So you’ve decided to run your first marathon! Or maybe it’s your second or third, or maybe you haven’t run a marathon in a long time. There are many scenarios that may lead you to look for a beginner marathon training plan, and there are many training plans available. How how do you choose the perfect beginner marathon training plan?
Before choosing a training plan it’s important to think about your current fitness and your goals. How long have you been running for? Have you ever done a marathon before (and how long ago was it?) Do you do better with high or low mileage, and do you like to cross-train? How many days a week can you run? Will you have a time goal or do you just want to finish?
All of these and more are important questions to consider. From there, you can start exploring to find the perfect beginner marathon training plan!
How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Marathon Training Plan
Do you want a generic or an individualized marathon training plan?
There are many free marathon training plans available online. There are also ones you can pay for, as well as plans that can be created for you individually by a coach. If you have a race goal and want a plan that is really tailored to meet your needs, an individual plan by a coach may be the way to go. If you just want a plan to follow, but feel like you can make your own adjustments as you go, you may be ok with a generic plan.
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How much are you willing to pay for a beginner marathon training plan?
There is a wide range of costs for training plans. Of course there are free plans, and from there typically the more you pay the more individualized they will be. Consider your budget as well as your needs when deciding how much to pay for your plan.
What kind of resources/support do you need as you are training?
There are some books that offer marathon training plans, which is one way to go if you want to keep the cost down and also gain some knowledge about marathon training. Typically these books adhere to a certain training philosophy, and the actual book will teach you some of the nuances around that.
On the other hand, there are also coaches that offer training plans that may come with some level of support, or group coaching, or a Facebook group you can join to connect with other runners. There are even some running stores that will offer training plans for local races as well as group training runs.
Find a plan that meets your level of training
One of the most popular websites for free training plans is Hal Higdon. While these are generic plans, there are many different plans for different levels of running. You can view them to see which one will best meet your needs.
When you are selecting a plan you want to make sure that it is appropriate for your current fitness and your race goals.
The downside of a plan like this is that if you miss a week of training or need to make other adjustments, it may be challenging to do so on your own.
Decide how many days per week of running you want to do
Typically the least amount of days per running that a marathon training plan will prescribe is 3. If you are running 3 days a week, you probably need to be cross-training 1-2 days a week as well. More advanced runners may opt to run for 5-6 days a week. Look at how many days per week you have been running over the past few months and how many you can realistically run during training.
Consider your strength training needs
Strength training is important for long distance runners, but it can be difficult to fit it into marathon training. Some plans may not include strength training at all. Others may note the days you should strength train, but not tell you exactly what to do.
If you have experience with running and strength training you may be able to navigate this on your own. However, if you want to strength train and don’t know what you should be doing, you may want to find a plan that includes strength training workouts.
The downside of a pre-written marathon training plan
The challenge with getting a plan that is pre-written in full is that it does not account for unexpected issues that may arise in training. For some new runners, it may be challenging to work around these issues and still complete their training. Plans that are customized to meet your needs are great, but it’s even better to have a coach who is able to make adjustments as needed (even if it’s only once or twice throughout your training cycle).
If you have a coach write you a training plan, make sure to ask if they can help with adjustments along the way or what you should do if you get sick, injured, or have to skip runs for other reasons throughout your training cycle.
You may also like:
18 Week Marathon Training Plan
How to Determine an Appropriate Race Goal Before Beginning Your Training Cycle
5 Things to Consider When Choosing Your First Marathon
How do you choose your training plans for races?
Have you ever used a generic training plan that you found online?
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I am using a coach for the first time in my life (after 20 years of running!) and I have to say, it makes an enormous difference to have a person coaching you vs. a generic plan.
After my Achilles injury, he gently got me back to running. As of next week, I’ll be running 5x a week. I trust that he will successfully coach me to the Berlin Marathon in September!
For me, using a coach led me to my PR and gave me the confidence to conquer the distance–especially after a disastrous first marathon. It was nice to have someone take charge of my training–all I had to do was execute–and actually made training fun.
You always offer the most useful and productive advice. This is all perfect for people looking to run their first and gives plenty of ideas for putting together the best and most realistic plan.