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First Marathon Training

The training plan in this blog is not taken from an expert in running. In fact, the longest I’ve ever ran is 10km and I wouldn’t consider myself a runner. It is intend to showing my own progress over the next 20 plus weeks in my goal to run a marathon as discussed in a previous blog. No doubt I will be making some mistakes in my training which will be addressed as I go through the 21 week plan. As well as being transparent, I'm using this form as a means to hold myself accountable that I will go through with this plan as closely as I can. For an absolute beginner, I would to get up to 10km comfortably before attempting a marathon. And if you did also want to follow this plan, I would also cut 1M off the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday slots and 2M off Saturday programme with leaving Sunday optional while getting at least one resistance day in the gym or at home with variations of squats and lunges. 

I’m not the biggest fan of running. But I can be very stubborn and don’t like to fail a challenge either. I have been asked numerous times over the last 7 plus years as a qualified Personal Trainer on the effort and what it takes to run a marathon. I have never honestly been able to answer that question. I feel like the only way you can truly know what is like is to run one. Not only feeling of being 3 hours in and seeing the mile markers slowly creep up while you try to stay focused and pushing yourself towards the finish line. But also the months of dedicated training on the road to get yourself ready for that day. I want to empathise with people on what that is like. I have done weight loss challenges before, gone through different nutrition plans, strength training, adding muscle etc. But a marathon is something completely different and I feel going through one will help me become a better trainer and help people who attend my classes or want me to be their trainer to help them achieve completing a marathon.

So while I’m not a runner, I have been doing my homework on what it takes to run a marathon as well as trying to get a few runs in lately to build myself up for the start date for the challenge. A lot of the same advice kept cropping up over and over again for running your first marathon.

Here are the top 7 bits of advice I kept seeing:

1. The pace you set for your first Marathon should be what you feel on the day, The goal is to finish it.

Eh… ok. Well this is a bad start. After my ego getting the best of me (link previous blog), I’m in wave one with is under 3:39 I am going to set my training to aim for completing the marathon under this time but I will realistically look at the numbers a month away and plan my run accordingly. The average time for people the complete the marathon was just over 255 minutes (4:15) in the 2015 DCM. So I would really love to complete the marathon at an above average rate. The average time for men in the London marathon was 4:04:23 with 47% of men being under 4 hours (4:39:27 form women, 22% under 4 hours). Under 4 hours seems like a realistic goal if I stick to my training plan. My longest run will be 3 weeks prior to the event at 22 miles. I will have a fair idea around this time on what a realistic target will be on the event rather than sprinting at the start, hitting a wall and having an even longer time. This is one of the reasons I think step number 2 is incredibly important.

2. Enter a Road Race or two before the actual Marathon

This is to get yourself familiar with the set up of a race day and running in that environment. There could be potential mistakes you make here instead of on the big day as well easing your nerves a little bit as you will be more familiar with events on the day. How you run with others around you is very important. Do you abandon your pace and start sticking to or rushing in front of packs of people. The clothes you wear on the day can also be very important…

His nipples? Starting? What is he talking about?

His nipples? Starting? What is he talking about?

Oh God! I don't want to do this anymore!

Oh God! I don't want to do this anymore!

You should never wear new clothing on the day of the marathon. Wear what you have previous ran in and are comfortable in.

3. Training, especially for your first marathon should be at least 16 weeks. 

The start of June seems like a good time for me to start the programme and I have the extra few weeks to try and reach my goal of under 3:39, thus breaking rule number 1. I have had the start of June set in my head for quite a while. I feel it gives me enough time without it being overkill and too long of a build up. I don’t think I could have had the discipline to start much earlier with the event seemingly so far away.

4. Carb Loading

Pasta followed by Pasta with an additional side of Pasta seems to be the order of the day, every day

Pasta followed by Pasta with an additional side of Pasta seems to be the order of the day, every day

Extra carbs, not calories, is something I’ve seen a lot. I believe everyone is different but will try to include one big carb meal a day due to the extra calories I will be burning by combining the marathon training with my own training. Nutrition, hydration and rest will be key in staying on track. Injuries could be a huge set back that I can not afford. My body requires rest so a well thought our plan is needed rather than just ‘run a mile further each week’. I will be eating more as my training will be going up a lot. If I feel I am not hitting targets, I will review the diet on whether to add or remove carbs. In general, I do not eat many carbs and my main meals usually consist of some form of meat and veg. 

5. Set Mini Goals in Your Training

Smaller goals will be set through out the marathon programme. They will be based primarily on time and speed. If I am to achieve the ambitious time of 3:39, I need an average pace of under 8:23 a mile (5:13 a kilometre), especially for my Tuesday runs and not be too far off the pace for the Thursday runs. Wednesdays will be trying to get under the 8 minute mark and beating the time set on a Tuesday each week. The long runs on a Saturday are designed with the primary goal of completion. I will worry about times during the second half of the programming. 

6. Gradually build the distance in your programme.

At least I can do this. The plan for the schedule is to do a short run on Tuesday. As the weeks progress, I’ll be looking to mainly increase the time on the 3 to 4 miles. Also, I the program is done in miles because, in my head anyway, 6 miles sounds more manageable than 10 kilometres… maybe that’s just me. Wednesday is all about the pace. Setting the fastest mile I can and resting before trying to maintain that fast pace for the next 2 single mile runs. Saturday is the long run, gradually building up until 3 weeks before the marathon. 22 miles is the longest run I’m going to be doing before the marathon. The last few weeks are for what’s called “tapering”. Tapering is reducing the end of the programme to be fresh and healthy for the marathon. The long run gets reduced every 4 weeks as well for a deload week, mini recovery.

7. Decent pair of running shoes

I’m not sure my Jordans are a wise bet for this one…

Beautiful Js but maybe not best suited for running... maybe... maybe they are... they are... I want them

Beautiful Js but maybe not best suited for running... maybe... maybe they are... they are... I want them

Start Date : June 5th

Timeline: 21 Weeks

In my first run yesterday, I did a little over 3 miles averaging at 8 minutes 11 seconds a mile. Which is the pace I will need to keep. Obviously with yesterday being my first run, sustaining this pace for 26.2 miles is not realistic right now. But not a bad start. Progress is a slow process.

timetable marathon run running event dublin city DCM

I plan on monitoring each run and keeping you guys updated with a blog post on my progress every two to three weeks. The plan has incorporated the exact times I intend on doing my runs to limit the excuses in putting the running off as well as my planned week away in September where I intend to try and keep running but will probably be doing smaller, light runs at less intensity. This also gives me the opportunity to switch my runs from Saturdays to the same time Sunday as I will be doing a marathon. It is not practical or realistic for me to have my main runs on Sundays right now with another 5 plus weeks left in my football season. 

And I know some of you may have picked up on one very obvious “flaw” that goes against a lot of what I preach on my Coach Seán social media pages (cheap plugs for my FB, Insta and rarely used Twitter page) and that is: Mondays… off? Definitely not! I’ll still be training that day, just not specific for the marathon. One of the points not listed above that I did not see a lot was the need to do resistance training. I had initially had runs down on a Friday but I felt it was too much with my gym plan as well and would lead to a burnout and a risk of injury. So the hashtag still remains #NeverMissAMonday.

And on that note, I’m wrapping up this blog post before getting my training in and getting my classes and PT sessions done!