Women

Whether you're a first-timer or you want to improve your PB, we'll help your each your marathon target

For many marathoners, training consists of running as much as they can, as far as they can, as fast as they can. Inevitably the result is burnout, injury or dashed expectations. While you do have to push beyond your limits when you're preparing to run long distances, there are time-tested methods of doing so that don't involve pain and anguish.

For many marathoners, training consists of running as much as they can, as far as they can, as fast as they can

For many marathoners, training consists of running as much as they can, as far as they can, as fast as they can

That's where a training plan comes in. At RUNNER'S WORLD we've been telling people how to safely and successfully - prepare for marathons for more than 20 years. We tapped a few of our running superstars - Bart Yasso, RW's chief running officer and veteran of over 100 marathons; editor at large Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon; and Jennifer Van Allen, the 2008 US National 24-Hour Championship winner for advice. The schedules and tips over the next six pages are taken from their new book, The Runner's World big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training.

Key for all marathon schedules

REST Take a rest day, or do moderate cross-training with a no-impact activity such as yoga or swimming.

EASY Run at a comfortable pace. These are interchangeable with rest days. You can cross-train on an easy day instead with a sustained aerobic effort on a bike or the elliptical trainer.

HILLS Run that day's mileage on the hilliest course you can find. Hills build a base of strength during the first seven weeks of the program.

Take a rest day, or do moderate cross-training with a no-impact activity such as yoga or swimming

Take a rest day, or do moderate cross-training with a no-impact activity such as yoga or swimming

LSD (beginners) This is a long slow distance run to build endurance and help get you accustomed to spending time on your feet. Don't worry about your pace during these runs. Just focus on finishing.

LSD (improvers/advanced) This is a long slow distance run to build endurance. LSDs should be done at an easy, conversational pace, one to two minutes per mile slower than your goal race pace. Later in the program, you can practice a fast finish by picking up the pace during the last two to three miles.

MP These are runs at marathon goal pace. Practice the speed you're hoping to maintain in the race. Run one mile easy for a warm-up and one mile easy for a cool-down.

TIME TRIAL A one-mile time trial can help you track your fitness and set realistic race goals. Go to a 400m track or any one-mile stretch of road. After a 10-minute warm-up, time yourself while running four laps (or one mile) as fast as you can. Note your finish time, then cool down with 10 minutes of walking and jogging. Over the course of training, your fitness gains will be reflected in your time-trial results.

A one-mile time trial can help you track your fitness and set realistic race goals

A one-mile time trial can help you track your fitness and set realistic race goals

STRIDES Adding strides to any easy run activates your fast twitch muscle fibers, and improves your coordination and leg turnover, prepping your body for the marathon. As you get close to the finish of your run, gradually accelerate over 100m until you reach 90 per cent of all-out effort. Hold that effort for five seconds then smoothly decelerate. Walk to recover between the strides. The exact distance of each stride is not critical.

HILL REPEATS Find a hill that will take you at least two minutes to climb, and mark off a 'short' repeat halfway from the bottom and a 'long' repeat at the top. After a two-mile warm-up, run up to the short mark three or four times, jogging back down to recover in between. Then run up to the top three or four times, jogging back down to the short mark and then sprinting to the bottom. (Try to maintain smooth form, without slapping your feet.) Finish with three or four sprints up to the short mark. Cool down with two miles of easy running. The total mileage for the day will amount to about eight miles.

MILE REPEATS Warm up with two miles of easy running. Run a mile at your 10K pace, jog a lap (400m) for recovery and repeat that cycle as directed. Cool down with two miles of easy running.

YASSO 800s Warm up with two miles of easy running, then run 800m in a time that's 'equal' to your marathon time. That is, if you're shooting for a 4:10 marathon, try to run each 800m repeat in 4:10 minutes. Jog 400m in between the 800s. Cool down with two miles of easy running.

Your debut 26.2

Reach the finish line of your first marathon with confidence

Key training principles explained

Start slowly and build gradually The prospect of covering the marathon distance can be daunting. Luckily, you don't have to do it all once. Your body needs time to adapt to change in mileage or intensity. If you rush that process, you could break down your body rather than build it up. Coaches have found that the best way to avoid injury is to follow the 10 per cent rule: increase your weekly mileage and the length of your long run by no more than 10 per cent each week, it saves you from injury, and also makes the added mileage more manageable.

Increase your weekly mileage and the length of your long run by no more than 10 per cent each week, it saves you from injury, and also makes the added mileage more manageable

Increase your weekly mileage and the length of your long run by no more than 10 per cent each week, it saves you from injury, and also makes the added mileage more manageable

Run easy most of the time About 80 per cent of your runs should be done at an easy pace that's about 60-90 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace. This should feel comfortable enough for you to chat while you run. If you're using a heart rate monitor, you want to be at 65-70 per cent of maximum heart rate. If you're huffing and puffing, you're going too fast. These miles build muscles, improve endurance, burn fat and boost blood volume.

Run long every week The long run is the cornerstone of marathon training. It helps you build endurance, get used to spending time on your feet and practice race strategy. You'll also get mentally prepared for spending hours running, just as you'll have to on race day. Beginners should take long runs easy and just focus on covering the distance feeling strong.

Raise the game

Build on your marathon experience to run a faster 26.2-miler

Key training principles explained

Hit the hills During the first half of your training, you should include one day a week of running on a hilly route. Even a small amount of hill work can help you build leg strength, aerobic capacity and running economy (how efficiently your body uses oxygen). You won't feel fast going up hills, but you'll feel strong. Running up an incline places the same demand on your muscles as weight training: your calves, hamstrings, quads and Glutes have to lift you up the slope. Add a variety of steep short and long gradual inclines into your training.

Run at race pace In this training plan, you'll find runs designated as marathon pace (MP). That way, on the day of your big event, your body will be able to just dial into it, and it will feel like your body's natural rhythm. The workouts are also good for the mind - knowing that you've run dozens of miles at race pace will help you feel more confident.

During the first half of your training, you should include one day a week of running on a hilly route

During the first half of your training, you should include one day a week of running on a hilly route

Run fast once a week Running faster once a week is a great way to improve your race times. It will also build cardiovascular strength because your heart will be forced to pup harder to deliver oxygen to your leg muscles. And as your legs and feet turn over at a quicker rate, you'll run more efficiently. With enough practice, this quicker stride becomes more natural, which means that it'll take less effort to move faster on any run. There's a mental benefit to speed work, too: by running closer to maximum pace once a week, your race-pace and easy runs will feel more comfortable by comparison.

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