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My Training Plan for the Boston Marathon

 

I’m running my first Boston Marathon this April and well into training. As I’ve shared my runs on Instagram and on the blog, I’ve been asked a lot what training plan I’m using. It’s from book Advanced Marathoning…which is ironic considering I’ve only run two marathons. I wouldn’t consider myself an advanced marathoner by any stretch, but I’ve really enjoyed the plan so far. And it’s pushing me in a good way.

Advanced Marathoning is written by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. Pete ran in two summer Olympics, and won the 1984 U.S. marathon team trials (beating Alberto Salazer). He later became an exercise physiologist so the guy knows his stuff. Scott Douglas is contributing editor for Runner’s World and a co-author for many running books, including Meb for Mortals (which I also recently purchased and really enjoyed).

Before this plan, I used Strava Premium training plans for the last two years. Strava has plans for multiple distances, including 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. While I really like the Strava half marathon plan and I PRd in my half following it, I burned out on it and wanted some variety. The general structure of the Strava training plans is pretty much the same, no matter the distance. Plus, those plans only go up to 12 weeks which may not be enough for some runners.

And before Strava, I used all sorts of random plans, including some out of Runner’s World Magazine and one from a coach, both of which got me PRs. I also made up my own plans for many half marathons. But for my first Boston Marathon, I wanted to get to race day feeling very prepared. My PT’s husband recommended this book and he’s definitely an advanced marathoner. He won the Wrightsville Beach Marathon last year, finishing in 2:33, almost a full hour faster than I ran it.

Advanced Marathoning Training Plans

Advanced Marathoning has 18- and 12-week plans with different weekly distances, depending on your level. I’m doing the lowest weekly distance plan, which goes up to 55 miles per week. The other plans are 55 to 70 miles per week, 70 to 85, and 85-plus miles. (Now that is advanced. I can’t even wrap my head around 85+ weekly miles.)

Here’s a sample of what my plan looks like. I just wrapped up the “10 weeks to goal” week with a 20 miler yesterday.

(I got permission from Scott Douglas to publish this page of the plan from the book, and I also share my weekly workouts every week so you can get a sense for how it’s building.)

The plan uses periodization and is broken in four mesocycles. Each mesocycle develops a different system, to get you to race day well trained. The first mesocycle was a four week block building endurance and now I’m in a new mesocycle working on my lactate threshold. I really like the structure of the plan because I like to know why I’m doing something. (It’s the Questioner in me that I mentioned in my last newsletter!) And I also like that the plans has variety in training as the focus changes with the cycle.

Another thing to note is that this plan bumped up the long run distance pretty quickly compared to other plans I’ve seen. But considering that I get VERY nervous for long runs, I think mentally it’s good for me to get multiple 16+ mile runs under my belt before race day. There are also “down weeks” with reduced intensity and volume every few weeks. My body definitely craves the down week and I think my brain craves it just as much. (I blogged about a “down week” here.)

How my training is going

I hit 55 miles last week and before this plan, I’m almost positive I’d never run more than 45 miles in one week. This plan is definitely pushing me. Sometimes I question if it’s too advanced for me, but I also think if a training plan feels easy, it’s not the right plan. And even though the extra miles takes extra time, I’m really enjoying it. I especially like the midweek long runs and the tempo runs (my favorite!).

I told Tommy yesterday that surprisingly I feel the best I’ve felt in a long time since following this plan. I’m tired, to be sure, but I feel stronger. I felt GREAT on my long run last Saturday until about mile 17 (the downpour didn’t help matters). And my hamstring injury somehow seems to be improving with the increased distance. (Granted, I’ve been diligent about getting needled and scraped.) My friend Anna told me a few weeks ago, “It’s funny – the more you run, the better you get at running.” She’s such a snark (and I love her for it), but it’s proving to be true.

Even if you don’t use the plans in the book, I think it’s worth buying since there is so much good information about how to run a successful marathon. (Besides, it’s only $10 for the paperback or $3 on kindle.) There are sections on fueling, hydration, recovery, tapering, race day strategy and more. I read the entire thing in about a week and still keep it on my nightstand, flipping through it most nights and rereading sections. It helps motivate me when I’m dreading a run the next day or feeling nervous about training.

 

If you’re training for a spring marathon, I’d love to hear what training plan you’re using and what marathon you’re running!

And as always, if you have any questions, leave a comment!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Mina
    at

    I think I might try that for my Boston training next year. I’m not an advanced marathoner by any means – ran my first this past Nov, and BQ’d, so I’m a pretty good runner in general. Figuring out those speed workouts might be too much for my brain though lol!

  • Reply
    James
    at

    I’m using Pfitz’s 70 mile plan for the first time. It’s great! A lot of my training in the past has included more speedwork, but I think I often overwork myself doing all that stuff. I’m enjoying the more marathon-specific workouts like Lactate Threshold and Marathon Pace runs. I’ve definitely noticed my “easy” pace is getting faster the past few weeks.

    You did a 20 miler this past weekend, right? Does the 55 mile plan have a “week 0” before the race, too? I’m starting 8 weeks to goal now… but I might have miscounted the weeks before Boston!

    • Reply
      Teri [a foodie stays fit]
      at

      70 mile plan – that’s awesome! I’ve typically done more speedwork in previous plans too and I think that’s part of why I got burned out so often. The recovery runs + medium long runs are a nice change!

      Doh, yes, mine has a week 0 and now I’m all messed up haha! I need to reconfigure my plan!!

  • Reply
    Jess
    at

    Training for my first. I used Hal Higdons, and looked at the build up run schedule for a local running group that’s training for the race. I combined the two and then had a couple marathoners look over my plan (including the wonderful Afoodiestaysfit :)! Thanks, again! Here’s to not having any clue as to what the next three months will look like or feel like! 🙂 I feel like this is definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on!!

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