Some of you know that I ran my first marathon in Brighton in April 2011. It was the hottest day of the year to date and I got sunburnt, but I had a great day and loved every minute of it. I ran pretty well. I didn’t have any real expectations, but I had hoped to get as close to 5 hours as possible, finishing in 5:08ish. I still think had it not been quite so hot, I may have nudged under. I recovered quickly and was back running within a few days. I was thrilled and ran my first sub hour 10k in the following weeks.
What some of you don’t know is how I trained for it. I was good about doing my long runs. I missed one due to illness, but did all the others.
But I only ran twice a week most weeks.
Yep, you read that right. I’m not going to say this is the best way to train for a marathon, but it worked well for me and fitted into my lifestyle. For many of us, we need to try to make marathon training fit into our lives. Some people will be chasing set times and targets and they will be following a more rigorous regime, including looking more closely at diet and nutrition and will dedicate more time. For others, we cut back on alcohol for a few months and try to fit a plan in around our lives instead of fitting our lives around our plan. It really depends on what you want to achieve.
I wasn’t a runner before I decided to take on Brighton, but I completed two half marathons a fortnight apart in the October before. I trained for the first half marathon, running 3 times a week and then on a whim, decided to do another one a couple of weeks later. I then spent November and December running two or three times a week to stay in running shape.
My marathon plan begun on January 1st. The marathon was April 10th, so I had 14 weeks to build up the distances. It doesn’t sound like much, especially on 2 runs a week, but it worked for me.
I’d had a change of circumstances and as well as bowling twice a week, I was also working 3 days a week for my employer and I was also working to establish my own business, so I was working for clients the rest of the time. Weekends were taken up with visiting my then boyfriend, who lived in Surrey. Add my history degree to this and it was starting to get tricky. The thought of doing my long runs during the cold winter evenings filled me with dread and I was starting to worry how I’d fit it all in. In the end, I found a 14 week marathon plan I liked the look of and I dropped the mid week run. I was also fortunate in that I was able to make early Monday morning before the working day my long run day. This was because I worked for myself on Monday’s and made the decision to just start my working day a bit later.
My schedule ended up looking something like this:
Train for a marathon on 2 runs a week
Week 1: Monday, 4 miles. Saturday, fast 2 miles
Week 2: Monday, 5 miles. Saturday, fast 2 miles
Week 3: Monday 6 miles. Saturday, fast 2 miles
Week 4: Monday 8 miles. Saturday, fast 5k
Week 5: Monday 10 miles. Saturday, easy 5k
Week 6: Sunday 10 mile race. Saturday, fast 5k.
Week 7: Monday 12 miles. Saturday, fast 5k
Week 8: Monday 14 miles. Saturday, fast 5k
Week 9: Monday 16 miles. Saturday, fast 5k.
Week 10: Monday, 18 miles*. Saturday, easy 5k. *This run was missed due to illness.
Week 11: Sunday, 20 mile race. Saturday, easy 5k.
Week 12: Monday, 10 miles. Saturday, fast 5k.
Week 13: Monday 8 miles. Saturday, fast 5k.
Week 14: Monday, 3 miles. Friday, very slow 2 miles. Sunday, RACE.
No doubt a lot of people are reading this and shaking their heads, but this is what worked for me. The Monday morning long run set me up for the rest of the week and was run at a pace of between 10:30 m/m and 11:15 m/m. I used to feel energised afterwards and ready to take on the week ahead. I included a 10 mile race to track my progress and chose to run 20 miles in a race environment so I wouldn’t have to worry about my route.
I don’t drive and I also lived just over a mile from the nearest station, this coupled with having to walk a mile to the supermarket and going to see clients meant that I was also walking a lot. This plan also isn’t telling you that most weeks, I would also play badminton with a friend. We used to play energetic games on the courts for an hour, so it was like extra intervals. I really enjoyed this – the thought of running in the evening after work was awful, so this was a good way of getting some training in without going outside. For my core, I had a DVD of 5 minute stretching exercises and I would try to do a couple of these, twice a week.
Could I have done better with a different plan? Quite possibly. But this is how I completed and enjoyed my first marathon on 2 runs a week. The moral of the story is, don’t be afraid to change and adapt plans to suit YOU. My marathons since haven’t been so structured, so I’ll be trying to recreate Brighton for my next attempt.
Have you done a marathon? Are you taking one on? How did you train? Comment below!