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Sarah-thon Says: Picking a Plan

by Sarah Waterman on January 10, 2012 · 0 comments

in Sarah-thon Says

We have about 20 weeks to go until the 2012 KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. Yikes! If you’re signed up or about to sign up, it’s time to think about what plan you’ll use to get you from start to finish.

The first step is to assess where you are. How many days a week have you been running? How many miles a week? While there are exceptions to every rule, you should be comfortably running 3 to 4 days a week, with a total of about 20 miles a week at minimum.

The second step is to think about the next five months. What major life events are coming up? How many days a week can you commit to running? What is your bad weather contingency plan? If you’ve run a marathon or half marathon before, what kinds of workouts result in injury for you?

The third step is to think about what works best for you. Do you need a lot of encouragement and a clear-cut plan or can you motivate yourself? How much support do you like to have? Do you get bored easily?

Although the specifics vary, expect most marathon plans to require at least 4 days a week of running, with one long run a week that will increase in mileage up to about 20 miles. Plans for beginners are 18 to 20 weeks long; plans for intermediate and advanced runners range from 12 to 18 weeks. Use the weeks leading up to your official start date to establish a routine. Aim to run at least 3 days a week, with one of those runs being that longer run. Start adding onto this long run ten minutes at a time. Think about buying a new pair of shoes for training and assess your wardrobe needs. Email the RunVermont experts with any looming questions. And finally, read up on the following plans to find one that works for you.

Cool Running: I have a soft spot for these plans, as it’s what I used for my first marathon. One major caveat: this is one of the only plans that will have you run 26 miles in training, generally a “no-no” among experienced marathoners (to be addressed in a later post). When I used this plan, I chose not to do the 24 and 26 mile run, instead doing two more 20s and had a very successful debut. These plans are great for the runner seeking a 5-day a week running plan and a solid base for the marathon.

FIRST Plan: This plan gained significant traction in recent years as it incorporated lots of cross-training and only requires three days of running a week. Don’t be fooled; this is a seriously tough program; it just relies on other kinds of exercise to round out the training week. This plan is good for injury prone runners, those who need variation or those who also compete in other sports.

Galloway: This is an excellent choice for the newer runner or someone who is injury prone. Galloway uses scheduled walk breaks to help succeed at the marathon distance and many people have found success using his plans. If finishing is your goal, Galloway is a good option.

Hal Higdon: A very popular option, Higdon offers plans for beginners through advanced runners. The novice plan is ideal for someone with a busier schedule for whom 5 or 6 days of running a week won’t fit. One downside to this plan is that the mileage peak is a little low and the long run makes up the majority of the mileage for the week. If you plan to use this plan, consider adding a mile or two to midweek runs to help bring the mileage back into balance.

Jack Daniels: This is the plan that I will be using to prepare for KBVCM this year. Daniels is not for the faint of heart; workouts are tough and expect a solid base of mileage. However, Daniels can be flexible as it turns on two quality workouts a week and leaves the remainder of miles up to the runner to distribute. If you are an intermediate or advanced runner, consider checking out Daniel’s Plan A.

Marathon 101 or 201 with Jess and Sam: This program is great for the Vermont based runner who would like the support of two great coaches throughout the training cycle. If the schedule for either doesn’t fit with your schedule and you still want to have a heavily supported training plan, consider reaching out to Jess or Sam about private coaching.

Pfitzinger: In recent years, Pfitzinger has become synonymous with marathoning and many runners have had success following the 18/55 (which stands for 18 weeks with a peak mileage of 55 miles per week) plan. If you are an intermediate runner, this might be your plan. With quality workouts similar to the Daniels plan, but carefully spelled out for every day of the training cycle, this is a great plan to use when working towards a new PR.

Runner’s World: Runner’s World offers a variety of training plans, from free standard plans to customized Smart Coach plans that cost about $25. Although plans can be light on mileage, they offer lots of variety in the form of speed and hill training, good for the easily bored runner. If you are planning on using one of these plans, consider checking in with a coach to make sure mileage is balanced and sufficient to support the workload.

No matter what plan you choose, remember that it is just a framework for getting to the top of Battery. If you miss a workout, don’t try to make it up, just roll on as scheduled. One of the reasons plans are built for 18 to 20 weeks is that life happens and sometimes workouts get missed. Do your best to stay on track, but don’t require yourself to be perfect.

If you’d like input on picking a plan, don’t hesitate to email me at or to contact Sam or Jess. We’re here to improve your KBVCM experience!

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