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Marathon Training Plan

December 16, 2012

A couple people asked me about my marathon training plan, so I thought I’d share some information on it with you all.

When I signed up for my first marathon, I did a lot of research into training plans.  Then I ultimately picked one of the worst training plans for a first-time marathoner.

I choose to do Pete Pfitzingers 18/55 plan, which means an 18 week plan with a peak weekly mileage of 55 miles.  This Pfitz plan is, in fact, a great plan, which is why I choose it.  It is a plan based on exercise science, the book explains the purpose of each run, and I hated running advice that seemed to be based on running folk lore.  I’m an engineer.  I need science!  And I chose it because everyone on the running forums said it was the best.  If you spend 5 minutes on any running message board, you’ll hear about the Pfitz plans.

However, it is not a great plan for a first timer.  The book (and the internet and common sense) TOLD me this, yet I couldn’t convince myself to do a non-science based plan.  So I tried it.  The mileage was too high for me at the time, and I didn’t follow the plan completely.  This is normal – but I probably only completed 75-80% of the plan.  It was just too much.

Despite this, the fundamentals of the plan were enough, and I completed my first marathon in about 4:20-4:30, at Big Sur, a notoriously hilly course!  Hurrah!  My goal was 4:30, so I went out at that pace, and ran negative splits.  It was a great first marathon experience.

I used the same plan for my second marathon, but I followed it.  I still didn’t do all of the speed workouts and often subbed the tough “marathon pace” long runs with half marathon races (effective, but expensive).  On my second race, I pulled of my goal of a sub 4 hour marathon.  Yay!

For my next marathon, I’m planning on using the plan again.   I’m on another hilly course, so I’m not sure I’ll have a huge improvement again, but I think I can beat my last time.  Unfortunately, week 2 of the plan begins next week, and I’m sidelined with a minor calf strain… so we’ll see.  I may choose a less time consuming plan, but I know that if I want to be absolutely prepared, Pfitz is the way to go.

If your goal is to finish a marathon, there are a lot of plans out there that will get you there.   I wouldn’t recommend the Pfitz plan to a first-time marathoner.  Many people have had successful marathons on other plans.  I used Hal Higdon’s plans for my first 1/2 marathons and quite liked it.  His marathon plans look pretty solid, though some of them also have 10 mile midweek runs.  This plan seems roughly similar in difficulty/mileage as the Pfitz 18/55.   I had a friend who trained with Team in Training, and she quite liked their plan.

I purposely didn’t post my plan here, as the plans aren’t available for free online.  You can check out your local library or book store to take a peak at it and see if it is right for you.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 16, 2012 10:09 pm

    I’ve had success with Hal Higdon’s half marathon plans. I’ve tried other ones but keep coming back to Hal.

  2. December 17, 2012 11:48 am

    Super helpful – thank you! I’m not up for a full marathon yet (mostly because I can’t commit to the training time with my husband’s travel schedule), but I’m thinking of shooting for a 30K this year. There are very limited training plans for that distance, so I’m likely going to take my existing half plan & modify a bit.

  3. December 20, 2012 6:26 pm

    Wow. Sounds intense. Good luck!

  4. December 21, 2012 6:46 am

    This is something I will definitely look into ahead of the Tough Mudder challenge (1/2 marathon and obstacles) I am doing in 2013! 🙂

    • January 1, 2013 4:43 pm

      I did zero special training for Tough Mudder. I was already able to run 10 miles but did nothing extra for the obstacles. You don’t need to. The course is tiring because it is long, not because it is difficult.

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