An Unconventional Marathon Training Plan

With the 18 miler done, I feel more confident that the Houston marathon is doable.  I am waiting to hear back from the National MS Foundation, but I should be able to run it with them again as a fundraiser.

In the meantime, marathon training feels real now.  As I mentioned before, I don’t have time to increase both speed work and mileage, so I’m trying to balance the two with extra cross training.  It will be an unusual training plan, but I’m experimenting with a mix of harder and easier days, cross training days, and am spreading out my long runs to allow for full recovery.

My plan is a combination of many plans, and my own schedule, spin classes and determination to stay injury free.

Here’s what the last two weeks looked like:

And here’s how I mapped out the remaining 7 weeks.  Eek! That’s not very long! Two of my long runs fall over holidays when we’ll be in PA, one the Monday after Thanksgiving and one the Saturday before Christmas, but having extra family to watch L and allow me to nap and recover might work out pretty well.

I’ve been re-reading Advanced Marathoning, and found the following words appropriate and timely:

The primary reason to cross-train is to provide additional cardiovascular fitness without increasing the repetitive wear and tear associated with running.  If you’re careful about increases in mileage and intensity, the surfaces you run on, and the like, and you still can’t consistently reach the level of weekly mileage you’d like, then you should incorporate cross-training into your training program year round.

No form of cross-training is a perfect substitute for running because our bodies adapt very specifically to training…. Use cross-training in place of recovery runs, and if necessary, in place of your general aerobic conditioning.

As much as I’d like to be running higher mileage for marathon training, I am determined to train conservatively and remain injury-free. At this stage, cross-training is necessary for general aerobic conditioning. This may translate to a sacrifice in speed, but I’m okay with that.

I’m going to do my best to relax and have fun with it.


So there’s the plan! I’m taking it easy this week before the 5k (which I know I’ll race whether I plan to or not), and pushed my 20 miler back to Monday to be extra cautious. I’m really excited to make this official.  So excited, that I’m calling it the Marvelous in my Monday and linking up with Katie!

Does cross-training play a role in your training year round, or only if you’re injured? 

80 thoughts on “An Unconventional Marathon Training Plan

  1. Go for it girl! You’ve got a great base and with cross training you’ll do awesome. Cross training tends to go away the higher my mileage is but I’m planning on sticking to it more consistently when I start training for another marathon. It’s vital!

    Side note – I actually know 3 people who trained for marathons without running more than 12 miles. The majority if their training was done on an elliptical. All three finished in under 4 hrs. Weird, huh?

  2. I was just emailing my coach yesterday about my lack of miles. I am only running 4 days a week, but every run is quality. (Looks pretty similar to what you are running) On my other 2 days I am cross training and I love reading this post telling me that it can kind of be compared to recovery runs which is what I am so used to filling my schedule with. We will soon see if this schedule works for me, though I would feel much more comfortable if I could get some LONG runs in. :)
    Robin recently posted..Mommy BribesMy Profile

    • That’s so interesting! I’ll be curious to see how your training unfolds. My lower mileage is more a necessity than a choice right now… like you, I still assume that higher miles would be better. But I’m not sure that higher miles are better for me personally. For the long term, I am more interested in sticking to the half distance, but I want to get in a few more fulls…
      Laura recently posted..An Unconventional Marathon Training PlanMy Profile

  3. Yay Laura! I’m glad you chose to do the marathon and I think ou’re taking a wise approach. YEs, I’m an avid crosstrainer and it does wonders. I think I told you I’m a very low mileage girl. Could I be faster if I ran more? Probably, but I’d probably also be injured. All the best with your training. You’re going to be great!
    Marcia recently posted..Let’s Talk Fitness FashionMy Profile

  4. The different surfaces really strikes a chord with me, I am on either the treadmill or concrete and it makes me nervous. But I’m tied to the YMCA and have no other option at this point :( I have a nice park near me but I’d risk a twisted ankle or….and eaten by coyotes(!) if I ventured in there early doors in the dark – I’ll give both a miss 😉
    We have tarmac…..emmmm what do you call it…..asphalt in Scotland and it’s a much kinder surface I think. I stick to a heavy shoe with as much cushion as I can in favour of a lighter ‘go faster’ type, I think it helps protect me a bit but I’d love some trails to put the miles in on :(
    Good luck, I do zero cross training, even my core work has fallen by the way side which I need to retify. If I could just add 60 mins to every day 😉
    I’m not running Rungirl now but will be there to cheer you on!

  5. Im SO not a runner but it sounds like you’ve got a great plan here! Crosstraining really is a key to anything if you ask me. Im a soccer player, so sprints and ball drills make up themost of my training, but I love lifting weights and getting stronger as well! It helps me when I go up against taller girls on th field :)
    Kat recently posted..Prepping for the holidays.My Profile

  6. I’ve been bad about cross training while in the middle of training cycles, but now that I don’t have any races on the schedule, I am getting into other workouts and seeing the benefits.

    Honestly, a marathon is hard enough without overthinking every bit of your training. I think injury free for you is most important and you need to trust that you are making the right decisions. You can do it!! recently posted..Thanksgiving Menu PlanningMy Profile

  7. I love your plan. I try to cross train at least 1x week, when I’m in training mode for a race. More cross training when I’m not. I am planning my first full marathon in 2013 and the plan I’m considering involves shorter runs during the week and cross training. I will have several half marathons under my belt so I will take it one week at a time to see if it’s working for me.
    Best of luck!
    Sarah recently posted..Sweat Pink Ambassador!My Profile

  8. Ughhh! Your post is just a reminder that I need to start cross training again. At the time in my life when I felt that I was in the best shape (and ran my marathon PR), I was cross training like crazy! Elliptical and bike were often on the backside of my runs…definitely think it helps!!
    Good luck with your training! Your plan looks great!!
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..First Step is BelievingMy Profile

  9. Oh my goodness, your daughter is too, too cute!
    Looks like a smart plan to me! I may be referencing this here training plan a bit :). This is how I am hoping to train for my marathons next year. Not quite as much actual running as I have done in the past and incorporating a lot more cross-training. Here’s to no injuries in 2013!
    Jerilee recently posted..First cold run of the season…My Profile

  10. That looks like a fantastic plan to me–you can do a lot in eight weeks! I’m just sorry I won’t be there to see you smoke it.

    I’m looking forward to mixing some spin classes back in once CIM is over. But I’ve been lucky this cycle to be able to just run (with weights and Pilates mixed in, too). Ideally, I’d love to have an off-season that mixes running and cross-training, and then primarily run for race ramp-ups.

    I did my virtual race post on Saturday for your Red Cross event. :^)
    Terzah recently posted..A Virtual Race and a Long RunMy Profile

  11. I was cross training before hiring a running coach. Now that I have the coach I am running more but doing the core runs. I’ve noticed an increase in my pace for this longer distances since following his plan and not cross training, which is my goal!
    I think it is SO hard to get the right plan and once you DO find what works for YOU you just have to trust it and go with it. Good luck! It seems you’re on the right track and doing great.

    Love love love that little picture!
    Kimert recently posted..Ragnar Relay TN (recap)My Profile

  12. Laura – I really like your quality plan – jammed back with good cardio. Please let me know how the Turkey trot and the 20 miler go! I am very excited about the Houston marathon. BTW – on my way home after the run yesterday, I saw you finishing the run. You looked focus and strong. I don’t think you have anything to worry about as far as marathon training is concerned!

    Funny, I went on my outlook calendar this morning and started mapping out my long runs vs. cutback week. I think it will be interesting to be running on snowy group this weekend.

    For cross training, I normally do pilates and very easy indoor cycling.

  13. Since starting crossfit, crosstraining has become a year round thing, and this marathon cycle has been very umm, interesting for me. I decided to not make a plan and just make sure to get three 20 milers in, and averaged around 35 miles a week. It’s so intimidating to see faster folks “easily” doing 40+ but so far I’ve remained uninjured, still have speed, and my 22miler went really well considering my goal for this marathon. For me it’s all about managing expectations and staying healthy! I think your plan looks great!
    MegG recently posted..10 Situations where you’ll need a ShowerPillMy Profile

  14. Love it! You are going to do great with this plan! It’s totally you and flexible enough that if you need to move things around you can do that! I find it much easier to get workouts in over the holidays because of the extra help I have around. Looking strong!
    Kelly recently posted..Fitness RecapMy Profile

  15. You know, everyone handles the mileage differently. I think you have enough experience now to know how your body will handle the full marathon with the training plan you have put together. I personally tend to err on the side of caution. I see far too many runners injure themselves right before a big race because they pushed things more than at a safe rate compared to people running a full marathon with having been more conservative. Also, I tend to think, if you can run 18 miles without too much drama, the full marathon is already in your grasp :) Looking forward to reading your updates on this one and good luck!
    Christina recently posted..Weekend update: first Newton Gravity run and a GNC winMy Profile

  16. The plan looks great! I think that for some of us, high mileage is not productive. This year I’ve become a huge advocate of the Don’t Run, Run Faster plan 😉 I do a lot on the elliptical and find my fitness to be at a higher level because I am not HURTING as much!!!!! Good luck to you! I think you are totally on a great path :)
    XLMIC recently posted..Jingle Bell Hell 2012 is COMING!My Profile

  17. I’m training with Run Less Run Faster right now and have been doing more cross training than ever, and I’m running faster than I was before. So the cross-training works! Good luck with your plan!

    Also, you won the Endorphin Warrior giveaway on my blog! Check out their site and let me know the word and size you want, plus your shipping info.
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  18. So clearly it’s late because I looked at your first two weeks and I thought that on Sunday you did a 9 mile run + 1 hour spin and then I was going to get upset with you because that’s not conservative at all!! Then I realized I read it wrong :-)

    I’m really excited for you Laura and I think that you’re being super smart in being conservative and cross training. You do have a great base and your plan looks great. No doubt it will be easy peasy!
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Thanksgiving Day Workout {Guest Post}My Profile

  19. Cross-training is under-estimated by so many runners. When you need it, you need it, and you know all too well how to listen to your body – and lifestyle!

    I managed most of my training with the elliptical. Ridiculous but effective.Good luck! I’m looking forward to seeing how you go.
    Kate recently posted..I SuckedMy Profile

    • That sounds smart, Tina. I ran my first marathon on four days/week and stayed injury free… I think I never allowed enough recovery afterwards, and then battled injury off and on since. So I’m definitely sticking to the cross training again, and plan to take a longer recovery period.
      Have a great Thanksgiving!
      Laura recently posted..Happy Thanksgiving + Nature Box GiveawayMy Profile

  20. Yay! Excited that you are going for it! I think you will do great! Having a plan set helps make the whole thing seem less daunting. Plus you still have all the things you love incorporated! Looking forward to Thursday!
    Corey recently posted..Lululemon Run ClubMy Profile

  21. Love this! It is sooo hard to fit the training we want and is “ideal” into life. There are so many ways to go about training for a marathon and choosing the one that realistically fits in with our life will be more successful than choosing the optimum one. I love running but I have learnt that it can’t dictate EVERY minute of my life. Go the x-training. It is great. You’ve got an amazing running base I wouldn’t be worried in the slightest!!!! Good Luck :=)
    Jenelle @ MummyLovesToRun recently posted..I just got the hang of that!My Profile

  22. It looks like you have a great plan mapped out to take you to 26.2 in Houston. I’m currently perusing plans since I start marathon training in late December/early January. Right now I don’t have a gym membership, so my main form of cross-training is yoga. I really like my studio, but I do sometimes miss lifting weights and using the stair climber.
    Raquelita recently posted..A Thankful InterludeMy Profile

  23. Your plan looks really good. It’s really not that low mileage. since your mid week runs are pretty decent distances. I ran my best times when I was hitting a mid week 10-12 miler. Now I really struggle to get that kind of mileage in before I need to go to work, and I am not willing to start earlier than I already do. I look forward to hearing how your training goes.

  24. You go girl!! You sound like you are very grounded and I encourage you to stay the course you are on. It is sane, you obviously understand the importance of balancing family with goals like this, and some form of fitness that you are passionate about is the closest thing we will ever get to the fountain of youth. You are a great role model. Happy Trails.

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