Marathon training starts here! My strategy

Time Every man needs a plan, and this is mine.Well, in spite of unceremoniously uttering “never again…” after completing the Paris Marathon in April, the bug caught me again. After many months seeing my running improve, I want to better my time. Its amazing how ego comes into play to overrule any thoughts of historic pain and agony!

I signed up a few months back, along with Simon and a few others. Jodie managed to make it into London so it means we’ll be training together. Well, we’ll be training at the same time at least.

I’ve spent the last month or two researching different training plans. I had a great deal of success following the Bupa training plans in the past – they’ve delivered many PBs in the last year, and I certainly need the discipline and structure of a training plan to keep my running balanced and focused. But following Bristol’s half marathon PB, I’ve set my sights quote high. After much deliberation I settled on the Advanced Marathoning 18 week up to 55 miles per week training plan, by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas.

As that’s not a particularly snappy name, it often goes by the name “P&D 18/55”, which is much shorter to write!

It has been tried and tested, and comes highly recommended on the Runners World forums. Not to mention, its from the same book Steve Way used to run his first marathon! Though he did the “Up To 70 miles” version.

I could of course have just mindlessly followed the training plan, but I would have: a) Not learned anything. And b) Not understood how to effectively alter the plan when things go off track. Which would have inevitably resulted in c) Abject failure.

On the surface, it seems pretty complicated. There are some difficult terms to get your head around and aside from my “Lactate Threshold” and “Marathon Paced” runs, I’m still not QUITE sure what my pace zones will be – but I’m going to use common sense (As well as the trusty McMillan Calculator). Overall, I must make sure my easy runs are easy.

Unlike a lot of training plans, P&D promote marathon paced running during the long runs, something which excites and scares me in equal measure. Whilst I know compared to my recent half times this is well within my comfort zone, sandwiching it in as part of an 18 miler is a bit scary!

Although I want to follow a structured well designed training plan, I have made some tweaks. For example, I wanted to get more 20 milers in after reading that around 5 is the optimum number, so I have modified the long run routines a bit to reflect this, as well as included some “races” which i’ll run at training paces – Its nicer to run with others than it is on your own!

Also, the plan has several “Tune Up Races” on Saturdays. parkrun isn’t really long enough for this purpose, so I have added some tempo type running in the mix there instead to simulate a hardish race effort. Instead, I have incorporated the Reading Half as my “Test Race”. My target is to run this in under 90 minutes. If I can achieve this, then I will be on track to hit my end goal.

Another element that ought to help me with my overall training strategy – weight loss. My target weight to hit for the race is 12st13lbs, which should be 1 stone less than my weight at the end of the year. This equates to losing less than 1lb per week, a very sensible weight loss. However, If I can lose it a bit quicker, I can focus on proper nutrition and energy in the month or so pre-race.

Finally – my greatest improvements and focus seemed to come when I was accounting for my running and diet on a weekly basis in this blog, before I got lazy and reported monthly. So I am determined to write a weekly report, every Monday (In place of a run – its a rest day after all!) of how things have been going.

So with all that that said, here is my masterplan.

Endurance Mesocycle (17 to 12 weeks to go)

Also referred to as “Base building”  this starts preparing the body to endure the rigours of a tough training program, building the miles and mixing in some threshold training.


December is a tricky month. I’ve made several tweaks here but you can see the focus is largely on General Aerobic type of runs. Christmas week is a bit special and I’m going “parkrun mad”. I’m hoping for some final end of year PBs, and they are short enough for recovering from the tough efforts quickly so not to affect the longer runs – at least thats the plan!

Lactate Threshold + Endurance Mesocycle (11 to 7 weeks t go)

This phase builds on the endurance phase and introduces more work at the Lactate Threshold (LT). Many sources believe training at or around your LT is the best way to improve your race performance. You can get properly tested to identify your LT, but I tend to use the approximate value that McMillan Running’s paces calculator tells me.


You can see there is either an LT run or an MP (Marathon Paced) run on a weekly basis here. It also introduces a VO2 Max workout, basically hard intervals in the middle of a longer run. But more on that later!

Race Preparation (6-3 weeks to go)

The portion focuses on speed. There is a VO2 max interval workout each week to increase raw speed performance. This is also where I have my practise race to check my pace is where it needs to be, and I’ll also use it to check my hydraton and nutrition – the gels I use in Reading will be the gels I use in Manchester.


Taper and Race (3 to 0 weeks to go)

The plan follows a pretty standard 3 week taper. Reducing the training volume whilst maintaining intensity. I’m a bit concerned about running the day before the race, but in for a penny in for a pound! Its been tried by millions so might work out OK!



P&D have a 5 week recovery phase. I’m not sure how patient I’ll be with this, but I can promise to follow this for 2 weeks minimum. Plenty of recovery runs and light on intensity. If anything, I may try and bank a speedy 5k in here, after building my fitness so much I’m sure I’ll be able to give it a blast!


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