First marathon advice (Read 78 times)




    Hello all! I will be running my first marathon in April of 2018. I plan to start training at the end of November. I'm running the Coastal Delaware Marathon which is a super flat race at the beach.


    I have been running for eight years, but never attempted a marathon due to repeated stress fractures. I haven't had a stress fracture in over 3 years now, so I feel like I can finally handle the mileage and intensity of marathon training. I have never run for speed, so my PRs are kind of weird:

    Half Marathon - 1:56 (8:52 per mile)

    10 miler - 1:34 (9:24 per mile)

    10K - 55:01 (9:00 per mile)

    I recently introduced speedwork and tempo runs while training for for my leg of the Baltimore relay and I finished with 8:40 splits (6.3 miles total). I'd like to continue to improve my times.


    Would 4:15 be a reasonable goal for my marathon time? 

    Also, any recommendations for training plans? I really like the look of the Boston Athletic Association Beginners plan so far, but I would like any more suggestions. I'd like to keep my running to 4 days per week due to my injury history. If anyone has experienced stress fractures and still runs marathons I would love to hear anything that has worked for you with prevention/nutrition/anything else.



      4:15 seems like a reasonable goal to me, maybe a little on the fast side.  4:15 is fast for a 4-day/week runner with a 1:56 HM.  I'm assuming your HM time will improve over the training cycle.  When did you run the 1:56 HM?  Generally, race times are only relevant for predicting performance if they are recent.  You'll need to revisit your goal and turn it into a plan for the race in April.  For instance, if your training through April indicates you are only in shape for 4:20, trying to run a 4:15 could lead to running a 4:35.  Ideally run a couple races (maybe a 10K and HM) in February and March (at least 3 weeks before the marathon for a 10K, 4 weeks for a HM)


      Regarding plans, the Hal Higdon plans are popular for folks in your situation.  His website offers multiple plans that are free.


      Regarding injury, rapid increase in volume or intensity is a far bigger risk factor for injury than volume or intensity in and of itself.  If you build your weekly volume slowly and add intensity gradually to a point where you are running 5-6 days/week with one hard day/week you'll increase your chances of a successful marathon.  Your long runs will also be easier because they will be a smaller percentage of your weekly volume.


      If you do decide to stick with 4 days/week, consider some type of low-impact aerobic cross training (cycling, elliptical, StairMaster, etc) 1-2 days/week.  It won't train you as well as running, but it will help.


        Thank you Paul - I may have to lower my goal ti 4:20-4:30. The half marathon was over a year ago. I do have a 10k planned for Feb and a half marathon planned for early March, so I should be able to gauge better after those races. I do a high intensity interval spin class at least once a week, so I will continue to do that for my cross training day. Thanks for your advice!


        Pace Prophet

          It's far too early to set a time goal for an April 2018 marathon.  Train to the best of your ability and assess your fitness 4-8 weeks out with a 10k, half marathon or other similar distance.


          I agree with Paul that the more days per week you can train, the faster your marathon will be.

          PRs: 10 1:12:59 (4/2014) 13.1 1:35:55 (10/2013) 26.2 3:23:31 (12/2013)

          bloggy stuff at http://ilanarama.dreamwidth.org


            And to answer your question re stress fractures - I only had one, a pelvic stress fracture, but it took me out of running for 7 months when I first started running. A year later I had another issue that might have been another fracture or might have been osteitis pubis.  It took me out of running for 5 months. The following year I was able to train normally and ran my first HM. A year after that I ran my first marathon, using Higdon's Intermediate 2. I've run two others since and managed to BQ in my last one. Because of my history of injury, I do most of my runs easy, with at most one day a week of speed work. I do run at least 5 days a week. One of my marathons was using Higdon's Advanced 1, which was 6 days a week and I had no more issues doing that than I did with 5 days a week. I just prefer having more rest, so returned to 5 days of training after I finished that cycle.


              Thanks everyone. I looked at Hal Higdon's programs and I think the Intermediate 2 program might be a good place to start. It has 5 days per week of running. If the mileage seems to be too much, I'll drop back to four days a week.


                I'd say a few things for someone in your situation, building on the solid advice above:

                1) For your first time training for a marathon, I think the primary focus should be upping your mileage and getting the miles in. Even if it means running slow or taking walking breaks on days you feel like junk. Unless you already have a lot of experience doing more intense training (eg. have been doing intensity for shorter distances for a while, were a runner in school) I recommend to friends that they avoid speed/tempo work that first marathon training. Again, the increased mileage that comes with building a base will be quite a bit of intensity as it is. If you do any speed/tempo work and start struggling with your training, that should be the first thing to go. Especially since you have a history of injuries.

                Some may think this is too conservative, but I've seen too many friends suffer injuries during their first marathon training cycles to feel otherwise. YMMV


                2) That's why I actually like the Beginner Hal Higdon plans, since they're really focused on getting the miles in...and little else. They're usually 4 days, so if you start it and it feels to easy then it is simple to add another day of short mileage. Most runners quickly outgrow Hal after 1 or 2 marathons, but I think he's great for the beginners. (Don't get me wrong, you should be proud of your accomplishments at shorter distances. But the first marathon is still the first marathon.)


                3) 4:15 seems like a reasonable goal to me, but your goal for the race should be to finish and feel good about yourself. Good luck...most us fail at even that the first time! I would use a rough goal time more as a guide for what paces you should run during training, especially if you decide to do any speedwork or tempo work. Most of your easy miles should be slower.

                And as others said, as you progress in training you're going to get faster. So a shorter test-race or two in the month or two before the marathon should give you a better idea of what to expect.


                Best of luck!