1. Which program? This depends on your goals, experience and level of fitness. I prefer the Jeff Galloway-recommended run-walk-run system (more on this soon in a separate blogpost). Some friends prefer Hal Higdon’s methodology. Find a program that works for you. Many running stores will distribute a free 14-16 week training guide for reference. Experiment, find one that works for you, and combine programs if needed or create your own.
2. Frequency of runs? My notes for this say 3x-6X per week, NOT 7! (This was before I became a runstreaker. HAHAHA!) So now for me the magic number appears to be 7. For some, 3 days a week is enough (Galloway says 3 days per week is enough and has a system to support that). For others 4-5 is good if you incorporate solid cross-training on other days. Even if the cross-training is walking. Many of us CAN make 7 days work by doing a super easy Monday Mile (just run 1 mile on Mondays).
3. Thou shalt run Long Slow Distance (long slow runs) 2-3 minutes SLOWER than race pace. Why is this important? You must have a solid distance base for the marathon. And slower running keeps your heart rate down, allowing you to expend less energy per mile, keeping more energy in reserve. If you measure with a HRM, try to stay in “Zone 2” if possible during your LSRs.
4. Speed workouts. Do you feel a need for speed? Mix intervals (mile and Yasso 800s), fartlek (intervals or pyramids), random speed bursts, tempo runs. Ideally you should probably be doing at least 1-2 speed workouts per week. If injured, cut out one speed workout per week until you recover.
5. Beat the heat and humidity. Run early in the shade (with a headlamp if necessary!) or on the treadmill if you must and SLOW DOWN if it is hot and/or humid. Let’s face it, race conditions are sometimes not ideal and contain either heat or humidity so a little acclimation to them is ok. A lot is not.
6. Are compression socks your friend? They are for me if I’m running 15 miles or more. My calves tend to cramp up and it seems to keep the calves stabilized. Find a pair that works for you. I like CEP and Injinji. Some runners find that Injinji toesocks prevent toe blisters.
7. Shoes. Find the right ones but STOP heel striking, which causes plantar fasciitis, at least for me. I do well with 4-8 mm drop shoes (sometimes zero drop, it depends). Trail shoes work for trail surfaces but not as well on pavement. Read Born to Run.
8. Nutrition is critically important the morning of the race. I like to eat a speckled banana (perfect ripeness), sometimes a bagel with almond butter. And black coffee. Before, during, and after the race, I prefer EnergyBits spirulina algae. Think about salt tablets during the race or for very long runs, they have helped me. Usually 1 salt tablet is enough. Also, I like the ClifBar Margarita flavor ShotBloks (triple the normal level of salt) for marathons, you get salt replenishment faster with those. Just make sure you have some water handy to swallow them.
9. HYDRATION is critical! Drink plenty of water before and after runs. Don’t get dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you while running or carry it in a Nathan Zelos vest or a Camelbak. Don’t overdo the water, either. And for me, water works best with workouts. Our bodies need it.
10a. Find your running inspiration and motivation because you will need it regularly! Seek positive training partners, a running coach, a running buddy, or a community. If you can’t find a running community, then create one. Or just collaborate with running tribe members. The extra support means a big difference and can propel you to new heights. If I can help you in any way in reaching and fulfilling your running dreams, please let me know.
10b. Don’t forget music and running training apps! Music can be especially helpful for speed workouts (FARTLEK!). Also, I fully endorse Jeff Galloway’s marathon training app called 26.2 by Lolo (you can find it in the app store) with guided workouts and positive, encouraging thoughts by a great coach and running legend.
Good luck on your training! Happy trails to you! With running love, Running Groove Shark
P.S. Make sure at least one workout per week is super easy. For me this means a mile run or just walking/slow swimming.