THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
FAITH'S 14 WEEKS MARATHON TRAINING PLAN
I see it every day, over worked legs pounding the road or the trails, fighting for energy, worn out from too many miles. The injuries that come a few weeks before race day, the aches and pains and grimacing looks of runners who have lost their love for the outdoors because they’ve racked up a few too many miles this week; we’ve seen you all before. Surely there has to be another way?
You want to run a marathon, you don’t really have that much time and you would quite like to do one this summer but time for training seems to be ebbing away at an alarming pace. It’s already April and the marathon season is well under way. What are your options?
I don’t like heavy mileage. In order to achieve my goals without the monotony and pain of spending endless hours on the trails, I’ve put all my energy and a lot of time into looking for alternative training methods and trying to adjust my plan to suit my body and keep my lazy mind interested and active.
*NB: I know 3 months doesn’t seem like a very long time to train your body into completing 26 miles, but if you’re already a regular distance runner and you have completed a few marathons, or at least half marathons, then this programme will allow you to step it up a level without taking on too many extra hours of training.
**If you’re relatively new to running, start with building up your base running fitness. Start with footwear – get a properly fitted pair of running shoes (or two, because you can never have enough), then start by building up over a 2 month period, running 4 times a week, until you’re running 13 miles comfortably. Only then should you attempt this training programme.
Here’s the secret weapon in my 12 week (technically 13 week) marathon success plan: you only have to run 3 times a week. But… That doesn’t mean you’re allowed to slack off the rest of the time. You’re going to have to get in the gym, take up a few extra classes and try something new. I promise you’ll thank me for this later. Here’s the trick: You’re going to run 3 times each week; one long run, one tempo run, and one speed work run. You’re going to keep the tempo runs and speed work varied for maximum benefit, and then you’re going to add some cross-training to your schedule to mix things up a little.
Doing 2 to 3 cross-training sessions a week is an effective way to keep fit, train more and still maintain a healthy balance within your body that will allow you to go out and run hard when you need to. You get the chance to strengthen the legs, prevent injury, give your body time to rest and keep your cardiovascular system working to improve overall fitness beyond what you might achieve on a laborious running schedule. I would also strongly advise runners to take up Yoga, Pilates, swimming and any other low-impact exercise they can to lengthen and strengthen the musculature; these can be done on the same days as runs or cross training.
A lot of this is taken from the FIRST training programme (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) and their book published by Runners World – RW RUN LESS RUN FASTER. Although they tend to aim at a 16 week programme, I keep mine between 12 and 14 weeks. This booked changed the way I train, maximising my running capacity and giving me much needed time to focus on my swimming, cycling, yoga, cross-fit and strength training, as well as fit my work in. Gone are the days of me being continually injured and constantly strained for time trying to fit it all in. I’ve also applied these theories to my cycling and swimming programmes and found the results to be pretty similar (and therefore excellent).
A few more words of advice to all you runners out there:
1. LIFT SOME WEIGHTS!! Get in the gym and start strength training; you won’t get big and heavy, you’ll definitely increase your running strength AND speed, and you will almost certainly prevent running injuries by strengthening the right muscles. Get the right help and advice, don’t go in all ‘gung-ho’ about this stuff, do it right or not at all.
2. EAT RIGHT: that DOES NOT mean you should be carb loading. Gone are the days of processed foods and refined carbs; start building a healthy base of whole food, high protein meals with plenty of vegetables. Avoid the usual pasta/rice/carb loading debates and stick to natural nutrition. You can and should be getting your carbs from vegetable sources, along with lots of healthy fats (avocado, nuts, coconut and olive oils, eggs, fish, butter, yogurt, cheese) and protein (eggs, meat, poultry and fish). Cut down on the booze and sugar as well!
3. SLEEEEEP: This is essential to your training and recovery; if you want to run your best, minimise the late nights and get in as much sleep early in the evening as possible. The more hours sleep you get in before midnight the more fully rested you will be to tackle the day ahead. Sleep a decent 8 hours (or more if you need it) and at the very least, make it 6.
Please note every individual is different and this is only a guide and by no means definite