What follows is Jack Daniels marathon program as posted on the RW section
on AOL. (If I can post something this long)
Here's a marathon training program that anyone can use. We give you the
basic structure, you fill in a few details, and you're off and running.
By Jack Daniels, Ph.D.
What's your experience with marathon training? If you're like most runners
I talk to, you realize the importance of long runs and increased weekly
mileage. But beyond that, you have a lot of questions. How far should you
run on your long runs? How fast should you run them? What other kinds of
workouts should you do?
So you search for a training plan. And there are several of them around,
most of which will work just fine--once you figure out how to tailor the
program to your needs and abilities. And that's the hitch. Some training
programs offer such general information it's hard to know specifically
what you should do from day to day. Others might be very
specific--offering down-to-the-last-detail schedules for novice,
intermediate and advanced runners. But what if you're somewhere between
novice and intermediate? And how do you determine what level you're at in
the first place? It can be very confusing for the first-time marathoner,
as well as for those who've run a few marathons and are looking for a plan
that will help them improve.
I've come up with a solution. A blueprint for marathon training that
anyone from the back-of-the-pack marathoner to the fast front-runner can
easily customize to suit his or her abilities and schedule. Twelve weeks
mapped out, day by day. The types of workouts and when to do them. All you
have to do is plug in the mileage and the paces that are right for
you--which you'll find quickly and easily in my handy pace chart--and go.
Simple as that.
But before we get to the actual day-by-day plan, let's look at the
components of marathon training and the types of workouts you'll be doing.
How much mileage you do in marathon training depends on how experienced a
runner you are and how much time you have to train. In the 12-week
schedule I've provided, I recommend that you plan to hit a peak mileage of
at least 50 miles. This does not mean you'll run 50 miles every week.
Weekly mileage varies. You will run peak mileage on only three of the 12
weeks of this schedule; other weeks will be lower in mileage. Experienced
runners or those who have plenty of time to train can, of course, do more.
It's up to you to decide what's right for you.
Whatever you decide will be your peak, you need to have built up to that
level of mileage before you begin the 12-week marathon schedule I've
designed. To do that, look at your current training and first arrange your
workouts in the same pattern as those in the 12-week schedule. In other
words, do your long runs on the same days of the week, your easy runs on
the same days and so forth.
Increase your mileage by 10 to 15 percent each week until you reach peak
weekly mileage, which brings you to the first week of the schedule. For
example, if you're currently running about 30 miles a week and you've set
a peak mileage goal of 50 miles, your buildup at 10 percent a week would
go as follows: 33 miles, 36, 40, 44, then you're ready for 50 miles. At a
15 percent increase per week, you'd do 34 miles, 39 and 45. Keep in mind
that these numbers are guidelines only. If you become overly tired or
physically stressed, cut back for a week and then resume your buildup.
As we've said, long runs and higher mileage are the two key components of
marathon training, but if you want to break 5 hours or 4 hours or 3 hours,
get a qualifying time for Boston or simply perform at your best on race
day, you need to mix some faster-paced workouts into your training, too.
Here are the pieces of a solid marathon training program. They are the
ones used in the schedule below.
The keystone of marathon training, long runs build endurance. They teach
you to go the distance. Though you will never run 26 miles in training
using my program, the long runs will prepare your legs to complete a full
marathon on race day. Run them once a week at the same pace as you would
an easy training run (see "The Paces," below).
In the marathon training schedule I've provided, you'll see the option of
running a certain mileage or a certain time. Pick the shorter of the two,
and don't go longer than 2 1/2 hours on any of your long runs. I believe
it's better--especially for less experienced runners--to be conservative
with long runs so as to avoid injury during training.
While long runs increase your endurance, threshold runs improve your pace.
These workouts are done a little faster than marathon pace and will help
you run a good time for the marathon. They're called threshold workouts
because you run them at a pace just beneath the threshold at which your
body begins to accumulate increasing amounts of lactic acid. Your
threshold pace depends on your current level of fitness and training. To
find yours, see "The Paces," below.
Most of the threshold workouts I've designed for this marathon training
program are similar to interval workouts. They're based on alternating
several minutes at threshold pace with a few minutes of running at easy
pace. When you do these workouts, be sure to begin with a warmup that
includes a mile or two of easy running, some stretching and five or six
strides--20- to 30-second runs at about 1-mile race pace with good
recovery after each. At the end of the workout, cool down with a mile or
two of easy running and some stretching.
You'll do one long run and one threshold workout a week and fill out the
rest of the week with easy days. This means either a relaxed run at a pace
slower than your anticipated marathon pace, or a day off. Easy runs are
scheduled between quality workouts--the long run and the threshold
workout--to allow your body to recover. You'll be ready to attack your
next quality workout and get the most benefit from it.
As you fill in the miles on your training schedule, vary the mileage on
your easy days to keep things interesting. Perhaps the day after a long
run, you'll schedule 3 easy miles and then follow that the next day with 5
The final touch to your training is the marathon-pace run. You'll do a few
of these in place of your usual long runs. They are runs of 15 miles to 2
hours done at your anticipated marathon pace, and their purpose is to get
you accustomed to running at that pace. It works well to do this workout
at a nearby marathon if that's possible. Simply run your marathon pace and
stop at the distance or time your schedule calls for. Also, make a point
to practice drinking during these runs.
Running a race every now and then can help you see how your training is
going--it's a test of fitness--and it provides an opportunity for quality
running. If you do race, run easy for two or three days before the race
and drop the second quality workout (usually a threshold run) that week.
Follow the race with one day of easy running for every 3000 meters of the
race distance (i.e., three days after a 10-K). Also, in the week following
the race, move your first quality workout (usually the long run) to the
day that you would normally run your second workout of the week. After
that, resume regular training.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Now, how do you combine all of these elements into a final plan? It's
easy. Sit down with the blueprint plan in front of you (see page 54) and
some paper with the weeks and days marked off so you can record the actual
numbers for your personal training schedule. Simply follow these steps to
fill in the blanks:
1. Decide on your peak mileage.
2. Write down each week's mileage at the beginning of the week.
3. Fill in the workout for each day (long, easy, threshold and so on).
4. Find your different training paces on the "Paces" chart and write those
in next to each day's workout.
5. Finally, write down each day's mileage. Begin by figuring out the miles
you will run in your long workouts and threshold workouts, as these are
fairly well set. Then spread out the reminder of your week's mileage over
the easy days, however seems best for you.
(See the "Sample Week" below for an example of how to fill out your
Now you're ready to start training. One very important point to keep in
mind: although you've now written down specific miles and paces for each
day, remain flexible. If you're not feeling good or the weather stinks on
a particular day, adjust your schedule, shorten a planned 8-miler, shift
your workouts. Don't be afraid to take a day off if you need to. And don't
become overly concerned about making up missed quality workouts or exactly
hitting your week's scheduled mileage--you don't want to end up doing
back-to-back hard runs or cramming a lot of mileage at the end of a week
because you missed miles earlier. Rest and easy days are as important to
your marathon success as quality runs.
Also, be sure you're getting plenty of rest, fluids and good nutrition as
you prepare for the marathon. All of these will affect how well you train
and ultimately how well you will perform on race day. Good luck.
Jack Daniels, Ph.D., is an exercise physiologist and the head track and
cross-country coach at the State University of New York in Cortland. He
has advised many of the United States' top runners, including Alberto
Salazar and Joan Samuelson.
Following is the "blueprint" for a 12-week marathon training program.
Simply plug in the paces, fill in the miles, and you're ready to roll.
(Note: It is assumed that you have been building your mileage prior to
beginning this schedule. In no case should you increase your long run by
more than about 3 miles over what you're used to.)
KEY TO THE PLAN
L = long run
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