwards on the schedule from your event date to figure out your training start date so that you can determine where you are mileage-wise and make any adjustments.

I'm sure you'll do just fine! Hope this helps.

July 28, 2009 - 4:45pm
(reply to alysiak)

Thank you for the suggestion on the book! I will definitely look into it. I officially started my training on Tuesday with a 4-mile run. It wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be in the 115 degree heat! Although, I am really nervous about the long run this weekend. According to the training schedule I downloaded, I need to complete a 7-mile run on Saturday or Sunday. Whew, makes me sweat just thinking about it! Tomorrow I might switch things up with a hill workout or stadium sprints.

I thought about possibly joining a training or running group. As nice as the motivation and support would be, I like being able to do things on my own time. So looks like I will just need to push myself! Did you ever get burned out? The marathon seems so far away, but I know it will be here in a snap.

July 30, 2009 - 3:11pm
(reply to Shana O'Connor)

Joining a running or training group offers more benefits than the camaraderie. An unwritten rule in sports, and life in general, is to learn from someone who's more experienced. You really do need the extra support on the really long miles, too, and to know that you're not the only one wondering why you're doing this, LOL! Plus, you should never go out alone on the really long miles.

Do I ever get burned out? Absolutely! (I spent 6 months last year doing back-to-back 15-22 milers on Sat & Sun in preparation for a 60-miler. It was nuts, and I suffered heat stroke.) Sometimes, it's good to take a little break.

Have I mentioned aqua jogging? You can get a really good workout in the water and still build and maintain your conditioning for your marathon. Here's help on the equivalent workout of water to run. You need to be in a deep enough pool, at least 6' deep. Elites use this method to rehab, or as an alternative to training in heat.

Hope this helps.

July 30, 2009 - 4:47pm

Hi, Shana:

As one of the "resident" marathoners here, I applaud you for wanting to tackle the distance! You should begin training now for the January event. This gives you roughly 20 weeks (or so) to prepare. The shortest program would be 16 weeks long.

For example, I coach in a USAFit program, and we kick off our training season at the end of August for our February marathon. Ours is a 26 week program for all levels from newbies to advanced. If you had done a half marathon more recently, you might be able to get through a 16 week program fairly easily. However, you probably need to rebuild you base of miles.

What's the longest distance you have been running?

July 27, 2009 - 4:37pm
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