How to Prepare to Crush Your Marathon Training Plan
Do you know the best time to start training for a marathon?
The average marathon plan is 16 weeks long, and many new runners don’t start their training until their plan beings. While most runners aren’t necessarily starting from scratch, they usually don’t have a pre-plan in place to get the most out of a 16 week training block.
How to Prepare for a Marathon Training Plan
Last week, we hosted a webinar for the registration kickoff of the Twin Cities Marathon, taking place on October 1, 2017. As of this writing, the race isn’t for another 8 months. One nugget of advice, shared by Charlie Mahler, was to think about your training over a much longer block of time; up to a year!
I’m struggling with when to tackle my next marathon, and this really got me thinking about what I would do if I had 8+ months to prepare. If you don’t have a goal marathon on your race schedule yet (such as Twin Cities, Mankato, or another fall race), but especially if you do, here are a few things to start doing to increase your chances of reaching your marathon goal.
Don’t leave all the hard work to those measly 16 weeks. Start today!
Run 100 Miles in a Month
I always feel that running 100 miles in a month is a good, albeit arbitrary, indicator of fitness. To me, it signifies not only a solid base mileage volume, but also consistency.
I haven’t run 100 miles in a month since May of 2016 (the final month before my last marathon). So, I’ve come up with what I think is a clever and easy way to get there.
I’m calling it “The 3,4,5,6,7 plan.” It will get you running 25 miles a week, for a total of 100 miles in a month. #math
Every week, for a month, run 5 days a week, and complete runs of 3 miles, 4 miles, 5 miles, 6 miles, and 7 miles. Start by looking at the week ahead, and based on how busy life is, plan the shortest runs on the busiest days. The longest runs work best on the weekend for many, but maybe not for you. This plan also allows you 2 or 3 monthly “skip” days for when running isn’t in the cards.
Train for a Half Marathon PR
It’s possible to train for a half marathon, and PR, in tandem with shooting for 100 mile months. Not only will running consistently and training for a solid race prepare your body for the rigors of the marathon, but your mind will get stronger, too.
Related: How to Run a Faster Half
Training for a half marathon will safely build your long run capacity, as well as work on those aerobic skills necessary for helping you to run faster over longer distances. It will make marathon miles feel a bit less difficult, because you’ve already built a solid base. You could also just run a lot, but following a half marathon training plan (like ours), and putting a race on the calendar will help you prepare for marathon race day.
Marathon training is an all consuming task that doesn’t leave much time for preparing super healthy meals. When I’m training for a marathon, I’m often so hungry I don’t care how much I’m eating. I know what’s good for me and what isn’t, and believe that everything in moderation is O.K.
Use these preparatory months before your 16 week marathon plan to establish better eating habits. Experiment with new recipes, and memorize a few that agree with your body. Consume lots of wholesome foods, and keep cake, ice cream, and donuts to a minimum.
Related: Meal Planning Guide for Runners
You may also find that now is a good time to figure out your ideal racing weight. In the book by the same name, author Matt Fitzgerald writes, “[the ideal racing weight is] the weight that is associated with your highest athletic performance level.” This may require shedding a few pounds, or gaining a few.
Strength training is something most runners neglect, or at least I know I do. I can’t seem to make it a consistent part of my routine. Before the real demands of a goal-focused marathon, get your muscles and ligaments stronger to become faster.
This Strength Training for Runners plan from Runner’s Connect is a great resource. They have one plan specifically for, “…times you don’t have a goal race on the horizon, or it’s more than 16 weeks away, but you still want to build or maintain your running strength.” These plans are focused on injury prevention, and strengthening your muscles to handle the rigors of upcoming training.
Other Things and Your Advice
There are lots of other little things you can do in order to make your marathon training go as smooth as possible. Get fitted for the right pair of shoes, restore your sleep debt, and figure out what in your life you can cut out (Facebook?) so that it doesn’t feel like a huge sacrifice when it comes time to start your “real” training plan.
What else would you add to this list?