Marathon without a plan

This summer hasn’t been kind to me in running terms. Earlier in the year I was able to hit my target of over 30 miles per week but a mix of life and races has meant that for the last couple of months my average has been only around 20 miles per week. That’s not enough with the Philadelphia Marathon coming up.

As I belong to a running club you often hear people talking about the training plan they are following or recommending plans that worked for them. I decided not to listen. Well, sort of.

It seemed obvious that my first step in getting to a marathon was to build up the distances on my longest run. I have worked on that for most of this year (although it’s been over 2 months since I did a run in the 20 mile range). This year I have managed 3 or 4 runs that were over 20 miles in length, including a longest run of 24 miles (and then I had to walk home 1 mile – I physically couldn’t run any further at that point. It was snowing and I wasn’t happy and I was freezing by the time I got home – in fact I wrote about it here). Now I feel I have some work to do to build up again, but at least I am already used to doing regular 13 to 16 mile long runs, and it’s comforting to know that I have done those longer distances a few times already this year.

My plan now is to build up my weekly mileage again – that’s it. I’ll be happy if I’m doing 35 to 40 miles per week (any more and I’ll barely see the kids so that’s probably my limit). I will continue to join the regular club speed workouts when I can (they happen every week but I can’t always get there), and I will vary speed, distance etc. on my other runs depending on how I feel at the time rather than having prescribed types of run. So, I should get a variety of runs in and I will try to run 5 times a week (although I know it will drop to 4 sometimes) and I will vary distances etc. week by week so I’m not always doing the same thing. Once my weekly mileage is up again consistently, I will try another 20+ mile run and depending on when I get to that point I will try to do a couple more before the big day.

Apparently there’s this thing called tapering. All I know about that is it’s all about easing off the miles etc. before the race. I know I’ll need to research when I should be starting to taper and that’s the part I will make sure I do correctly.

Apparently most training plans are, at least loosely, based on Lydiard’s method (there’s a lot out there if you search for it). This plan takes a phased approach with base aerobic conditioning, then hill/speed work, an anaerobic phase, sharpening, before tapering. I figure the first half of this year for me was the base phase and since then I’ve done more hill and speed work, so it seems like I am maybe on target with very roughly following this routine without even knowing it (I only started reading up on it today and still know very little about it really).

The way I see it, I doubt there are many amateur runners who have managed to stick 100% to any plan they’ve tried to follow. You have to adapt to how you feel, as well as for what you have time for. Could I perhaps run the marathon faster if I tried to follow a plan? Maybe, but my only goal for my first marathon is to get through it so if I can get my mileage and long runs right that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


What plans have you used? What has worked for you? How many miles per week do you think you need to run to give you the necessary training level for a marathon?

This entry was posted in fitness, New Jersey, NJ, running, Training and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Marathon without a plan

  1. paigesato says:

    I have a coach (online) who I’m using to break a 2 hour HM time. Of course, this all depends on staying injury free, but he’s got me building my mileage (just under 30 week right now) and either hills or speed work 1x week and a tempo or lactate threshold 1x a week. we’ll see how it goes. my goal race is the philly half–so maybe i’ll see you there!

    • runnj says:

      Good luck. I think, because my ability to get out and run depends on so many random factors right now, that a more formal plan would make me worry too much if I couldn’t get all the different runs in.

      • paigesato says:

        i think having the older kids definitely helps. no one needs my help in the morning anymore to make breakfast, get dressed, etc. life is so much easier (in some ways) with teens and tweens

  2. You don’t THINK you don’t have a plan, but the club events provide a sneaky way to end up with one without planning yourself. A base of 35-40 miles per week, speed/hills on Tues, a medium-long run on Wed, Metuchen greenway on Thursdays, long club runs on Sat, sometime a trail outing on Sunday….no events on Mondays or Fridays. A tune up half at the right time (Liberty Newport). Guess what you end up with? Pretty much the same as every published first time marathon plan…base miles, different workouts and speeds, different surfaces and rest days thrown in after the hard workouts…genius 🙂

    • runnj says:

      That sort of what I figured – I was just discussing on facebook my “plan” and it looks like this: at least 4 of: Monday 3 or 4 miles; Tuesday speed workout; Wednesday about 10 miles; Friday 5 miles and possibly Bodypump; Saturday 13 to 20+ miles and Bodyflow; Sunday Bodyflow. Should be fine.

  3. jonfitzsimon says:

    I trained and ran a marathon last year using Hal Higdon’s ( full marathon training program. I loved it. I was a complete amateur when it came to running and it gave me a simple program that was easy to follow. I am currently using it again to train for another marathon.

  4. I’m too uncoachable. I’ve hired trainers in the past and I could never stick with anything longer than a month or two. I have a basic idea of what I need to do to reach my goals and I run based on what I feel like doing. It works well for me. I’m improving and I don’t get burned out or unhappy about running.

    • runnj says:

      Glad to hear from someone this sort of approach works for. Today, for example, I wanted to run 16, but I cut it short to 14 because of how I felt – I think that might bother me if it was on a plan somewhere but because it was just an approximate aim, it’s not a big deal.

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