Build Your Training Gradually, and Include Rest Days
A very common error is the feeling that you must start running long distances right away to get ready for a marathon that's three or four months away. At Frank Training, our four- and five-month training plans start with an easy 3- or 4-mile jog the first day; even then, we hope runners have completed some prior base training.
It's best to run about four days a week at first, then work yourself up to five days and, for a few people, six. A critical part of this build-up is rest—you don't have to run every day just because the sun comes up.
Consistency Is Paramount
If you are aiming to run about 30 miles week after you have been training for a while, you're far better off running three weeks where your weekly mileage totals 28, 31 and 30, rather than completing 22 miles one week and 40 miles the next.
Runners will often jump their mileage when they are starting to get into really good shape for the first time, or if they are on vacation and have more time to run. This will inevitably lead to a week where your mileage totals 15 or 16 or even less due to soreness and exhaustion, and maybe both. Your body needs to adjust to the workload, and a week-by-week plan to let it do so will go a long way toward getting you ready for the race.
Long Runs Later in the Training Cycle Are Extremely Important
In our Frank Training marathon program, we have three training runs of 20 or miles or more (of course not on consecutive weekends). You will benefit both physically and psychologically from doing 20- or 21-mile runs at your base pace. Try to run these with friends or teammates to boost morale. These important efforts will make the race-day task of running 26 miles seem less daunting.
Racing Is a Learned Skill, and Should Be Practiced Before the Marathon
You will benefit from running at a strong pace in a large crowd. In New York City, for example, there are many competitive opportunities—from 5K and 4-mile races to half marathon and longer races. Sign up for races, particularly one or two half marathons, if you can. Being surrounded by other runners who run at a similar pace will teach you to navigate the crowds and tension of the marathon. It will also help you learn to run at your planned pace, even when you tire.
Negative Is Positive
When you run the second half of a race faster than the first, that's called a negative split. In all of my best marathons, I ran faster the second half even when the course got more difficult, such as the Boston Marathon, where the hills are in the stretch from 17 to 20 miles.
Perhaps I did not run as fast as I could have if I had gone out faster, but I felt strong and finished well each time I ran negative splits. Again, this is where entering races before the marathon will serve you well. And if you are strong at the end, you'll pass other runners in droves—an enormous help in getting you to run well to the finish.marathon.