Tuesday, February 25, 2020


My marathon training

I'm nearly 40 years old. Before signing up for a marathon, I never ran. I hated running. For exercise I would do other things (strength train, BJJ) so I wasn't a complete slob. But I essentially went from zero running to running a marathon. And here's how I did it...

Disclaimer: I’m not an expert by any means. I’m barely a runner. But I sought advice from experienced runners (books, blogs, friends, YouTube) and tried to put it all together in a concise manner.

6-12 months from the marathon:
Build your aerobic base
Start running. If you’re like me and haven’t ran in years, do the run/walk method. I started with a 3:1 run/walk, which meant I ran (jogged) for 90 secs and walked for 30 secs and did this for my entire run. If that’s too difficult, change your run/walk ratios. Drop down to 2:1 or 1:1. No shame. Just get out there and move. Start building up your mileage.

Pace = EASY
Don’t run too fast. Your pace should be easy. But what’s easy?
You should be able to hold a conversion at the pace you’re running at. It’s subjective and specific to you. Someone else’s easy pace might be way too fast for you. Run at your pace, which is dictated by your current fitness level. Don’t have an ego!

MAF HR = 180 - age
Or take the guesswork out of it and monitor your heart rate. I suggest getting a chest heart rate monitor. (Optical wrist heart rate monitor is not as accurate.) Run at your maximum aerobic function (MAF) heart rate (HR), defined as 180 - age. For example, a 40 year-old person would run at or below a HR of 140. Consider getting a GPS watch with a HR alert.

Many people have an ego and say “Oh, I can run much faster than this.” But it’s not the proper way to build your aerobic base. For endurance training, you don’t want to go to your lactic threshold level (not yet) or anaerobic system. You risk burnout, fatigue, and injuries.

Train to be able to train the next day.
Your goal when training is to be able to train the following day. When you finish a run, you should feel good enough to be able to run more if you wanted to. “No pain, no gain” is no bueno. You shouldn’t feel sore or overly exhausted the next day.

Consistency is the key.
Put in the time and mileage. But you can't do that if you're injured or over trained.

Rest/recovery is essential.
If you're sick, don't train. Feel a slight pain or potential injury creeping up, don't train. Overly stressed or just not feeling it, don't train. It's okay to take a day off (or two) to rest and recover. Listen to your body. Now is not the time to "power through".

Learn proper running technique.
It's not as simple as you'd think. There's actual proper running technique that will make you more efficient and prevent any injures. Running is essentially controlled falling. If it hurts to run, you might be doing it wrong. There are tons of videos on the internet but here are some that I like.

Cadence = 180 steps/min

Invest in proper running gear (highly recommended)
  • Running shoes
    • Actual good pair of running shoes (not the ones that look like them, i.e. running-style shoes)
    • Keep track of the mileage and replace after 300-500 miles
    • My gear: Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit
  • GPS watch
    • Because running with a phone to track your runs is too bulky and clunky
    • To be able to monitor HR (see below)
    • My gear: Garmin Fenix 5X
  • Chest strap HR monitor
    • To monitor your HR so that you don't go to fast
    • My gear: Garmin HRM

Consider other running essentials
  • Quality running apparel (shirts, tanks, shorts, socks, etc.)
    • Don't be that person running in a cotton shirt or baggy basketball shorts
  • Gels

3-4 months before the marathon:
Pick a marathon plan
There are plenty of marathon plans on the internet. Pick one and stick with it. But train at an easy pace (MAF HR) and listen to your body. I'd suggest using one of Hal Higdon's marathon training plans. Or Jeff Galloway's run/walk marathon training.

  • Aim for x miles a week and increase total mileage each week (by no more than 10%)
  • Each week should consist of one long run (90 mins to 2 hours)
  • Eventual goal is to get around 40-70 miles a week (peaking 3 weeks before the marathon)
  • Taper 3 weeks before the marathon
  • Run at an EASY pace (MAF HR)
  • Always be conscious of your running form 

Other resources:
Want Speed? Slow Down! by Dr. Phil Maffetone
Race Faster by Training Slower by Fleet Feet
Maffetone Method FAQ by The Extramilest
Primal Endurance by Mark Sisson
How to Lose a Marathon by Joel Cohen (fun read -- will not help in your marathon prep)

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