Having just finishes my first marathon, I am in no way a marathon expert. Prior to starting my marathon training, I did a great deal of research trying to find a plan that matches my lifestyle (full time working mom, with a very demanding job), is not too high in mileage (because I get injured easily), and one that would help me look forward to my runs (rather than dread them). After much research I found the perfect plan for me - The FIRST plan, put together by the Furman Institute. The plan is based on research, and has been tested on numerous runners since it has been developed. It has only 3 weekly runs (called key runs): a speed session (max 4 miles of speed, as part of a max 7 mile run), a tempo run (usually 6-7 miles, but 2 weeks of 11 miles), and a long run (13-20 miles). The plan also requires 2-3 crosstraining days, of cardiovascular activities that are non impact (e.g. running, swimming or rowing). The authors recommend setting aside 30-40 minutes for crosstraining, and going for intense intervals (e.g., low bike resistance and high cadence, swim fartleks), and are aimed at increasing aerobic capacity.
The program allows you to figure out a projected marathon time, based on 5K, 10k and/or 1/2 marathon pace. Once you figure out your target marathon pace, the speed of each of the key runs are given to you based on your marathon pace and prior performance. If you have not run a 5, 10, or 1/2 marathon race, the authors provide alternative ways of figuring out your marathon goal and paces.
The program worked very well for me. I looked forward to all my runs. I did not have a twinge of pain aside from muscle soreness. The maximum mileage of 36 miles/week (average 30/week) was manageable for this busy working mom. And the result? I ran my first marathon in 3:44:39, a BQ at Boston Marathon (which I ran as a charity runner).
Other things that have helped me with marathon training:
1) Strength training - I did pilates 2-3 times a week, for 15 minutes.
2) Icebaths - one after every long run, but toward the end of training one after every run.
3) Using a foam roller after every run
4) Eating healthy and timely - within 30 minutes of a long run.
5) Sleeping - taking naps after the long runs.
6) Making training a priority after family and work.
7) Wanting to run a good race, really, really bad!
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