Marathon training – the 4 Ps

Marathon training — the 4 Ps

Your initial focus has to be on building a base of training ready for the mileage increases as you move through your training programme.  Being in good 10K shape is a good start as well as being able to run a minimum of 8-10 miles at your long, slow run pace at least six months before your marathon. As the saying goes, you can’t cook an omelette without eggs, well you can’t run a marathon without running miles in training! If you don’t put in the training you may be able to complete the course but you will not enjoy it and will probably not run it all either!

The 4 Ps of marathon training are:

1.    Planning

2.    Progression

3.    Personal

4.    Patience


1.   Planning

Give yourself long enough leading up to the marathon to develop a training programme such that you build your mileage up in gradual steps and, in turn, your long runs in sensible steps as well.  Ask yourself where you are now in terms of your training.  Your first focus must be to have a consistent base to work from.  This means ensuring that you are running regularly — at least 3 running sessions a week (that includes the long run).  Try to increase your long run distance by no more than 1 mile per week increases and ensure that you are building in recovery/rest within your training so that your body properly adapts.

Set yourself realistic targets. This may be simply to complete the run.  Try and have a target time in mind as well — this will keep you going and also helps to discipline you both during the training and on the day.  A realistic time can be calculated by doubling your half marathon time and adding 30 minutes on e.g. a 2 hour half marathon would give a marathon target of 4 hours 30 minutes. Alternatively, multiply your recent 10K time by 5 and subtract 10 minutes to arrive at your potential marathon time.

Catch a coach!  They can provide encouragement and help to build that plan with you. The majority of the coaching team have also run at least one marathon themselves, with some having run more than 100, so they do have experience to draw upon! Real experience is invaluable so draw on that wealth of knowledge within the club.

2.   Progression

Make it gradual, with no more than 10% increases in mileage per week. If you don’t like counting miles then count time and make sure you are not increasing your total running time per week by more than 10%.  The length of your long run each week should not be more than 50% of your overall weekly training i.e. if your long run is 10 miles then you should be covering a total of at least 20 miles per week or, put in time, if you are running for an hour and a half on your long run then you should be running a total of at least 3 hours per week. This is why good planning is critical (remember the phrase p*ss poor planning leads to p*ss poor performance!).

As you increase the volume of your training (i.e. the mileage) remember not to overdo the pace you are running your speed sessions. Speed based training is still important in the overall training programme.  Also, don’t forget to count other training activities within your overall training load.  For example, cross training at the gym, cycling, circuits, swimming, weight training etc are all forms of training and need to be factored in. These types of training sessions can be given a running equivalence.  For example, equate the number of calories burnt in the cross training activity with the number of miles you would have covered from that number of calories.  You could also use a simple time e.g. you cross train for 45 minutes at a high intensity.  In that time you would have run 5 miles so the cross training has a running equivalence of 5 miles.

A possible pattern of weekly long runs for an experienced runner:

  1. 12
  2. 14
  3. 16
  4. 12
  5. 16
  6. 18
  7. 20
  8. 10 mile race
  9. 20
  10. Half  marathon race
  11. 20
  12. 22
  13. 18
  14. 14
  15. 8
  16. Marathon

Try to work in 4 week blocks within your schedule.  The first 3 weeks of each block will be building up mileage and then in the 4th week you will ease back so that your body has a recovery and also goes through the important adaptation phase.

Do include non running training in your schedule to help strengthen your body.  This could include circuits, weight training, core training etc.  These are all activities offered at the Marriotts sports centre through Domin8 — take a look at the classes available.

The club’s training programme gives you the variety you need in your training sessions — tempo, intervals, hills, speed and endurance.

Consider the number of training sessions you should be completing each week — take into account your experience, ability, circumstances AND objectives.

Use races in your preparation — it’s a useful way of benchmarking how your training is progressing, but try and avoid over racing!!

3.   Personal

Your training has to be right for you. Catch a coach — discuss your ideas with one of the club coaches, they may have some new or different ideas.

Your body — your plan needs to take into account any previous injury problems and ensure that your body will be able to cope and not breakdown.

Your strengths — it is always good to make the most of your strengths, we all have them!

Your areas for development — potential weaknesses need to be addressed too to help you make the most of your potential.  Do this as early into your training schedule as possible.

Your life — family/friends/work, your training needs to be manageable and balanced.

4.   Patience

Please avoid the following:

-Too fast, too early

-Too much, too early

-Too much speed work. Rather than running too many ‘flat out’ interval/speed sessions, run tempo sessions instead. However, don’t avoid speed sessions altogether!

-Too much mileage

Any of these can lead to injury/illness or peaking too soon which will result in a slower time than you are capable of.

Please remember your body and your mind!

Maintain the correct balance in your diet.  Also, ensure that you are drinking the correct things and in the right amounts (and that doesn’t mean increasing your alcohol intake!).  Focus on maintaining the correct balance.  Just because you are running more does not mean you can simply increase your carbohydrate and fat content without thinking about what it is you have just eaten!

Make sure you are stretching after each session and try to build in regular massages during your training programme.  They make a great treat/well done after a period of hard training

Ensure you get enough sleep and don’t feel guilty if you start taking Sunday afternoon naps after a long run — it is your body telling you that it needs it!

Train your mind as well as your body.  As you go through your training programme and your long runs increase try to develop mental training strategies to keep yourself going.  This may include using personal mantras and visioning.  Whatever you develop in your marathon training can be used at any other race distance so it is a great investment.


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