Marathon training plan: practical guide

Marathon training plan: practical guide

Today we talk about marathon training plan and how to build an effective marathon preparation. I have already given you the basics to build your own training plan in general (to read absolutely before starting this one!), let's now move on to the major aspects to create a marathon training plan that suits YOU. Because that's what I think is at stake and I'll try to explain what's really important to build a good marathon training plan... The article is long, but contains everything you need to know before you start a marathon preparation!

Individualized marathon training plan a must!

Finding a marathon training plan is easy, there are dozens of them on the internet and I also offer you very detailed ones here. But used in a raw way, they do not necessarily suit your needs. The purpose of this article is to help you better understand what is important in a marathon training plan.
You need to define what you need to give the best of yourself on a marathon while having fun. You have the choice, why not create your own 100% individualized training plan if you have some experience? Otherwise, this article will help you to better understand the marathon in order to choose and interpret the best training plan you will choose to use.

Marathon preparation and warning

The marathon is often described as the queen distance of road racing with its 42.195km. It is a very demanding distance and getting started in marathon preparation requires a lot of motivation. Completing a marathon is an achievable goal but it must be accepted that, unlike shorter distances, the marathon training plan is very dense.
The well-known challenge of "Go for a marathon" should not be taken lightly. If everyone could be able to run a half-marathon without damage in a few months, this is clearly not the case with marathons. Running 42km is running between 3am and 6am for 95% of runners. This is far from being insignificant and can even be dangerous to your health if you don't take the marathon seriously. Consulting a doctor and a complete check-up is a good idea for anyone who wants to prepare for their first marathon.

How do I know how fast the marathon is running?

To start your marathon training plan, you don't need to know your running pace precisely. It can be validated during preparation, depending on what the training sessions give. However, you still need an estimate to know where you're going. To do this, first calculate its Maximum Aerobic Speed (MVA) and Maximum Heart Rate (MHF) is a good basis.
The marathon is a long event where the pace is relatively easy during a big half of the race. We evolve at a rhythm or we are at a kind of respiratory equilibrium with a cardio between 75 and 85% of his FCM. We usually try to stay in the low range for the first half of the race. Why such a wide range? Because these values are averages, it depends on the pace at which you run. If a runner under 3 hours will be in the 80-85%, from 3am to 4am it will be much closer to 80% and above 4am we will rely on 75 to 80% to be reasonable and go all the way.
And when you run your first marathon, you obviously have to play it safe by taking the low value. On the marathon you have to be able to last a long time, the shortness of breath is very slight and you are able to pronounce short sentences without being on the street. Watch the video of my first marathon here to better understand (even if my cardio was a little high that day with the heat it gives a good idea!)

Marathon training plan prerequisites

As I said earlier, the marathon is already a big challenge, not for everyone. You have to respect this distance, running 42km at once, it's a small feat in itself! Some prerequisites seem to me to be recommended for running your first marathon in addition to the check-up at the doctor mentioned above. Nothing mandatory but it's the best way for me to enjoy the marathon experience! ????

1. Running regularly for 2 years

Having a land base and a body well used to running is fundamental. It allows you to tackle the marathon with serenity. For some, already athletes at the base one year may be enough. But in running and especially for the marathon, it is better to take the time to go very gradually to last over time and avoid injuries.
2. Have run several half-marathons in competition

To know peloton racing, the management of your running gaits, refuelling, before and after the race... In short, for everything that makes a competition really different from training. Running management is very important to the success and enjoyment of marathon running.
3. Have been training at least 3 times a week for a long time

Attacking a marathon training plan requires a good land base. This base allows to have a body adapted to endure the repeated shocks that running generates. This only develops by running regularly over the long term!
4. Be ready to run 4 times a week
A marathon is an investment. If you decide to do it, you have to accept that it only works if you give yourself the means to do it. There are training plans for 3 outings a week... It's clearly feasible and if you don't have a choice, don't stop at that! But ideally I think that with 4 outings you put more chances on your side to get there.

Marathon training plan: Key sessions

More than the key sessions, I will give you the key rhythms I use to carry out a marathon preparation. Two types of key sessions, all in simplicity:

Fundamental endurance

In the marathon training plan as in all others, jogging in fundamental endurance must represent at least 70% of the training. This is essential in a marathon program because you want to run many kilometers. Those in fundamental endurance are the only ones that generate little or no fatigue. They therefore allow volume to be accumulated without risk. On my side I even went up between 80 and 90% of my training volume in fundamental endurance during my last marathon preparation with a time of 2h55 at the end of the day. Proof that over this distance, volume counts more than training intensity! Personally I have gained more than 1km/h on my basic endurance pace thanks to this. This is a direct bonus for the marathon, because the heart beats slower at low speeds and you feel more comfortable at marathon speed!
Sample sessions: From the recovery jog from 40′ to the long outings that will last until 2h30 at the end of the training plan. Basic endurance is also done in small parts by bike on my side (see below the section on cross training).

Long run with specific marathon look

Running for a long time... Running at your marathon pace means getting your body used to this pace and the duration of the effort. It also means printing these fundamental parameters in your brain. You have to teach your body to be as efficient as possible at this pace, to use as little energy as possible and for it to become an automatism. On marathon day you don't want to have to look at your watch, you want to feel like you're in the right place and just run your race without ever forcing yourself during the first half. For that, the more you practice your marathon pace, the more effective you will be when you have to reproduce it for 42.2 km.
Example of sessions: 4x2000m, 3x3000m, 2x5000m, etc. The goal is to gently increase the duration of each fraction and the total volume run at a marathon pace from week to week. I always work on my marathon pace on long outings in the second hour. The goal is to do it on a pre-fatigue and train to run on less fresh legs. With 3 weeks to go before your marathon, a half-marathon marathon may be a good choice to get into running condition and test your marathon pace. I did it in New York this year, pushing even harder on the 2nd part of the race to validate the level of fitness.

Vary the sessions a little in your marathon plan

To progress in a homogeneous way, it is necessary to vary the gaits. To do nothing but jogging and marathon speed is to turn into "diesel" as we say in the jargon. We want to be efficient at slow speeds, but we shouldn't get too excited either! Working on other things, varying the speeds will be very useful. This helps to avoid the unpleasant feeling of having "only one speed", the marathon pace. A homogeneous development will also make it possible to progress indirectly over the other distances. Think about the post-marathon, it will save you months of trouble getting rid of this mono-rhythm! And then the marathon puts a lot of strain on the muscles... Strengthening and quick sessions will therefore build a good base on this side!

Ribs and muscle strengthening session

Before the start of the marathon training plan and in its first half, I try to strengthen once a week. It allows you to develop stronger muscle fibres and to better handle the rest of the preparation. I like to alternate two types of sessions personally. A classic strength training session at home at the end of a jog. It allows muscle groups to work individually. We can then focus on our weaknesses if we know them. Alternately, I do a rib session the following week. The ribs allow you to work the muscles in running conditions.

VMA, Speed 5km, 10km

To develop in a homogeneous way, you have to work on various gaits in a marathon training plan. And to keep it simple, a good way is to work on the speeds of your records over shorter distances (or a little faster if you think you've made progress). You can work on these gaits separately, one per session each week (Example: 10 x 1'30 or 5 x 3′ gaits 5km with a recovery equal to the effort time).
You can also work pyramid-shaped with different gaits in the same session. The result will be broadly the same. I really like the pyramids on my side (Example: 500-1000-2000-1000-500 with the 500m 5km pace, 1000m 10km pace and 2000m semi pace) because these sessions help to get to know each other better in order to get into the right pace at each fraction. The classic 30/30 sessions or 400m sequence on the track around 100% VMA will also be useful at the beginning of the preparation.


In addition, I strongly recommend cross training (cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing... If possible a sport worn to avoid shocks). It's ideal for making extra volume that you're not sure you can handle when running. Running is traumatic and the risk of injury increases with the kilometres! During my marathon preparation for Paris, I ran between 4 and 6 times a week. I wanted to do more volume but I am fragile and above this volume, the risks of injuries are greater. So I cycled 2 to 3 times a week, gently to increase the total volume. Devilishly effective for me with my 2:55 sharp in the lens!

Successfully complete your marathon training plan

A marathon training plan is dense, whether it's the first or the tenth, running a marathon thoroughly requires a lot of preparation... You'll need a lot of motivation to get there. And a good dose of self-confidence on D-Day to get through the pitfalls! For motivation, I recommend this article and for self-confidence this one. And especially if you have to remember one thing, it is that there can be no good marathon training plan without a particular focus on recovery. All my tips for managing your recovery after big workouts are in this article.
Here... The article is as dense as a marathon training plan! Yes, a marathon training plan is hard but I personally had a lot of fun and I hope it will be your case too... Because as I always say, the important thing is the fun we have to run, we are amateurs, the performance is still a bonus! ????

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