Jun 13 2012

My Marathon Training Plan

The plan I’m following for my first marathon is from a book called Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald. I actually bought the book on impulse before I was even considering a full marathon – I just needed something to read while I was getting my oil changed (which takes approx. 3 hours at the dealership). I wasn’t even finished with the first chapter before I realized how much I missed being on a real training plan. I followed a plan religiously before my first half marathon, but just kind of winged it for my second and third. There’s just nothing like a concrete training plan to keep you honest, and I love the feeling of completing a whole training plan from start to finish. In the back of my mind I thought maybe I would start following the plan in the book, even though I wasn’t actually training for anything.

Then, I got a text from my friend Sarah vaguely mentioning something about a full marathon. I took the hint and immediately told her I’d been reading this book and I really thought we should just go for it and conquer the marathon. Lots of “OMG’s” and “EEEEK’s” later, we agreed to start training.

If you haven’t read Brain Training, I very highly recommend it. I won’t go into a full-on book review (mostly because I can’t do it justice), but it has changed my perspective on running, training, and pushing myself. The first half of the book is an explanation of the 8-point brain training system, and the second half is the various training plans that are based on the system. There are training plans for 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon distances. Each distance has a level one plan (for beginners), level two plan (for intermediate runners), and level three plan (for highly fit runners).

My favorite thing in the whole book is the target pace level chart. Having only ever run the half marathon distance, it always confused me when I would see workout plans telling you to run at 5K pace, marathon pace, etc. How the hell am I supposed to know what my marathon pace is if I’ve never actually run a marathon before?? Well, Mr. Fitzgerald cleared that all up for me. In the target pace level chart he tells you what your pace for all distances should be based on your last race time. For example, if my last half marathon time was 1:58, my paces for each distance are:

Recovery Pace: 12:12-10:52
Base Pace: 10:51-9:54
Marathon Pace: 9:20
Half Marathon Pace: 9:02
10K Pace: 8:36
5K Pace: 8:17
3K Pace: 8:03
1-Mile Pace: 7:38

The book recommends tune-up races or practice races every few weeks to reassess your times. For example, if after a few weeks of training I ran a 5K at 8 min/mile pace, I would bump up to the higher paces in my training runs.
Because this is a 24-week plan and I’m hoping to run a marathon in October (which is only about 4 months of training), I’m following the level one plan but skipping some of the beginning weeks and also following the paces associated with a half marathon time of 1:58 instead of 2:01 (which is why the paces I listed above are based on 9:02 half marathon pace instead of 9:15 like I actually ran). Once I get to the longer distances above 12 miles I’ll start following the plan exactly, but I feel like I’m in good enough shape that I can skip some of the low-mileage beginning weeks. So, even though I’m actually in my third week of training I’m following week 7 of the plan:

Day 1 – 6 miles at base pace
Day 2 – 1 mile warm up followed by 4 sets of 2 minute hill repeats and a 1 mile cool down
Day 3 – Nonimpact cardio (spin class – yay!!!)
Day 4 – 5 miles at base base with 4 x 2 minute intervals @ 3,000 meter pace sprinkled in
Day 5 – 9 miles at base pace

There are also strength training and stretching exercises that are incorporated into the plan each week. I haven’t done much with those yet, but plan on adding them in next week. We’ll see how it goes…

So far I feel pretty good! It is hard getting used to running so much again, though. I was used to running twice a week and spinning twice a week (plus some short runs with Bauer) so I definitely FEEL like I’m training for a marathon now. Which is how it should feel I suppose…


Sara 24-02-2013, 20:53

Ahhh goodluck on your training! I can’t wait to read about it :)


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