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  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Dec 27 28 29 30 31 1 2 2009 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Jan 17 Cross Train 18 Rest 19 3 miles 20 3 miles 21 3 miles 22 Rest 23 6 miles 2010 24 Cross Train 25 Rest 26 3 miles 27 3 miles 28 3 miles 29 Rest 30 6 miles 31 Cross Train 1 Rest 2 3 miles 3 3 miles 4 3 miles 5 Rest 6 6 miles 7 Cross Train 8 Rest 9 3 miles 10 3 miles 11 3 miles 12 Rest 13 6 miles 14 Cross Train 15 Rest 16 3 miles 17 3 miles 18 3 miles 19 Rest 20 6 miles Feb 2010 21 Cross Train 22 Rest 23 3 miles 24 3 miles 25 3 miles 26 Rest 27 6 miles 28 Cross Train 1 Rest 2 3 miles 3 3 miles 4 3 miles 5 Rest 6 7 miles 7 Cross Train 8 Rest 9 3 miles 10 4 miles 11 3 miles 12 Rest 13 5 miles 14 Cross Train 15 Rest 16 3 miles 17 4 miles 18 3 miles 19 Rest 20 9 miles Mar 2010 21 Cross Train 22 Rest 23 3 miles 24 5 miles 25 3 miles 26 Rest 27 10 miles 28 Cross Train 29 Rest 30 3 miles 31 5 miles 1 3 miles 2 Rest 3 7 miles
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat 4 Cross Train 5 Rest 6 3 miles 7 6 miles 8 3 miles 9 Rest 10 12 miles 11 Cross Train 12 Rest 13 3 miles 14 6 miles 15 3 miles 16 Rest 17 13 miles Apr 2010 18 Cross Train 19 Rest 20 3 miles 21 7 miles 22 4 miles 23 Rest 24 10 miles 25 Cross Train 26 Rest 27 3 miles 28 7 miles 29 4 miles 30 Rest 1 15 miles 2 Cross Train 3 Rest 4 4 miles 5 5 miles 6 4 miles 7 Rest 8 16 miles 9 Cross Train 10 Rest 11 4 miles 12 8 miles 13 5 miles 14 Rest 15 12 miles May 16 Cross Train 17 Rest 18 4 miles 19 9 miles 20 5 miles 21 Rest 22 18 miles 2010 23 Cross Train 24 Rest 25 5 miles 26 9 miles 27 5 miles 28 Rest 29 14 miles 30 Cross Train 31 Rest 1 5 miles 2 10 miles 3 5 miles 4 Rest 5 20 miles 6 Cross Train 7 Rest 8 5 miles 9 8 miles 10 4 miles 11 Rest 12 12 miles 13 Cross Train 14 Rest 15 4miles 16 6 miles 17 3 miles 18 Rest 19 8 miles Jun 2010 20 Cross Train 21 3 miles 22 4 miles 23 2 miles 24 Rest 25 Rest 26 Race Day! 27 28 29 30 1 2 3
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Week 1 Monday: In this training schedule for novice marathoners, Monday is always a day of rest. Count on it! Rest is important for recovery after the weekend's workouts, particularly as the long runs progress from 6 to 20 miles. Your body needs time to recover. So take the day off. Friday is also a day of rest. In this program you will run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sunday is a day for cross-training. (If you want, you can reverse the order of the Saturday/Sunday workouts.) Let's begin this Monday, the first day of your marathon journey, by contemplating the training that will begin tomorrow. Tuesday: An easy day. Run 3 miles at a comfortable pace. Over the next 18 weeks, you will add only a few miles to your Tuesday workouts. In Week 1, you'll move up to 4 miles. In week 14, you'll be up to 5 miles. By that time, you'll be so used to doing much longer runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, that a run of that distance will seem easy. It's all part of the progressive buildup of total mileage designed to get you ready to run 26 miles. If even running 3 miles seems a strain for you, don't hesitate to mix in a walking break. Wednesday: Three miles, same as yesterday. As the countdown continues, you will begin to run more miles midweek. Every second week (beginning in Week 3), you will add another mile to your Wednesday workout. By Week 15 (the same week in which you do your climactic 20-miler), you will be up to 10 miles this day. This midweek workout is what I call a "sorta long" run. What you will find most difficult as the mileage progresses from 3 to 10 is not going the distance, but finding time to squeeze a run taking more than an hour into a busy weekday. I'll offer some tips on that when the time comes. In the meantime, have a good run today. Thursday: Run the same distance that you did on Tuesday: 3 miles at a comfortable pace. Again, remember the walking-break option I suggested for you on Tuesday. At 3 miles, you may want to run the full distance. But as the distance builds, and particularly on days when the weather is warm, you will appreciate a short break, particularly to stop for water. Since most novice runners will do some walking in the marathon--if only through the aid stations--you want to practice this as part of your strategy. Friday: Friday in almost all of my training programs for different distances is a day of rest, to allow you to gather strength for the weekend. I ask even the Advanced runners to rest on Friday--although, being compulsive, not all of them listen to my advice! (Don't tell them I said that.) As a Novice runner, I know you won't hesitate to do exactly what I tell you. So take today off. Saturday: Today is your "long run." Even for a novice or beginning runner, 6 miles (today's workout) may not seem that long. But over the 18 weeks of this program, the distance for your Saturday run will increase to 20 miles in Week 15 (allowing 3 weeks for you to taper before the marathon.) Don't worry too much about pace now; just run easily. If you want to do your long runs on Sunday rather than Saturday, simply flip-flop the two workouts.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Sunday: Use this second day of the weekend to recover from your weekly long run by doing some easy cross-training. What kind of cross-training? The exercise you choose should be aerobic: an hour or so of walking, biking, swimming or some such activity. Swimming is a particularly useful activity, because you can use it to loosen your muscles. If you run long Sundays, you can cross-train on Saturdays. Tip of the Week: With the marathon 18 weeks away, plan the training now that will permit you success. Marathon training works best if you start easy and build gradually: A long run of 6 miles in June becomes 20 miles in September. Most important at this time is to establish a goal, whether that goal is to finish or to run fast. Once that goal is chosen, everything else will fall in place. Week 2 Monday: Monday is a day of rest. It doesn't seem like you need to rest after only a 6-miler over the weekend, but you will be thankful for your Monday rest days as the program continues. While taking the day off, evaluate how you felt after your first week of marathon training. For some of you, it may have been your first serious week of training as a runner. There's a difference between "training" and simply "running" or "jogging." A lot of people play at running, going out for an occasional run on weekends, if the weather is good. Sometimes they'll run three or four days in a row--then skip several weeks before running again. But that's not training. Training is when you follow a schedule, such as this one, where each day has a purpose. If the weather is bad, you still run. If you have important business, you simply rise an hour early to run. Why? Because I told you to! And if Hal tells you to rest, you rest. Pay attention, follow my directions, and I'll get you to the finish line 17 weeks from today. That's a promise! Tuesday: Today's workout is a run of 3 miles at a comfortable pace, the same as last week on Tuesday and the same as next week on Tuesday. This workout shouldn't take a great deal of your time: 30 minutes if you run at a 10:00-mile pace. But forget I said that! I don't want you to go out and time yourself for 3 miles. In fact, your course doesn't need to be precisely 3 miles. It can be about that distance. The easiest way to pick a course of 3 miles would be to get in your car and figure out how far you need to run to go about half that distance (1.5 miles), either from your home, from your office or from wherever you plan to run on Tuesdays. Then run this 1.5-mile course out and back. Don't wear a watch, at least for the time being. Wednesday: Another 3-miler. This is your "hard" day of the week. If you want to run a bit faster than yesterday, do so. Today's 3-miler is also the same as last week's Tuesday workout, but next week you move up to 4 miles. As the program continues, the Wednesday mileage will increase 1 mile every second week until you reach a peak of 10 miles on Wednesday in Week 4. It's all part of my Grand Plan to get you in shape for the marathon. And trust me: You will succeed! Thursday: Still another 3-miler! It seems like we're in a rut, but don't worry: Next week the midweek workouts take a slight bump upwards in distance. Most of the mileage changes from week to week in this program are "slight." Slight changes will gradually get you in shape--and that's the best way. Slight changes will do it, but for the time being, be content with your third 3-miler in 3 days. The simplest and easiest way to accomplish a 3-mile workout is to run
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 the same measured course each time. But consider having separate Tuesday and Thursday courses. Particularly as the program continues, you may want to bring some variety to your workouts. Friday: This is a day of rest. Seemingly, you don't need a rest day now, but wait until your weekend runs start getting longer. I've been focusing on course measurement in some of my comments this week. You might even call this the "Theme for Week 2." So if you're looking for something to do with your extra time while not running today, jump in the car and go out and measure a series of courses from 3 miles up. You'll use them during the remaining weeks of this Marathon Training Program. Saturday: Run 7 miles. In your second week, you now have gone from 6 to 7 miles for your long run. This doesn't seem like much of a jump, but steady increases in distance will help prepare you for the stress of running 26 miles. Don't worry too much about how fast you run in these early weeks. Just run at a pace that will allow you to cover the 7-mile distance easily. Feel free to take some walking breaks in the middle of your run. And remind yourself: You're doing great! Today you've finished your second week of marathon training. Sunday: Take an hour and go for a walk, or bike ride, or do some swimming. This is your cross-training day, and it's here for two purposes. One, you want to train for about an hour to improve your aerobic base. Two, you want to exercise differently to both loosen your running muscles and allow them to recover. Don't underestimate the value of this second weekend workout. It's important! Tip of the Week: Easy days are as important in your training plan as hard days. You won't get the full benefits of the progressive long-run buildup on the weekends, unless you rest before and after. Resting on Fridays and Mondays allows you to run harder on Saturdays and Sundays, when you will have more time to spend on your workouts. The marathon is 17 weeks away, but your success depends on the steady base that you are building now. Week 3 Monday: Today being Monday, it's your rest day after two days of hard work over the weekend. This is an "easy" week in our training program, since you will only run 5 miles for your long run, instead of 8 (which would be the natural progression after 6 and 7). You will encounter these "stepback" weeks every third week at the beginning of my program, every other week as we near peak mileage. Most training programs are progressive, meaning you gradually increase mileage over a period of weeks and months. This program is no different, but the progression is not in a straight line, which is one of its unique features. Tuesday: Run 3 miles at your normal pace. If your normal pace is 10:00 per mile, this workout should take you about a half hour. That being the case, you might spend another 15-30 minutes doing some stretching and strength training. Information on how to do these exercises is elsewhere on my web site. Olympic Trials qualifier Cathy Vasto offers Six Spectacular Strength Exercises; Physical Therapist Debbie Pitchford provides Five Fantastic Stretching Exercises.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Wednesday: Today is a 4-mile run, up from 3 the first two weeks. Your mileage on this midweek "hard" day will continue to build along with your weekend mileage. Olympic marathoner Julie Isphording refers to this type of workout as a "sorta long" run. This sorta long run is positioned in the middle of the week to be more or less equal distant from last Sunday's 7-mile run and next Sunday's 5-mile run. That gives you a chance to recuperate between and rest before. Thursday: Run 3 miles. This should almost begin to seem like a short distance now. Don't forget to smile at other runners who pass you during your workouts. Most runners are friendly and don't care whether you've been running two weeks or two decades. You're one of a proud breed, signifying by your presence an appreciation of their and your favorite sport. If you bought into my idea Tuesday of doing 15-30 minutes of stretching and strength training after your run, today do the same. Friday: Your day of rest. As this 18-week program continues, you will continue to rest two days each week, bracketing the weekend of harder training. If the schedule of Monday/Friday rest doesn't always fit your schedule, feel free to adjust the days. Review what you have accomplished so far. Does running seem any easier? Hopefully any sore muscles you may have suffered after your first-week workouts have begun to feel better--and stronger. It may be difficult for you to sense any change from the way you feel today and the way you felt before you began this program, but you gradually will get into marathon shape. Saturday: Run 5 miles. As mentioned above, we drop back in distance every third week on our long runs to offer you extra rest. Keep an invisible "8" in your mind, since we jump ahead to 9 miles next week. Remember that the long runs--like most runs during the week--should be done at a conversational pace. You may run out of conversation by the last few miles, but not today since you stop early. Sunday: Cross-training for an hour. Aerobic exercises work best: walking, cycling, swimming. If you were training for a marathon midwinter, we'd recommend snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Since your run yesterday was short, you might even consider doing some jogging as part of your workout. Pick a scenic area for this workout. You now have completed three weeks of my 18-week marathon program. You are one-sixth of the way toward completion. Having finished the first stepback week, we're now ready to crank the mileage up in Week 4. Hold onto your hat! Tip of the Week: Be flexible with your training, particularly while traveling. Don't be afraid to modify workouts occasionally when it seems appropriate. The general pattern of the program--the steady buildup--is more important than what you do on any one day. Don't get so hung up on your training schedule that you are unwilling to make adjustments when an opportunity for an interesting run develops. Week 4 Monday: This is your fourth week of marathon training, and you begin it with a day of rest. This is actually the first week of your second 3-week cycle, after the stepback Week 3 during which you cut mileage somewhat. Fifteen more weeks of training ahead of you, then the fun begins. And the marathon will be fun if you follow the program faithfully. It's always a good idea at the beginning of each workout week to take a few minutes to both evaluate Running Past
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 and contemplate Running Future. This week your total running mileage will be 19 miles, the long run on the weekend 9 miles. In Week 15 (peak week before tapering begins), you will run 40 miles for the week, 20 on the weekend. That means in the next 11 weeks you will double your mileage. It's doable. A lot of people before you have been there, done that. I have no doubt in your ability to do the same! Tuesday: An easy day: Three miles at a comfortable pace. There are several ways to judge "comfortable." If you are running with a partner, the two of you should be able to converse without getting significantly out of breath. Or, if you're running alone, you could even talk to yourself--although people will think you're crazy. If you train with a Heart Monitor, you would be running somewhere between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Particularly after a day's rest on Monday, you should finish this workout feeling better than when you started. Wednesday: Four miles. A mile further than yesterday and tomorrow. The same distance you ran last Wednesday. If you're feeling good--and we hope you are after the stepback week--push the pace a bit today. Maybe for a mile or so toward the end of your run, increase your pace by about 15-30 seconds a mile. You still can converse, but you become more out-of-breath, and your training partner (if she isn't following this program) will say, "Hey, what's your hurry?" Smile and ease back. In terms of heart rate, you probably would be closer to 75 than 65 percent. If you examine the schedule you'll notice that Wednesday mileage remains the same for two weeks, then goes up a mile. As we continue, I will probably ask each second time you run the distance (odd- numbered weeks) to increase the pace a bit. If your answer is, "No, I don't want to," that's okay. I'm the coach, but you're the boss. Thursday: Repeat Tuesday's workout. Three miles, comfortable pace. I forgot to remind you on Tuesday that you might want to do some stretching after you run. And if you're doing strength training, today is a good day to do it. Don't do too much of either. Moderation is the secret to success, both in running and in everything associated with running. Friday: Friday, like Monday, is another day when the workout never changes. It's "rest." Take the day off. How can doing no running be considered a workout. I count it as such, because your day of rest is designed with a purpose. It's to get you ready for your weekend workouts, which generally are harder than weekday workouts. People who work 9-to-5 jobs--or have other obligations with children--often find it easier to find time to train over the weekend. Saturday: Run long. Nine miles today. We're back into the mileage progression. The pace should remain comfortable, similar to the early miles of the marathon. Don't be afraid to walk occasionally to break the pace. (You may need to do so in the marathon.) Start teaching yourself to drink fluids before, during and after your runs. At the end of your 9-miler, listen to your body. How did it feel? Legs tired? Out of breath? Some fatigue is normal, but you don't want to finish exhausted, otherwise you are training too hard. Sunday: A cross-training day. If you experience some fatigue after yesterday's 9-miler, that's natural. Use today's workout to relax and loosen your muscles. A college runner I trained once asked if it would be okay for her to roller-blade. I said okay, as long as she, (1) wears protective equipment so she won't get hurt if she falls down, and (2) skates at a recreational pace so she doesn't turn an "easy" day into a "hard" day. The same advice goes for you when you cross train.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Tip of the Week: If you are training through the summer, one way to avoid hot weather is to run early in the morning. The days are longer. Use these extra hours of daylight to get out before the sun rises too high. Temperatures are cooler, the air cleaner and the scenery prettier in the hours around dawn. If work schedules force you to run midday, be sure to wear a cap to protect against the sun--and drink plenty of water! If you are training through the winter, midday may be the best time for you to run. Week 5 Monday: A day of rest. As marathon day draws near, you will need this rest day more and more. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to evaluate your equipment, beginning with your footwear. On this day of rest, consider how well you are being served by your running shoes. Are they worn? Are they comfortable? Will they carry you through 26 miles 385 yards of running? It may be time to purchase a new pair--in fact several pair so you can alternate shoes from day to day. This allows them to dry out and rebound, meaning they will offer more protection. If you are relatively new to the sport, you may simply have grabbed any soft pair of shoes you found in the closet when you started to run. That's not bad advice for someone who is not sure yet whether he or she wants to be a jogger or runner, but now you're a marathoner. Look in the mirror. "Oh yeah, that's a marathoner staring back at me!" If you haven't already done so, visit a running store and get a pair of shoes better suited for your purpose. Tuesday: Run easy: 3 miles today at your usual comfortable pace. Don't be embarrassed to walk, even for this short a distance. I often walk in marathons, particularly when taking a drink. And I walk in training, particularly if it's an out-and-back course, even for a distance as "short" as 3 miles. That's the distance between my house and my son Kevin's house. So I'll run to Kevin's mainly as a point of reference, walk, turn around, then run back feeling refreshed after taking even this short a break. And this may sound silly to you, but you can injure yourself if you hit that 180-degree turn too fast running. Maybe not this early in the program, but as the mileage builds the stress levels build too. Don't take any chances. Make no quick moves, only slow and steady ones. Slow and steady guarantees a medal being hung around your neck after you exit the finishing chute. Wednesday: Five miles, a jump of a mile from last week and the week before. Don't worry about the pace. Just cover the distance. This is the "tough" workout day in the middle of the week. But does this run of 5.0 miles still seem hard to you? Hopefully you're starting to get in shape so that running for 45-60 minutes is no longer quite the struggle it once seemed. You should feel confident. You're a Certified Marathoner--or will be in another 14 weeks. If people pass you on the jogging path, greet them a wave, a smile, a hearty "hello!" Say to yourself, "I'm a marathoner!" Thursday: Three miles today, the same as Tuesday. Keeping the theme of running equipment begun on Monday, while shoes are the most important item of equipment a runner can own, comfortable clothing also is a must. If it's cold when you run, particularly in the early morning, you will want to layer on levels of clothing as the best approach to coping with varying temperature levels. And while you want to stay warm, the worst sin is to overdress so that you finish soaked with sweat. More a problem is coping with heat, since there is only so much clothing you can shed without getting arrested. Keep experimenting with different clothing variations. Wicking fabrics work better than the cotton T-shirt you might have won in a 5-K race. You'll figure it out.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Friday: Today being a rest day, maybe this is a day to head to that running store to purchase some of the items of clothing discussed earlier in the week. And make sure it is a running store. While you might be able to find better "bargains" at chain stores in the mall, it's better to shop in a specialty store owned by runners who understand our sport. (Please note the purposeful use of the word "our.") Saturday: Run 10 miles. Your first single workout in double digits, thus somewhat of a milestone, particularly if you're new to running. Fourteen weeks from now in the marathon, you should be able to cruise past the 10-mile marker. "Ho hum. This is me the marathoner, floating on home to 26 miles 385!" Does this workout seem too easy for you in your advanced state of condition? You might want to consider picking up the pace a bit in the final mile just to see how you feel. But don't overdo it and launch an all-out sprint. Float beats sprint every time. Ten miles is the peak run in the second 3-week segment of your training. Next week is another "stepback" week. Sunday: Cross-training. An hour of aerobic training. You want to exercise the body after your 10-mile peak run yesterday--but not too much. If you decide to flip-flop workouts and cross-train Saturday and run long Sunday, you won't want to overdo it on this day. An hour of cycling would be fine--as long as it's at an easy pace. An hour of walking would do you good too. If you choose to bike, you can ride past runners on the same bike path and still offer a cheery greeting, "Well, I'm up on my bike today, but I'm really training for a marathon." Okay, you probably won't have the nerve to say that, but think it! Tip of the Week: Runners sometimes find it difficult doing the long runs, particularly on hot days. One secret is to stop frequently to walk, even if not forced to do so. Walk, grab something to drink, then resume running again. It will make the miles seem much easier plus you'll train yourself to go from running to walking to running during the race. Drinking is important too. Week 6 Monday: This is another week of comparative "rest," since the weekend mileage drops as part of our second "stepback." Total miles this week are 18 with a 7-mile run on the weekend. No running today. If you are a new runner, I hope that you have begun to enjoy the good feeling that comes with being fit. Consider the fact that your marathon training program will be one-third complete at the end of this week. Tuesday: Three miles at your normal pace. What is "normal?" You be the judge. Remember: Tuesdays and Thursdays are good days to include some extra stretching in your workout to loosen your muscles. Ten minutes or so will do. But don't stretch too hard. Stretching should never feel painful, otherwise you risk damaging the muscles you're trying to protect. Wednesday: Despite this being a stepback week, your midweek workouts continue their distance progression. Run 5 miles today, the same as last week, but next week you go 6. How do you feel after the first six weeks of your marathon buildup? The answer to that question will partly dictate how hard you run today.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Thursday: Three miles at an easy pace, then do some strength training. Learn to breathe right when you do your lifts. The worst mistake you can make while lifting is to hold your breath, warns personal trainer Cathy Vasto. That simply tightens the muscles that you want to keep loose. Inhale while you prepare to lift the weight, then exhale while lifting it, inhaling again while lowering it. "The best way to breathe is naturally," says Vasto, "so that you’re not even aware you’re doing it." Friday: Rest is always an important component of any training program. Sometimes rest is important for the mind as much as for the body. Although I love running and find that my day is not complete without a run or some sort of aerobic workout, I realize that not everybody feels the same way--yet! So Friday is the day when you don't have to think about what course you're going to run or how to fit your workout into a busy schedule. You can even skip taking a shower, but if you brush your teeth, don't forget to floss. Relax. Take a day off. Saturday: Run 7 miles. In a logical arithmetic progression you would have done "11" miles today. In most of my training schedules, I don't program races, because it's not easy to know what race distances are available for runners in different areas of the country. But this might be a good weekend to do a test 5- K or 10-K race. It depends on what the local schedule has to offer. Run a mile or so to warm up and cool down by jogging a mile afterwards. Various charts and formulas allow you to use your 10-K time to predict your marathon time. One such formula is to multiply your 10-K time by the number 4.66. More accurate are some of the charts available on the internet. I most often use the one on McMillan Running. Sunday: Do some easy cross-training: 30 to 60 minutes of an aerobic activity. You want to exercise the body, particularly if you raced yesterday--but not too much. Some cycling would be fine--as long as it's at an easy pace. Walking would do you good too. If you're combining a number of cross-training exercises, for example: cycling, swimming and strength training at a Health Club, some easy jogging also might be appropriate. Races are not always available on the days we want, so if you race today, you might want to adjust your schedule so you cross-train on Friday and rest on Saturday. In fact, if there's a particular race you want to run on another weekend, you can even flip-flop weeks, trading this stepback week with another week before or behind. Tip(s) of the Week: Shoe care is important for success in the marathon, not only your racing shoes, but your training shoes. Here are some quick maintenance tips: 1) Always untie your shoes before removing them. 2) Never wash shoes in a washer, or dry them in a dryer. 3) Don't store them in a cold garage, or leave them in a hot car. 4) Don't use them for other sports. 5) Always wear clean and dry socks while running. 6) Have more than one pair of shoes, so you can alternate, allowing shoes to dry between workouts. Week 7 Monday: With six weeks behind us, you now have completed one-third of this 18-week Marathon Training program. Twelve more weeks to go! This is a day of rest. You'll need it, because the mileage continues to build toward your marathon goal. The long run at the end of this week is 12 miles, meaning you're getting up in distance. Add to that 12 more miles run during the middle of the week, and you're up to 24 miles run for the week. You are definitely making progress!
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Tuesday: Three miles at a comfortable pace. The mileage for the Tuesday workouts remains consistent, but will change too as we get further into the program. While running your 3-mile easy run today, evaluate how your training is going. Today's workout should feel real easy to you, particularly after diminished mileage the week before plus yesterday's rest day. Resist the temptation to do more or run faster. Tens of thousands of runners have followed my Novice marathon training programs with great success. You don't want to disappoint me by overtraining and getting injured. Certainly not! So relax and enjoy today's run. I'm going to ask you to run somewhat more tomorrow. Wednesday: Six miles today, a step upward from last week. As these midweek workouts continue to climb, you may need to budget more time out of your busy schedule. Here's my final Wednesday instruction: Smile at everybody you see on the jogging path today. Give them a cheery "Good morning" or "Good afternoon." If someone offers you a similar greeting, it may be because they're following my training program too. :-) Thursday: Three easy miles. Assuming you do some strength training in combination with this run, as you move from exercise to exercise, don’t rush and don’t waste time chitchatting with friends. Stay focused on your workout by stretching in between. "It’s very important while strength training to have a stretching routine," warns personal trainer Cathy Vasto. "You don’t want to lose your flexibility, which can happen if you forget to stretch. Eccentric contractions (which occur when lowering the weights) actually can tighten the muscles." Stretching while strength training provides a double dose of conditioning in a minimum of time. Friday: Rest today will provide just that extra dose of recovery necessary for you to have a good weekend of workouts. While the focus on this Novice training program is increasing the quantity of your training, you can't achieve either quantity or quality in your workouts unless you come into the days you run hard well rested. And "hard" is what I have scheduled for you tomorrow, considering the distance. You'll be able to accomplish tomorrow's long run much more successfully if you are rested and ready. This means getting a good night's sleep tonight too. Social considerations aside, you probably don't want to hang out all night at the bars, then be forced to get up the next morning and train hard. What's important in life to you? Make that decision and follow up on it. Saturday: Run long. Twelve miles. You have now doubled the distance of your longest run in the previous six weeks. Make certain you don't run this workout too hard. Running long workouts too fast is a major training error. Be conservative in your approach to training, and you're more likely to succeed. Don't be embarrassed to stop and walk briefly. You may need to do so in the marathon. The trick is to walk before being forced to. Sunday: Cross-training today. Walk, bike, swim: your choice. But before we end this week of instructions, let's talk briefly about calorie burn. Running will help you maintain or lose weight. You burn the same number of calories (about 100) walking a mile as you do running a mile. That seems unfair, but calorie burn is related to foot-pounds: how many pounds you push over so many feet. Since you lose 1 pound for every 3,600 calories burned, theoretically by running 24 miles this week you will have lost the equivalent of 2/3 pound compared to if you hadn't run. That assumes your eating habits didn't change. You can lose weight faster by combining diet and exercise, which is the best way to lose weight as well as keep it off.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Running Tips: Marathoners need to learn the value of strength. If you plan to win the marathon, running is not enough. Most top runners head to the gym two or three times a week to pump iron. That's good advice for anybody. Machines and barbells work for the elite, but you can stay in shape with push-ups and sit-ups in your own front room. Then you can flex your muscles while crossing the finish line on marathon day. Week 8 Monday: Rest day. You'll need it, because the mileage continues to climb this week--subtly, though inexorably. You have seven weeks behind you; you have 11 weeks ahead of you. Your total mileage this week is 25, just short of the distance you'll cover in the marathon itself. Your long run will be 13 miles, half the distance of the marathon. Looking ahead, you may wonder: Will I really be able to accomplish what I set out to do? Yes, you will. Look back at where you were when you started this program. Think of all the progress you've made so far. Tuesday: Three miles at your usual comfortable pace. On these midweek workouts, run at a time convenient for you, a time when you will feel comfortable running. The majority of runners run in the morning, because that guarantees that nothing will interfere with their workout that day. Also, during warm- weather months, it is cooler during the early hours. Nevertheless, a fair number of runners run during their lunch hour. During the winter up north, I usually run midday because the sun is up, and it's usually somewhat warmer. A certain percentage prefer running late afternoon, using running to relax after a stressful business day. And a few run in the late evening after dinner. In families where both the husband and wife run, they often need to run separately, so one of them can mind the kids. Pick the time that is most convenient for you--and for others around you. There's also nothing that says you can't run at different times on different days depending on your schedule. Wednesday: Six miles. If so, you might want to run a nudge faster this day. Don't push too hard at the start, but see if you can pick up the pace the last mile or two. The fact that you're moving at a slightly faster pace over a slightly longer distance doesn't mean you can't hold a conversation with a partner while running, but allow yourself the luxury of getting slightly out of breath. Important to success in any sport is a distance base, and that is one of the purposes for running a bit longer today. Melvin H. Williams, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Old Dominion University and a top-ranked masters athlete, was never a distance runner in high school, but he ran to get in shape for other sports. "All of that background running helped to lay a groundwork of base training that I took advantage of immediately when I got serious about being a runner," says Dr. Williams. Thursday: Another 3-miler. Comfortable pace. You may get a bit bored running the same, or near-same, distances day after day, week after week after week. There are a lot of short runs of 3 to 5 miles in this program, and I suspect a lot of runners will run the same courses with minor variations. If it's an out- and-back course, your options are limited, but if it's a so-called "loop" course that goes in a circle, running it in the opposite direction will result in a needed change of scenery. Use the opportunity to do something different, when it suits your purpose, and don't be afraid to jump in a car occasionally and pick some scenic route you never have run before as a mood booster.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Friday: Preparing for the weekend's double-pronged endurance activities, claim a day of rest. Friday is Date Night in the Higdon household. Rose and I usually like to go out for dinner and maybe take in a movie, or rent a video. Assuming you're going out for dinner tonight, do you pay attention to your diet? Frequently, when people become runners, they find that they begin to eat differently. This is partly conscious and partly subconscious and reflects the fact that carbohydrates are the most efficient form of energy. People who embrace fitness routines discover this through their reading, but often it happens naturally. Runners crave carbs; their bodies tell them that breads and grains and fruits and vegetables are the best foods for fitness and for good health. You'll often find us in an Italian restaurant the night before long workouts or marathons. I'm lucky in that I don't have to eat out to get spaghetti; Rose is of Italian-American descent. Saturday: Run 13 miles, a significant distance, since it is half the distance you need to run in the marathon itself. You may finish this workout wondering how you'll ever be able to run twice as far. Trust me! You're not yet halfway through your training program. In another ten weeks, you'll be standing on the starting line well-trained and ready to roll. Use these long runs to practice your race strategy. If you haven't yet purchased the pair of shoes you plan to use in the marathon, you should begin to think about making that purchase, and deciding also what outfit to wear: shorts, singlet and a cap to keep the sun off your head. Don't leave anything to chance. And continue to practice drinking as well, both water and the replacement drink you plan to encounter in the marathon. Long runs often are best done with friends, one reason for the success of my marathon training class in Chicago. Camaraderie can keep you going at the end of the workout when the miles start seeming longer. But friends can get you in trouble, particularly if they force you to run faster or slower than you want. And some weekends, you will want to run faster or slower, because you feel good or bad. Don't be afraid to bid friends good-bye, either at the beginning or in the middle of your workout. Speed up or slow down, but be your own man--or woman. Sunday: Cross-training. An hour of aerobic training. Don't push yourself too hard the day after your longest run so far. Go for a walk. Smell the flowers. Listen to the birds. Take a bike ride. Swimming is a particularly effective way of loosening your muscles after a long run the day before. Next week is another stepback week, a change to gather your strength. In cross-training, you don't need to limit yourself to a single activity. Think like a triathlete: Combine sports. Follow a half hour on a bike with a dip in the pool. Walk for 45 minutes, then stretch for 15. Innovate. The most important point of cross-training on Sundays is that you not only train easy to recover from the long run the day before, but also you prepare for more of the same in the coming week. If you cross-train on Saturday before a long run on Sunday, don't train so hard that you compromise your long run. Tip of the Week: To improve your ability to concentrate, visualize your race during workouts, particularly during marathon pace runs. "Put yourself into an emotional marathon mode," says Bob Williams, a coach from Portland. Oregon. "Picture different parts of the course." One workout, practice cruising miles 8-12; the next, rehearse miles 12-14. If you're running a hometown marathon, run specific portions of the course during practice for familiarization. If it's an out-of-town course, and you've run it before, replay the memory. Running Boston: Is there a hill similar to Heartbreak Hill near where you live? "Training on terrain similar to that on which you plan to race is essential," emphasizes Williams. Week 9
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Monday: The beginning of our third stepback week featuring reduced weekend mileage. Today is a day of complete rest. Assess how you feel. If you feel overly sore from the weekend's 13-miler, today would have been a great day to schedule a sports massage. It's probably too late for you to do so, unless you peeked ahead on the schedule, but consider this option for future Mondays as mileage builds. Let's talk about running form this week. Usually I tell runners not to worry about form; just get out and run. But once runners attain a base level of fitness, how they run is worth some consideration. As you run this week, consider your posture. You should run upright. Your back should be straight, roughly at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Ignore anyone who tells you to "lean into it," even when running uphill. Tuesday: Three miles at your normal pace. Hopefully, you are now recovered from the weekend's long run. If not, maybe you pushed too hard during that run, or on the days leading up to it. Here's a tip on form related to head carry that you can consider while running today. Look straight down the road. Your eyes should be focused right on a point moving about 10 meters in front of you. Try to run in a straight line and not wander back and forth. Wednesday: Though a stepback week, the midweek mileage progression continues. Run 7 miles. These long weekday workouts may be increasingly difficult for those of you with busy work schedules, not because of the extra training load but because of the extra time required. Plan ahead. Make sure you allow yourself ample time for this workout. Thursday: Four miles at your normal pace. This is a slight increase in distance from previous Thursday workouts. Feeling tired? Slow down, or do some walking. Writing training schedules that will be used by tens of thousands of runners with varying ability, it's hard for me to judge how any one runner will feel on any one day. You have to determine how hard or easy to train. When in doubt, be cautious. Continuing the discussion on running form, swing your arms naturally. The angle at the elbow between your upper and lower arms should be about 90 degrees. Your hands should be loosely cupped, about belly level. Let your arms swing in rhythm with your legs. The legs should control arm swing, not the other way around. Form is also important not only in strength training exercises, but also when you stretch. Don't be sloppy in anything you do connected with your running. Friday: This is your usual end-of-week day of rest, and it's interesting how running often forces people to change their lifestyles. Last week, we talked briefly about the fact that runners usually modify their diets, eating more carbohydrates than they might have before. Typically, they change their drinking habits too, realizing that moderation is the key. Rarely do I see runners drinking alcoholic beverages other than wine or beer--and usually not much of that. That's because when you start to run, you quickly realize that it's no fun to run with a hangover. Thus does running create positive habits for those who pursue it. Saturday: Run 10 miles. In a straight progression, you might have done 14 today (and you'll do 15 next week). Make this an easy run. Resist the temptation to run faster, because you're running shorter. You'll need the energy you save when we get back on schedule next week. One final word on form, and it concerns footplant. The most natural landing is mid-foot, the ball of the foot landing first, the heel contacting the ground a fraction of a second later. The toes push off a fraction after that. Some runners land further forward, or backward, than others, based on what feels natural to them. Attempt to modify this natural gait at your own risk.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Sunday: Cross-training for an hour. Don't push yourself too hard the day after any long run. Go for a walk. Smell the flowers. Listen to the birds. Take a bike ride. Swimming is a particularly effective way of loosening your muscles after a long run the day before. Consider the fact also that on this day you have finished nine weeks of marathon training. In this 18-week program, you are halfway to the marathon! Running Tips: Stretching is important for marathoners, who risk losing flexibility because of their high-mileage training. Include some stretching in your daily running routine. The best time to stretch is not before you run. Pre-workout muscles may be tight; the risk of injury is increased. Instead, stretch during-- or after--your run, when muscles are warmest. If you own a hot tub, do some stretching while you're soaking. Week 10 Monday: Half way home. You have nine weeks of marathon training behind you and nine more to go. After a stepback week, this is the beginning of another three-week cycle. I have long runs of 15 and 16 miles planned for you over the next two weekends. Your weekly mileage will also increase to 32 miles during this next cycle. As you rest today, contemplate the training behind and the training ahead. Are you well-positioned for the next push upward in distance? I certainly hope so. Tuesday: Three miles followed by strength training if you choose. And don't forget to stretch after you run and stretch also between lifts. Warm up is important. Research shows that warm tissues stretch better than cold tissues. Many runners interpret this to mean that you jog 5-10 minutes before stopping to stretch. Robert Forster, however, offers another opinion. "Nobody said you can't stretch cold muscles," says the California physiotherapist, who included Jackie Joyner-Kersee among his clients. "When people are prone to injuries--or if they've been sitting down all day--they need to stretch before exercise as well." Forster recommends that runners develop a routine that begins with some simple pre-workout stretches, then continues after a short jog warms the muscles. Stretching after the workout also is a good time to increase flexibility. "There is no best time to stretch," he concludes. "You need to continually work on your flexibility to achieve success as a runner." Wednesday: Seven miles today. Our midweek, sorta long run. Do you know what pace you plan to run in the marathon? This might be a good time to practice it--at least in the middle miles. Running 7 miles on a weekday is not easy, and it does take time. These longish weekday workouts may be increasingly difficult for those of you with busy work schedules, not because of the extra training load, but because of the extra time required. Plan ahead. Make sure you allow yourself ample time for this workout. Thursday: Four easy miles. Make this an even easier workout than usual. While I sometimes suggest that runners move a bit further on some of the easy days, today is not one of those days. Consider the fact that you have a 15-miler coming at you this weekend. That's a lot of running. By running easy today and resting tomorrow, you are loading the gun so you are assured of running well on the weekend.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Friday: On this day of rest before a weekend during which you have your longest run so far scheduled, pause and consider how far you have come since starting your marathon training nine-plus weeks ago. Have you begun to notice any improvements? Improvements are not always easy to measure day by day or even week by week, but think back to nine weeks ago. Or think back to nine months before then. You may not have lost nine pounds in the past nine- plus weeks. You may not have discovered muscles you didn't know you had. But you should begin to notice some improvements in your fitness level and some improvement in your overall ability to run. This training program is designed to help you to finish a marathon. Hopefully, your confidence has begun to grow. Saturday: Run long. Fifteen miles. That's three-fourths of the longest distance (20) we'll ask you to run in this marathon training program. By now, you should begin to adapt to the rhythm of these long runs. Don't do them too fast. Take walking breaks if necessary. And remember: unless you're a speed demon, you're going to be running for a relatively long period of time, close to three hours or more. If the weather is warm, you will dehydrate. Take a good swig of water just before you start to run and if there are any water fountains on the course you choose, don't run past them. You might even consider carrying a water bottle. Dehydration becomes more of a factor the longer you run and the higher the temperature. If you can't find water fountains along your route, consider purchasing a belt for carrying fluids. Yes, you have a right to finish a 15-miler feeling tired, but you should not finish exhausted. Running steady pace is the secret to marathon success. Sunday: Cross-training today. By now you probably have determined the cross-training routine that works best for you. But don't be afraid to vary it. Is rollerblading okay? Yes, if you're used to doing it and wear proper equipment so you don't get hurt if you fall down. But if you're new to the activity, or inexperienced, don't start now. What about soccer? Or tennis? Basketball? Runners frequently ask me about these sports. While they may be fun, sports that feature sideways or up-and-down movements are risky, particularly as the mileage builds. Choose your cross-training sport carefully. Remember that the day after a long run is a good time to do some extra stretching. Even a 5- or 10-minute swim at the end of a cross-training workout will help loosen you up. Tip of the Week: Practice makes perfect. Practice not only running, but everything else related to race day. That includes equipment. Do you know what shoes you'll wear on race day? Buy a new pair now! How about shorts and singlet? Test your clothing in training to make sure nothing chafes or causes a blister. Do you expect hot or cold weather race day? Weather can be unpredictable. Will you be prepared if the temperature suddenly drops (or rises) 30 degrees on race day? Consider every scenario you might encounter. Week 11 Monday: Rest day. As mileage in our training program builds, you'll need this day of rest more and more. This is a high-mileage week (32 total), so don't overdo today's workout, regardless of which cross-training discipline you select. You had a long run of 15 miles yesterday; you'll have a longer run of 16 miles at the end of this week. You are now into the 11th week of my 18-week Marathon Training Program with five weeks left to go before the taper begins. Hopefully, you have begun to see some improvements in fitness since when you began a long, long time ago in a distant galaxy. Maybe you've lost some
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 weight. If not that, you probably have built some muscle and lowered your percentage of body fat. You look better and feel better. Congratulate yourself on your perseverance so far. Tuesday: Your easy run today is 4 miles, up a mile from previous Tuesdays. The mileage buildup continues. You will burn an extra 100 or so calories because of this extra mile. If you're trying to lose weight, you may consider this an advantage--but losing too much weight can get you in trouble! Be sure to watch your diet. In fact, you probably need to increase your carbohydrate intake on all days of the week to compensate for the extra miles you’re starting to run. You can’t train well while glycogen-depleted. Wednesday: Eight miles. The mileage of this midweek "sorta" long run will continue to build gradually over the next five weeks. This is an essential part of your training program. Be sure to take it seriously. By now, you are running farther during your Wednesday workouts than you did during your weekend workouts during the first three weeks of the program. That's quite a step up in distance. Hopefully, your body has begun to accommodate to this extra level of stress. Thursday: The purpose of this 4-miler is partly to loosen up after yesterday's run. Remember to keep this at a comfortable pace. By now, this should be a workout that you could run with your hands tied behind your back, humming the your favorite P. Diddy tune and cheerfully greeting everybody you meet on the jogging path. Don't push the pace too hard today, because you have a tough run coming up on the weekend. Friday: Today is a day of rest. If tonight is "Date Night" and you go out for dinner, as I often do with my wife Rose at the end of the week, pick from the menu well. A well-balanced diet for runners is to obtain 55 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fats and 15 percent from proteins. Complex carbohydrates found in pasta, rice and fruit are the best. Forget those high-protein and low-carbohydrate diets. They simply don't work for endurance athletes. Saturday: Run 16 miles, another landmark of sorts. When you pass this point in the marathon, you'll get a psychological lift in that only 10 miles remain and you'll be facing single digits (9, 8, 7, etc.) as you cruise toward the finish line. Next week you'll run a shorter distance as part of a stepback week, so tough this out. As a mind game, visualize yourself running over the first 16 miles of the marathon course. Sunday: Don't overdo the cross-training today. Particularly as the mileage continues to build, keep the effort level low. If you're out on a bike, for example, you don't want your head down and your legs pumping at high revolutions or in low gears. As for strength training, you probably need to begin to cut back on the heavy weights as mileage builds. Next week is another stepback week and also the end of our fourth three-week cycle. For the rest of the program, as the mileage continues its upward spiral, we will provide you with a stepback week every other week to make certain you don't become stressed out. Tip of the Week: Occasional racing may be important for marathon success. Particularly this is true for Novice runners who have raced infrequently--or not at all--before catching the Marathon Bug. One reason for racing is to test your fitness: to get an idea of how fast a pace you will be able to carry in the
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 marathon. Another is to test all your strategies from the shoes you'll wear to grabbing fluids at water stations. Leave nothing to chance. Too much racing, however, can lead to overtraining, so don't overdo it. Week 12 Monday: This is our fourth stepback week featuring reduced mileage. It is also the end of our fourth three-week cycle, featuring two "hard" weeks followed by one "easy" one. Next week, with the mileage continuing to climb, we will shift to two-week cycles to make certain not to push you too far too fast. The weekend past featured the longest run so far in the program: 16 miles. That's a bit of distance. That's serious training. That's why this day of complete rest will come in handy. Tuesday: Four miles at your normal pace followed by strength training--and don't forget to stretch. "There is little doubt that some form of resistance training is beneficial to all runners," says exercise physiologist and Olympic champion Peter Snell, Ph.D. "Weight training is not likely to produce further increases in maximum oxygen uptake in runners, but may improve muscle endurance." Nevertheless, with the mileage now up there in the stratosphere, consider cutting back somewhat on your strength training. Less weight, fewer repetitions will allow you to conserve energy and also reduce the risk of an overuse injury. Wednesday: The midweek mini long run remains at 8 miles, same as last week. Whether you run this in the morning before work, or after, be sure to budget enough time so you don't have to cut the workout short. Make this a "listen-to-your-body" workout. Run as you feel. If you feel like running a little faster (no particular pace), do it. If you feel like really taking it easy (even including some walking breaks or stops for water), do that. Training schedules should not be inflexible. This is the week where I count on you to strike a sensible balance between undertraining and overtraining. Thursday: Five miles at your normal pace. This is an increase of a mile from last week. To avoid getting in a rut, select a different 5-mile course rather than simply adding a mile to the 4-mile course you have been using for several weeks. Success in running is often as much mental as physical. And as I suggest above, changing paces is also a good strategy. Note that I also have suggested as an option this weekend a race to test your fitness. Maybe even a half marathon, if you can find one. If you choose that option, and the race is Saturday rather than Sunday, you might want to cut back several miles on the distance today, or even take an additional full day off. Friday: Savor this day of rest. Once this stepback week is past, we move forward to the peak part of your training. Are you suffering any aches and pains? This is not an easy training program. No marathon training program is, because of the necessity to log lots of miles to get runners ready to finish 26 miles 385 yards. If you have any nagging injuries, but have been postponing seeing a sports medicine professional, maybe now is the time to schedule an appointment. Prevention is sometimes the best therapy.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Saturday: Run 12 miles. This is in place of the 17-miler you might have expected in a straight progression. If you want a test race, this might be a good weekend for it. A half marathon would fit perfectly into the training plan, particularly coming at the end of the fourth of our three-week cycles. You also have the leeway to juggle weeks to accommodate the local racing calendar. But do not overplay the racing card: Doing so can compromise your ability to do the necessary long runs in this program. In fact, Tom Moran, who works with me in the CARA Chixcago Marathon Training Class, feels that runners in the Novice program should not even consider racing. Like: never! "I just want to get them to the starting line healthy," worried Mother Hen Moran. Good point, Tom, but a certain amount of racing can help motivate you--as long as you don't overdo it. If Tom tells you "no," come talk to me. (In raising our family, my wife Rose and I noticed that our kids would sometimes play one off against the other in getting permission to do something we might not otherwise approve.) Sunday: An hour's cross-training. Since you didn't run as far yesterday, you might even want to include some running today. By "running," I really mean some easy jogging--and not for the full hour. Otherwise, do whatever appeals to you in the way of walking, cycling, swimming or other exercises. Tip of the Week: There is no such thing as "bad food," only bad choices. There's even a place for burgers, fries and shakes in your diet. You just need to balance everything you eat. If you eat a well-balanced diet, that includes ample fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, you can avoid expensive supplements. Tape these words to your refrigerator: "Eat a wide variety of lightly processed foods." Week 13 Monday: Following the stepback week, get ready to rumble again. These next three weeks are the ones where you achieve the peak training toward which you've been building. You'll end Week 13 with an 18-miler and Week 15 with a 20-miler (with another stepback week between). Tuesday: Four miles run comfortably. The pace for a "comfortable" run this day may be faster than the pace you did a "comfortable" run a dozen weeks ago when you began your marathon training. Or it may not. Everybody reacts differently to training. At peak training, fatigue can set in. You may need to remove some of the other stresses from your life. For instance, strength training normally is good for runners, but not toward the end of a marathon buildup. So save your time pumping iron and devote the extra minutes you save to stretching. Wednesday: Nine miles. Your most difficult task will remain not going the distance--since you can handle this many miles easily now--but rather fitting a run that may last well past an hour into your work week. Can you juggle your work schedule to allow some time off, perhaps a day's vacation the weeks you do these midweek sorta long runs? The same with your social life. Get some more sleep. You really don't need to stay up late to watch that David Letterman rerun, do you? Thursday: Five easy miles. Eighteen miles in the last three days. After resting tomorrow, you'll face an 18-miler over the weekend to cap the week at 36 total miles. Whew! As we approach the peak of your training, those days when I do allow you to rest (such as tomorrow) become increasingly important.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Friday: A day of rest preparatory to some tough training on the weekend. Get some extra sleep tonight, so you're ready to run long. This is particularly important if you're training through the summer for a fall marathon, since so many of your runs begin in the early morning to avoid the heat that begins to build late-morning. How is your nutrition? This is probably not a day to go out for burgers and beer. Saturday: Eighteen miles. That's almost 30 kilometers, close to three-fourths of the full marathon distance. (Remember that when you sail past 18 in the race.) But for now, it's the longest run so far in your training program. Do you need to walk a bit to finish this run comfortably. Do so while taking fluids. That's good practice for the race, since you can take more water if you walk through water stops. Experiment also with replacement gels (such as Reload) for extra energy. When you finish today's workout, congratulate yourself for what may be a Personal Best in distance. Sunday: Cross-training remains an important part of your training. An hour-long spin on a bike might work well today. Notice that we said "spin." Don't train too hard, regardless of which cross-training discipline you select. When you finish today's workout, congratulate yourself for all the training it took to get you this far. Tip of the Week: Stretching is important for marathoners, who risk losing flexibility because of their high-mileage training. Include some stretching in your daily running routine. The best time to stretch is not before you run. Pre-workout muscles may be tight; the risk of injury is increased. Instead, stretch during-- or after--your run, when muscles are warmest. Stretching on the off days also makes sense.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Week 14 Monday: No running today. This is another stepback week, giving you a break between Weeks 13 and 15 with their long runs of 18 and 20 miles. In order to train hard, you need to be well rested. While resting, congratulate yourself on the amount of training you have done so far. You are almost at the end of the tunnel. It is getting brighter ahead. You have one more hard week ahead of you (Week 15), then it is time to taper and get ready to race. Tuesday: Despite this being a stepback week, today's mileage is one mile further than last Tuesday. Take five, but at an easy pace. You may still be feeling some residual fatigue as a result of the 18-miler you did over the weekend. For that reason, this might be a good day on which to schedule a massage. For maddages, I visit Harbor Country Day Spa in New Buffalo, Michigan. Usually I schedule a massage every other weekend, but when the training gets toughest, I sometimes get a massage once a week. If I were a professional runner, I probably would get three or four massages a week. That's how important I believe massage therapy can be for runners. Wednesday: Nine miles today. Depending on how you feel, you might want to pick up the pace slightly for a few of the middle miles. Try stretching out a bit between Miles 5 and 7, then come in at a gentler pace. Remember that stretching remains important for marathoners, who risk losing flexibility because of their high-mileage training. This is particularly important now that you are approaching 20 miles for your longest run with accompanying high mileage for the full week. The best time to stretch is not before you run. Pre-workout muscles may be tight; the risk of injury is increased. Instead, stretch during--or after-- your run, when muscles are warmest. Admittedly, with a 9-miler taking so much time out of your work week, you may feel that you don't have time to stretch. But think of it this way: You don't have time not to stretch. Thursday: Five miles today, the same as Tuesday's workout. Remember what I told you two weeks ago about selecting different courses for workouts run over the same distances. Since it will take you less time to run 5 miles than the 9-miler yesterday, maybe you can afford to go to a particularly scenic location for today's run. My favorite training area is Indiana Dunes State Park, despite having to drive 20-30 minutes to get there. I park at Wilson Shelter and do a figure-eight loop on Trails 2, 9 and 10 to get a 5-mile workout. A single loop gives me 3 miles. If you see me running in the park some day--maybe even today--be sure to say hello. Friday: Total rest. The long run mileage is up. The weekly mileage is up. What is the best thing you can do to insure that you training properly and get maximum advantage out of all the training you're doing? It's a variation of the old Real Estate Agent response about what is important in selling a house: "Location! Location! Location!" For runners interested in getting maximum advantage out of their long runs--or any other hard training--it's: "Rest! Rest! Rest!" Saturday: Run 14 miles. Did you believe when you started this program there would come a day when we would tell you to go that distance, and you'd think, "Oh, an easy day." It all depends on your point of view. You're now looking down on 14, rather than up at it. Next Saturday's run will not be easy. That's a promise.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Sunday: An hour of cross-training today. Don't overlook this important part of your training. Since yesterday's workout was so "easy," you might consider doing some jogging today. If so, keep the pace at a very, very low stress level--and walk more than usual. Next week is a big one, because you will climax the week--and your training--by running 20 miles, the longest distance in this marathon training program. Tip of the Week: Too much racing can compromise your marathon training. In the marathon training class in Chicago, we used to recommend that students race no more than three out of the 18 weekends at distances between 10-K and 25-K. Now we don't recommend any racing out of fear of injury. Races, nevertheless, can help you determine your fitness level and help you determine your marathon pace. Here's a handy formula for predicting marathon time. Multiply your 10-K time by 4.66. (For instance, 40:00 for 10-K predicts 3:06:40 for the marathon.) First-timers, however, should take a more conservative approach and multiply 10-K time by a factor of 5. (For instance, 50:00 for 10-K predicts 4:10 for the marathon.) By choosing the more conservative formula, and starting more slowly, you're less likely to hit the wall. Week 15 Monday: This is the infamous Week 15, the peak week of your training with 40 miles total for the week and a 20-miler on the weekend. (Check below and you'll see that I suggest moving your long run to Sunday rather than Saturday for this one climactic week.) Rather than fear this 20-miler, you should greet it with near the same enthusiasm you will greet the marathon one month from now. But, for the time being, take it easy. Tuesday: Five miles at your normal pace. If you're running with a friend, the talk test prevails. You should be able to hold a conversation without getting greatly out of breath while moving along at a comfortable pace. If running alone, visualize running the marathon to motivate yourself. If you're familiar with the course, rehearse how you're going to run miles 1 through 5. Try to stay smooth. Concentrate on maintaining an efficient form. Wednesday: Ten miles at a steady and comfortable pace. This is peak mileage for the midweek run. The combination of this 10-mile sorta long run and the 20 mile long run over the weekend brings you to near the top of the mountain. This will give you the confidence to reach your goal: finishing 26 miles 385 yards. Given the time it will take you to do this workout in the middle of a work week, consider taking a vacation day, or half day off. Thursday: Five miles at your normal pace. You are entitled to feel a bit tired today. It's normal. That's what training is all about. As a visualization drill today, picture yourself running the last 5 miles of the marathon course. How are you going to feel walking through the finish chute. If you followed this program faithfully, I'm hoping that you will feel great! Friday: No running today. Get to bed early tonight. This is important advice for two nights before the marathon. Why? Because a lot of runners get very nervous the night before and find it difficult to sleep. And in order to make it to the starting line in time, they oftentimes have to rise earlier than normal. "The night before the night before" is the time to stoke up on sleep. So get your sleep on Friday as much as on Saturday to make sure you're well rested on
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Sunday. Please note that I am recommending that you shift your long run (the "feared" 20-miler) to Sunday rather than Saturday. If you choose to stick with Saturdays (no problem), you may want to shift everything forward a day, making Thursday a rest day. Saturday: Although you may have been doing your long runs on Saturdays, we suggest you flip-flop days and do the climactic long run on Sunday. Today, do an hour of cross-training. And it should be an easy hour, because you don't want to start tomorrow's run fatigued. An hour of walking sounds about right. Tonight, skip the lamb chops and go for spaghetti. In fact, eat a similar meal to that planned for the night before the marathon: pasta with a marinara sauce, bread, salad and a non-caffeine, high-carbohydrate beverage. Sunday: The Big Twenty! Next to the actual marathon itself, you will find finishing today's workout to be the most important achievement of the 18-week training program. Not merely will you have run 20 miles, but you will do it at the climax of a 40-mile training week! It doesn't get much better, nor much tougher than this. Well, yes it does. Wait three more weeks. (Remember to practice drinking fluids and ingesting gels today, same as you will do in the race.) Tip of the Week: What you do in any one workout doesn't matter. The most important point of any training program is the totality of that program, and the results it brings. A flash speed workout with quick splits may look good in your training diary, but it could bring you to the edge of overtraining. The same with running the long runs too hard. Your time in the final 20-miler won't count three weeks later. Your success will be measured by, 1) finishing the marathon, if you're a beginner, or 2) finishing it in a time that reflects your current capabilities, if you're an experienced runner. What you did while getting there doesn't count. Week 16 Monday: With the 20-miler now history, the taper begins. The entire purpose of training over the next three weeks is to allow you to rest your body after the previous 15 weeks of progressively tougher training. This means gradually reducing the training load, thus the term "taper." My taper philosophy is that you cut mileage to 75% in Week 16, 50% in Week 17 and 25% (not including the marathon itself) in Week 18. The numbers don't work out exactly--going from 40 to 29 to 21 to 9--but they're close. Rest today. Tuesday: Five miles easy. While total miles for the week drop, some workouts remain about the same. That is true today. You've begun your taper, but the decline is shallow for these first few days. Maintain your usual pace for this distance. During the taper, quality (meaning how fast you run) should remain about the same. Quantity (or how far you run) is the element that declines. Wednesday: Eight miles. You had reached a peak of 10 last Tuesday. The drop in mileage will be subtle at first, then more pronounced. The serious training is done. You now focus on getting to the starting line well rested. In Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, I quote David L. Costill, Ph.D. of Ball State University, who says that runners sometimes train too hard in the weeks immediately preceding a marathon: "They feel they need one last butt-busting workout and end up tearing themselves down." In research with swimmers, Dr. Costill noted that they often set PRs by tapering as much as three to six
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 weeks before an event. Research with runners suggested a three-week taper might work best. The better your preparation (the 15 weeks just past), the more you can afford to take time off, and the more likely you will achieve success. Thursday: Four easy miles, compared to the 5 you did last Thursday. Research suggests that you need to continue to train at, or near, race pace on the hard days. Duncan MacDougall, Ph.D. of McMaster University also studied tapering. "We still don't know what the optimal tapering plan is," he finally concluded, "but we do know that if you're going to be tapering for a week or so, it's important to keep the intensity of your workouts fairly high as you cut back drastically on your mileage." Dr. MacDougall was working with 10-K runners, who would necessarily taper a shorter time, but the message for marathoners remains the same. Reduce quantity, but maintain quality. Friday: Rest day. Continuing the thread begun two days ago quoting Dr. Costill's research, he found the main problem with tapering runners was that, psychologically, they worried about losing conditioning by running less, so became anxious. Also, at least in early time trials following a taper, they were so well rested and felt so good they ran the first few laps of a 5,000-meter test run too fast and faded in the final laps. (They got the message the next time tested and did better.) Rest is essential. Believe me when I tell you, you won't lose conditioning when you taper. On race day, however, you're going to need to control any impulses to run the first few miles too fast. Saturday: Today's run is 12 miles, long by standards of three months ago, but hopefully an easy stroll in the park following all the training you've done. Maintain the same pace as your usual weekend runs. One of the reasons for these long runs is to get your body used to moving for a long period of time, as well as distance. If you cut the time length of your workouts short by running too fast, you spoil the effect of the taper and don't get full benefit. Marathon running is a psychological, as well as physical, game. Sunday: Similar to your run training, don't do anything in the area of cross-training that will push you too hard. Keep the bike ride gentle. Swim more to loosen your muscles, not strengthen them. And if you've been doing strength training, you might want to stop, or do very little, with the marathon almost in sight. Walking remains a good off-day exercise for runners. Tip of the Week: Research suggests that runners often catch a cold or the flu the final week before the marathon, or the week after the marathon. That's because in building to a mileage peak, they often overdo it and temporarily suppress their immune systems. Marathoners thus are more vulnerable to any viruses they might encounter. To avoid colds, try to avoid people who have them. And get plenty of rest. Week 17 Monday: No running today. You're into your final taper now. This rest day takes on more significance as you try to store energy. "Knowing precisely how to modify your training during the last two to three weeks before a marathon takes experience," I write in Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. "Even for seasoned marathoners, it may take a few bad starts before finding a specific routine that works. There are too many variables in the equation. How long you
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 may have prepared for any one specific long race, how effective your training has been, whether you enter the closing stages undertrained or overtrained, and how confident you are." I like to feel that you should be very confident after following my 18-week program! Tuesday: Four easy miles for today's run. In Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, I discuss the psychological implications of doing less: "You may not know what to do with the extra time. And you don't want to give up your long Sunday run with friends, even in the last weekend before the marathon. Then there's the problem of diet. If you cut down on the number of miles you run, you'll also need to cut the number of calories you eat if you don't want to gain weight. And while many marathoners might believe that rest could benefit their performance in this marathon, they're afraid of the effect of two or three weeks' rest on their overall conditioning." Trust me: The rest will do you good! Wednesday: Six miles today. The decreased mileage on this key, midweek workout should make it easier for you to manage your busy schedule. Are you running on a course today where there is an accurately measured mile, regardless of where it comes in the run? Pick up the pace and see how close you can come to the precise pace you will run in the race two weekends from today. No handy measured mile? Increase your pace for the precise length of time it would take you to cover a mile at marathon pace. You'd be surprised how close you can come to hitting the exact distance. Thursday: Go only three miles. A continued drop in distance. Here's another reason why to taper from Owen Anderson, Ph.D., editor of Running Research News: "Scientific evidence suggests that temporary training reductions bolster leg muscle power, reduce lactic acid production, and carve precious minutes off race times. In contrast, hard workouts just before a race can produce nagging injuries and deplete leg muscles of their key fuel for running--glycogen." Friday: Total rest. Don't stay out too late tonight. You want to catch up on any sleep you might have lost during the hard weeks of your training. Sleep loss is cumulative, and it's time to catch up. Here's some advice on eating habits during the taper period from Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: "Watch what you eat. If you're running less, you're also burning fewer calories. This could mean you gain a pound or so--no big deal, unless you also fill in your spare time by making extra trips to the fridge.... To keep from piling on extra pounds, you could eliminate junk food from your diet during your taper week(s). Get rid of the soft drinks and sugar sweets that you may have used to boost your calorie intake during regular training." Saturday: Run 8 miles. This would be a good day for a final test run of your equipment: the shoes you plan to wear and your "race" uniform (conceding that you can't always predict next weekend's weather). You want to avoid, as much as possible, any blisters or chafing that might make next weekend's run uncomfortable. Incidentally, there are some excellent anti-chafing products. Body Glide is one, but there are a number of others. Check at your local running store. Sunday: An hour of cross-training today. Keeping with the spirit of this second tapering week, whatever you do today should not be done with high intensity. If you decide to do some biking, swimming or hiking (depending on your cross-workout of choice), let's limit it to a half hour in keeping with my tapering recommendation that you cut your regular training in half two weeks before the marathon. Stay away from pick-up basketball games. Don't throw away the work of the last three months by doing something foolish.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Tip of the Week: As you get into the final weeks of your marathon preparation, the most important thing you can do is rest, rest and rest. The hard work is over. You need to do some training, but not too much. My approach has always been to cut mileage, but maintain intensity. Continue to run somewhat fast on the "hard" days, but not so far. For inspiration, rent a video of the classic English movie, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. Week 18 Monday: Your whole final week leading up to the marathon should be devoted to rest, rest, rest! According to Tom Grogon, a coach from Cincinnati: "One problem that often develops is that people in training sometimes use these easy/lower mileage weeks to do something else equally stressful." Grogon recalls one tapering runner who rebuilt his barn and another who spent his "rest" time swimming and biking--and none of these activities exactly qualify as resting. Grogon recommends using the extra time to catch up on family and work responsibilities. Tuesday: Three miles at your normal pace. And mind what you eat this week, as I write in Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: "Begin carbo-loading seven days in advance. Forget what you read years ago about depletion and three days of a low-carbohydrate diet before switching to a diet high in carbohydrates. (The theory was that the depleted muscles--'starved' for carbohydrates--would then be able to suck up even more carbos than normal and thus provide the marathoner with even more energy on race day.) Stick with a high-carbohydrate diet throughout the week. You don't need to eat spaghetti all seven days: Focusing on fruits, vegetables, and grains will keep you above 60 percent carbos even if you have lean meat as a main course. If you haven't eliminated between-meal junk snacks, do it now.". Wednesday: Four miles easy. More on diet, a very important subject this last week because of the necessity to stock your muscles with fuel-efficient glycogen. Robert Eslick, a coach from Nashville says, "I tell my runners to watch their intake for the first three days of the marathon week to avoid weight gain and then to eat a little more than their normal intake, with the emphasis on carbohydrates, the last three days." Sound advice. Thursday: The last three days are critical to the final taper. Usually, I rest two days and do some light jogging on the third. In this schedule for Novice runners, I advise that you do 2 easy miles today, then rest Friday and Saturday. Carbo-loading begins in earnest today. Pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, fruits. Don't make radical changes in your regular diet, but now is not the time for filet mignon. Cut back slightly on your intake of calories, since you will be burning fewer calories in this final tapering week. Friday: Get a good night's sleep tonight. You may have more difficulty sleeping tomorrow night because of nervous anticipation. Also, you may need to get up early Sunday to get to the start on time. For this reason, your Friday night's sleep is even more important than your Saturday night's sleep. I say "Sunday" and "Saturday" assuming that your marathon race is on the former day. But some marathons are held on Saturdays. "Rocket City" in Huntsville, Alabama and "Grandma's" in Duluth, Minnesota come to mind. If you're running a Saturday marathon, move everything up one day.
  • Meg and Fin’s Marathon Training Plan June 26, 2010 Saturday: Many runners like to do some light jogging the day before the marathon, particularly to loosen up after traveling to the race. I prescribed an easy 2-mile run on Thursday for Novice runners, but if you want to rest Thursday and do your 2-miler today, that's not a bad option. I suggest to runners following the intermediate and advanced programs to do some easy strides the day before the race to both loosen up and relieve nervousness. If you decide to do the same, simply flip-flop your Thursday and Saturday workouts. Quoting again from Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: "There's no longer any room in your training plan for hard, fast, or long runs. Forget them. If you run anything at or near race pace, don't run far." Sunday: St. Paul once said, "Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but only one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it." (St. Paul, 9:24) I don't know, Pauly, that message might have been accurate 2,000 years ago, but if you were around today and had an opportunity to experience today's mass-participation marathons, you might agree that more than one runner receives the prize, or benefits from their participation. (That might make a good sermon subject for my former teammate at Carleton College, Bill Hendren, who is now a minister in Ventura, California.) Regardless of whether you expect to win a prize in today's race, take St. Paul's advice and run so as to obtain it. There's not much more we can say other than this is the day and the moment for which you have spent 18 weeks. Remember everything you learned over those weeks. And have a very good day! Tip of the Week: Smile as you cross the finish line. More important: Don't punch your stopwatch until a few seconds later, while you're in the chute. You want to look good for the finish-line photo.