A few weekends ago I attended a coaching clinic in New York City along with 26 other coaches from all walks of life and coaching experiences. Throughout the clinic we were given runner case studies then asked to break into smaller groups and come up with training plans which best matched the runner’s background and goals. As you can imagine, this exercise was somewhat like having too many cooks in the kitchen; we all had our own ideas of how best to come up with a training plan, yet we had to come to some sort of agreed upon outcome.
The main takeaway from this assignment was that there is no one “right” training plan; it’s that some plans may be better than others. I liken marathon training plans to chili recipes; you can add a dash of strides with a smidgen of hill repeats, but you still need to add key ingredients like the long run and the tempo (threshold) run, otherwise you can’t call it a marathon training plan (just like chili isn’t chili unless you add tomatoes and beans!).
Unless you are working with a coach or have a lot of running experience, you might find many marathon plans somewhat confusing (or any training plan for that matter). Terms like tempo run, threshold run, progression run, fartlek, cruise intervals, hill repeats, strides, ladder intervals, etc. can be foreign concepts. One thing I can recommend is read books on marathoning and educate yourself. Raising your running I.Q. can help take a lot of the guesswork out of the whole training process and, in turn, you can become a better runner for it!
In marathon training, there are no short cuts. The most important thing to remember is that being as consistent as you can with your training will serve you best. It’s not any single long run or hard workout, but the cumulative effect of the many weeks of consistent and dedicated running which will make the biggest difference in your marathon experience.
The New2-26.2 training group which I coach offers two basic training plans: One is a “Beginner” plan and the other is an “Intermediate” plan. The difference between the two is the total weekly mileage that each is asking of you. In their simplest form, they are just numbers on a page; you have to go out and execute the mileage. What I can offer is the ability to bring these numbers to life and provide context, as well as “guardrails” so that you can avoid some of the pitfalls which first-time marathoners can fall into. I’m sure that together we can cook up some great chili!