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What's the best way to train for a marathon?
Old 05-14-2008, 08:03 AM   #1
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What's the best way to train for a marathon?

One of my employees ran the Honolulu Marathon last December. My DW and I love visiting the islands, and I have been thinking of giving the marathon a try. After some recent health issues were resolved, I've started going to the gym again. In all honesty, I am terribly out of shape, and overweight by about 25% or so. My docs have told me I need to get into shape, and of course I agree that I need that, but I need to have a pretty specific and even aggressive goals. A soft goal like exercising to "get into shape" doesn't motivate me enough. That's where the idea for a marathon came up...it is an aggressive goal with a tangible sense of achievement when it is done.

The marathon is in early December, so I would have about 7 months to prepare for it. So I have a few questions for all of you distance runners:

1) when you run a marathon, do you normally monitor your heart rate? If so, do you keep it at 85% of max, or less?

2) As I am very out of shape (but working on that), is it reasonable to assume that one could prepare to run a marathon in 7 months? (from scratch??)

3) If you only have 1.25-1.5 hours per day to train, how would you approach training for an event that will span several hours (I'm guessing 5-6 hours for the first try, given I'm starting at a pretty low level of fitness).

Any other suggestions?

R
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Old 05-14-2008, 08:20 AM   #2
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If you train just to complete the event; a weekly, long run is the key. (Each week add about 10% until you are at about 20 miles about 2 weeks prior to your run.) After your long run, take the next day (or two) off, then do a recovery run just enough to get warmed up and feel good. Another day off and a run about 1/2 your long run. Then repeat.

this is about the minimum you should do...
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Old 05-14-2008, 09:04 AM   #3
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Have you tried google in search of a training schedule? You could find one that matches your training period.

I think you should plan on running 3-4 times per week. One run should always be longer than others. You should start with 3-5 mi for shorter ones and 5-7-10 mi for longer ones. Eventually, as time goes by, you should be able to run at least one 10-12-15-17-20 mi per week with some shorter ones in-between 3-5-7. You should time it so that your longest runs are 1-2 weeks before the event. You probably will not need more that one 15-17 mi and one 20 mi run.

There's no need to include anything much longer than 20 mi in the training, as it can be counter productive.

Good luck!


Edit: here's a sample 18 week schedule (note, it alludes to additional 19 weeks of warm-ups): Marathon Training Schedule
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Old 05-14-2008, 09:29 AM   #4
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Runner's World has a lot of decent info on their website - click on the Training link on the menu bar, and it will take you to articles and also a tool that will give you a "personalized" training plan.

I would guess you'd want to start with walk-running, where you alternate between the two to build up your endurance. Running a full marathon in 7 mos, starting from zero, is pretty ambitious but there's no reason you couldn't walk-run one.
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Old 05-14-2008, 12:37 PM   #5
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1. I never monitored my heart rate - I'm sure others do.

2. I used a schedule like others above recommended. With 7 months to go, probably get a good base going maybe 20-25 miles per week while losing weight and getting body sound enough to begin increasing mileage. Maybe mix in some low impact cardio at the beginning to improve your fitness while minimizing stressing your joints. Then go with a plan that includes one long run per week, and increase the long run distance weekly

3. Lucija's 18 week plan can be done in 1.5 hours per day, except for the day you do the long run. The long runs near the end will take 3-4 hours. You'll probably surprise yourself and do better than the 5-6 hours you're guessing you're marathon time will be.
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Old 05-14-2008, 01:33 PM   #6
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Many different training schedules out on the internet.

As a 10k runner who puts in 35 miles a week, I would give myself at least 16 weeks to get ready. I could run a half now but 13 miles vs 26 miles wow what a difference. I agree that 20-22 should be your max. Good Luck
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Old 05-14-2008, 02:04 PM   #7
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I'd do my best to emulate Forrest Gump, just start running.....RUN FORREST!!!
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Old 05-14-2008, 02:15 PM   #8
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For my first marathon I followed the intermediate I training schedule at Hal Higdon's MARATHON TRAINING GUIDE very closely. It worked perfectly for me. Of course you could do the novice if you think that fits you better.

IIRC it's an 18 week program with expectations about how much you should be running now before starting the program.

Higdon's program is 5 days/week running and 1 cross training. Others may have less running and that certainly works for some people as long as you do the suggested cross training. The weekly long run is the key.
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Old 05-14-2008, 04:24 PM   #9
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The doctor gave you the okay to shoot for this goal?

As per many of the posts, you will need to start your running by walking first. Your skeleton and musculature need to adapt and it won't happen as quickly as you would like. I can assure you that if do this, you will need to walk to finish the distance given the timeframe. Too much, too fast and you will get hurt.

Besides spending time on your feet, you need to ease into lifting weights for strength. Having more muscle means you will burn more calories, too. Don't lift to bulk, lift to increase your strength. Ease into it.

Cross-train: mix it up using the EFX, ride a real bicycle, etc. Using your body in different ways will make you stronger overall.

Stretch: it really pays off dividends to maintain your flexibility.

If you have the budget for a coach, I know of someone who could develop a training plan for you remotely. She isn't inexpensive, but you will succeed.

Lisa Smith-Batchen / Ultra Runner / Online Coaching / Training Camps

She will develop a plan that will keep you from falling into repetitive and boring workout patterns that may minimize your results. Consultation is via email and/or phone.

I've been running and adventure sporting (ultramarathons, adventure racing, multi-week fastpacking trips, mountaineering) on and off for 35 years. I call on her when I have a really big goal and I've reached a plateau I can't break through on my own. Typically, I will sign on for 3-6 months to raise myself to a higher level than I can do on my own (I train 99% alone).
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Old 05-14-2008, 04:35 PM   #10
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One point I'd like to bring up (based on personal experience) is that marathon training, when you're overweight by 25%, which is about what I was when I trained for a marathon, is very hard on the knees as well as other joints especially if you are middle aged.

I'm sorry to be a kill joy because marathon training can be fun. I really enjoyed it and joined Team in Training, the charity for leukemia.

But I really did a number on my knees. I have cartilege damage now. And I did not lose much weight, 5 lbs at the most.

Since then, others have recommended losing weight through calorie reduction before attempting any kind of strenuous exercise/sports that would stress my knees.
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Old 05-14-2008, 04:59 PM   #11
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Oldbabe, that's a good point about weight and joints (knees, ankles, etc). A solid nutrition plan is a must. I forgot about Team-in-Training. I think it is important to have a coach and that is much more affordable for a new runner, not to mention the comraderie.

At 50, I can still run non-stop for distances up to 50K but it really, really hurts if I do it. I purposely incorporate run/walk patterns (run 4mins / walk 1min) and this really reduces the overall stressload. The body will tell you when it is too much and once above a certain age it will not forgive you for not listening.
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Old 05-14-2008, 05:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambler View Post
One of my employees ran the Honolulu Marathon last December. My DW and I love visiting the islands, and I have been thinking of giving the marathon a try. After some recent health issues were resolved, I've started going to the gym again. In all honesty, I am terribly out of shape, and overweight by about 25% or so. My docs have told me I need to get into shape, and of course I agree that I need that, but I need to have a pretty specific and even aggressive goals. A soft goal like exercising to "get into shape" doesn't motivate me enough. That's where the idea for a marathon came up...it is an aggressive goal with a tangible sense of achievement when it is done.

The marathon is in early December, so I would have about 7 months to prepare for it. So I have a few questions for all of you distance runners:

1) when you run a marathon, do you normally monitor your heart rate? If so, do you keep it at 85% of max, or less?

2) As I am very out of shape (but working on that), is it reasonable to assume that one could prepare to run a marathon in 7 months? (from scratch??)

3) If you only have 1.25-1.5 hours per day to train, how would you approach training for an event that will span several hours (I'm guessing 5-6 hours for the first try, given I'm starting at a pretty low level of fitness).

Any other suggestions?

R

Number 1 you are motivated to do this.

Number 2 you need not set any speed records.

Number 3 you can do it.

Check out galloways program.
Jeff Galloway's Marathon Training for all levels, including beginners

Email me and I can also give you a whole lot of info.
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Old 05-14-2008, 06:05 PM   #13
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Why would you want to run a marathon?

If you are in this life for the long haul, that's the worst thing you can do.

Running is great, and I'm a lifelong advocate.

But marathons are overkill and do far more damage than good.
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Old 05-14-2008, 06:15 PM   #14
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I didn't answer your specific questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rambler View Post

1) when you run a marathon, do you normally monitor your heart rate? If so, do you keep it at 85% of max, or less?
I didn't get a heart monitor until this year, and I don't use it that often. Especially for long runs, I go by the aerobic test: I should be able to carry on a conversation while running. A heart monitor would be a more accurate way, but it's not necessary.

Quote:
2) As I am very out of shape (but working on that), is it reasonable to assume that one could prepare to run a marathon in 7 months? (from scratch??)
That's a bit tough. I went from a 4 mile runner to marathoner in around 7 months. I'd say it's certainly possible, but I'd probably recommend a run/walk routine, which the Galloway program is noted for.

Quote:
3) If you only have 1.25-1.5 hours per day to train, how would you approach training for an event that will span several hours (I'm guessing 5-6 hours for the first try, given I'm starting at a pretty low level of fitness).
You're really going to have to find one day a week to build up to 4-5 hours of running. You really want your body to get used to being out there as long as you're planning to run. You train for that by running ~ 2 min/mile slower than your goal pace, so for a 20 mile run you'll be out there about as long as your marathon. Early on your long run will only be 90 minutes or so, but as you approach the marathon your long run will be in the teens and up to 20. I really wouldn't recommend trying a marathon unless you are willing to take this on, and have family support.

I think the family support is very, very important. You're going to have to run 40-45 miles a week, do the math to see how much time it is. And you'll be wanting to take a nap after long runs, talk about your running, spending time studying the race map, etc. You don't really want it to take over your life, but to some extent it will dominate. Will the people around you support it?

If this is too much, I recommend a 1/2 marathon as a goal. That's a great distance to train for, without putting yourself through the pounding of a marathon and the 20 milers. For many people, it's probably healthier overall.

[/quote]
Any other suggestions?
[quote]

Many people find that having a running group or partner helps with motivation. My schedule doesn't allow much of that. I also feel like when I'm in a real race, I'm on my own, so if I've trained on my own I'm more ready for it. But that doesn't work for everyone. The toughest part for many is making it to the starting line of the race, so do what it takes to get there.

- Get good shoes. If you can't figure out for yourself if you under or over pronate (look on the internet for this and the "wet foot" test), go to a specialty running store if you have one in your area. If they don't take a good look at the bottom of your current running shoes for wear, and ask you to walk without shoes away and towards them (or something similar to this to see how your foot lands), they don't know what they are doing and you might as well grab a pretty pair for all the good they are doing. Oh, and get at least 1/2 size larger than you normally wear, because on long runs your feet sweet and if they rub, you'll get blisters. I go a whole size larger. The extra size doens't bother me and I almost never get blisters anymore. Shoes are the one thing I'd say not to take advice on from others, because the shoe that has taken me through a few marathons could be totally wrong for you. I wouldn't even sway you for or against any brand.

- Get moisture wicking clothes. Cool-Max, Under Armour, things like that. Shorts, shirts, and socks. Even hat if you want one. At least wear them for the long runs. Cotton chafes way too much, though it's fine for a 4 miler.

- Vaseline is your friend. Rub it anywhere you find you chafe--crotch, thighs, feet, toes, nipples, underarms,etc. . Body Glide is even better, but vaseline works fine (except on feet for trail running--dirt and rocks stick to vaseline).

- Hydrate. Figure out if you want to run with a handheld bottle (you can find a carrier that makes it easier) or a waist pack that holds water bottles or contain a bladder (Camelbak). Mix water with sports drink because you need to replace salts as you sweat. You can also take salt tablets (endurolytes or e-caps are more complete than plain salt tabs).

- Refuel. After 3.5-4 hours you run out of fuel and you'll bonk. Take Gu or HammerGel (or honey for LBYM types) before then to keep energy.

- Try to get offroad for some runs. Softer surfaces are easier on your knees. Concrete (sidewalks) are the very worst. Asphalt is ok if you have no other good choices. A groomed, crushed rock trail is ideal. I like single track hiking trails a lot but if they are rugged you might want trail shoes instead. But assuming it's a road marathon, you do want a lot of your miles on the road to get used to that surface.

Do all of this stuff on your training runs so you're not doing something new in a race. Not everyone can handle gels or even sports drink, better to find out while training rather than ruin your race.

Good luck! Ask questions here or via PM if you have any.
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Old 05-14-2008, 09:24 PM   #15
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What's the best way to prepare for a marathon? Run a lot of course

But seriously if you want to do a marathon there are a lot of marathon training programs out there. Go to the library or check out Runner's World or other web sites and research it like you do SWR.

But let me ask you a question, what are you going to do when you have reached your goal and completed a marathon? Will you continue to run or turn into a coach potato again?

I'm a runner and I love to race and I'm fairly competitive in my age group and I set goals for things like race times but I would be a runner even if I couldn't race. I can't wait to get out the door to run. It is one of the best parts of my day. I did an 8 miler in the dark along the Charles river in Boston on a day that had record low temperatures. I did a 1/2 marathon leg (as part of a triathlon relay team) in 103oF weather. But in 30 years of running I don't think that I have ever had a really bad run (except perhaps getting injured). Running works for me because I like it not because I set goals.

So if you want to run a marathon, go for it. It is a great goal but if you want to stay fit for life my suggestion is to find something that you really like be it running or kayaking or tennis or surfing or what ever and build your fitness program around it. You can still set goals but it will be fun not work to achieve those goals.

MB
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Old 05-14-2008, 10:24 PM   #16
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What's the best way to train for a marathon?

One of my employees ran the Honolulu Marathon last December.
I'd say, delegate running the marathon to that employee and give them a poor performance review if they don't finish in the top 10 for their age range.
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Old 05-14-2008, 10:58 PM   #17
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Thanks all for the wealth of information and suggestions. I guess I have to say at this point that I will need to think about this a little harder than I had been. Here are a couple more points about the "whys":

1) I have no place to run except the gym on a treadmill. I kind of thought, I guess, that if I had this goal in mind, and I measured progress every day, that it would help me keep going.
2) I know I need to get in shape, and KEEP in shape, and I don't want to stop going to the gym because of boredom (I'm prone to that if there is no goal or if there is no way to achieve the goal, or if it is a soft goal). If I were to do this, I would want to continue, but there is still the issue of "been-dere, dun-dat, got da T-shirt", and I do wonder if the next one would hold as much intrigue and interest as the first one.
3) I have never been a fan of running...honestly, but I think I could do it if I had a target in mind....thus the marathon idea.
4) I may have been thinking too simplistically, but the employee I mentioned who did the Honolulu Marathon only ran 10k's every saturday. No daily training, never a long run. She finished, and though I cannot remember her time, it was not a "walking" marathon for her...high 4 hours/mins if I remember right.

Where am I now? - I have been walk - running several miles since I was able to start back at the gym - four days now (I did have permission from my doc to start back at the gym, as I had been ill in March and April, didn't think to ask about a marathon). This morning, I walk-ran 4 miles in 400 meter increments of walking then running, then walked one final mile. I was afraid to push myself any harder than that. I do monitor my heart, and by the end of 400m running it's time to slow down. I mix in a little cross training as well. I think I may do that about twice a week.

When summer rolls around, I will have the time once a week to do longer runs, but I don't have that time now, nor will I have it from September (DW and DD go home for the summer - gotta be around for them when they come back).

Anyway, I think I am going to take this one step at a time, beginning with targeting "being able to do" a half marathon, by the end of the year. If I can't find a half marathon to do, in a convenient location, then maybe I'll just run around my block 13 times ons Christmas Eve...its a mile around the block.

Thanks again for the suggestions - oh, I really like the one about finding clothes that don't chafe...My muscles aren't sore today, but the chafing is bothersome.

R
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Old 05-15-2008, 07:33 AM   #18
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Rambler - You god some good advice here.

It really looks like you could benefit from finding a running buddy - running with someone will keep you motivated (going for a run + finishing the run). Also, I think you may want to consider sticking with a 1/2 marathon --- it's still quite an achievement and will ease you into the world of running. The last few miles of a marathon are anything but fun... So, unless you really want to say "I ran a marathon", you will get most benefits by training for 1/2 marathon (getting in shape, losing weight) without putting too much stress on your body.

Some other thoughts:
- with respect to chaffing, I have heard some people use tape (masking, I think). I have never tried it.
- you may want to see if there's a running club/races in your neighborhood, I think going out and running with others will get you going and will keep you motivated
- not always, but at least on some longer races, they may have runners keeping up a dedicated pace (e.g., 9 min mi) for the duration of the race. If you can find a group that matches your own pace, you can stick around and run with them
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Old 05-15-2008, 08:18 AM   #19
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It's certainly possible for someone to do less training and run a marathon. It's dangerous because a marathon puts your body into stress that it hasn't been at all prepared for. Also, you may not have learned how your body things like requires hydration. You may think "I'll just drink a pint of water at every stop, then I'll surely be hydrated." But too much water dilutes your salts and can lead to hyponatremia, which can be as fatal. As you increase your training, you'll be figuring these things out about your body.

Also, if you train right, you'll only be sore for a day or two after the marathon. If you don't train right, you'll probably be in agony for days longer. Maybe that's a fair tradeoff to avoid the long runs, but I don't think so.

Re: tape for chafing--I've used duct tape for emergency repair of blisters on feet, but I haven't heard it for anywhere else. I guess it could work anywhere because it's slick on the outside but I've never seen it.
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Old 05-15-2008, 10:10 AM   #20
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as an aside, my wife and I helped with security at a marathon once... we were at the finish line.

Never have I seen so many bloody nipples in one place.
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