What training and which plan should I be following now?
2021 is a very different year for Marathon training. January is usually the time your training begins to ramp up and the preparations for the long runs are well and truly underway. However, with our event just over nine months away, you have a lot more time on your hands to prepare for the big day ahead.
Your aim now is to make sure you are ready for that 12-16 week marathon-training phase so that it doesn’t come as a shock. You don’t want to be waking up in April/May with no fitness banked. Doing so will leave you a mountain to climb, with increased risks of illness and injury along the way. You don’t want May and June seeing you lose motivation as the training feels too hard and you struggle to recover.
Take action now and start your pre marathon-training phase…
If experienced, you will probably already be training each week and may be focusing on cross country racing, a winter/early spring10k or half marathon distance goal. This is ideal and make sure your long runs are regularly up to 90 minutes and you are completing weekly threshold runs, some hills and faster sessions within your mix.
If you want to improve and have run a marathon before, but have been ticking over in training and running a few times a week at best, then its time to find a balance that works for you. It may be you do 3 runs a week and cross training on another day or two or perhaps you already run up to 5 times a week without injury risk. Whatever this looks like be sure the weekly long run builds by 5-10 minutes most weeks from here until Easter, giving you 90 minutes by May. This should all be conversational pace and easy. Maybe set yourself a target of a faster Saturday morning 5k by December or even a local 10k. Include some threshold blocks each week (4 x 6 mins could be ideal) look to include the hills where possible.
If you are new to running and have picked up the beginner marathon plan you will see the early weeks are very sensible and build you carefully. In reality though there are still risks of injury as the final eight weeks of the beginner plan take you from getting fit to being able to complete 26.2 miles… and this is a big jump. Any training that can get you fitter between now and the spring season will make May onwards so much easier. Aim to get out every other day and walk/run small blocks of work for perhaps 1, then 2 or even 3 minutes at a time alternating. Don’t run to exhaustion, just run and be sure you could hold a conversation at the same time. This can build to bigger blocks then eventually 20 mins, 30 mins and your first 5k on a weekend morning in April. If by April you are up to 60 minutes without stopping, then the Brighton Marathon will seem so much more achievable in September… go for it!
Plan in your half marathons
Using a half marathon or two (virtual or otherwise) as part of your marathon training builds confidence and fitness. A quick Google search will help you in your search for any virtual events taking place. You could run a fast half marathon 5-8 weeks before the marathon to test fitness and use other events as part of your long runs to help tick off the miles. Practising your goal marathon pace and strategy within these races is also wise.
Respect your recovery
It’s easy to get carried away if training is going well and add in extra runs or drop the rest days. Your body actually gets fitter through the rest and recovery days. Tissue repairs, energy stores are replenished and your heart gets stronger. Maximise your sleep and aim to get an extra 30 mins a night once in marathon prep. Rest means rest and easy run or recovery run days should be exactly that.
The training you do today takes 3-4 weeks to bed in and allow the body to make real physical adaptations. Where you are today isn’t where you will be in 3-4 weeks time with your fitness. Building endurance is a game of patience and belief.
Consistency is always key
Follow one of these plans or your own adapted version and aim to stick with it for the key 12-16 weeks. A week of 2 -3 extra runs followed by a week of tiredness isn’t being consistent and the body doesn’t adapt or get fitter. Find an amount of weekly runs and cross training that works for you and stick with this. You can run a fantastic marathon off three runs a week if consistent and it includes a long run, threshold session and pre-breakfast easy run, I promise!
Am I tired?
Tiredness in marathon training can creep up on you. If you really do feel tired but the plan says run or do a session then I advise you rest. The most you might do if experienced is a recovery run. An extra rest day or moving your run back a day or two could make all the difference and quality comes before quantity in a busy world. If you’re not sleeping well, losing your appetite, losing motivation or soreness is lingering for days, you could be over training or under resting and recovering. Up your nutrition at this point and get the extra sleep for a few days.
Family and work shouldn’t get in the way!
Get the family and friends on board and make them part of your team. Plan your long runs and races and move dates around to accommodate family moments and travel. Maybe sit down together and even share a few diary moments when you know a long run is important or that half marathon matters. There may be pinch points or deadlines at work. Swap the odd week around and make it an easier recovery week if so and then no key runs sessions are missed. Communicate and plan ahead. Swapping days, weeks or certain key runs is all fine and it’s the consistency over 16 weeks that builds a marathon runner, not one session or moment.
Set that alarm clock if you keep missing runs
I know you are all busy and the occasional evening run may not happen due to work or a family crisis in the day. That’s life but if you keep getting home exhausted and putting the run off until tomorrow then it’s time to set the alarm clock some mornings. Get up early, grab a coffee and juice to wake up and hydrate and then head out. The first mile will be slow but soon you will come alive and the day’s training will have been completed in the quietest and most beautiful part of the day. Whatever life throws at you later, you got that run completed and marathon training is still on target.
As I have already mentioned, you are where you are now but consistent, achievable and realistic marathon specific training from here will build you into the runner who will complete 26.2 miles on Race Day. There will be tired days and there will be tears and smiles along the way but marathon runners are built over months and the reward is amazing. Get out there and start the journey…