Creating a marathon plan requires serious examination of your calendar.
Successfully covering 26.2 miles on race day is the culmination of months of dedicated training. Hiring a coach to create a marathon training plan that helps you reach your goals without without causing injury or too much disruption in your work, family and social schedule can be costly, and the free plans online don't always jive with your needs. With a little time and research, you can design your own free marathon training program that best fits your lifestyle and fitness level.1.
Choose a race that is at least 16 weeks away, so you can dedicate serious time to training. You need this minimum time to build up your mileage gradually -- and decrease the risk of injuries -- and to taper before the marathon.2.
Note any major events or travel that may fall within your training schedule. Determine if they are surmountable, or whether you should look for a race that is farther out so you don't experience interruptions in your training.
Schedule a minimum of three runs per week, but no more than six total. The three primary runs per week should occur on nonconsecutive days to give you body time to recover.4.
Plan for one of your three primary runs to consist of 3 to 6 miles of speed drills. Vary the distance and number of the speed drills from week to week. For example, in week one, you might do eight 400-meter drills at a pace 30 to 60 seconds faster than your best 10K race pace, while in week two, you might do four 1,200-meter drills at your best 10K race pace. Between each speed drill, jog for two to three minutes. As you progress in your training, the number of these drills increases. These drills hone your leg turnover rate and improve your overall ability to use oxygen during the race.5.
Commit a second weekly run to tempo pace. Choose a pace that feels very challenging but not unsustainable, and gradually increase the length of this run from 3 miles in week one up to 8 or 10 miles by week 12. Tempo runs teach you to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time and improve your running efficiency.6.
Designate a weekend day, or another day that you have extra time, for your long run. Plan to perform this run at a modest pace -- a minute or so slower than your goal pace. Going too fast during your long training runs can burn you out come race day. Gradually increase the mileage of this run from 8 to 10 miles to a maximum of 20 miles three weeks before the event. Increase the distance every week by 1 to 2 miles. Every two to three weeks, step back the mileage of the long run slightly to prevent overtaxing your body. For example, in weeks one, two and three, increase your mileage from 10 to 13 miles and in week four, go back to 10 miles; in week five, resume higher mileage, jumping up to 14 or 15 miles.7.
Run other days at an easy pace for 3 to 5 miles, if you want to include extra time on the road. Alternatively, cross train once or twice per week for 30 to 45 minutes with a low-impact activity such as swimming or cycling, which helps improve cardiovascular stamina.8.
Schedule your highest mileage week four weeks before your race so you can taper for the last three weeks. For the taper, gradually reduce your weekly mileage 20 to 50 percent. Reduce the duration of any cross training activity as well.9.
Plan to rest or run only 1 to 2 very easy miles during the two days prior to the race.
- When you write your plan, never increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10 percent each week. Doing so may overload you and increase your risk of injury. Long runs are traditionally done on weekends, but depends on which day your schedule allows for a longer run.
- Allow for at least one rest day from all formal exercise each week.
- Don't be such a slave to your plan that you run through pain. You are better off resting an extra day and ensuring you don't have a serious injury than running through and potentially side-lining yourself.