If you’re reading this, chances are you have signed up to a marathon or you are at least considering making an entry. Kudos to you on that – you have the kind of mind I admire.
If you take it seriously, training for a marathon is like a part time job. It is crucially important to make sure you are really ready to make that kind of commitment. Running a few half marathons prior to taking on the real-deal will help you come to terms with the training that is required and give you a taste of what it’s all about.
When you’re dedicating so much time to one cause, you want to make sure you are going about it in the right way. I have booked Thames Meander Marathon for 5th November this year and therefore my 16 week training time frame is fast approaching. I’ve been googling all of the different training plans out there, weighing them up and trying to slot them into my already busy week schedule… and to be honest, I found myself a little lost with all the options out there.
So what I’ve done is listed a few things to consider which might help you to decide what plan is going to work for you.
1. What is the goal?
Are you looking to smash a PB, or do you simply want to complete it? Those who are PB chasing probably need to massively up their game since the last marathon and will need to look for a much more complex training plan with tempo runs/hill runs/intervals to break up the long distance plods. Similarly though, even for those who are looking to just complete (in under 6 hours most likely) will still need to look for a plan which isn’t ALL about the miles. If your cardio pushes you and your heart rate to the max on certain days of the week then the 6 hour race will be that much more enjoyable for you.
- Where are you at, right in this moment?
Are you at peak fitness, already running several times a week? Have you not run in years? Have you not run at all?! Or are you still nursing that ankle injury that won’t go away? Before starting a training plan it is imperative that you are honest with yourself about what work needs to be done. A 12 week training plan for example is more than enough preparation for someone with a great base who can focus solely on the race at hand, but for others they may need longer term preparation to get used to being back on their feet again before the actual 16 week marathon-specific plan takes place. Key here is to be completely honest with yourself.
- Does your lifestyle currently allow for it?
Some marathon plans will have you running 6 days a week, whereas others are going to allow you 3 days. Again, honesty with yourself is going to be important. If you have an unpredictable work schedule or you have several holidays lined up, perhaps a baby on the way… then this might not be a good time at all to be training for a marathon. It requires a huge shift in your lifestyle (even when you’re not hitting the roads and getting miles in) as you will need to be watching alcohol intake and ensuring you get enough rest too. It is better to go with a plan and stick with it throughout the 12-16 weeks than to chop and change between different plans so decide what you can commit to, and, well… commit to it.
- Speak to the ones who know!
I would highly recommend getting your training plan from a trusted source as opposed to just hatching one together yourself. I tried the latter for the Brighton Marathon earlier this year, and whilst I did get round the course, I know I could have run a much better race had I been disciplined enough to follow a more professional plan/approach. The Running Bug have plenty of tried and tested plans from elite and experienced runners. Also take the time to talk to other runners you may know too. I am very lucky to have two parents who are avid marathoners (both at different levels/paces) and so I am exposed to two very different training schedules. What works for my mum might not necessarily work for my dad, but it is useful for me to pick and choose what I like from each of their approaches and adapt it to my own plan. Do your research, talk to anyone and everyone about it – we can learn so much from other people.
Good luck in finding a plan that works for you – please do comment and let me know if you have any good suggestions, as I am always keen to find more before I make my final decision this Saturday (when the 16 week countdown begins).