Marathon Series: How to Train for a Marathon
Marathon Series: How to Train for a Marathon
As I am deep into my training for the Boston Marathon, I am really zoning in on all the extra details like nutrition and self-care that are important for overall success.In part two of my series one thing I wanted to touch on for any marathoners out there or future marathoners (I see you!) - is how to establish a personal training schedule. I have a coach that sets my schedule up for me, so if you have a coach or are running with a special training group this helps a lot, but if you don't I hope this helps guide you!
How long is the marathon?
Understanding the distance or ‘goal’ you will be working towards and where you are currently with your running is really important. What is the goal and how can this be achieved?
How many miles do you want to work up to per week?
This is dependant on each runner. Take into account the amount of time you have, want to give, and can afford to give especially if you have a family. For me, I chose to max out at 60 miles. One of the keys to success is consistently committing to enough weekly mileage to allow your body to become accustomed to running for longer and longer periods of time.
How many days per week do you want to run and how often does your body require rest?
I recommend allocating yourself enough days to do the max amount of miles you want. Typically most runners run 5-6 days per week with 1 rest day, however knowing your body and its limitations is important for a successful training schedule. If you are new to marathon running I strongly encourage taking at least one day off from running so you can have a day to focus on errands, other non-running activities, or just chill and mentally rest. I run 6 days per week and have 1 rest day (my Sundays!).
What day of the week would you want to do your long run?
Typically, most runners do their long run(s) on either Saturday or Sunday because they don't have to rush to work and have enough time to properly recover after. Setting your max run day also provides a goal to work towards - each day in the lead up to your long run should gradually increase in mileage, acclimating your body for the next increment.
Let’s say you want to run an 18-mile long run, it’s important to start off small and establish a benchmark first. If your longest run is 8 miles so far, increase to 10, 12, 14 miles, etc. Don't try to do more on these runs than you feel you can handle. The worst thing would be to jump up too fast and get injured, putting your progress on hold. Find an increment that works for you — if you know that increasing by 1 mile is as much as you can manage then that’s ok! Work backwards from your goal to determine how many weeks lead-up time you will need. The general rule of thumb is that you shouldn't increase your training load or miles by more than 10-15% each week so keep this in mind when setting your increments.
Consider any training races you are doing.
Scheduling your training races is important particularly if you are working to increase your mileage. Make sure you are planning your high intensity workout days around any practice races. It would be pretty hard on your body to complete a demanding workout one day and then two days later complete a race, followed by a long run. Plan around them accordingly.
A training race is a great opportunity to review your progress and where you are currently sitting in relation to your primary goal. Consider these races a rehearsal for the main event. Have a bad rehearsal? That’s okay! Sit down and work out what needs to be improved for next time.
I have been training specifically for the Boston Marathon for more than two months and have worked up to 45 miles a week to help me prepare for the 26-mile marathon. At this stage, 45 miles per week would be considered an intermediate program for an experienced runner. Remember, your journey is about incremental progression — going too hard too fast (or should I say too long, too fast) can lead to injury. Be realistic and start small.
An example of my training schedule for a 45-mile week is;
Monday- training group run,7 miles
Tuesday- 5 mile run
Wednesday- 7 mile run
Thursday- 8 mile run
Friday- 5 mile mile run
Saturday- 13 mile long run
Sunday- rest day
Post-run and on your rest days it is vital to consider self-care and recovery. Recovery is also crucial for mental wellness! Training can be just as hard on the mind as it is on the body, so it's important to give yourself time to do good things for it.
Forms of self-care to help with your mental well-being can be: getting a massage, seeing a chiropractor or physiotherapist, doing a face mask, drinking lots of water, eating enough healthy foods or going to bed earlier than normal.. Also make time for fun stuff too! Hang out with your friends, go to brunch, buy yourself a new pair of running clothes, etc.
Right now part of my self-care routine has been letting myself just sit for an hour after dinner to relax with my boyfriend. I also have been foam rolling more and going to a chiropractor once a week. I love going to get adjusted! It helps me also note where some of my stress is being held (like in my neck!) so I make sure to stay comfortable and relax my upper body on my runs and throughout the day. You might want to consider visiting your local chiropractor or physiotherapist regularly during your training to prevent and detect any issues that could inhibit your progress. It has made such a difference to my training!
Update on my mileage + training
So far the mileage is coming along well. My training consists of;
- Track work - both distance and speed-focused runs;
- Long distance runs;
- Fartlek and tempo training (runs that switch up speeds whilst continuously running for a specific distance and/or time); and
So far, my best run is approximately 20 miles, incorporating hill work, followed by a 2-3 day recovery. I have been slowly building up to 20 miles for the past 2 months after a personal best (PB) of 13 miles. Each week of progress has been a little victory! My maximum training week is 60 miles however this will begin to taper right before Boston. Tapering training and reducing mileage in the lead up to the big day is a key aspect to your training. It’s important to reduce the amount of load placed on the body, allowing your body to adapt, rest and prepare for optimal performance.
I try to really focus on each week individually. Having learnt from my past running experiences, I find it best not to compare my workouts or races. Instead I try to focus on each week, and use the small wins to build my confidence for the big race.
It has been very rewarding to see my progress from 3 miles in January to 6-10 miles today! I am really enjoying my training and this new schedule has helped bring a whole new love to running. I’m looking forward to powering through the end of my training as we get closer to April. I can’t wait to share what’s next in my Marathon Series!
Considering a marathon? Comment below and share your goal!