Beginner Marathon Training Schedule
I didn’t have a beginner marathon training schedule when I started running marathons in 2002.
I wish I would have had better advice back then.
The only thing I knew was I wanted to have fun and try to finish the race.
I was in New York City and staying at the Plaza Hotel as a part of an armed forces marathon team comprised of athletes from the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.
One of the team members, an Air Force Officer, was a sub 4 minute mile with a 3.53 mile to his credit.
I was out of my league compared to him but I loved running and knew we were running for a good cause.
Long story short, I finished as the teams top finisher from last place to finish 253rd in 2.43.36
I had just run a then personal best of 53.12 for 10-miles at the 2002 Army Ten Miler.
Hard Lessons Learned
I had no clue how a beginner marathon training schedule should be comprised of. I am thankful I am in a position now to take the time that others didn’t when I first began running marathons to help you out.
If finishing your fist marathon is your goal then I want you to focus closely on the ideas I am suggesting in this post.
I correspond with and even coach athletes that are extremely driven and have time specific goals in mind.
You may just want to get out there, run your first marathon and that is just as impressive. Our society is already caught up in ‘elite’ times, fashion and the next reality television show.
The simple act of working hard for a goal and not being caught up in trying to hit a specific time, getting a shoe sponsor or trying to measure up to someones athletic goal for you is also commendable and impressive.
Beginners are my favorite group of runners because they have no limits. That is not to say that experienced don’t have similar positive mindsets.
We do but beginners are like children, anything is possible and you don’t have past races or performances necessarily on your mind. That makes racing and training less cluttered, your more mentally clear.
Advanced runners, hear me out.
The quicker you let go of things you simply can’t control like past races or workouts you weren’t pleased about this week the more mentally and physically clear you are going to be.
Focus On You
Well I ran this or that time back in the day so I have to try to better that time in this race.
Runners get caught up in thinking too much. A beginner just goes out and takes a crack at bat. We can all learn from you on how to go into races more relaxed and focused.
What I have a hard time with is all the attention goes to the top athletes. I was watching a re-play of the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Marathon today and could not believe my ears when a commentator mentioned an elite Kenyan man of having ‘only a 2.12 marathon PR’.
A 2.12 marathon is 5.03 per mile pace for 26.2 miles. ‘Only’! I don’t get it but that is just me…
A beginner, possibly you, is just as deserving of attention. The majority of people sit back and talk about things they want to do, at least your willing to give it a shot.
It is a totally different task to go out and actually do something difficult and finishing a marathon is one of those things you just can’t say you want to do without putting forth any effort.
So what should you as a beginner marathoner do?
How should a beginner marathon training schedule even be formulated?
Here are a few tips you can add to your tool kit that will get you to the finish line on your big day.
Build your consistency
You may have just started running and are unsure how often you should run. The most important thing is gaining fitness is simply getting out the door.
This isn’t easy to do in the early stages of training but as long as you keep training consistently you will continue to build strength and the endurance you will need to finish your first marathon.
There is nothing more powerful then a consistent, persistent and patient runner when training for a marathon.
This was my sixth marathon and the fifth time I’ve ended up in the medical area,” he smiles. “Every time I run, it’s with the mindset that if I die at this race it’s OK.-Yuki Kawauchi
There will be days early on when you just feel aweful, as if putting one foot in front of the other is a huge undertaking.
You will continue to build on every workout you do and so will your confidence.
Far too many runners are letting go of their goals because they don’t see results fast enough and it’s sad.
It doesn’t have to be like that but I also understand how hard being patient is.
I didn’t have the knowledge nor was I prepared back then to handle a 5.25 per mile pace.
I didn’t know what that type of pace entailed. I had to put in the work and it took time.
It took me 5 years after running my debut marathon before I achieved that goal.
I can’t say this enough, build your consistency. The more consistent you are by getting out the door to train the more your confidence will build and the stronger you will get.
Have A Strong Plan
A beginner marathon training schedule should not consist of 7-days-a-week training.
You don’t need to be running 100 miles a week and running 7 days a week to run your first marathon successfully.
Some of the best runners in the world take days off. Ryan Hall is a great example of the 6 day a week training plan.
You running your first marathon or trying for a faster time as a beginner should not entail overly high mileage.
If you like to run high mileage for mileage sake so be it, but I can assure you, as a beginner you can most definitely perform better on less.
Find a training group.
Beginners can find a lot of strength in having someone to train with. What does this have to do with a training schedule?
If you are the type who finds empowerment and motivation being around other runners, a training group or team to run with can help keep you accountable.
It is a lot easier to get up early in the morning knowing you will be out there with people that share in your passions and can keep you motivated when no one around you seems to be doing the job.
4. Extend your long run
I talk a lot about race pace training here on rundreamachieve.com but that isn’t as important if running and finishing your marathon is your goal.
The marathon is 26.2 miles so you want to gradually, over time, get to a point where you are running upwards of 15-18 miles for your long runs. Do you need to go out that far to run and finish a marathon?
That being said, you do want to build your endurance to a point where you still feel comfortable at the end of 18 miles.
You will be running on tapered legs leading into your marathon. This is a good thing. You will be more rested and prepared to run all 26.2 miles.
Let that knowledge carry you through the last 8 miles of the race. You will have the crowd and the support of family and friends encouraging you on to the finish line.
A marathon training plan should consist of workouts that demand you run at paces that are faster then you are accustomed to.
I won’t get too technical into the mechanics of this but the trick is this, the faster you train, the easier your overall pace in the race is going to feel.
You will build strength by running easy runs for weeks in a row but implementing two anaerobic (runs done at uncomfortable paces) and a long run into your weekly routine will guarantee you not only a marathon finish (what we are aiming for) but a great debut or improvement on your old personal best.
Run More Mileage
To run a marathon and finish, you don’t necessarily have to run 7 days a week.
What you do have to be is consistent and if early on 3 days a week is all you have time to get in then so be it.
Train when you can but ensure you are making the most of your time. It is the most precious commodity that we have own.
My hero, Yuki Kawauchi of Japan, last week ran a marathon best of 2.08.14. He works full-time and chooses to be an ‘amateur’.
I surely don’t consider him on that level but anyone who doesn’t compete ‘professionally’ is considered that.
He makes the choice to train on his own and has limited time to prepare. He makes the most of the time he does have. He goes on to say,
the limit on time forces me to train efficiently and increases my motivation for my weekend training “-Yuki Kawauchi, 2.08.14 marathoner
You can eventually add in additional runs into your weekly training schedule until your running 5-6 days a week if you wish.
There are many runners who have limited time to train for a marathon, just make the most out of each day you have to prepare.
Quality Over Quantity
Remember, it isn’t so much about the time you have as it is using the time you do have to your advantage.
If you can only run 4 days a week then ensure you get a very hard training day in like a fartlek run or tempo run (running at or around 70% or higher then your maximal effort) and a long run in.
Take the other two days to run easy and recover.
Ensure you are stretching well to combat injuries but don’t get caught up in worrying you are not doing enough mileage.
There are times when we as full-time workers/trainers can’t do it all but this isn’t necessarily impossible either.
It just takes a greater desire and puts more demand on the athlete.
One of my favorite quotes was from world-renowned exercise physiologist, Joe Vigil, who said,
There are 24 hours in a day, if there are a number of things you have to do in a day, compartmentalize them so you can do them all
That is an epic Joe Vigil quote that will get anyone motivated who has the desire to run and complete their first marathon.
It should be a great reminder for any athlete, regardless how advanced.
Break Training Into Segments
7. One moderate workout, one hard workout, one long run
It is easier said then done but that is really all you need as a beginner marathon runner.
What do these three entail? What are the specifics?
A moderate workout could entail a shorter run early on in the marathon training schedule which gradually, over time, extends in length.
It could be a 3 mile run early in the first week then extending out to 9 miles as you get closer to when you start to taper your training.
You need a foundation.
A hard workout could be anything from fartlek runs which is a swedish word for ‘speed play’ to doing repeat hill sprints at distances from 200m to 1000m in length.
I am sure you already know what fartlek is but if you don’t it means running at various speeds.
For example, workouts like this could be running 5 minutes very hard followed by 2 minutes very easy. You repeat the cycle until you have finished 5 repetitions of each. Over time, you can change it to 10 repetitions of 3 minutes very hard with 2 minutes very easy and so on.
The great thing about this workout is although it is very hard, you can use your imagination and construct the workout anyway you want.
Focus On Fartleks
I like doing fartleks like 15×5 minute hard followed by 5 minute easy when I am in heavier training and when I am fit enough to handle it.
I also love doing 60x1minute hard followed by 1 minute easy and when I can complete it I know I am getting in great shape.
The long run is the one of the best workouts you can do to not only finish your first 26.2 mile race but finish strong and in a great position to surprise yourself.
There are many physiological benefits that come from doing a long run when preparing for a marathon. Some of the many are that you teach your body to burn fat and conserve carbohydrate.
The less sugar you have to use when running your marathon the better you are going to feel when you are racing. It is as simple as that.
The problem when it comes to marathoning is knowing how to train and how hard to push to not use too much of this valuable physiological asset when racing. It is much better to use fat stores (which we have a ton of) rather then carbohydrates (which are limited).
Don’t think your going to get anywhere in a car without putting in the gas.
You are a ferrari so you want to ensure you are putting in the right fluids in training and during the race so you perform like one of the most pristine, powerful car models on the road.
You can become severely dehydrated in a marathon.
Try practicing taking in some sports drink or water every 3 to 4 miles during your long runs.
There are aid stations usually every 3 to 4 miles in marathons around the world.
Don’t neglect them and don’t be overly concerned if a group of runners chooses not to take the drink and you lose a few seconds.
You will gain all the time back and then some if you are smart enough to drink when the others choose not to. You can be assured you will see them all again later in the race as you are passing them.
This isn’t to sound cocky but as a beginner you can make wise choices early in the race that will pay you back handsomely in the later stages when everyone else is slowing down.
You will not be lacking in opportunities to take in drinks while running your marathon. The key is not to ignore them even if you are not thirsty in the early stages of the race.
You should aim to drink at every station as long as you feel comfortable doing so.
Most marathons around the world give out gels around miles 17 to 18. This is the point in the race where you are running out of carbohydrates and consuming a gel packet can give you an immediate 120-130 calories straight into your bloodstream.
Take In Some Calories
You will want to grab the gel and then drink water with it for quicker absorption into your body.
What makes an average beginner marathon training schedule and a training plan that will get you the start line in tenacious shape is one that not only motivates you but gives you an outline that will get you the physiological benefits you are demanding of yourself.
It is a top time for any beginner to advanced level runner and the sub 4 hour marathon is going to be a game changer for runners world-wide to take their marathoning to a new level.
If you are looking for a beginner marathon training schedule that isn’t just a rushed cookie cutter training plan you can easily find in running magazines or on the internet this will be essential.
This is an extremely detailed motivational guide which includes in-depth information on injury prevention, race pace training concepts, training tips and tricks used by the world’s top marathoners
It is a detailed 12-week marathon training plan built specifically for the athlete seeking to run a marathon in 4 hours or less or to scare the living daylights out of the time.
*New* Also includes insight and advice from some of the world’s best marathoners on their tactics and ideas of how to run a faster marathon.
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