Taking the first step is important, but of equal value is knowing where you are going.
The first step is to set your goals. Is it simply to finish a marathon? Have you already run a marathon and this time you wish to get a Personal Best? Are you trying to break the four-hour barrier? For a select few, the goal may be to break three hours, or even to finish with the elites. Surprisingly, when it comes to training, there isn’t a radical difference on how to train. Success boils down to the proper balance of quantity and quality of training. The overall structure of the workouts is the same. However, a novice runner can't just jump right in and do the mileage of an experienced runner and expect positive results.
If you are relatively new to serious running and have never run a marathon before, I strongly encourage you NOT to set a “time goal.” The only goal should be to finish.
This site will also help determine your ballpark completion time and what training schedules are specifically right for you.
The goal is to help you set up a simple training program that will provide you maximum benefits, while preventing you from getting injured in the process. In reality, virtually every runner gets injured if he or she runs long enough. To reduce that likelihood, you’ll be given instructions for prevention.
The concept, of creating a workout regime, is simple. The first 10 - 14 weeks are spent building or adding to your existing Base. This is where you build your strength and endurance. The second 10 weeks will focus on speed in targeted workouts.
During a workout, it’s imperative that you are always very aware of how just hard you are training. If you are breathing hard several minutes after you're midweek run and are asking yourself if you can even contemplate repeating that run tomorrow, then you are running way too hard.
The object is not to try and break your previous time each and every time you run. Here’s an example: I normally do a 5k run in the mornings. I do not even glance at the clock. If I am three minutes slower than the day before, who cares? Time and time again I find myself trying to get runners to slow down during the easy runs.
It is more important to go out and run the time or distance planned. It is imperative that you DO NOT make the mistake of saying, "If I miss one day of the workout I’ll just run harder the next day to make up for it". Why? That's how you get injured. Running hard only makes sense when specifically targeting certain areas such as speed, strength or endurance. If you try to target these areas all the time you will get burned out, or you will get injured.
Remember, Run smart, not hard!
FIRST STEP: CREATE A WORKOUT REGIME
There are three components to running: Speed, Strength, and Endurance. We mostly ignore the speed portion of the workouts for those people over 4 hours. Ideally this is a 20-24 week regime, with the first 10-14 weeks focused on developing your Base Training. People who have never run a marathon before, or who plan to finish it in five or more hours, will be doing Base Training for most of the 20 weeks.
All runners will add a weekly 'long run' to the schedule. This is your most important workout of the week. Your entire training process is centered around it.
TRAINING FOR THREE HOURS AND UNDER - If you are healthy and injury free and have run any or all of the following: a marathon under 3 hours and ten minutes, 5k under 18 minutes, 10k under 38 minutes, or a half marathon under 1 hour 24 minutes
TRAINING FOR FOUR HOURS AND UNDER - If you are healthy and injury free and have run any or all of the following: a marathon under 4 hours and ten minutes, 5k under 24 minutes, 10k under 50 minutes, or a half marathon under 1 hour and 50 minutes
TRAINING FOR FIVE HOURS AND UNDER - If you are healthy and injury free and have run any or all of the following: a marathon under 5 hours and ten minutes, 5k under 29 minutes, 10k under 1 hour and 3 minutes, or a half marathon under 2 hour and 20 minutes
TRAINING FOR FIVE HOURS AND OVER - If you haven't run any races to get a gauge on your time, or if you haven't YET broken 5 hours, then start here.
NEXT: Go to Base Training