Whether your goal is to complete a half marathon, marathon, ultra-event or even become a faster miler running further will help you reach your goals. Running further to improve your mile time? While this may not seem to make sense, developing a larger aerobic base is the foundation of any running training program.
Arthur Lydiard has perhaps coached more Olympic distance running athletes than any coach in history. Aerobic training was always the base of his training programs, whether the athlete competed in the 800m or the marathon. His athletes would often train around 100 miles per week. Lydiard argued that in any running event, athletes would perform both anaerobically and aerobically. Since aerobic training has the greatest capacity for improvement this is where the greatest amount of training was spent.
Running 100 miles per week is not the starting point of a running program. Most runners will never have the time, energy or physical ability to train at the distances elite runners train at. These runners have spent years building their bodies to adapt to the rigors of 100 mile weeks.
Regardless of whether your goal is to finish a marathon or to run a faster mile, the basic principles are the same – you have to gradually increase your mileage and give your body time to build. Rushing into higher mileage often results in nagging injuries, which will further delay your training program. In general, the distance that your long training run should be is 25-30% of your total weekly mileage. For runners training 60 miles per week or less this would be performed once per week. Higher mileage runners should still shoot for 25-30% but split this between two runs during a week.
For first time marathoners, most training programs will have you gradually increase running distance over a four month period by running a longer run every other week with the peak distance 3 –4 weeks prior to the marathon. These programs are a great way to systematically increase your training; however, each person is unique and you must listen to your body. Pain will block your progress more than missing a few training runs. See"Injured?" to guide you through tips on how to manage injuries.
Marathon Training Programs
Cross training is aerobic training that is lower impact than running. If you are trying to increase your weekly training but feel like your body needs to cut back from the impact cross training will help you reach your goals. For instance if your goal is to run 16 miles on a weekend run but you are starting to hurt after 8 miles then run for six miles then get on the elliptical for the same amount of time that it took you to run the 8 miles for an equivalent effort of 16 miles. For more details on Cross Training read our free eBook.
Long runs are a great time to work on the relaxation portion of your running form. You need all of the energy you can get for your legs – don’t waste it on tight shoulders, arms or face muscles. See Running Form for more details.
If you are running for more than 60 minutes you need refueling. Hydration belts are a convenient way to carry a sports drink as well as energy gels. You will need to experiment with what works best for you but in general 2-4 oz of a sport drink every 30 minutes will keep your body fueled and hydrated. Also remember to eat and drink shortly after your long runs for faster recovery. For more details on how to fuel your running machine we recommend Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.