You've registered for your half or full marathon. You've got your shoes, cute training apparel and a training plan to follow. Next step? Develop your personal marathoning style. Training plans are a blueprint from which you should modify as you go, blend in your personal interests and tailor to your life schedule. Here are five vital ingredients every long-distance running recipe should include.
Sure, you can train for a long distance race in a few weeks, but the likely outcome will be fatigue, frustration and a heightened state of crabbiness by the time it's all over. Give yourself a long enough training runway to properly prepare. With more time, you can increase your running happiness meter and evolve into the best runner you can be. If you've ever crammed for a race, you know what I mean. You can do it, but at the end of the race your finish line photo is less than pretty. If this is a new distance for you, give yourself time to succeed. Build a base of regular running at least three to four times per week at 30 to 60 minutes for the half marathon and 40 to 75 minutes for a marathon. Once that foundation is built, plan out that race and give yourself 12 to 14 weeks for a half marathon and 18-22 weeks for a full marathon. A little extra time allows for life's inconveniences (illness, travel, aches, pains) and will keep your long-distance running on track.
If you are a seasoned runner looking to improve your time, do so in seasons and years. When I interviewed American 50K Record Holder Josh Cox and asked him how he trained to break the record, he replied, "My training for this race started when I began running in high school. I continued to build on my base season to season and the 50K race was the culmination of all the years of training." Practice patience and evolve into your best runner.
Use a planner (digital or paper) and plug in your life schedule first. Include your travel, obligations you can't get out of, holidays, and other events that may be potential training obstacles (including your cycle, girls). Then begin to plug in your training around it. While doing so, consider your busiest days, your calmer days, and develop your training days with the flow of your life. For example, if you have a spring break vacation scheduled with the family on your longest run, move your run to the week before. Follow a longer tapered program where the vacation long run is cut back, but run at a harder effort (e.g. 6 to 7-mile run versus a 12-mile run).
If Mondays suck the life out of you, schedule an easier paced run that day and balance the energy demands so you can recover efficiently and train harder on a lower stress day. If you work 12-hour shifts three days on and four days off, take the first work day off (rest); the second as a short, easy cross-training workout; the third off; and then train four days with a hard easy pattern (longer or harder effort run + easy effort run + long or hard effort run + easy run). There is an optimal training recipe for everyone and all you truly need to do is create your plan with the flow of your life. When you do, you'll recover quicker, improve faster, and run stronger.