2012 Renewal — Choosing running goals and designing a smart running plan, Part 2

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Mark Russell is one of the owners of Metro Run and Walk and is an avid walker and runner.

Tale of the Tape Through Week Three

Weight:  January 1 = 189, January 22 = 184.5. 3 weeks,  loss of 4.5 lbs. Ahead of 1 lb per week pace.

Mileage: Week 3 run/walk miles: 36.0.  Average weekly mileage: 36.5. Above target min of 35 mi/wk.

Designing a Smart Marathon Training Plan

In last week’s post, I established a handful of 2012 running  and fitness goals.  My first event is a marathon April 21st.  My main target for that event is to run a solid healthy race, no time goals.  So given my individual situation, how do I develop a 16 training schedule covering January  1st  to race week?  I believe there are 3 key concepts in developing any training schedule:

  • Event-specific training
  • 3 quality runs per week
  • Rest

Event-specific training

It’s a simple concept.  If forgotten, you will likely be ill-prepared for the event.  And you may risk injury.  The aim is to stress or ‘load’ your body in a way that is consistent with your event.  If you want long distance, train by running long distance so your muscles, bones, connective tissue and fuel burning systems can take it.  If you want speed, train for speed using intervals, pace runs, and threshold/heart rate zones to improve capacity, develop extended-stride fitness, and better manage lactic acid buildup.   If strength is important, overload those running muscles so they are extra strong and durable by running lots of hills. 

Since my event is a long distance run on rolling pavement with no time goals, the overriding emphasis of my plan should be on just that.  Forget the intervals.  No hill repeats.  Although having some additional benefit, these workouts really don’t get me to my goal, and since they represent additional stress to the body, there is always a risk of injury or overtraining which would risk the overall goal.

3 quality runs per week

As a general rule, while gaining new levels of fitness, never have workouts on consecutive days that significantly stress the same muscle groups.  That leaves you with 3 days for your best event-specific training workouts.  The other days should be lower stress or rest.  Crosstraining (biking, swimming, weightlifting) is fine, too, so long as you avoid overtaxing your core running muscles.


The act of becoming more fit is achieved when you stress the body, then give it rest so it can rebuild stronger.  Then repeat.  Rest is as essential to this process as the stress you are undertaking.  An easy short run is a form of rest, since it permits recovery to continue and add little additional stress.

Laying out the marathon training weekly schedule

A popular approach for getting the body accustomed to running long distances is to use a weekend long run as the bedrock of the schedule.  Many runners, including me, prefer to use every-other weekend to challenge the body to tolerate the longest runs, ratcheting up the miles throughout the schedule.  Getting your longest run near or above 20 miles around 3-4 weeks before the goal marathon is critical. Sunday morning is a great time for me, so Sunday is long run day.

For my other 2 quality run days, I will run longish, but not as long as the weekend run.  I need to allocate 2 days in the Tue-Fri span, since Saturday and Monday must be easy or rest days.  I choose Wednesday and Friday as the other quality days.  Therefore, Thursday must be a rest day.  Tuesday can be a run day, just not too long.

So given all that, my starting level of fitness, my desire for more calorie-burning miles, and my willingness to replace any running miles with walking to keep my total miles up as my legs adapt, I have chosen the following schedule that gets me to the April 21st start line in great shape for the event.

Mon:  Walk 4 miles

Tues: Run 5 miles

Wed: Run 8 miles

Thu:  Rest

Fri: Run 8 miles

Sat: Walk 3 miles

Sun:  Run Long (16 weeks of mileage are 8,10,12,10,14,10,16,10,18,10,20,10,22, 12, 10, race)

That puts my weekly total miles at 38 to start, and that rises to 50 or so in early April.  I will not hesitate to pull back on Mon/Tue/Sat if I need the extra rest, but I must protect my 3 quality, event-specific runs on Wed/ Fri/Sun.  

This is a great plan!  I am now 3 weeks in, and the legs are really starting to respond after being pretty dead the first couple of weeks.

Next week I will cover some of the intangibles important as I carry out this training plan – including establishing boundaries and habits, avoiding pitfalls, and the value of ‘just doing the workout’.

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2 Responses to 2012 Renewal — Choosing running goals and designing a smart running plan, Part 2

  1. Pingback: Running together apart – Rotterdam Marathon training | Feeling-Healthy.net Blog

  2. Pingback: Running together apart – Rotterdam Marathon training | Feeling-Healthy.net Blog

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