Well, it's that time of year. If you're planning on running one of the larger fall 2010 marathons, you've probably already registered. Many of the larger races such as Marine Corps fill-up shortly after registration opens. For the smaller marathons, you may have more time to register. Probably worth heading to the website of your chosen marathon though, just to make sure it hasn't already filled and if it hasn't, to see if there's a cap.
Once you've registered, the next step is finding a training plan that's best for you and your racing goals. Fall 2010, may seem like a long ways away, but if you're running a race like Chicago, and you're following an 18-week training plan then your training is going to kick-in in early June. That's in about 2 weeks! Like, OMG! Really?! That soon?
If you're new to marathon training, finding the right training plan can be a bit overwhelming. But before we get into selecting a plan, you need to make sure you have a good mileage base before heading into your training. A good rule of thumb is to have at least a month of weekly mileage in the range of 20-25 miles. Base-building miles are "easy miles." What I mean by that is that during the base-building phase, you're just logging miles. You're not concerned with speed work, hill workouts, tempo runs, or really intense long runs. You're just getting your body used to putting in the miles. Some of the longer training plans (20-26 weeks) may include base-building, but most plans (16-18 weeks) are built on the assumption that you're going into the plan with the appropriate base mileage. The base mileage is important because it puts your body in prime condition for training and will lessen the likelihood of injury as you ramp-up the mileage. If you're base mileage is a little lacking, you may want to pick a marathon that's in late October or in November, so you can build that base.
There are lots of different philosophies regarding marathon training. Some incorporate a run/walk method. Others, believe high mileage is the key. Still others have you running less mileage (but the runs are more intense) and incorporating cross-training. Some plans have you running a long run of 20 miles at least once, some twice, some over five times. Other plans have you doing a run over 20 miles during the plan.
I think that any one of these approaches will work for a runner. The key is finding one that meshes with your goals and running style. I do strongly believe that variety is the key to marathon training success. Mixing up your training so that it includes easy runs, speed work, tempo runs, and long runs—in my opinion—will make for a solid plan that will make you a stronger and more efficient runner. I also believe that adding some cross-training into the mix is a good idea, but I'm not ridged on it being only specific activities. As long as the cross-training is aerobic in nature and provides the body a break from the pounding of running, I think it's good to throw into the mix.
- I also believe in rest days. In particular, I believe in rest days after an intense workout. No matter your fitness level, your body needs time to recover after an intense workout. Keep in mind that intense can be short and fast, or long and slow. Intense can also mean a regular run on a 95°F day that zapped you of all your energy. Some times rest means exactly that...do nothing the next day. And, sometimes rest may mean doing something easy such as light cross-training. Just keep in mind that it's perfectly fine to actually have a complete day of rest where you do nothing. Rest is just as an important part of training as that 20-mile long run.
Before you pick a plan, it's best to check out several and compare. See which ones mesh best with your running goals and level of fitness. Don't doom yourself by picking an advanced plan when you're just a beginner. And on the flip side, don't pick a beginner plan if you're a seasoned runner wanting to PR. Here are a few links to some popular training plans with different approaches.
If you live in Greensboro, NC and would like to experience training with a group while still following a custom plan designed just for you, then email me at email@example.com . You can also check out my website for more information. Whether it's your first or your fifth marathon, I'd love to help you on your journey. Training groups begin as soon as June 5th and will continue all through the summer.
Don't live in Greensboro? No problem. I can work with you via the Internet and create a custom plan just for you as well as follow your training and provide coaching through the use of an online training log and email.
Whether it's with me, another running coach, or on your own, make sure to take some time to check out the various plans and find the one the best suites your needs.