Choosing a Marathon Plan

I'm very much enjoying the slothing and overeating during my favorite month of the year.  Although, I am still getting outside and to the gym for my usual 4 workouts a week (well, maybe 3 times a week with all of the sickness that keeps hitting our house) the antsy feeling to get back on a plan is creeping up on me.  It's time to choose one for my next goal: 26.2 miles in Eugene.  *gulp*  There are SO many schools of thought on how to prepare for such a crazy enterprise and I'm going a bit crazy myself thinking about how to approach things.  I have no high expectations on finishing within a certain time limit.  I really and truly just want to finish without a) puking, b) soiling myself, or c) getting injured.  According to the McMillan calculator, I could run a 4:17 or so based on my half marathon PR.  Hahahaha!  Yeaaaah, I'm giving myself lots of leeway on that prediction.  I suppose my 'A' goal would be to get 'er done in about 4:30 and my 'B' goal would be sub 5:00. 

I've ruled out the Hansons method which I've been hearing a lot about and is growing in popularity.  It's something I'd maybe be interested in trying one day - ya know, if I ever decide to run a marathon AGAIN.  But a big part of this plan is high weekly mileage and running daily.  Making the time to run decent mileage every single day would be tough for me right now with two small kids not in school full time and not to mention TIRING, which is the idea: "Our program teaches your body and mind how to run your goal pace, no matter how tired you are." But... just, no.

So there's the tried and true Higdon program which I used to complete my first half marathon last year. All the programs are free and tailored a bit more to your individual running level. As much as I love to run, just looking at the beginning weeks of the Novice 1 program have me wanting to gauge my eyes out. Day after day of 'sorta long' runs with no real direction (no intervals, pickups, or tempos) and one long run per week seems kind of boring.  I suppose I could spice it up a bit on my own, but I'd be questioning myself too much.

I sort of like the idea of the Galloway method (he's big on walk breaks) to get me through all those miles.  However, the plans looks to be 29-32 weeks long (!) so I kinda missed the boat on that and I'm also a wee bit scared of taking walk breaks after the Seattle half: if I start taking them I may not start running again...

I enjoyed using the Train Like a Mother for my last two half marathons; they have lots of variety, workouts that can be easily adapted to treadmills (lets be honest, we all have to get on the dreadmill every now and again) and certain workouts are denoted as 'essential' and 'non-essential' which is helpful with the unpredictability of life with rugrats, as I mentioned before.  So their Marathon 'Finish It' plan is definitely on the table, as well as:

The less is more plan.  This one is the highest on my list right now, as I'm keen on not getting injured along the way.  It's a (relatively speaking) low mileage plan and the three running workouts per week are specific: a tempo, interval and the long slow run.  Plus, I'll have more time in my schedule for cross training which also decreases the likelihood of injury and burnout.

I'm aiming to start on a plan by the second week in January; just in time for all the people with New Year's resolutions to start hitting the gym!  Gah.  Maybe I'll decide after the first of the year and spend some time thinking about what to gift myself after I finish the marathon... 



  1. I analyzed tons of plans just like you but in the end I just made up my own using what I normally did for half marathons and bumping it up a lot. I didn't do any speed, tempo, interval, hill workouts and just focused on the endurance of running for 4+ hours. You are going to do awesome...just get your long runs in :)

    1. I suppose that's why a lot of plans don't have the speed/tempo/interval stuff for my level b/c it IS just about the endurance of 4+ hours!

  2. I have tried a few-- Daniels and Higdon--and when I actually followed Daniles to a type-A tee, despite being in the best shape of my life, ran the slowest of my 4 marathon times. The times I just "ran for fun with a little structure" (for me this means finding joy in running a variety of speeds with the kids I coach--at least one hard run in either pace or distance mid-week and one weekend long run of 12-20, but not too many too long) were both more fun and faster. I also got injured/sick less.

    For what its worth... I would tell a first time marathoner to do one fartlek or track workout during the week (something that equals about 7-9 miles) and between 12-20 most weekends and then run for feel the rest of the days. Some weeks that might mean a "sorta" long run and some weeks that might mean a lot of four milers! But, at least for me, when I allow my body to take rest as needed, I actually get to the starting line.

    No matter what you chose, good luck! :)

    1. Thanks Amanda! What you're suggesting sounds a lot like the Run Less/Run Faster approach, and your suggestion is super helpful re: which 2 runs to prioritize if I'm having a rough week with the kids :)

  3. Okay, that's really funny, and timely. I spent the night before last looking at training plans for next year (half in May, Portland full in October, so I'm planning out the whole year, justabout) and I settled on the TLAM and RLRF plans as my likely choices. Given that I've taken most of December off, my first task is to get back to running more than twice a week, though...

  4. Totally late to this party, but chiming in anyways. The Higdon novice plans are really meant for people who need to build up their distance base in order to be able to run a marathon, which is why there is so many blah runs in it - you're way past that. The intermediate and advanced plans are SUPER crazy, and for a high mileage plan I prefer Pfitzinger. That's not you, either.

    I've only glanced at the Train Like a Mother plans, but if you like those, I think you'll really like the Run Less/Run Faster plan. I've never used it, but I know several people that have and have had great results with it. They key is to really try and get 1-2 days of XT in per week, as they use that to help build/maintain your aerobic base, since you're not doing any mid-duration easy runs. However, if you're having a rough week? You can easily skip those, as your running workouts are your "key" workouts for the week.

    Good luck, and I look forward to seeing you in Eugene!

  5. I tend to follow the Higdon plans, but you might want to go higher than Novice 1 if you do. The last 2 marathons, I created my own combo of Novice 2 and Int 1 to make myself happy. For my very first marathon I followed Novice 2 because I had a good half base already. Just remember no matter what you follow, life happens and you might need to deal with changes. It'll be ok. :) I was crazy worried about CIM because I missed a long run, and it was fine! Great even!