Preparing To Marathon Train

by Patti Finke,
Coach , Team Oregon
Portland Marathon Training Clinic

The marathon is a major challenge. For many of you, it is your first big event. How can you successfully train for and complete a marathon?

For others, you may have completed one or more marathons, but want to be faster. How can you maintain in the off-season and be ready for rigorous marathon training?

Start early and slowly

While some programs tell you that you can go from no exercise to completing a marathon in 6 months or less, we know that to be successful it takes longer. You need 3-6 months of steady mileage to get that muscle and connective tissue fitness needed to be ready for all the miles of marathon training. For most marathon training programs including ours, some months of running are prerequisite.

Make your goal to run comfortably for a long distance. The biggest mistake beginning runners make is to run too fast limiting the distance they can go. Running should be comfortable and fun, not a gut busting, air sucking process.

Use the training schedule at the end of the article to start a running program. To start, walk 4-8 minutes to warm up, jog slowly for 30-60 seconds or until your heart rate exceeds 190-age, (e.g. 150 for a 40 year old). Walk until HR recovers to 165-age or 30-60 seconds. Repeat the run/walk throughout the distance finishing with a 4-8 minute walk. We often start beginners on the track with jog the straights and walk the curves. As the breathing becomes easier, add more running and decrease the walking until you are able to run the whole distance maintaining your HR under 190-age. It takes about 6 weeks for cardiovascular fitness, but if, you are running slowly enough, you should be able to run most of the distances after 3-4 weeks. Another suggestion is to see the 5 week beginning running program on http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/begwk1.html.

Use the Hard/Easy training system

Alternate long and short workouts to get your base mileage built. Run one longer day a week to increase your endurance. You will get more from your training using this overload/recovery system than you will by doing the same run day after day. You can use the schedule at the end of the article if you are a beginning runner but want to be able to start training for a marathon in 3 months. It will give a good base for starting your marathon training, will increase connective tissue fitness and has enough mileage to allow you to participate in 8K and 10k events for fun.

Buy the right shoes to begin with

Go to the nearest technical running store and have their knowledgeable staff help you choose the shoes that work best for you. Before you go read http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/footmot.html and http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/shoes.html. Know the shape of your foot and what type of shoes might work best for you. Plan to spend at least 45-60 minutes trying on, running in and having someone watch you run in several models of shoes. If you can't tell which pair feels the best, try running in 2 different models at the same time. Remember that adding mileage and running muscle can change your biomechanics and that after 3-4 months, you will need new shoes, and may need a different model.

Start with some strength workouts

Although aerobic exercise does build and strengthen muscles, beginners, especially previously non-exercising women, could use some strength training. Focus on quadriceps, hamstrings and butt muscles. Using bodyweight for semi-squats and doing lunges is an easy way to work on these muscles. For pictures of the lunges go to http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/balance.html

Work on maintaining and increasing flexibility

As you develop the strength and endurance in your muscles and connective tissue, they respond by getting firmer and tighter. It is important that all exercisers spend some time on flexibility exercises. When to stretch? The best time is when the muscles are warm and relaxed. That usually means after you run, not before. You can warm up by walking, or slow jogging and then do a little light stretching. But the majority of your stretching should be done when the muscles will respond to the relaxation, they need to be warm and hydrated. For stretching examples see
http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/stretch.html

Train at an easy pace

Most runners left to their own devices usually train too hard. Running should be comfortable and easy. However, runners perceived exertion of comfortable and easy is often way too hard. If you have trouble with the proper pace, buy a heart rate monitor and use it to stay aerobic. Read http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/pulsrate.html

Many runners think that running a faster marathon means running all your training runs faster, at least at marathon pace. Since the marathon is a different physiologic process that the shorter distances, the training faster approach leads to injuries, burnout and running out of fuel in the marathon. The best approach to running a better marathon is learning the slow easy pace, running more miles and adding small amounts of race specific speed work. If you have run a race or have a marathon goal, you can use the Pace Wizard at http://www.teamoregon.com/publication/online/wiz.html to find your proper training and racing paces.

Enjoy the process

Running should be fun and enjoyable. This spring join the Portland Marathon Training Clinic runs for the group camaraderie and to have companions of your ability level. To find out how to train safely to run your first marathon or how to run faster in your next marathon, join the seminar sessions of the clinic. The Portland Marathon Training Clinic places, dates and times will be announced on http://www.portlandmarathon.org. Subscribe to their email list for up to date information.


3 Month Beginning Running Program

This program will prepare you for short road races or can be used as a prerequisite for a marathon training program.

All schedules show number of miles to be run
Days can be rotated for your convenience
as long as the hard/easy structure is maintained.

Day 	S	M	T	W	T	F	S	Total Miles
	2	0	0	2	0	2	0		 6
	3	0	0	2	0	2	0		 7
	3	0	0	3	0	2	0		 8
	4	0	0	3	0	2	0		 9
	4	0	0	3	0	3	0		10
	4	0	1	3	0	3	0		11
	4	0	1	3	1	3	0		12
	5	0	1	3	1	3	0		13
	6	0	1	3	1	3	0		14
	6	0	1	4	1	4	0		16
    	6	0   	2	4   	2	4	0		18
	6	0   	2	4   	2	4	0		18

Off Season Training for Experienced Marathoners

To be ready for a higher level of training try the schedules below. Staying at each level for several weeks helps regain and maintain the muscle endurance and physiology as well as helping to keep connective tissue healthy.

All schedules show number of miles to be run
Days can be switched by your convenience

Recreational Marathoner 
(at least  6 months of regular running)
Day 	S	M	T	W	T	F	S	Total Miles

	8	0	2	4	2	4	0		20 
	8	0	2	4	2	4	0		20 
	8	0	2	4	2	4	0		20 
	8	0	2	5	2	5	0		22 
	8	0	2	5	2	5	0		22 
	8	0	2	5	2	5	0		22 
	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24 
	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24 
	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24    
	8	0	3	6	3	6	0		26    
	8	0	3	6	3	6	0		26   
	8	0	3	6	3	6	0		26    

Intermediate Marathoner
(running more than 12 months regularly)
Day 	S	M	T	W	T	F	S	Total Miles

	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24 
	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24 
	8	0	2	6	2	6	0		24 
	10	0	2	6	2	6	0		26 
	10	0	2	6	2	6	0		26 
	10	0	2	6	2	6	0		26 
	10	0	3	6	2	6	0		27 
	10	0	3	6	2	6	0		27 
	10	0	3	6	2	6	0		27 
   	10	0	3	6	3	6	0		28
   	10	0	3	6	3	6	0		28
   	10	0	3	6	3	6	0		28