Jim2's Running Page

First Marathon Uncertainties

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It's perfectly natural for a runner to have a lot of uncertainty while training for his or her first marathon. There are so many things to question yourself about. Am I running enough miles? Am I getting enough rest? Should my longest run be 18 or 28 miles....or somewhere in-between? How many 20 mile runs should I do? Should I structure walking breaks into my long runs? Should I do speedwork? If so, what kind and how much? Should I use sports gels and/or powerbars during my long runs? And on....and on!

Different marathon training plans or "experts" will give you conflicting answers. All are right and all are wrong for your specific needs! All incorporate at least the minimum work and fundamental principles that you need to do to develop yourself for a marathon. I don't think there is any one training program that's "precisely perfect" for everyone. However, all will work to get you through your first marathon! We all have to start by selecting the plan that most appeals to us....and then put it to the test. We can then use our marathon experiences to experiment with variations in training for future ones.

The important thing for the first marathon is to pick one of the published "cookbook" marathon training programs at the outset of your training and lock in on it. Any one will do. Choose the one that most appeals to you. Write it down. I mean every run that you plan to do during the next 4 month training period.....long runs, easy runs, speedwork, hill repeats, off days, races....whatever your chosen program calls for. Write each day's planned activity on a calendar that you keep on your dining room table or fridge or desk so you can view it several times a day. As you progress through the program, check off each run as you do it

On days that you deviate from the plan....and you will deviate from it occasionally....write in what you did that day. Try to stick as close as practical to your plan, but don't be fanatical about it. Life's other demands and events can't be ignored. And you certainly don't want to force a 15 mile run if something hurts or you have a flu bug

The main thing is to not let information that you hear or read, like here on the Forum, mess with your mind and make you question your plan. As long as it's based on one of the tried and true training programs, it's as good as any other. Just because someone else might be doing something different doesn't mean there is anything wrong with what you're doing. Only make major changes to your plan if you have reason to think it isn't working you as hard as you would like, if you decide it is too difficult for your current running level, or if you think it is harming you....like you feel as though an injury is coming on.

1 hope this doesn't sound too much as though I'm "lecturing". That isn't my intent. I found that the focus and discipline I derived from this kind of structured planning and record keeping helped my motivation while training for a marathon. Especially after the halfway point, when the intensity of the program is peaking. Looking at that calendar each day emphasized that more was behind than remained ahead. That doesn't make the hardest weeks, which come after the halfway point in any program, any easier physically. But, it sure helps the mind to level out some of the psychological hills and valleys that all runners experience occasionally while dealing with the rigors of marathon training. Of course, having a training partner also helps with the mental aspect....especially for those long runs!