Before we get too far, I’d just like to point out a few things:
1. I am NOT a doctor or a running expert. I have picked a lot things up along the way through trial and error, but that is my only experience. I promise to tell you what works and doesn’t work for me, but I’d recommend talking to your doctor before beginning a marathon plan.
2. I am not planning on “running” a marathon. I will be jogging. Very slowly. I have no illusions of skipping through 26.2 miles like a gazelle within a time frame of 19 weeks. If you’re not already doing 15-20 miles per week comfortably (which I was not, unless you count trips from the couch to the fridge as miles), I’d recommend starting with walk-jogging as well. Your knees and shins will thank you, and most marathons offer an early start time for those who will not finish in 5.5 hours, which I don’t plan to.
Alright. So. The Plan.
From what I gather, there is no way you will make it through a marathon, no matter your running level, without a plan. My boyfriend runs a 5:30 mile and he still prints out training plans for all of his races. Pinterest is a great place to look. You can typically tailor most plans to your needs by selecting a beginner plan. I modified mine a little to fit the time constraints of my race, but from experience, I would not cut more than 2-3 weeks from any plan you find. The key here is to progress slowly, so you aren’t giving your body more than it can handle.
Here is a copy of my training plan:
I also made a jumbo poster copy to hang on my wall, which is great motivation. Each run I complete gets a sticker and I record my time. It’s hard to believe, but my 3 mi time has already improved by 2 minutes in two weeks!
A few things about my plan:
1. The longest run is 20 miles pre-marathon. I have read you only need to complete 20 miles for a marathon within 2 weeks of the race or 10 miles for a half. This proved true when I ran my first half marathon, so I am applying it here.
2. The plan starts off with three rest days, but reduces to 2 after one month. To complete a marathon, you need to put in the maximum amount of miles in training, but I know I need to give my body time to adjust to running before I lay it on too quickly.
3. There is one long run a week, and it increases by 1 mile per week. I just keep the mindset that if I do 5 miles one week, then 6 miles is only one more mile, and totally doable.
4. These runs don’t have to be done in order each week. The important part is simply to get the miles in. I work every other weekend, so I know my long runs will not always fall on a Saturday. This is about me, so I will do whatever I have to in order to fit this plan in with my normal weekly activities.
The most important thing to remember here:
I am going at a pace that I find comfortable to start. Right now, that equals a 15 min mile. I do not set a time goal, but I do set a weekly goal for my jog/walk ratio. Week one, I alternated 2 min walk/ 2 min run for all of my runs. Week two, I increased this to 2.5/2, which didn’t even seem possible week one, but now is a breeze.
Some days, I find myself thinking mid-run that I could totally just jog the last mile without stopping (it’s amazing how fast your body gets in shape if you stick with it!) but I have been avoiding that. As an overweight runner, I know I am putting a lot of strain on my body to begin with simply by jogging at all and I don’t want to kill my knees a month in and not be able to make it to the race.
According to everything I’ve read, you burn just as many calories and get the same health benefits using this walk/run method (I’ve heard it called penguin running–weird) as you would jogging the whole time, so I think it’s silly to burn myself out too fast by putting that pressure on myself to jog the whole time. Personally, I know I would not stick with this plan if I pushed myself too hard, and running at a comfortable pace with those walk breaks is really helping me enjoy my runs so far, instead of dreading them.
Trying to enjoy this is key. And you will, trust me.
Feel free to borrow my plan and modify it to your needs! You may want to add on a few weeks at the beginning with 1 and 2 mile runs instead of jumping right into 3 miles, because trust me, my shin splints are proof enough that I jumped in too fast!