With the Vermont City Marathon fast approaching, I am often asked when a runner should start training for the marathon. The answer is; the sooner the better! A typical marathon training plan is 12-16 weeks long, assuming the athlete has a decent base. However, many first timers do not have a base that is strong enough to support the rigors of marathon training. This can lead to injury, burnout and the dreaded DNF. To achieve peak fitness it is important for runners of all levels to include a pre- marathon phase. A successful pre-marathon training phase should include the following:
Base Building: After a 2-4 week recovery period, increase your running volume and frequency, following the 10% rule. Cross training is a great way to safely increase your aerobic fitness while minimizing the risk of injury. The elliptical trainer, anti gravity treadmill and water running are great choices. Include a weekly form/speed session such as 10×30 seconds fast. This will develop your neuromuscular coordination and improve running efficiency.
Gait Analysis: At On Track, we encourage all our athletes to undergo gait analysis prior to starting a training program. The analysis helps us uncover areas of weakness and inflexibility which can cause poor running efficiency and injury.
Functional Strength Training: Preseason is a critical time to get your body strong enough to handle the demands of marathon specific training. It is a must in every marathon runners training cycle. The strength training program should be individualized to address weaknesses and imbalances discovered during the gait analysis. The goals are to become more efficient, flexible, and injury free.
Goal setting: I believe all runners, even first timers should have a goal time. This is called your performance or ultimate goal. It should be challenging, yet realistic. Once you have your ultimate goal, think about your process goals. Process goals are short term goals, that will keep you on track towards your ultimate (time) goal. Examples are; remaining diligent with your physical therapy or strength training, improving your running form, or hitting a certain pace for key workouts. Write down your goals and recite them to yourself throughout your training cycle.
There is a definite learning curve to the marathon. By planning ahead and entering the marathon specific phase of your training strong, healthy, and motivated, you will be on your way to a new a new personal best.
M.S. Exercise Physiology
On Track Running and Triathlon Coach RunVermont’s Marathon 101 Coach