What plan shoud I follow for my next marathon?

I've just completed the Paris marathon in 4 h 52 mins. It was slower than I expected (I have done a 3 h 20 min 20 miler so was hoping to come in under 4.30). I didn't follow a specific training plan, just ran around 30 miles a week and increased my long run to 20 miles (I did 3 long runs of 20 miles over 6 weeks at peak training). I have now signed up for the Loch Ness marathon in 24 weeks, and would like to follow a program but there are so many out there I'm getting confused. Any recommendations? Also, what should I do running wise in the weeks before a program starts? Thank you very much for your help!


  • Sounds to me like you raced that 20 miler ? And probably tired yourself out before the marathon ? An extra 10k should be 90 mins.

    Slow down the long runs. Most runs should be easy.

    Do a few shorter marathon pace runs.

    Do 1 speed or interval run a week.

    Or there's a cracking thread on how to do a marathon off a months training if you feel you need the rest.image
  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    Well done on completing Paris!

    I used a training schedule from this web site for my first marathon, and it prepared me well.

    You made the classic mistake in running your long runs too fast and then paying for them in the marathon.  I can recommend the book "Advanced Marathoning" by Pfitzinger & Douglas as the best explanation of the purpose of various marathon training sessions and the speed that they should be run.  This book also includes some training schedules, but these are probably a step too far from your current level.  However, don't let this put you off as the book is full of useful marathon training tips for all levels.

    If you pick a schedule, it should tell you what level of fitness it expects at the start of the schedule, but if not you should look at the first week of the schedule and make sure that you can comfortably complete this (the first couple of weeks of any schedule should be relatively easy before ramping up).

    Typical marathon training schedules are 16 weeks long, which gives you 8 weeks prior to the schedule.  I'd take the next couple of weeks very easy to recover from your marathon and then spend the remaining weeks prior to the schedule running at an easy pace to help build endurance (have a look at HADD training for more info).

    Another tip is to start the marathon training schedule a week early.  Over an 18-week period you are likely to pick up a minor injury/illness or have a holiday that makes it difficult to complete your scheduled runs.  By starting the plan a week early, you can take a week off without the stress of worrying about missed sessions etc.  If you don't need the buffer week, you just repeat one of your training weeks prior to the taper.

  • Fantastic replies, thank you. Much appreciated. Have ordered the book you recommend off amazon (even if I do feel a bit of a swizz buying an advanced marathoner book!)

    One thing that worries me, if you don't run your long runs at marathon pace as practise, how can you manage to do it on the day? I assumed that if I wanted to do 10 min miles on the day, then that's what I should be doing for my long runs...why doesn't this work?

    Thank you!
  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    The short answer is 'because you'll be knackered afterwards'. The longer answer should be in the book... 

  • Another recommendation here for P&D. I used the 12 week plan for Paris this year and knocked 9 minutes off my PB (set 6 months ago). What was new for me was the speed sessions - the intervals were much longer and faster than I was used to, and I won't pretend it was a barrel of laughs doing them, but they do get results.

    The book will explain, but basically long runs are to train your body to burn fat, not to replicate race pace.
  • yer majyer maj ✭✭✭

    +1 for P&D - I just used their 18 week up to 55 miles a week programme and finished Paris 44 mins faster than last year. It's a demanding programme but the mid week medium long runs really helped my endurance as I didn't fade at the end this year.

    Even if you don't use a P&D training programme the book is well worth a read - I keep coming back to it and will be using it for my sub 4 assault next time image 

  • Book arrived today, I've already started making notes and calculating my heart rate zones - they are a lot lower than what I've been training at for recovery and long, so that'll be interesting...! Also, I didn't think I hit the wall. But I did slow down significantly at around mile 22...was that hitting the wall, just not dramatically?
  • Yer-maj, so would you recommend trying to follow the 55 mile schedule? Even though im a relative newbie? I've been doing around 30 miles a week for the last six weeks, so could keep that up for another six weeks or so before building up for my next marathon...
  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    I think you should have a proper look at the 55 mile schedule and try to imagine fitting it into your weekly routine, as it's a massive time commitment if you're not used to it. If you think you will have time even when slowing down some of your training paces, you should try and build up gradually so your weekly mileage is comfortably in line with the start of the programme, as stutyr suggests.

    When you say you've been doing 30 miles a week with long runs of 20 miles, are the long runs included in the 30 miles? i.e. you were only doing 10 miles of other runs? If so, you might struggle to essentially build up to spending twice as long running per week.

    Having said all that, I've been following a P&D schedule for my first marathon and have found it really good (though have yet to prove it 'works').

  • Thank you for your advice. It depends on the week, I did a long run of twenty every second week, but kept the mileage at 30 miles-ish, so some weeks I did a long run of 12 and 18 or more miles during the week. To be honest, i think ill save that plan for my third marathon - training over the summer is harder for me as im a single mum and the kids will be home for six weeks - i'll end up doing at least 2 runs a week on the treadmill, then a long run and another run outside.

    So I'm looking for a 4-5 times a week schedule but that peaks at around 40-45 mpw.I wonder of I could adjust the p&d schedule...
  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    well, when you've read the stuff about why you do each kind of run, it should be much easier to compare all the schedules that are available and see what they've got in common, which will help you choose one. Some people on the P&D thread who've been short of time have been just making sure they get the key sessions in and missing out some of the recovery runs.

  • Holey, 

    I would take the calculated max heart rate formula with a huge piece of salt.  To get a realistic method your need to measure your max heart rate when stressed, there are several threads on here that will tell you how to do it.


    Oh and do the P & D plan....

  • Noted... Thank you, you've all been a great help image amazing to be able to get help from experienced runners.

    one more piece of advice, which thread is a good one to join to post about progress? There's so many... I very much enjoyed lurking on the Paris marathon thread, but that's finished and there doesn't seem to be a Loch Ness marathon one.
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