What I did right this marathon training cycle

I don’t know if you ever stop learning about yourself when training for a marathon.  I’ve experimented with many different training theories over the years and some of the most popular programs leave me feeling over trained or injured. Different things work for different people, and at different times in your training journey.

I couldn’t have trained the way I trained this time and had good results for my first marathon! This cycle was relatively short, but more intense than previous cycles. (Race recap here if you missed it!)

Training changes I made

Running your first marathon is very different from running your sixth, and I knew I could push myself a little harder this time. I started with a similar plan from last year’s pr but then linked up with some local runners doing Daniel’s plan and did those workouts for the last 6 weeks or so.

The big differences from my previous training logs:

  1. Long runs with race pace miles- Many coaches (McMillian, Daniels) recommend these workouts and caution not to do too many in a cycle as they are really tough and can require a longer recovery.  You can build to 8-12 miles at race pace. Last year, I think the longest I did was 4.  This year I ran a lot of workouts in my long runs with up to 10 at marathon pace. It’s tough after a week of training and an hour or two into a long run but it paid off!
  2. More focused strength training- I like strength training and am pretty good at keeping it in the mix.  In the past it would fall on my non-running days.  This cycle, I made it a second workout on a hard running day to keep hard days hard and easy days truly easy.
  3. More easy days-   Keeping those easy days really easy makes it possible to run higher overall mileage and hit the paces when you need to.  I only worked hard on Wednesdays and Saturdays and that worked well for me.
  4. Pool running! I kept 1-2 days in the pool and only 4 days running (sometimes 5).  This lower impact “run” really seemed to help me avoid injury!
  5. Shorter cycle: Marathon cycles are often up to 20 weeks.  For a first time marathoner, you need that much time to safely build to 20 milers.  But I think the shorter cycle benefited me as I never hit the point of fatigue and (near) burn out that I do most training cycles.

For beginner marathoners, the most important thing is to build a strong aerobic engine (easy runs and building distance). Long run workouts can be added in after completing at least one marathon.

I shared more about pool running here.

Recovery/Prevention Improvements

Although not directly training related, there were several factors that I know improved my overall fitness and prevented injury this training cycle.

  1. Power and core work- I incorporated a lot of strength training early on that I believe contributed to overall power (strength plus speed) on race day.  This included upper body, lower body and core with heavier weights or kettle bells (and very little in the final 3 weeks).  This article shows strength matters!
  2. Smart supplementing- You all know I’m picky about supplements.  I use a pharmeceutical grade multi to ensure all the core nutrition is covered- no risk of anemia or other nutrient deficiencies. I added in a grass fed whey with leucine and beta-alanine…both crucial amino acids for endurance athletes.  These will be options to try in the next runner’s nutrition program coming in January.  Both kept me healthy and strong!
  3. Recovery supplement- This was also key! Tart cherry juice to bounce back after a hard workout + natural sleep booster which I need when I have a thousand things on my mind.
  4. Foam rolling, the Stick and compression socks

Have you found the training that works best for you, or are you often trying new things?

Has your training approach changed from your first race to now?


I’m linking up with  SuzRachelLora, and Debbie for Running Coaches Corner, and NicoleAnnmarieMichelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday



13 thoughts on “What I did right this marathon training cycle

  1. I did all of these training practices last marathon training cycle except pool running because I don’t have access to a pool. But, everything else makes a huge difference! Smart training. And I loooove tart cherry juice. Discovered it a few years ago from CheriBundi. You’re one fast momma!
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  3. That is all good stuff! The big thing the first time I trained for the marathon is I had doubt all along if I could actually do it…once I accomplished it I realized I could do a bit less and go with quality versus quantity and probably feel better 🙂

  4. I’m doing a training cycle with the Nike+ app right now. There was a workout of 7x1200m with a 30 second rest period. I actually really enjoyed that workout and think I’ll do it more often. My race is in 2 weeks now, and it’s the first one I’ve trained for in a while. I definitely haven’t figured out the perfect mix. lol
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