We are a little over a month away from the start of the New2-26.2 training program. As such, you might be asking yourself, "how much running should I be doing?" If you are not having that inner dialogue with yourself, then I would strongly urge you to start having the discussion!
Base mileage is the number of total miles you run in a week and depending on what your goal race is (5K, 10K, Marathon), the more miles the better. As far marathon training is concerned, you should be already off that couch and running. And if you aren’t doing any running yet, then start NOW! Most marathon programs assume that you have base mileage already built up and the New2-26.2 program in no different; the beginner program is designed for the runner who is regularly doing about 25 miles a week. It is important to note that this isn’t a hard and fast number. You could be at 15 to 20 miles and still benefit as you start the plan. The point I want to drive home is that marathon training shouldn’t be taken lightly. You should not be wondering how little training is necessary to run a marathon, but rather how much can you realistically train and not get injured or burned out or alienate your family!
Now for the wonky stuff! In exercise science, there is a training principle known as training load. The training load is what you expose your body to every time you do any sort of exercise. It has four components: Frequency (how often), Duration (how long), Volume (how much), and Intensity (how hard). These variables are what go into any training program. If you run three days a week, you can increase your training load simply by adding another day of running. If you increase your mileage, then your training load increases as well. For most beginner programs, the two variables of training load which are used the most are number of days per week and an increase in mileage. Having said all this, you will not reap the benefits of any training without proper rest and recovery. That is why it’s good to have rest days and step-down weeks built into a training plan. Step-down weeks are simply weeks where your total mileage is less than the weeks before. This allows for additional training adaptations along with the weekly days off.
OK, so I have been dancing around the question of how much base mileage should you be doing before starting the marathon. There is no magic number except to say that if you can get to 4 days a week of running totaling 20 miles, then you will be well on your way to starting the marathon program. Don’t freak out if you're not exactly there yet! You still have time before actual training begins. Now, lace up those shoes and get going!
All the best!