How do I train for a marathon?
May 17, 2008 9:44 AM   Subscribe

How do I train for a (half-)marathon?

I know there have been questions on this before, but those tend to be really specific and start at a place of knowledge, which I have none of.

Background: For the sake of not having to totally invent the wheel, let's assume I'm already jogging casually for 3-5 miles 3 times a week.

So talk to me like I'm a five-year-old: what do I do between now and race day to get in half-marathon shape? I'm intentionally skimping on the details because I'd like general advice, links to good training guides, etc. "What I know now that I wish I knew when I started training" kind of stuff.
posted by ChasFile to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Hal Higdon worked for me. and I guess what I learned was that it's good to follow it to the letter, but it's not necessary if your goal is just to finish -- so, as best you can, follow along and have fun!
posted by nnk at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2008

Find a training schedule like this one. Enter each day of training into your calendar of choice and stick to it. It's pretty simple really.

That Hal Higdon site has lots of good training advice: stretching, eating, cross training. I think the number one thing really is to be firm in sticking to your scheduled work outs. Before you know it you'll be there.

Also, join Runner+ and participate in the Metafilter challenges.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:56 AM on May 17, 2008

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:57 AM on May 17, 2008

Back when I used to run, I liked the Hal Higdon training guides that you can find on the web. He's got training plans for several distances & levels of running proficiency.
posted by altcountryman at 9:58 AM on May 17, 2008

Guess I should have previewed! Looks like Hal's a pretty popular running coach!
posted by altcountryman at 9:59 AM on May 17, 2008

Another recommendation for the Hal Higdon plan linked by nnk and Slarty Bartfast.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 10:06 AM on May 17, 2008

nthing Higdon. I used it last summer to train for and complete my first half.
posted by synecdoche at 10:30 AM on May 17, 2008

Something I wish I'd known: hip strengthening excercises and avoiding cambered roads (or alternating which side you run on) are thought to prevent IT band syndrome. Which really really hurts, and takes forever to recover from.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:39 AM on May 17, 2008

Hal Higdon.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:11 AM on May 17, 2008

I've seen people suggest this "Couch-to-5K Running Plan" before. I've never tried a specific plan before, but got great results (and tips) from running with friends. If you know someone who would run with you, I'd recommend trying that. You just start running, and when you want to stop, they'll push you to keep going. If you're having trouble, they have the experience to give you advice. Some people prefer to run alone, but running with a group is what helped get me started.
posted by belau at 11:29 AM on May 17, 2008

Yet another recommendation for Hal Higdon.
posted by Sand Reckoner at 12:51 PM on May 17, 2008

I just did my first marathon 3 weeks ago. But it took me 3 tries to do it. The first time I used Non-runner's Marathon training. Then I tried Jeff Galloway's book. And then just did the Runner's World Smartcoach.

My first marathon, I didn't make it to the starting line. My knee just got worse and worse as training went on. I would stop running for 2 weeks and start up again, but was hurting again 3 weeks before the marathon. I decided not to go.

My second marathon, I got to the starting line, but got swept halfway through. As I it had taken me 3 1/2 hours to make it halfway.

This last time, I finally did it. And I really didn't train all that much this time around. Because I didn't want to be injured at the starting line. But I think it wasn't so much the method of training but the previous 3 years of running that helped me do it.

According to this article there really isn't a single right way to train for a marathon.

But in my humble experience, a marathon is simply the last 26.2 miles of hundreds and hundreds of miles you ran previously.
posted by CrazyJoel at 2:25 PM on May 17, 2008

but then, I guess you don't really want to run a marathon. never mind.
posted by CrazyJoel at 2:45 PM on May 17, 2008

Read Bob Glover. Competative Runners' Handbook first edition has a section on the half, the second edition does not. Go figure. But he has much of value and interest. Try this for a taste.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:28 PM on May 17, 2008

I just ran my first half-marathon TODAY. (Details on my blog here.) I am not an elite athlete by any stretch of the imagination. (In fact, I'm still about twenty pounds above my goal weight.) I actually started training about six months ago. I spent the first month or two building up my level of fitness (as I wasn't in the habit of running 3x a week), then I started using the Hal Higdon plan everybody else mentioned. I had a lot of extra time, so I stretched it out by repeating weeks. About four months in, my aches really started to increase and I knew an injury was possible. (This is what derailed all my previous attempts to become a runner.) I found a recommendation for a sports masseuse on one of the local running messageboards and started seeing him. He did wonders for my form, and I was able to continue training without the discouragement of hurting myself. I also read a couple of running books, and I started listening to running podcasts as well. This stuff really inspired me to keep going.

Other than that, I didn't do anything fancy. I didn't really change what I eat, though I discovered that my long weekend runs were a lot easier if I remembered to hydrate on Friday and Saturday. I didn't really do a lot of stretching -- and before you yell at me, that was specifically recommended in Galloway's book. (He's found that most beginning athletes are more likely to do themselves an injury stretching than they are to get any benefit from it.) I took up swimming as a non-impact way of getting in some exercise on my non-running days. I stuck to my 3x a week schedule pretty religiously, only missing a couple runs due to sickness.

Before you get started in earnest, go to a specialty running shop - not your local Foot Locker - and get some decent shoes. Keep a journal or a calendar or whatever and actually write down how far you go. I've got the Nike+iPod pedometer system (which I love), but you can also use other methods (or add it up on a Google map). Make sure you never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. (I wasn't super anal about tracking that, but it's a good rule to keep in mind.) I've also read some great stuff about working with a heart rate monitor, and I've been keeping my eyes open to get one on sale. I tried to vary my route a fair bit, taking in some gentle hills (since I knew the half-marathon course would be hilly). I didn't do much speed work, but then I wasn't really aiming to be fast.

The biggest thing that helped me get to my goal was ACCOUNTABILITY. I talked about it on my blog and to my friends, and I kept people updated with how I was going with my training. Thus when I was scared sh*tless two days ago wondering what I'd gotten myself into, I couldn't back out. Everybody was cheering for me to do it. I know I can't always rely on my own willpower, so it's good to have other people pushing me on. (I do the MetaFilter challenges too, which have been a big help.)

Good luck!
posted by web-goddess at 1:07 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. Good training plan (I used Higdon). I made a spreadsheet that showed miles planned, miles ran, and notes for each day. Keeping notes for each day was really motivating because I could look back and see how difficult a 5-mile run was just a few weeks ago. It also helped me find the best time of day to run, favorite routes, etc.

2. Read this book: The Non-runners Marathon Trainer. I know you're not running a marathon (and neither did I), but this book helped me start to think of myself as a runner. Plus, the first hand stories of non-runners helped me realize that if they could do it, I could do it.

3. Accountability, like web-goddess said. Tell everyone what you're doing. That way you won't be able to back out or get lazy. Plus, you'll probably end up convincing a friend or two to start running with you. That's a plus on those long weekend runs!
posted by jrichards at 7:25 AM on May 19, 2008

« Older Diabetic cat care   |   My MacBook's Internal Speakers Are Stuck on Mute Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.