Marathon Training Plan

Training for Your First Full Marathon

Training for Your First Full Marathon

Training for a full marathon is no small commitment. It takes dedication, perseverance and an ability to work through fatigue, pain and mental exhaustion. You run in the rain, the snow, the wind and the heat. You’ll have days in which you’re sure you can’t do it, days in which you’re sure you don’t want to do it, and days that you just plain hate it. But nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line and realize that all your hard work has paid off and you now join the elite ranks of those with exclusive bragging rights.


At forty years of age, I could not even run down the block. I never could. Not that I wasn’t fit. I could cycle and swim for miles, but running was just not something I ever thought I was built for. I’m quite short and very curvy, not anything like the long, lean runners I’d seen hoofing it along our public trails. But I was committed to becoming a runner in order to fulfill my life-long dream of completing triathlons without having to walk. So I started running. At first, cranking out even a mile was excruciating. I thought my lungs would implode and I would collapse into a sweat-drenched heap at the foot of the still-moving treadmill. But I didn’t. Soon, one mile became 1.4 miles. 1.4 miles became 2. And so on. Within six months of starting my quest to become a runner, on Thanksgiving Day, 2007, I completed my first 5 k. It was ridiculously windy, only 27 degrees Farenheit, and there was a giant hill that stretched for about a quarter mile. I admit that I walked part of that hill. But I finished the race in 32:11, which for me at that time, was pretty darned good. Five months later I was still running an average of 4 to six miles at a time. Then my friend talked me into doing a half marathon! I’m not sure why I said yes, with only about three weeks left until race day, but I agreed. In May 2008, I completed my first half marathon and I am proud to say that I ran the entire length, non-stop, in 2:27. I realize that elite athletes can run full marathons in that time, but I am not an elite athlete. I am me, with all of my physical imperfections and crazy daydreams about being more fit and healthy than I probably am. No matter. I did it. And once it was done, I started to believe that I might actually be able to run a full length marathon. So I set my sights on that for 2009.

The point is that you can do anything that you set your mind to. But jumping off the cliff and straight into a long, grueling race without proper training is never a good idea. If you do this you risk serious injury that may hamper future runs or races.

I subscribed to Runner’s World Magazine. I love this read and look forward to receiving it every month. I also subscribe to their online e-zine and I love that as well. It was there that I got my full-length marathon-training plan. It was designed for persons who typically run 4-6 miles at a time. I used it and it worked like a charm for me. It is designed to offer one day of cross training, five days of running and one rest day. The rest day comes before the long run day, which is Saturday. Depending on your personal schedule, you may choose to alter the days on which the workouts take place (i.e. long runs on Sunday instead of Saturday) but I would not alter the way in which the workouts are assigned (i.e. always do the XT followed by shorter and gradually increased length runs as outlined here).

Each run day offers a range of distances (.e. 5-6 miles; 7-8 miles). I always chose to run the longer distance. But on days in which you are experiencing extreme fatigue or pain, you may choose the shorter option. In order to manage the inevitable discomfort I felt, I was sure to keep hydrated on a continual basis. I took two Aleve about an hour before running and at times, I iced before running. I always iced after running as well, and if needed, I took extra strength Tylenol too. I am not suggesting what chemical regime anyone should follow. That is simply what worked for me and was suggested by my physician for my specific symptoms, which included chronic knee and hip pain as well as shin splints. If you experience pain as a result of your training, seek the advice of your physician, a sports medicine specialist, a physical therapist before seeking your own remedies.

I would advise anyone that has not subscribed to Runner’s World to consider it. They run informative articles, share nutritional tips, training tips, have great pictures, great product reviews and offer helpful training plans and advice. At only $12.00 per year for a subscription, it’s the greatest value out there on a comprehensive runner’s guide.

After following the Runner’s World training plan, I competed in my first full-length marathon in May 2009. I set a goal of finishing in 5 hours flat. As my training went on and my aches and pains increased, I started to fear that I may need an extra 15 to 20 minutes to finish the race. I was getting anxious. I ran with a friend who encouraged me every step of the way. The first 17 miles were effortless. As a matter of fact, I ran the first 13.1 miles 14 minutes faster than I had run the half marathon the previous year! But on mile 17 we encountered a mother of a hill that sucked some of the wind out of my sails. I needed to walk part of that hill. But in the end, as painful as it was, I was able to run across the finish line with a time of 4:50!! A full 15 minutes faster than my goal and 25 minutes faster than I really thought I might do it! That was fantastic considering that the race course in Madison, Wisconsin is notoriously hilly and I tend to slow or stop to drink my Gatorades and throw the cups in the proper receptacles…a habit that drives my running partners crazy!

As you will note, I transferred the Runner's World information into my own spread sheet, complete with actual training dates so that I could keep track more easily of what I needed to do on any given day.

Whatever your personal goals and habits, I hope this plan works as well for you as it did for me. Best of luck! Keep running!

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© 2010 Jaynie2000

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lanealanea profile image

lanealanea 4 years ago from Orange County, California

Hello Jaynie, this is so neat how you put together this hub. You totally help others step by step to get started. Love that. Keep writing. Lanea


Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie2000 4 years ago Author

Thank you. I found the information very useful in my own training and hope it helps others with the same goals.

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