Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, a marathon – at 26 miles and 385 yards – is not something to be taken lightly. However, since it is something people of all shapes and sizes, ages and abilities, have done in their thousands, it is also something that is eminently achievable no matter what your starting point is. With a decent blend of dedication, resilience, motivation, and preparation anyone can achieve this bucket list achievement with a simple 12 week marathon training plan.
What training plan is right for me?
If you are an absolute beginner, then it is worth getting at least 6 months of regular running under your belt before registering for a marathon as you need this time to build strong joints, connective tissue and robust muscles that will see you through a marathon. Once you have this experience, put your name on that list and pick a 12-week plan that doesn’t take you beyond 4 hours running, includes weekly Yoga/Pilates, a daily stretch plan, and injury fallback planning!
If you have already run 10Ks, half-marathons, or even full marathons, then a 12-week program which takes you from a base building strength phase in the early weeks through to an endurance and speed training final phase will suit your needs. You will also need to consider an appropriate diet in the run-up to the big day. A recovery meal with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3 or 4 to 1 works great to replenish your glycogen stores.
If you are an advanced runner, with many marathons under your belt, looking to improve your finishing times, then you will need to pick a plan that is varied, ensures time is invested in recovery and ensures you do not over-train, whilst remaining consistent. It should also introduce you to ‘Fartlek’ or ‘speed play’ training, taking you through different paces on varied terrain and ‘tapering’ for up to 3 weeks prior. If you’re lucky you’re program will include some tasty carbo-loading recipes for the race lead up days.
Key factors to successfully completing your chosen program
As already mentioned, you will need personal traits centred around grit, determination, and dedication to get you through a successful training program. In addition to this you should also always follow the seven golden rules:
- Always warm-up AND warm-down when on a run day.
- Have an easy run or rest day after a hard session.
- Listen to the advice in your training plan – don’t just run as hard as you can every session!
- Use sports drinks on runs over an hour.
- To improve recovery times make sure you quickly rehydrate and refuel after long runs.
- Include one day a week on the treadmill or cross-trainer to give your joints a rest – make sure to invest in the best running shoes for treadmill that you can afford for the best results.
- Leave space in your training schedule to repeat a week if you find the weekly progressions too challenging.
Ensuring success in the final build up
The key thing to remember when you get closer to the starting line is that you need to turn up feeling fit and healthy. Rest, recovery and closely listening to your body are also key factors that will ensure that come race day you are ready for the big day. This means that if you’re out on a run and feel a niggle you might be better off not completing the session, if you are tired, don’t push yourself to the limit, and if you feel good then let yourself go!
So there you have it, running a marathon doesn’t have to be a far-off dream no matter where you are starting from. With the right training program and a focused attitude, you can prepare yourself for the biggest race of your life. Add to this some careful planning, hard work, and an appropriate diet and you will soon be on your way to the finish line and succeeding in achieving your goal. It’s also worth remembering that a good running partner and a decent playlist goes a long way. Good luck!