Always check with your doctor prior to starting/modifying any exercise/nutrition program. The information presented on this site constitutes my opinions/viewpoints and should not be used as medical, personal, training, or professional advice.
"OBstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal." --unknown
OKC Memorial Marathon
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Training plans and programs
Disclaimer: The information presented on this site is based upon my opinions and experiences and should not be used as medical, personal, training, or professional advice or recommendations. "Individuals with underlying health issues are at increased risk for medical complications during the running of a marathon...The majority of serious marathon-related health complications are caused by pre-existing cardiovascular conditions...Discuss your plans for marathon training and participation with a professional health care provider...Your medical provider may wish to conduct some form of cardiovascular disease screening prior to participation."*1

The following article is geared towards marathon and half marathon training programs. No single training plan will work for everyone. This article describes various training classes and plans for beginning, intermediate, and advanced runners.

Before picking a training plan/program, I believe the following steps are important:
  • Step 1: Get your doctor's approval and perform screening tests for the activity you wish to pursue.
  • Step 2: Learn how to run correctly. The single most important thing I wish I had done before starting any training plan was to learn "how to run" with an optimal running form.
  • Step 3: Find the correct running shoes for your foot type/gait.
  • Step 4: Purchase a sports watch or have some means of monitoring pace and distance. In terms of the "best", I think the Garmin Forerunner 310XT along with the optional heart rate monitor and cadence sensor is the ultimate training tool. They also offer model 405 that's smaller, but I like the bigger screen on the 310. With the 310XT, I don't have to go to the track to run intervals. It allows me to enter custom programs such as 1 mile warmup, 3 times 1 mile at a certain pace, and a 1 mile cooldown. It then indicates with both a certain type of beep and an on screen message when one interval is about to end and another is about to begin. If you fall below your goal pace/heart rate/distance, it will beep and let you know to speed up. But one of the best things I have found is that it wirelessly transmits my workout data to connect.garmin.com and provides an interactive route map, detailed splits, and workout summary. If you're really serious about your running, I believe having the correct tool is important. This tool allows you to analyze your performance data. You can then adjust your training based upon that analysis. Plus it gives a very good calorie based computation based upon your heart rate. It's one of the more accurate ones I have seen as far as calorie expenditure for running/cycling.
  • Step 5: Determine your current level: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. There are some general definitions of these categories below.
  • Step 6: Determine your short term and long term goals. For example, an absolute beginner might have a short term goal of completing a 5K and a long term goal of completing a half or full marathon. An advanced runner might have a short term goal of running a marathon with a Boston Qualifying time and a long term goal of running the Boston Marathon.
  • Step 7: Pick a training plan/program that fits your current fitness level and goals and that takes into account factors such as susceptibility to injury, time available for training, recovery time required between workouts.
Beginners

ChiRunning Beginner Half MarathonChiRunning Marathon TrainingI began running at the age of 43. My Mom had recently passed away from breast cancer and my Dad had died several years earlier of heart disease. I was at a turning point in my life and knew I needed to do "something" but wasn't sure what the something was. I had started walking out at my local park. Runners would pass me and I would look at them with envy, wishing I could run more than a few feet without having to stop. Three years and several training classes/programs later, I qualified for the Boston Marathon. I have taken RunOn's Running 101, Running 201, Running 301, and Marathon classes. I loved every single class and my coaches and pace leaders were wonderful!

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, several training programs are offered by running groups or running stores. These include RunOn, Dallas Running Club, Luke's Locker, Fort Worth Running Company, and RunWell Training.

Before tackling the marathon or half marathon distance, I personally feel that beginners should tackle a 5K, 10K, and 15K first. Then once the base is built, a good marathon or half marathon training program will be less strain on your system and more fun. Some beginning marathon training programs are spread out over a year and incorporate the shorter distance races as part of your training plan.

If I had not had access to a training program, I probably would have gone with one of the following training plans:

The one thing I think most beginners don't understand is pacing. I've seen a lot of beginners start running a distance run too fast and then have to stop. Distance running (specifically marathon and half marathon distances) is done at an aerobic pace, not a sprinting pace. If you have never run a race before, it's difficult to know what your pace is. If you have run a race recently, you can use a tool such as the McMillan Running Calculator to determine your pace for different distances and different types of runs. For a beginner on a distance run meant for building endurance, I believe it's a good idea to run at a pace you can maintain, even if that pace is a slow shuffle. Once the endurance base is built and the body has adapted to the activity (which may take several months), then speedwork intervals and tempo runs can provide improved paces.

Intermediate

ChiRunning Intermediate Half MarathonChiRunning Intermediate MarathonHal Higdon defines an intermediate runner as follows: "You should be running five to six times a week, averaging 15-25 miles weekly training. You probably also should have run a half dozen or more races at distances between the 5-K and the Half-Marathon."*2

Runner's World has a similar definition: "This program (Marathon Training for Intermediate Runners) assumes you have been running 20-25 miles per week for several years, and that you have completed at least one previous marathon."*3

As an intermediate runner, I participated in both RunOn's Training Programs and the Dallas Running Club's Training Programs. I enjoyed both programs and both provided excellent training and information. RunWell Training is owned by a former Dallas Running Club officer, pace leader, and coach and offers some great programs as well.

If I had not had access to a training program, I probably would have chosen one of the plans listed below. I have the ChiRunning Book and DVD before they came out with the training plans and I use the information in it on a regular basis.

Advanced

The advanced runner is a competitive runner accustomed to running at least 35-40 miles/week (e.g. 5 times a week at 7-10 miles per run) for at least 2-3 years, has run several races (including 2 or more previous marathons), and regularly runs intervals.

Resources:

Training, Plans, and Coaches:

Places to Train in DFW

Products I like:


References/Footnotes:

*1Boston Marathon Medical Directors: Pierre d'Hemecourt, MD (Co-Medical Director), Sophia Dyer, MD (Co-Medical Director), Aaron Baggish, MD
*2Hal Higdon's Web Site
*3Runner's World Marathon Training for Intermediate Runners