Can you get a marathon PB with just 3 runs a week? That was what I managed last time I trained for 26.2. I followed the FIRST marathon training plan, and knocked a whopping 31 minutes off my previous personal best. I’m not aiming for knocking any more time off this year – Loch Ness is a notoriously hilly route – but I am going to follow the plan again to get me ready for the distance.
The basic principles of the FIRST marathon training plan are to run three runs a week (and no more), made up of a specified variety of tempo runs, speedwork and medium-paced long runs and to cross train hard twice a week. There are ‘eight rules’ in all, designed to keep you injury-free, avoiding burnout.
What really appeals to me about this training plan is the built-in cross-training. The first marathon training plan I followed had six or seven runs a week, with some double run days. I was SO tired of running by the time the race came around. I would plod around my junk miles in reveries about going to a yoga class, or going climbing, or going for a swim. Training for a marathon that way was a bit like trying for a baby (or so I hear) – you can remember that it used to be joyful, but it’s a bit goal-oriented and less fun. So, none of that for me this time around! I’m keeping my relationship with running fresh. Lots of my social life (surprise surprise) involves exercise, and so with this plan I have more flexibility to fit in with my friends’ fitness plans.
Marathon training can be quite a selfish pursuit, and can have an impact on your relationship, between long runs and getting hangry and all the laundry. I now do my long runs on Saturdays or even during the week to minimise the impact that they have on our time as a couple. When I used to do the traditional long run Sunday, I always had the run in the back of my mind, even on Friday night. Now, I try and get it out of the way and we can have time as a couple on Saturday night. We can go out and do anything we like, as long as I can wear comfortable shoes and nobody minds me smelling of Deep Heat.
So far this time around, I haven’t followed the plan to the letter – my long runs have been way off pace. In fact, during my long runs I keep doing everything but running lately – catching Pokemon, getting hosed down in my friends’ garden on a sunny day (thank you Abi and Heather!), buying and eating ice lollies… Due to so much pottering, my latest half marathon training run took nearly three hours! That said, I am really enjoying it and feel stronger than I was two months ago and excited for the gorgeous race.
In case anyone else would like to follow the plan for their next marathon, I’ve shared the spreadsheet that I made for myself to calculate dates and paces as a downloadable file – just download and add in your race date and your 10K pace in the yellow boxes. Let us know how you get on, and share your race experiences on Twitter or below in the comments.