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Training for Your First Marathon
May 3-4, 2013

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Running a marathon is not something that anyone should ever take lightly. Running 26.2 miles puts huge stress on a person’s feet, knees, hips, back, joints, and tendons. Toughening one’s body to handle this level of stress without incurring injuries requires at least a year of consistent training to build up to it. To put it bluntly, if you are not already running on a regular basis or participate in regular fitness regiment, then you should consider first running a half marathon and work towards the full in future years.

Below is a 24-week plan that is intended to get a healthy reasonably fit runner into physical condition so that he or she can complete a marathon with a minimum of difficulty. The plan is deliberately conservative: some individuals or more experienced runners may find that they are able to progress faster than this schedule indicates; if so, they can increase the distances, frequency, or the intensity of their runs. On the other hand, if someone finds that he or she cannot progress at the rate the schedule calls for, he or she is advised to switch to the half marathon for this year.

Some basic principles of training for a marathon:
  1. The first several weeks are a “base-building” period that permits the more serious training later.
  2. After the base building weekly mileage generally increases, but with a decrease in mileage and intensity every fourth week. (Recovery is an important part of training too.)
  3. A ‘hard’ day should always be followed by an ‘easy’ day, or a rest day.
  4. Do your longest training run (18 to 20 miles) three weeks before the marathon, then begin tapering off on your training.
  5. Schedule the days and times of your workouts so they best fit your schedule; morning, noon, or evening, it doesn’t matter.
  6. Getting your intended mileage is more important than the speed at which you run.
  7. DO NOT be a slave to a daily schedule! Some days you may find that you simple lack the energy or will to complete an intended run. Or, events or inclement weather can require an occasional cancellation. When these things happen, make reasonable adjustments in your schedule (but don’t fall into a habit of postponing or skipping workouts).
In the following, a “rest day” means “No running!” or other aerobic workout. An “easy run” means at a slow, comfortable pace. A “tempo run” means a run in which at least some parts of it is done at a faster than normal pace. The “moderately long” and the “long” runs are intended to build the endurance you’ll need to run for 26.2 miles; they should be done at a steady, comfortable pace with brief breaks for water or other stops as needed.

After the base-building period, each week will contain these components: a long run, a moderately long run, three or four short or easy runs, and one or two rest days. For someone who opts to increase the intensity of a training run, say by running several hills or running on forest trails (say in Hixon Forest), limit such workouts to one or two days a week.

A weekly schedule might look like this:
Sunday: Rest
Monday: Easy or tempo run
Tuesday: Moderately long run
Wednesday: Easy run or rest day
Thursday: Easy or tempo run
Friday: Easy run
Saturday: Long run
If for any reason you prefer to do your long run on Sunday, or another day of the week, you can easily adjust your own weekly schedule as needed. Whatever fits your personal needs or desires is how you should plan your week.

Example 24-Week Marathon Training Program
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Week 1:
Run 4 to 5 miles four or five times. Weekly mileage: 18 to 24 miles. (If this is more than you can handle now, start with the half marathon training schedule and stay on it until you reach Week 6.)

Week 2:
Run 4 to 5 miles or five or six times. Weekly mileage: 20 to 26 miles.

Week 3:
Run 4 to 6 miles five or 6 times. Weekly mileage: 22 to 28 miles.

Week 4:
Restorative week! Run 3 to 5 miles four or six times. Weekly mileage: 15 to 18 miles.

Week 5:
Run 4 to 6 miles five or 6 times. Weekly mileage: 23 to 30 miles.

Week 6:
Run 4 to 6 miles five or six times. Weekly mileage: 25 to 32 miles.

Week 7:
Run 4 to 7 miles five or six times. Weekly mileage: 27 to 35 miles.

Week 8:
Restorative week! Base building is over! Run 3 to 5 miles five times. Weekly mileage: 16 to 20 miles.

Week 9:
Long run: 8 to 9 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 26 to 32 miles.

Week 10:
Long run: 9 to 10 miles; moderately long run: 7 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 to 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 28 to 35 miles.

Week 11:
Long run: 10 to 12 miles; moderately long run: 7 to 8 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 to 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 30 to 36 miles.

Week 12:
Restorative week! Long run: 7 to 8 miles; moderately long run: 6 miles; easy or tempo runs: 3 to 4 miles. Two rest days. Weekly mileage: 22 to 25 miles.

Week 13:
Long run: 10 to 12 miles; moderately long run: 7 to 8 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 32 to 38 miles.

Week 14:
Long run: 11 to 13 miles; moderately long run: 8 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 or 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 34 to 40 miles.

Week 15:
Long run: 12 to 14 miles; moderately long run: 8 to 9 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 35 to 43 miles.

Week 16:
Restorative week! Long run: 8 miles; moderately long run: 7 miles; easy runs: 3 to 5 miles. Two rest days. Weekly mileage: 24 to 30 miles.

Week 17:
Long run: 13 to 15 miles; moderately long run: 8 to 9 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 35 to 45 miles.

Week 18:
Long run: 14 to 16 miles; moderately long run: 8 to 10 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 or 6 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 37 to 47 miles.

Week 19:
Long run: 16 to 18 miles; moderately long run: 8 to 10 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 or 6 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 40 to 50 miles.

Week 20:
Restorative week! Long run: 10 to 12 miles; moderately long run: 7 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 or 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 31 to 36 miles.

Week 21:
Long run: 18 to 20 miles; moderately long run: 10 to 12 miles; easy or tempo runs: 5 to 6 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 43 to 52 miles.

Week 22:
Long run: 15 to 16 miles; moderately long run: 8 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 or 5 miles. One or two rest days. Weekly mileage: 35 to 40 miles.

Week 23:
Long run: 10 to 12 miles; moderately long run: 7 miles; easy or tempo runs: 4 miles. Two rest days. Weekly mileage: 29 to 31 miles.

Week 24:
The Marathon is Sunday! Taper off the training. Do a few easy runs of 5 to 7 miles, maybe one tempo run. Rest on Friday and Saturday. Have a nice pasta dinner at the Expo and sleep well the night before. The best of luck to you!


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