How To Train For A Marathon If You Been Already Running For A While

When I started to train for my first marathon, I considered myself to be in the “its been a while” group. I used to run a couple miles every day. I ran regularly up until a knee injury in college.
I think the longest distance I had ever run was 4 or 5 miles. After 6 months of down time and rehab, I had the opportunity to run, but rarely took advantage of it. Several years went by without even running until I decided I wanted to run a marathon.

So, an out of shape youngish guy wants to run a marathon, knows he kinda likes running, but doesn’t know where to begin. Does any of this sound familiar to you (insert gal as required)?

Well, I hope that if it does, I will be able to help you by sharing what worked for me when I started training for a marathon.

 This is not a training plan that will help you run a marathon in two months, but i think it is a good, reasonably paced program for the average person who needs to squeeze some running into their busy routine so they can achieve their goal of running a marathon.

First you need to build a foundation. You used to run. Three miles is easy, right? Eeeehhhh….. its not killer, but remember that its been a while. You will be really sore the next day. And the day after. And maybe even the day after that. So you need to start off easy. 6 miles total each week for two weeks, spread the runs over 3 days. Go at an easy pace. Leave at least one rest day between each run.

Remember to stretch before and after the run. Oh, and one of the best tips I learned in my training was to drink a glass of milk within 20 minutes of finishing each run. I’ll go into details in another post, but for now, know that it has to do with protein and crabs and maximizing your body’s amazing self repair capabilities. So drink a glass of milk in addition to any water you might need. Find out why new runners gain weight while training for a marathon here.


Schedule Part 1:
Week 1: Monday 2miles / Wednesday 2miles / Saturday 2miles
Week 2: Tuesday 2miles / Thursday 2miles / Saturday 2miles


Think: baby steps. Don’t be too aggressive. You need to not burn yourself out, or injure yourself by increasing your distance or effort too quickly. At this point you may find yourself stiff and sore. This is where daily stretching comes in.
Tips for stretching:

  • Don’t go fast
  • Don’t bounce
  • Stretch, count to 10, relax.
  • Repeat until you feel great.

There are a lot of tricks to stretching where you can target specific muscles. I’ll go in to these in a later post. For now, if your body is stiff when you move it a certain way, try stretching in that direction.

Note that there is a difference between stiffness and soreness, and pain. Pain is your body telling you something is wrong. Continuing to do whatever is causing the pain is not going to make it better. If you experience real pain, stop what you are doing, put the training program on hold, see your doctor, determine the source of the pain, and solve the problem. Then resume training to this schedule. Injuries will only get worse in a marathon training program, since the distance and intensity of the workouts only multiply any problems you may be experiencing.

Gear. Everyone loves gear. I know you want to find out about what gear is useful for running a marathon. There is a gizmo for every aspect of running. Its a lot of fun to look at all the nifty tools that are out there to help you while you run. There is nothing wrong with having some extra gadgetry, but my recommendation is to start out small, inexpensive, and light. You can add more later if you want to. I’ll cover gear in detail in a later post, but for now, here is what I recommend.


Minimum equipment list:

Shoes – go to a running store and get fitted for new shoes. Your feet are what connect you to the ground and carry you miles upon miles. Don’t go minimalist for now… I recommend experimenting with radical changes in running shoe types after you have accomplished your marathon, after you are in very good shape, and after you are familiar with your running style. I have a lot of thoughts about minimalist footwear, and I’ll cover that in a later post.

Watch – timing yourself while you run is very useful. I strongly recommend logging all your runs by recording date, distance, and time. You can get fancy and use a GPS, your smartphone, or any other gizmo that will do the trick, but a simple watch is all that is really needed.
Be sure you get a stopwatch that has hours, minutes, and seconds. You will want all of those. What is the use of a log?
The biggest thing is it will really motivate you when you look back over your history and see how far you have progressed over time. It will also help you with achieving your goals of time and/or distance.

Clothing – running clothes are expensive! there is no need to go buy the latest and greatest smart fabric that will fold itself in your drawer and wipe the sweat off your forehead as you run. There is a use for those things (if you can afford them), but for now, you can just run in what ever you have. There are no wrong clothes to run in… just ones that you will discover work better than others for yourself to run in.

Now you have a plan to start training for a marathon, and an idea of some things you will need to support your new running habit. The last thing you need is commitment.
Training for a marathon is a big deal, and you need to be dedicated to the plan.
I’ll try to write some motivational posts to help you along, but the drive to continue, the will to keep running when all you want to do is stop and lay down, and the motivation to get out of bed at 4am on a Saturday morning must come from inside yourself. You can do it…. no excuses, just make it happen
Now get out there and start training for your marathon!

You are now two weeks into your marathon training schedule. Congratulations for sticking it out!

I’m sure you have experienced more than your fair share of soreness, aches and pains as you rediscovered muscles that you have not used in a while. Don’t worry, if you take care of yourself and don’t rush things, it will only get easier in this aspect of marathon training. Just keep up the light stretching, take some cold showers and/or use ice on sore joints and muscles.

You may already have noticed some slight improvement in your running experience. What I mean by that is you may notice any one (or a number) of the following.

With more running you will:

  • Breathe with less effort while running
  • Feel like the 2 mile distance is a little easier
  • Feel better after completing your run
  • Recover normal breathing/heart rate a little faster afterward

It will still require some willpower to get out and run on each training day. Check out the post on motivation – I wrote it especially for you. If you need an extra boost of motivation, you can leave a comment here or in the motivation post (I promise I’ll read it and get back to you), or you can subscribe to my motivational emails (coming soon).

Now to the training plan.

Your goal for the next 4 weeks is to increase your distance by approximately 10% each week. At this stage in the game that’s about 1 mile per week. See the plan below for details.

Week 3: Monday 2miles / Wednesday 2miles / Saturday 3miles (total 7 miles)

Week 4: Monday 2miles / Wednesday 2miles / Saturday 4miles (total 8 miles)

Week 5: Monday 2miles / Wednesday 3miles / Saturday 4miles (total 9 miles)

Week 6: Monday 3miles / Wednesday 3miles / Saturday 4miles (total 10 miles)

Note the Saturday ‘long run’ (or, ‘longer run’ at this point): its not much different from your midweek runs, but as the training program progresses, it will stretch out further and further ahead of the midweek runs. I like to keep the runs balanced in the beginning, not push too hard on the long runs, and keep midweek schedules manageable (for those who have to squeeze running around a busy life schedule). Also note that there is a break of at least one day between each run. I think that it is really important to give your body a break and a day to recover, especially when just starting out. When this program gets more intense, there will be some back-to-back days of running.


Now its your turn. What are the challenges you faced during the first two weeks of your training program? What has helped you get out and run this past week? Leave a comment below, I’d love to discuss it with you.

The Pep-Talk

6 weeks down in your marathon training program! Good work! Not only are you building physical strength and endurance, but you are also building mental strength and endurance, a.k.a. willpower, by sticking to your training schedule and pushing yourself to do difficult things. Sometimes you just don’t feel like you have the energy to go out and run, or maybe you are really tired on a Saturday morning. This is where willpower comes in, and this is how you build it – by exercising it, just like any other muscle. Willpower is something you will need in large quantities as a marathon runner. With the time and distance involved in each race, you need to have a large reservoir on hand, because it will get depleted very quickly as the miles go by under your feet.

So, stick to the plan you committed to follow for your marathon training. In the words of Calvin’s dad (from Calvin and Hobbes): It builds character.

Here is your plan for the next few weeks. Still following the same basic formula. If you want to mix things up by running Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, or Tuesday/Friday/Sunday or any other combination, feel free. Just remember that you need a ‘last day of the week’ for a reference to calculate your miles per week. and remember that day needs to be consistent. If you move it around to steal miles from the previous week – that’s cheating. And Santa Claus is watching you.

Oh, and don’t forget to take some time off in between runs to let your body recover.

The Plan

Week 7: Monday 3 miles / Wednesday 3 miles / Saturday 5 miles (11 miles total)

Week 8: Monday 4 miles / Wednesday 3 miles / Saturday 5 miles (12 miles total)

Week 9: Monday 4 miles / Wednesday 3 miles / Saturday 6 miles (13 miles total)

Week 10: Monday 4 miles / Wednesday 4 miles / Saturday 6 miles (14 miles total)

Are you drinking your post-run recovery drink (milk, or chocolate milk)?

Some Additional Thoughts

You might be noticing some stiffness/soreness issues in your legs. Maybe its even starting to approach pain. If you really feel pain in any af the ways described below, you need to focus on taking care of the problem: don’t increase your weekly mileage until you have implemented the recovery/prevention strategies, and are feeling better. Remember, injuries do not get better by continuing a marathon training program.

Some of the most common sources of discomfort at this stage are runners knee (pain on the outside of your knee) , plantar fascitis (pain on the bottom of the arch of your foot), and shin splints (pain in your shins). I will have a post covering these items in more detail, but for now, search the internet to find information that will help you find relief and cure the problem for the future.

Now its your turn. How is your training program going at this stage? Have you broken any personal records for distance or speed?

Watch this video for some additional information and perspective:

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originally published on howtotrainforamarathonhq