Marathon Training Week 2: Finding the Training Program that Works For You

by Karl Gruber

Let’s now take a look at what training program works for you as you continue your march forward to successfully coming across the finish line of the 2017 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

As I mentioned in my first blog, marathon training programs generally will run from 16 to 20 weeks in length, with some programs for experienced runners going as long as 22 to 26 weeks.

When I was the marathon coach for the Joints In Motion training group for the Arthritis Foundation of America, I liked my runners to be well prepared, so I had them follow a 22-week program. For the first time marathoners, the program follows a long, slow progressive build-up such as…

Week #1:
Monday – Off, Tuesday – 3 miles, Wednesday – 4 miles, Thursday  - Off or XT (cross training, i.e., weights, swimming, cycling), Friday – 3 miles, Saturday – 4 miles, Sunday – 6 miles Total Miles - 20

Week #2:
Mon. – Off, Tues. – 3 miles, Wed. – 5 miles, Thur. – Off or XT, Fri. – 4 miles, Sat. – 5 miles, Sun. – 7 miles Total Miles – 23 

Week #3:
Mon. – Off, Tues. – 5 miles, Wed. – 6 miles, Thur. – Off or XT, Fri. – 5 miles, Sat. – 3 miles, Sun. – 8 miles Total Miles – 27

As you can see, this allows your body to slowly adapt to the longer higher mileage that is required to get you up to 26.2 miles.

For the experienced runner who has a couple marathons under their belt and wants to improve her performance, you will see very specific workouts incorporated within each week’s training. These harder workouts for the experienced runner are meant to increase not only endurance, but also speed for longer stretches of time, plus increase your oxygen uptake which will allow your body to go faster without taxing your heart so much.

Here is a great example of an 18-week training program from Pete Pfitzinger & Scott Douglas’ book, Advanced Marathoning, for a more demanding program, which can help you reach that Boston Qualifying time you yearn to achieve. Notice the harder workouts and more mileage.

Week #1:
Mon. – Rest or XT, Tues. – 7 miles w/10 reps of 100 meter strides, Wed. – Rest or XT, Thur. – general aerobic 9 mi., Fri. – Rest or XT, Sat. – recovery 4 miles (easy-pace), Sun. – medium-long run 12 miles Total Miles - 32

Week #2:
Mon. – Rest or XT, Tues. – 8 miles w/10 x 100 meter strides, Wed. – Rest or XT, Thur. general aerobic 10 miles, Fri. – Rest or XT, Sat. – recovery 5 miles, Sun. – medium- long run 13 miles Total Miles – 36

I think you can get the picture here, as the hard days are hard, interspersed with rest/recovery days, and the classic L.S.D. (Long Slow Distance) on the weekend. All of which is geared to improving endurance, speed and fitness.

So whether you are a brand new marathoner in training or an experienced runner gearing up for yet another 26.2 miles, please note that no training program is set in stone! Listen to your body, and always feel free to adjust your training program to accommodate for better recovery and rest, injuries, work or life schedules. Whatever it takes to get to that finish line feeling as good as possible and with a wonderful sense of accomplishment!

If there is one element of your training program that I highly encourage you to make a point to accomplish, it’s get in at least one 20 mile run from 3 to 2 weeks out from race day! I have seen countless runners who have never taken their body beyond that distance, and their body starts to revolt during the last 10K of the marathon saying to their owner, “Wait!? What? Where are we? We’ve never experienced this kind of distance before!”

If you are searching for a complete marathon training program that is right for you, there are multiple sources available online or in book form for you to choose, such as Hal Higdon’s Marathon Training Programs.

See you at the finish line in Pittsburgh on May 7, 2017!

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