The marathon training plan

For my first marathons, I followed the training plans provided by Glasgow Frontrunners as I was mostly running with the club, needing the support on the longer runs and being more concerned with making it round the distance comfortably than trying for a time. Despite not training for a specific time, my Manchester 2018 run was excellent and I had a big confidence boost from this, entering the Edinburgh Marathon a few months later and being lucky enough just before Christmas 2018 to win my club place for the London Marathon.

So this time, for a double marathon and aiming for a faster time, I used the Hal Higdon intermediate training plan that had been recommended by several running buddies over the years. Long runs on a Sunday work well for me, and I was interested in increasing my stamina by running the day before the long run rather than resting. I’d also got my coaching qualification by this point and felt more confident to modify a plan to work with my lifestyle as well as add in 1 speed training session per week.

Hal Higdon

So the shorter Tuesday or Thursday runs became speed, hill or interval training, depending on my schedule: a mixture of GFR sessions, treadmill work or late evening jaunts around my neighbourhood. Good to go in hard immediately after or before a cross-training or rest day, which was again good for improving stamina and general capability. The midweek long run gradually became a regular run home from work, becoming more elongated or circuitous as the distance increased.

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The 5-runs-per-week model looked a little daunting, especially in January after a summer and autumn of maintenance running, easy races and heavy gym work, but I slipped into it fairly well following the excesses of the festive season. In late December 2018 I ran 10-12km every other day for about ten days, keeping up my regular strength training in between, getting my body used to more frequent running with slight fatigue and DOMS. It worked well, and I ditched the prescribed first week of the plan and started 2019 with a nice easy 5-miler.

The rest of the training block was more or less on target for both session plans and mileage, with only a few deviations to accommodate fatigue or holidays (although I was lucky my holiday coincided with the appropriate taper week)

Despite being hit by a bit of cramp and clocking exactly the same time as I’d run in Manchester the year before, my London Marathon went quite well and I was able to pick up the Hal Higdon multiple marathon plan a couple of days later, running a strong steady 16 miles one week after London and keeping to a mix of speed, easy runs and long runs until the Edinburgh Marathon. Challenging weather conditions and accidental early pregnancy knocked a few minutes off my Edinburgh time, but it’s still better than the average female marathon finishing time and will do until the next one.

For my next marathon I will definitely use a Hal Higdon plan again. It works well with my commitments and lifestyle, and the routine and structure appeals to me as there is still room for modification if required. Running on consecutive days, teaching your body to move well whilst fatigued, is vital for a marathon as miles 19-24 are pretty difficult for all runners, whether experienced or first-timers. Building this up during the training, by struggling through a spin class less than 24 hours after a wet 20 miler or grumpily trudging 8 miles home after a busy day at work, develops your mental and emotional resilience just as much as the physical. The 7am Sunday morning wake-up time, the endless porridge breakfasts and the joy of a hot shower after 19 miles of snow and sleet are just a small part of the weeks of commitment that make up marathon training.

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Is it worth it? Of course.