Starting training for VLM 2013

Having applied for the VLM for the last few years, I finally got in for 2013.  I've never run a marathon (or any competitive race to be honest) and having started to build up the miles over the past month I'm after a bit of advice on what time to aim for and a proper training plan to follow.

I'm 27, male, and up until October I would only run once or twice a month, often about 5-7 miles or so each at about an 8 min/mile pace (sometimes slower), though did try the odd longer run up to 13 miles (never tried further).  Over the last month I've built up to doing 3-4 runs a week, say 2 x 5 miles at around 7:30-7:45 pace, 1 x 4 miles of intervals (1/2 mile fast, 1/4 mile slow, repeat etc), and 1 x 10-12 miles long run.  I tried a half marathon in my training after a few weeks or so and did it in 1:44.

I had been thinking of aiming at sub-3:30 in April (average 8 minute mile).  However, the RW Garmin plans for that start off easier than what I'm doing at the moment.  Also these are 16 weeks, so technically wouldn't start until late Dec/Jan.  Does sub-3:15 sound like a push?  I feel like I've improved over just the first few weeks of training, but just not sure what sort of improvement I should expect over the next 6 months (particularly when any distance over 13 miles is such an unknown for me)?  Would appreciate any advice/training tips!



  • Hi VLM

    Congrats on getting into VLM2013. It's very easy at this stage when new to marathon running to start thinking about times and the nitty gritty but my advise would be concentrate for now on building that base mileage - forget about the marathon itself for now. Your plan looks quite good at about 25 miles per week - you could add some strength training in like some hill work. Now is all about getting a good strong base for when training starts in late Dec/early Jan. I wouldn't worry that you havent ran over 13 miles at this stage and don't be tempted to up that long run mileage either at this point - 12 miles is about right IMO.

    What might be a good idea is get along to a Parkrun at the start of marathon training and see where you are fitness wise then and plan your marathon training around the time you achieve, especially as you are getting good gains quite quickly at the moment. Then pick a marathon plan - there are plenty of marathon plans out there depending on how much time you have available to train or your prefered method (HR, pace zones etc).

    its very easy to get carried away and start thinking of the end goal but there's a long way to go yet so just focus on what you need to concentrate on for now which is base building.


  • I started running this year, and it took me a while to understand and actually run at slower paces than I was expecting in training. I can understand where you are coming from - you want to work to a particular target and shape your training around this.

    At the moment it is the time for base building - slowly clocking up the miles, and by December / January you should be running close to the base mileage expected of the plan you go with, and capable or running the longest session that you have in the first week or two of the plan.

    If you really want a target time now, then I don't put much faith in 5k times. You have a 1:44 Half with little training. This would suggest a a marathon time in the 3:40 region with training for the marathon. But, I would expect you to improve on this  half marathon time with consistent training. Maybe start off with 3:30 so that you have some training paces. For my first marathon I started off training at sub 3:30.  Following a couple of half marathons and good progress in training, I changed to sub 3:15 which was achieved comfortably. As an alternative, training to Heart Rate removes any pacing questions - you run to set heart rate zones for different types of run. Personally I prefer pacing.

    Like me you are a relatively new runner and will probably be weak on endurance. Most Marathon plans will have plenty of sessions that are long and slow. For now as has been suggested, it is all about base building. Its a long way to VLM - slow and steady, and the odd tempo run will put you in good stead.

  • I would think twice about trying to get a good time in your first marathon, esp London.

    The start of London is hellishly crowded and remains that way for quite a few miles. Often 'runners' find themselves walking and I have heard standing still. Even with a predicted 3:30 finish time you'll find yourself quite a long way back. I don't know why this is, are too many people over optimistic about their finish times or do they lie or what?

    Use this marathon to see what you can do, then find a quieter one to push for a good time. You've got youth on your side still so don't try and do too much too soon.

    When you've run one marathon you'll have a good base and the endurance to run another. You'll be better placed to get sub 3:30 and aiming for 3:15. It'll be something to inspire you to continue running because if your anything like any of the first time marathoners I know, you'll be buzzing for ages afterward.

    My other feeling is that you don't really want to be putting that much pressure on yourself. It's hard enough just getting the long runs in.

  • hi, i will be running london marathon for the first time, really looking forward to it. never done a marathon before, the furthest being a half, the great scottish run in 1.54.18 which i was delighted with. my aim is simply to complete it and enjoy it and raise as much money for my charity as possible(breast cancer care). my time is very much secondary.

    not been doing much running recently, 4-5 miles twice a week but will be looking to increase this in the next week or two probably just by doing 10% extra each week, did this when upping the training for the half and it worked well for me.

    good luck to everyone with their training, hope you stay injury free.

  • If like me you are a veteran runner, my advice would be not to buy too much into marathon training plans which seem obsessed with running 5 times a week and gives very little kudos to the importance of core strength, leg strength and flexibility. I am currently under the wing of a UKSCA accredited Strength & Conditioning coach who has cut my mileage right down and concentrated on my strength etc. I'm 6 weeks into a16 wk plan and when I do run I've found the results, for such an early stage in my training very encouraging. Im only running 15-20 miles per wk currently. My test results for lung capacity and VO2 max in my initial assessment were very gd for age so my coach suggested my running would not improve just by running. Mileage will increase as we move towards VLM but as the cliche goes......less is more
  • That's a very interesting approach.

    So you have 10 weeks left on your plan ? What do you do then before the VLM ?

    It will be good to follow your progress - do you have a half marathon planned as part of your training to see how you're going.

    I don't understand his theory that you have a good starting position so running won't improve you. Would he advise this for Mo Farah ? And whilst he knows his stuff - what does he know about running marathons ?
  • Cougie - the gym work will be all but done 6 wks before VLM, allowing final push on mileage and crucial tapering period. I have 2 races built into the plan, 1 a 10 miler on Feb 10th, 2 a half marathon on Mar 3rd. These races are purely for training purposes and not for pb's.

    What I meant by having a good starting position was that my VO2 max and lung capacity tests gave highest possible readings for my age (and for ages younger) therefore to improve my times I need to look beyond aerobic work hence strength work in gym. I've also good mileage in the bank throughout 2012. Interestingly Feb 13 RW articles on pages 90&93 involve some of what I'm doing. I'm not neglecting my endurance runs at w/ends and these have been going very well so far. In fact I'd suggest that cutting back my mileage in midweek has enabled me to perform better on my longer runs.

    Funny you should mention Farah. His coach was quoted after his successes as saying 'it wasn't the 100's of miles per week that set him apart from the field, but the 7 hrs a fortnight he spent in the gym'. Bob
  • But Mo did run those 100s of miles....

  • Bob _ I'm a vet (V60) and would be interested in your actual mileage much more (from 10-20 mpw) do you think you will add through Feb & March?

    Last year I ran VLM on about 45 mpw and got round in 3:32:xx which I have subsequently improved upon, so if you have a target time I'd love to know what it is so that I can maybe adjust what I am doing this time might save me a lot of unneccesary shoe leather!

  • Mike - with your impressive marathon times I'm not sure I'm gonna be any help at all. I was only aiming for sub 4hr last year and I hit the majority of training run targets. I ran 3/4 times per wk, basically hill, interval, LR and easy run (recovery). I was confident I'd be there or there abouts but I found myself at the docs with chest infection just 3 days before race and was advised to miss it. I did go through with it and was just glad to finish in one piece but understandably took an extra hour than intended. For what it's worth my mileage in the run up to last year was Jan 75 miles inc 3 Long Runs 10/12/13 miles; Feb 89 m 3 LR's 14:16/19; March 91 m 3 LR's 13 (half mara race at training pace in 1:46) /18/22 Apr 2 LR's of 15/10 on way to taper. This year the long runs remain in place but the extent of hill work and speed work will be less having been replaced by strength and conditioning work in gym. So apart from my long runs I'll be doing shorter, sharper more specific mid week runs which I guess may lead to slightly less mileage overall. But my coach has emphasised the need for endurance runs to remain in place. I've just got back from 10 miler, jogging at 9 mim miles and felt plenty in the tank and held back avoiding temptation to increase pace - Aprils a long way off. Its early days but having cut my weekly mileage over the past month I actually feel fresher when I do run any distance beyond 5/6 miles. Envy your 3:22 any top tips welcome (I'm already into Beetroot juice, ha!!!!) bob
  • hi everyone,

    can i join in on this thread, i'm now upto 10 miles at a struggle due to an injury before xmas, my times are very slow and plodding around 10 to 11 min miles which is very slow for me, and the panic has all of sudden kicked in, 15 weeks to go 


  • Bob-as a fellow vet (v60) am also doing doing strength and conditioning at gym, but finding it hard to fit everything in. How do you fit gym sessions and runs into a week? Do you do a run and gym session on same day?
  • Annie Sophie - I don't do gym work and run on same day. My current weeks prog (14/1 - 21/1) is Mon 4 mile tempo; tues 1hr S&C mainly leg work; weds rest or maybe gym x/t on exercise bike and stretches; thurs 5 mile (inc 3 mile speed work); fri gym work mainly upper body, core and stretches; sat rest; Sunday 10mile long run.

    Smartcoach planner on RW has given me a 3 day per week running prog which I'm 'sort of' following alongside my S&C coach plan.

    Can't emphasise enough at our age (!) to keep working on core, stretches and flexibility esp hip flexors.
  • Thanks for the weekly plan Bob, am also finding S&C really helpful, hoping to get to start line injury free! Out of interest, did your mon tempo follow a LSD? Think I'd find that tough going!
  • No anniesophie, I generally try to avoid running on 2 successive days and i also look to take a rest day after a S&C session. Having said that I did an S&C session yesterday and did a 4 mile tempo run today, but purely because I felt really good in mind and body and it worked out ok. Listen to your body, don't push it. It's always best policy to take a days rest rather than overdo it and find the niggles start to mount up leading to enforced lay off. The day after a long run, say 8 miles+ , I may do a light session on the exercise bike at the gym alongside the cross trainer. I have also bought into the foam roller 'therapy' and lots and lots of stretching.
  • Thanks Bob, some useful advice, will try not to overdo it!
  • Yet another interesting and different approach to marathon training. Please keep up the posting as I am interested in hearing the full journey. From my own case, cardio wise I have felt easy throughout marathons, and any fade was really down to muscular fatigue and niggles occurring towards the end. I looked at different plans but am currently making it up as I go along with a good mix of running, rowing, and a bit of conditioning type work as I approach VLM. My main aim is to get to VLM uninjured, and that has included running a bit less, and doing a bit more of the other. Its not exactly textbook, but I wanted to try something different this time
  • Also-ran, we are singing from a similar hymn sheet I feel. This 'new' way of preparing for a marathon took a little bit of buying into. However it helped when I had my initial assessment from my coach and the tests showed my VO2 max and lung capacity reading were both at the top of the scale not only for my age but even above average for those expected from20-29 males (will try to find out the exact test as there are a number of them). So knowing that, like yourself, I don't have a problem with cardio. It's very reassuring as I go about my plan and increases my confidence when it comes to hopefully avoiding niggles. If anything, I'm finding myself having to hold back a little in the pacing of my long runs. So far so good. All the best in your training.
  • Completed last LR yesterday, 22 miles. Tiring, of course, but the way I feel today totally vindicates my approach to my training which has been to concentrate on more S&C work in the gym, less midweek miles but keeping up the endurance work. Really feel I could do another long run today! Spending today resting and stretching with the plan for a short recovery run with Tues or Weds. Sometimes I think we can get caught up in the mindset that the only way to improve our running is by more running. So many generic training plans talk about 4/5 runs a week. We are all different and having only taking up running 5 yrs ago at 53 I have always been aware that I need to train my whole body to cope with the rigours not just my legs. So far so good, 3 wks to go. I'm sure some of my doubters on this thread are feeling as positive as me with their given plan too, each to their own! Good luck all.
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