So you want to run a marathon, huh? That’s awesome. But how are you going to train for it?
You could hire a coach to craft a sweet training program for you. But if you are like most runners, you don’t have or don’t want that option. You are on your own.
Never fear! Whether you are a beginner or running your 50th marathon, there is a plethora of valuable and inexpensive (if not free) resources available to help you every step of the way.
Today, I’ll share some of my experiences and offer some tips and ideas on how to find all the resources you need to coach yourself to a great marathon.
As many of you know, I currently work with a coach. But that certainly isn’t how it’s always been. I wasn’t a high school or collegiate runner. In fact, I never even considered lacing up & hitting the pavement until I was in my mid-20s and my boyfriend (now husband) bet me I couldn’t run 3 miles. I of course accepted the challenge and ran 3 miles the next day! I loved it and started running 3-4 miles regularly. But I didn’t care about pace or distance or time, and it never dawned on me to run a race, let alone a marathon for several years. When I was 31, we moved to Wisconsin and I learned my new neighbor had recently run a half marathon. This piqued my interest, so I started researching half marathon training plans online. I realized that it didn’t take THAT much more to go for the full. So I bypassed thoughts of a half and decided to train for a full marathon. I also talked my new neighbor into doing it with me. Tip #1 – Recruit someone to train with you! She will help keep you motivated and will hold you accountable.
So we were now committed to running a marathon! But we had no idea how to adequately train for it. Hal Higdon to the rescue! Higdon is a highly regarded runner who offers free training schedules on his website. I followed his Novice training program. It is a great beginner program. The mileage isn’t too hefty, but it will prepare you to cover the 26.2 mile distance. With it, I ran my first marathon in 3:53 with a big negative split. Tip #2: Look for free training programs online.
Before I even finished my first marathon, I was thinking about Boston. But I knew I needed to up my game to qualify. So I purchased the Advanced Marathoning book by Pfitzinger/Douglas. Enter tempo workouts, VO2Max workouts and long runs with marathon pace miles. Tip #3: There are some great books out there too. Do some research and ask for recommendations.
The book has a ton of valuable information on training and has several different schedules to follow. I chose the lowest mileage schedule. With it, I amped up my training significantly, but I also discovered that the higher mileage and higher quality was too hard for me. Too fast, too soon. So I went back online, found Higdon’s intermediate plan and mixed the schedules a bit. The result? I was able to complete my training and earned that Boston Qualifier (BQ) with a 3:37. Tip #4: Be flexible with training programs if you need to. Mix it up instead of giving up.
Of course, once I hit that BQ, I wanted to get even faster (3:25 baby!). As I gained more experience, I was able to complete the schedules in the Advanced Marathoning book and it became my training bible for 9 more marathons. The book has 12 week, 18 week and 24 week schedules so I had flexibility with how long my training season would be. It also has plans with varying mileage, so I could max out at 55 miles per week (mpw), 70 mpw, or even jump up to over 90 mpw (I never did). This gave me a lot of room to enhance or reduce training as necessary to fit with the time I had or the goals I had season over season. As a bonus, the book includes “multiple marathoning” guidance (running more than one marathon in a short period of time) which I needed (and I say that loosely) in 2007. With this guidance, I was able to run a PR marathon (3:26) just 3 weeks after running another marathon. Tip #5: Select a book or online resource with a variety of schedules to work with.
During the entire time I have been training for marathons, I have also actively participated in running boards/forums/blogs. These are great resources because let’s face it, most of our friends, family and co-workers don’t train for marathons. They don’t have advice to give and they certainly do not want to hear about it ad nauseum. So it is great to find like-minded people and swap advice and experiences. Tip #6 – Get involved in online communities.
To date, I have run 11 marathons without coaching. I qualified for Boston, ran Boston twice, and saw an improvement of roughly 30 minutes in my finishing time. If I can do it, you can certainly do it too.
What resources have you used to coach yourself for the marathon?