Training Program For Your First Marathon
The key to a successful marathon is to have a solid first marathon training plan. If you put in the effort for the months leading up to the race and test (and re-test!) your marathon nutrition during this training phase, you will be able to show up at the starting line with confidence and fresh legs.
Before starting a first marathon training program, you should be able to run for thirty minutes, three times per week. If you cannot run for thirty minutes, consider doing a six to eight week conditioning program to avoid injury. At this level, you should look at a marathon training plan for beginners. If you have been running for at least a year, have done a few races of shorter distances, and can run six miles during a training run, you should consider a marathon training plan for intermediate runners.
Have you read the best book ever written for first marathon training? Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: Advice, Plans, and Programs for Half and Full Marathons! Your training will never be the same after you get this book, written by Hal Higdon.
A Good ‘First Marathon Training Program’
The length of your first marathon training plan should be between sixteen and thirty weeks, and should consist of three key phases: the base phase, the build phase, and the peak and taper phase.
Whether you are running six days per week or following the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) method of only three runs per week, the primary consideration is the quality of your workouts. Running the same distance at the same speed everyday will not prepare you well for your first marathon.
By including one longer run every week to ten days during the training plan, adding quality speed sessions during the week, and incorporating plenty of cross-training and rest days, you will have the basis of a good marathon training program.
Marathon Training Program With Speed Sessions
Since Joe Henderson made a shift in running during the 1970’s with his book Long Slow Distance: The Humane Way to Train, a movement began which took runners away from the fast intervals of the track and out onto the roads at a slower gear. “Speed kills!” some marathon coaches said, while others touted that “long slow distance makes for long slow runners.” Henderson’s argument was to make running more enjoyable.
His book defended the validity of an easy, relaxed run against the traditional approach that if it didn’t hurt it wasn’t a good run. So are speed sessions necessary in your first marathon training program? Yes and no. If you are an experienced runner looking to improve your race times, then speed work will benefit your training and racing. But if you are a newer runner or just finishing the marathon for the pride of achievement, then just making sure you add quality tempo runs to your plan is suitable.
Also during the base and build phases is your speed work. The benefit of incorporating tempo and speed runs into your training program is that you will improve your efficiency and level of fitness. A tempo run (also called a lactate threshold run) is a run between two to four miles at sixty-five to seventy percent of your maximum pace.
You should be in control of the run but still be working. The purpose of tempo runs is to improve your body’s ability to maintain a quicker pace without creating lactic acid, the stuff that slows you down. Be sure to give yourself time off after your speed workouts, typically a day of rest or an easy cross-training day.
Adjust Your First Marathon Training To Your Running Level
The first two parts of your first marathon training program are the base and build phases. During this time you will establish a foundation in your running and build up the endurance necessary to finish a marathon. For the beginner runner, your weekly mileage will start around fifteen to twenty miles per week and will build to between thirty-five and forty miles per week by the end of the build phase.
The intermediate runner will begin their training week at twenty miles per week, then progressively increasing to around thirty miles per week in about four weeks, then forty-five to fifty miles per week by the end of the build phase. The key is to slowly increase the mileage. One rule to follow is to not increase your weekly mileage by more than ten percent of the previous week. By adding miles too quickly, you put yourself at risk for injury.
Within the base and build phases, you will be running one long run every seven to ten days. This run should be at an easy, conversational pace. By running slowly, you are teaching your body to metabolize, or burn, fat. Your long runs, just like your overall phases, should increase gradually throughout your first marathon training program. You should not increase your long run by more than two miles each week.
For the best marathon training results check this book: Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide: Advice, Plans, and Programs for Half and Full Marathons!
Do Not Overtrain Before Your First Marathon
The final phase of your first marathon training program is the peak and taper phase in which you reduce your weekly mileage and the intensity of your speed work in order to prepare your body for race day. One common mistake beginner marathoners make during this time is to overtrain. The best way to combat overtraining during your peak and taper phase is to find enjoyable, relaxing activities to do with your friends and family. This will help your mind stay busy and keep your energy levels up for race day.
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