In Regards to Selecting A Marathon Training Plan . . .

. . . frankly, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I mentioned previously that I committed to running my first marathon.  So once that decision was made, I logically moved on to the next step in the process, which is to plan my training for said marathon.

Now, for those of you have trained for your first marathon (or maybe you are beginning to now), you may have noticed that training plans abound.  They are not difficult to find.  Plenty of running coaches and successful marathoners have published their ideas about how one should train for running the infamous 26.2 miles.  So, it can be a bit overwhelming to find the one that’s right for you.  Complicating the matter for me was that while dozens of marathon training plans exist, they actually tend to exist on opposing ends of the fitness spectrum, leaving many folks sort of in the middle, like myself, feeling like they don’t quite fit.

Training Log 2

What I mean, you see, is that most marathon training plans I found are either:

A)    For complete novices, new runners, with little to no base weekly mileage to start; or,

B)    For runners who have completed a marathon or two and are looking to improve on their overall speed and performance (i.e. ‘Run Your Best Time Ever!’ plans or ‘Race Your BQ!’ plans – BQ, by the way, is runner’s lingo for completing a marathon with a time that will qualify you for the legendary Boston Marathon).

I don’t really quite fit into either of these categories.

Story of my life.

This will be my first marathon – so am I a novice?  But, wait, I’ve been running consistently for over a year now, so I’m not brand new to the sport.  I’ve got a base weekly mileage of approximately 30 per week, which places me above what most ‘beginning’ training plans say a ‘beginner’ usually has, but I’ve not looking to run ‘my best time ever!’ – just to finish a marathon the first time around.  I’ll worry about speed later.

Beginner training plans often start out with weekly mileage somewhere in the low 20’s, which would be a significant cut back from what I’m used to doing now.  Long runs start at about 6-8 miles, when currently I run long at a minimum of around 13 miles.  Yet, looking at the more advanced plans, I’d be getting up to 50 miles a week, with multiple runs at 20 or more miles, something I’ve never done and am told as a first-timer, isn’t smart to do.

Nothing quite fit.


MarathonGuide4_mdIn the end, I sought some advice on the Runner’s World forums and decided to go with a trusted expert – good ole’ Hal Higdon.  Hal, at least, has a novice 1 and a novice 2 training plan, plus intermediate 1 and intermediate 2, thus offering a bit more variety.  As a first-timer, I’ve based my plan on the novice 2, but am taking the advice of my fellow runners and letting myself be open to running my long runs a mile or two longer than the plan initially begins with, so as to not cut too far back on my current base.

It feels good to have made a decision and have a schedule laid out before me (I am a planner at heart).  Being that the plan is 18-weeks long, I officially begin this coming Monday and, in response to feeling a bit run down lately, have decided to make this week an easy, scaled back run week to give my body a chance to rest up for what’s to come.

If anyone else is currently marathon training and/or you’ve used Hal’s plans, please feel free to share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them!

42 comments on “In Regards to Selecting A Marathon Training Plan . . .

  1. Cindy says:

    Always feels so much easier when you have a set plan 😀 Good luck with your training!

  2. As I read your post I was thinking Hal’s novice 2 or intermediate 1 Marathon programs might be a good fit you. Then you picked one! 😎

  3. jenn says:

    although i’ve never personally used a higdon plan, i have a few friends who ran marathons using his novice and/or intermediate plans, and all of them were pleased with the outcomes and the training cycles! i’ve used the runners’ world smart coach for my first two races – 5ks – and all three of my half marathons, and am using it now for my fourth. just in case you want to try something new for your second marathon. : )

  4. Amy says:

    I completed my first marathon in October and am training for my second right now (Austin marathon on 2/17). I used the training plan that Nike offered for NWM; however, I tailored it a LOT because as a dance teacher I’m on my feet all the time. Sometimes getting out for a weekday run wasn’t possible. So I would try for at least one weekly 6mile run and then get my long run in on the weekend. I’ve been running for about a year and a half and was able to successfully complete the marathon, no injuries, no soreness, etc. But I think a lot of that was also due to the fact that I dance on my feet all day. SO even though I wasn’t getting miles in I was still VERY active.

    Just gotta feel out what is working for you and tweak as necessary. One thing I’ve learned in the last year and a half of running is that a training program is a living, breathing thing. It changes and SHOULD change based on you listening to your body. Don’t push too hard or you’ll risk injury. Don’t get dejected (easier said than done) if you don’t hit all your runs for the week. Just know your body has an amazing memory and as long as you’re getting in long runs you should be good to go!

  5. I am also about to be training for my first marathon. When I was deciding whether or not to, I went to a friend who has run a few and asked her for good training plans – I really trust her judgement. The 2 she gave me were Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway. Although I have opted for Jeff Galloway (his “no injury” plan works better with my lifestyle and previous injury history), Hal Higdon plans looked very good.
    Good luck with your training!

  6. shannonremski says:

    I used a Hal Higdon plan to train for my first half marathon and was very happy with his approach. Good choice!

  7. Just curious if you have entered a 10k or a half-marathon previously?

  8. Kristy says:

    Oh yes! I am in the exact same position as you. I did some copying and pasting and kinda made my own plan. I wanted more structured workouts like the advance plans BUT I’m not advanced (yet!). And beginner plans seemed so boring. Best of luck to you!!! It is such a wonderful journey!

  9. nattilisms says:

    Hal Higdon is my go-to for races of any length! Best of luck in your running journey

  10. I’m always marathon training! I’ll be running Vancouver BMO (BC) this May. I like runner’s worlds training plan for “SUB 4” and it can really be tailored to any pace with some calculations. Maybe it is findable on their site? I read about it and followed in through one of their earlier issues.

  11. jupiler1060 says:

    I’m in a very similar position – training for my first marathon in October, averaging 30 miles per week with a 13 mile long run. At the moment I’m trying to increase that 13 ever so slightly every week, and my longest so far has been 17. I’ll check out Hal’s plans too as I think they might be what I need to steer me in the right direction and the get that overall mileage increased.

  12. taniatc says:

    I have just finished my second marathon and both the times I used the Garmin plan from Runners World that allows you to chose your target time and built the plan based on either paces or heart rate zones. But I modified that plan a lot, especially for my second race, to include more race-pace runs! I was helping a friend of mine recently to chose a plan to prepare her for the first marathon and we settled on Hal Higdon novice plan. It did the job perfectly – she managed to finish strong and was really happy with her race.
    Good luck with your training!

    • Thank you! I’m so glad to hear of others who’ve had success with Hal’s plan. I’ll definitely make a few modifications to fit me best, but it’s good to know the basic structure is solid.

  13. I’ve now run 2 marathons and three Ultra-marathons but they didn’t come till after I’d had a number of miss-hits. I think training for a marathon is a bit like having a baby (not that I’ve personally experienced that!) in that everyone is different and everyone has their own needs so while it’s great to hear everyone’s story and advice, at the end of the day you just need to do what feels right for you.

    For my first marathon I did no speed training at all and focussed largely on my long run distances while maintaining my mid-week runs. The high distance I ran during my training was about 43 miles in a week with 1x 22.5 mile long run 4 weeks before the marathon. I used the averge pace for my longest training run as my target pace for the marathon and then tried to stick to it, slowing down if I was running faster and building up if I was slower (mostly I was above my goal pace so I tried to discipline myself to hold back and ensure I had what I needed at the end). It worked and on the day I not only achieved my goal time, but beat it by 5 minutes.

    I don’t know what it is about running a marathon that is so special but I loved it and I’m sure you will to.

    Good Luck.

    • Thanks, David! That’s all really good advice. I like the idea of using your average pace for the longest training run as the target pace. It seems like a workable, realistic goal.

  14. I found Hal Higdon to be a bit too basic for me. I had trained before for a few halfs using Brian Schepisi’s programmes. So I mixed the two and created my own. The most important thing is to get those looooong weekly runs done as it is your mind more than anything that I found needs training for those hours on the road 🙂

  15. Joanne says:

    I usually train with team in training when I run long distances and they have three marathon training plans – beginner, intermediate, and advanced, based on how much mileage you can run at one stretch when you first start training. You’d probably be in the advanced group but that doesn’t necessarily mean doing multiple 20 milers or absurd amounts of mile. You can also pick and choose which workouts you want to do on which days. It is definitely overwhelming to pick a plan but I’ve heard great things about Hal Higdon!

  16. Congratulations on organizing your plan! I know I’m always more excited when I’ve got the whole thing laid out in front of me — hope the first week goes great!

  17. tricesweet says:

    I just finished my first marathon yesterday! I ran around 40 miles per week and increased my long runs ever week by a mile or two until I hit 20 miles three weeks before the race. I would definitely make sure to get to 20 because of the mental aspect and being used to being on your feet that long. I didn’t incorporate any speed but might for my next marathon. I finished in 4 hours and 42 mins and was really happy with how my training worked! Good luck!

    • That’s so fantastic – congratulations on finishing your first! And, it sounds like you did great. I really appreciate you sharing your experience with me. My plan sounds pretty similar – I’ll do one 20-21 mile run 3-4 weeks before the race, too.

  18. ktfit says:

    Love this! Good luck! Super pumped to follow your training. I followed Hal Higdon’s plans for all 4 of my marathons, and even followed one when I qualified for Boston, and used one when training for Boston. No matter what your goals, his plans are awesome!

  19. Like you stated it’s difficult trying to find the right training program. I’m not a newbie to running but new to the marathon world. Glad you found your fit. Looking forward to following your journey. Wishing you the best of luck in your Training!

  20. Cheryl Marie says:

    Good Luck to you as you train for your first marathon! What an exciting time – it sounds like you have a great foundation already. Do you have any races planned between now and your marathon date?

    • Thanks, Cheryl Marie. I was just considering what other races I may do between now and then. I think I’m going to race a 15k in March, but I haven’t registered yet. I need to get to it!

  21. jarennels says:

    I used Hal HIgdon’s Novice 2 for my first marathon! I didn’t always follow it to a tee, but moe or less I adhered to the weekly mileage. Good luck! (and thanks for liking my Runing 13.1 post!)

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