What I Like About My Marathon Training Plan

Fall is a popular time for marathons, so it’s probably not surprising that I’m following a lot of bloggers who are training for marathons right now – you probably are too!

Since I’m training for my first marathon, I have found it really interesting to see what type of plan everyone else is following.

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My awesome coach, who I fully trust, writes a custom plan for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to compare my plan to everyone else’s! : ) Mine is definitely a bit different than most of the others I’m reading about.

When I was training for my first half marathon I would build mileage for around three weeks and then take a recovery week. From what I’ve seen, I think most marathon plans are built using a similar philosophy.

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My marathon plan differs from most others in that I don’t build mileage consistently for X number of weeks before taking a recovery week. Every other week I alternate between a long, easy run and a long-ish run with a fast finish.

Last week I ran 15 easy miles, but this week I’ll only run 13 miles where 10 are easy, but the last 3 are fast finish miles. Then the following week I’ll run 16 easy (omg)!

At first I thought this plan was a little bit weird (sorry, coach!), but now I am really seeing the benefits from it. By pushing for a specific, fast pace during my “fast finish” miles at the end of a long run I am building my confidence.

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Not only have I been shocked at the paces I can throw down after first running 10 miles, but knowing that I can put down those paces during a long run gives me the confidence to push even harder during my weekly speedwork sessions which are (obviously) shorter.

For example, at my last 5K race in February I finished averaging 12:49 pace which brought me close to my 5K PR (yes, I’m pretty slow).

During my last fast finish run I threw down a 12:29 minute mile after first running 10 miles. That was a big confidence builder for me, especially since it was 86* out with 70% humidity. I wasn’t sure I had that in me, but now I know.

I imagine on marathon day (just 72 days from now!!!!) remembering these fast finish training sessions will give me a little extra oomph when I need it most.

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So I have to say that I really like the way my marathon training plan rotates between long, easy runs and long runs with fast finishes.

With my former coach I increased my distance, but not much else. With my current coach and training plan I feel like I’m becoming a more well rounded runner in all aspects!

I’m still slower than most people I know, and I’m pretty okay with that. I used to tell myself that I didn’t really care if I ever got faster (because I didn’t think I could), but I’ve recently realized that’s not true.

Nicole (The Girl Who Ran Everywhere) went from running a 6:30 marathon to now having broken 4 hours. That gives me hope that with enough hard work I’ll someday run much faster. But that is most definitely a someday that comes after I first chase my distance goals.

Runners who have finished multiple marathons: did you use different plans for your races? Did you find you liked one better than the other? 

Do you ever include fast finish miles at the end of your long runs? 

14 comments

  1. karen

    You are doing amazing with your training! I feel so out of the disciplined training groove! I will be glad to get back into it.
    karen recently posted…ConfidenceMy Profile

  2. The running Schlub

    So glad your liking your training plan. Buying into the plan will create dedication and seeing results will build confidence. My first marathon is in feb so I’m taking bits and pieces of all the marathon training to see what works for me. I always add a mile or two at a fast pace in the middle of my long runs. I think I’ll start adding them to the end as well.
    The running Schlub recently posted…Casual Trail Run…Wait is that Possible??My Profile

  3. Jennifer @ The Final Forty

    I actually really like the sound of your plan! I’m following a different plan this time around (still Hal Higdon, though…the man got me through Dopey Challenge unscathed, so I think it’s always going to be Higdon for me, haha) but I do wonder if I should be focusing more on adding in my own “fast finish” miles or other speedwork. I try to incorporate strides every once in awhile, but not as consistently as I should. ‘Cuz I gotta tell you, I’m in week 4 and my legs are already tired, and I struggled through a 5K yesterday (granted, it was 90 DEGREES, but still). I think I’m going to try this out! 🙂
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted…New York City Marathon Training: Weeks 2 and 3My Profile

  4. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    My first marathon was seven years ago and I joined Team and Training to learn from and run with a group. They provided me a training plan and we did our long runs together on the weekends. The plan wasn’t anything special, other than to get us to the finish line in one piece. My time was 4:16. After that I trained on my own and tried different plans, keeping at it. I never did speed work or anything other than my long runs. My best marathon was the Eugene marathon where I finished in 3:38 (huge improvement from my first). Now that I am including speed work and hills, I’m excited to see what I can do in Portland.
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Triathlon Training And The Cascade Cycling ClassicMy Profile

  5. cheryl

    This is my first marathon, and first training plan–Doug Kurtis through Runner’s World. I am always comparing too. Mine has me race periodically–next one is a 10k this Sunday…with an easy week after that. I have to say I am really enjoying having a plan–it has made me much more focused.

  6. Helly

    I try to practice negative splits so that my back end of runs are faster than my first. I like the idea of 3 miles at the end fast though–I might have to try that!!
    Helly recently posted…An offer too good to refuse…except I had toMy Profile

  7. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    I love that your plan is building your confidence! Training is so mental…confidence is a big factor in finishing! I like that my plan’s “easy” weeks have me doing easy runs that are slightly longer than my usual easy runs, so even though the week is a break from intensity and speed, it still keeps my mileage up. I also like that I only run 3 days a week so I can shuffle the runs around depending on my XT. (I was due for a 5 mile tempo Wednesday but wasn’t feeling it, so I’m moving it to Thursday!)
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Summer Means…My Profile

  8. Courtney @RunningforCupcakes

    Your training plan is definitely different than most but I like it! It seems like the cut back weeks would be helpful because they would allow your body more time to recover and come back strong for your long runs, but at the same time they keep your stamina and energy up!
    Courtney @RunningforCupcakes recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: Sweet Treats and New Deets!My Profile

  9. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    I have read a lot of blogs where people are training for marathons and everyone does seem to have a different training plan. I think that goes to show that you just have to find what works for you.
    Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy recently posted…Healthy Chocolate Orange Brownie SquaresMy Profile

  10. Amy

    I’ve seen plans similar to yours and I think they are a great idea! Not only are you getting used to doing 13 miles on a regular basis, but you are picking up speed and stamina in the process. I would have a problem with this because I live on a hill and most of my long runs end coming uphill. Even if I pushed it, I would probably still be the same pace, but a stronger effort.
    Amy recently posted…Weekend Adventures in the MountainsMy Profile

  11. Hanna

    I like your fast-finish strategy. I have actually seen people advocate for this sometimes. The traditional running philosophy that all long runs should be super-slow and all you should care about is getting the miles in. I used to abide by this 100%, but now that I’m building more mileage I’ve started to break away from it when I can. Obviously when I’m hitting a high distance that I’ve never done before, like 16 last weekend and 18 this weekend (!), I’ll take it easy and just get through it. But if I’m doing a shorter long run, like “only” 10 miles (isn’t it great how we can say that now??), with a manageable distance that I’ve already done before, I will challenge myself to pick up the pace and see if I can do it a bit faster. I’ve found that this breaks up the monotony of long runs by making them more fun and exciting sometimes. There’s nothing like the feeling of being able to do a 10 mile run at what was once a “tempo” pace!

    I’ve come to realize that marathon training plans are like snowflakes: no two are the same. There are a lot of different ways to train, and while many plans follow somewhat similar patterns, I see so many variations. This makes sense, because runners are so different, so we need a variety of training plans that fit what works best for us as individuals. I used to feel weird because my training plan is only 16 weeks and everyone else’s is like 18-20. I wondered if I was doing something wrong! But I got over it when I realized that my plan works for me and that’s all that matters.
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  12. Kim

    I love the idea of having fast miles at the end of a long run – I think that is the best way to push yourself. I’ve seen way to many runners get in the habit of only running long and slow and they don’t even realize how much more they are capable of!!!
    Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  13. Jennifer

    I like your training plan – it is important to go into the marathon feeling confident! Thanks for sharing Nicole’s blog. PS – You are not slow 🙂
    Jennifer recently posted…Friday Five: Maryland Bucket List RacesMy Profile

  14. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    I used the Hal Higdon plan for my first 3 or so marathons. After that, I just did whatever I felt like because I always had a base of about 15-18 miles. So it never made sense to start from the beginning of a plan. One thing I do for EVERY marathon- the last weekends of long runs look like this: 20, 12, 8, race. That’s how I have always done it and it works for me!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Signs it’s summertime….My Profile

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