Marathon Training Plan, Injury Prevention & Nutrition

Thank you all so much for the words of encouragement on my last post about losing my running mojo to the heat! It’s very reassuring to know that many of you feel the same way, and the tips were really helpful, too – if you missed the comments on the post and are also struggling with hot weather running, check them out! Sounds like getting up ridiculously early (or going later at night) to beat the heat might need to start happening ASAP… that, and bringing my trusty CamelBak (filled with ice) with me on even short runs!

And now, as promised, I’m back to share more about my marathon training plan!

As I mentioned, Mary over at Fitness Fruition created a customized training plan for me for my first full marathon, which is Richmond in November! Mary and I first met back in January at our friend Meghann’s wedding; she’s an awesome runner, personal trainer, and has just started up a running coaching business, so when she read that I was doing my first marathon, she offered to serve as my run coach in exchange for me spreading the word about her new services. Thank you, Mary!

I told Mary that I wanted to stick with 3 days of running per week – I know that most people usually do 4 or 5 days of running a week when training for a marathon, but in the interest of not getting bored or injured (more on that next), I’m sticking with what works for me.

Mary sent me a detailed spreadsheet with a week by week plan, incorporating any races I have on the docket between now and the marathon and sharing exactly how far and around what pace each run should be every week, plus the total overall mileage each week. I’m not going to share the full plan per her request, but here’s what we’re going for:

Marathon Training Plan

3 days a week of running:

  • 1 long run
  • 1 speed/tempo workout
  • 1 mid distance run (usually hilly)

3 days a week of cross training:

  • 2 days of higher intensity workouts – either CrossFit or kickboxing/bootcamp
  • 1 day of lower intensity – either yoga or swimming

1 rest day

In terms of mileage, Mary has me doing two 20 milers and one 22 miler, to make sure that I’m fully prepared for the distance come race day. My biggest mileage week will be 40 miles three weeks before the marathon, but most of the weeks are totaling between 25 and 35 miles. I’m definitely a little nervous about the long runs – I’ve never run more than 13.1 miles, after all, and haven’t really done more than 20 or 25 miles total in one week before – but it will also be exciting because anything over 13.1 will be a new distance record. 🙂 I’m going to be doing a LOT of exploring the DC area on foot this summer, that’s for sure!

Regarding time goals, I’d love to finish under 4 hours, and apparently that’s doable given my half marathon PR (1:43:44 – a 7:54 min/mile pace), but the beauty of doing a race distance for the first time is that anything will be a PR, so my overall goal is obviously just to finish!

That said, Mary and I came up with an A Goal, a B Goal, and a C Goal, and used those goal times to come up with my target goal pace and tempo run paces. My tempo run pace (for the speed workouts) is about 45 seconds faster than my race goal pace – between 8 and 8:30ish minute miles, but with a 1 mile warm up and cool down at a slower pace. My long runs are done at about 30 seconds to a minute slower than my goal pace, so I’m aiming to do my long runs around a 9:15 or 9:30 minute mile average.

Injury Prevention

I’ve had a few people ask me how my knee/calf situation has been lately, especially given that I did so many half marathons in the spring. Those who have been reading for awhile will remember that I was dealing with some knee pain and calf/inner ankle tightness back when I first started doing longer races. I wrote a post back in 2010 after my first half marathon with some reflections: How I overcame a knee injury. Fingers crossed, but so far continuing to do what I wrote about in that post has been working! I really think that doing a lot more cross/strength training has majorly helped – I’m pretty sure the knee problems were coming mostly from having weak hips/core, which put more pressure on my knee. I think doing CrossFit and boot camps and things like on a regular basis that really helped to strengthen the rest of my body, in turn helping my knee. I also make sure to ice my knees after runs and to use my foam roller. (Not sure how to use a foam roller? Check out my nerdy video from a couple years ago: How to use a foam roller.)

Regarding the calf, wearing compression sleeves when I run really helps, as does foam rolling. I’ll probably be busting out the compression sleeves once I start getting up in mileage. I like wearing the sleeves during a run, and compression socks when I’m recovering/hanging out at home, since they’re not quite as tight and more comfy.

Fingers crossed that upping the mileage to distances I’m not used to goes okay and that my knees don’t bother me! I’ll keep you guys updated.

Marathon Nutrition

I’ve also had some questions about nutrition and running. Before runs, I have a few standard go-to snacks. If it’s a shorter (less than 4 or 5 miles) early a.m. run, I’ll eat a banana and head right out the door immediately. If I’m going longer than 5 miles, I’ll have something more substantial – usually 1 piece of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin toast with a thin smear of almond or peanut butter and either half a sliced banana or a smear of jam/honey. I can usually eat this just shortly before running and it doesn’t bother me.

Regarding fuel during runs, I usually start fueling for runs over 9 or 10 miles. For these runs and up to 13 miles, I’ll have one gel (usually a Clif Shot Gel or a Hammer Gel – I love the ones with caffeine, especially for early a.m. runs, although the Margarita Shot Bloks are a new fave since they taste good in this really hot weather and have added salt) around the 1 hour mark, and that’s enough. Once I start doing runs longer than 13 miles, I’m planning to have 2 gels – one around the hour mark and another around the 2 hour mark or a little earlier if I feel like I need it. We’ll see how it goes. If I’m having gels, I’ll probably stick with just water in my CamelBak (vs. coconut water or a natural version of Gatorade), but we’ll see.

Regarding nutrition after long runs, my favorite thing to do is to have some chocolate milk immediately after the run – it’s the perfect combination of recovery carbs and protein, and obviously delicious and cold, too. 🙂

After the chocolate milk, I’ll shower up and then shortly after have a real meal. My favorite post long run meal is a biscuit sandwich with scrambled eggs, or an omelette with lots of veggies and toast – and of course bacon. 🙂

Anyway! Time to get back down to work. I hope you guys found this post helpful – please let me know if you have any other questions! I have 10 miles on the docket tomorrow for training – here’s hoping it goes better than yesterday’s run. 🙂 Have a great day, everyone, and good luck to those of you who are also training in this heat!

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