When you decide to that you want to run a marathon, you can expect a full year of commitment. Training for a marathon takes a lot of dedication and personal accountability.
When it comes to how you should structure your running program, long runs, hill workouts, tempo runs, and speed workouts should all be incorporated into your routine. The long runs are typically done on weekends, admittedly because most people have more time on those days! You want to figure out a good distance for a starting point and then add mileage every week. These are going to be slower pace runs that allow you to slowly build up your endurance. Your longest run should be around 21-22 miles, and you should hit this around 3 weeks prior to race day. The hill workouts include a warm-up, and then running up/down hills for up to 4 miles. This is a repetitive type run and will help build strength in this area specifically (good if you are attempting Boston).
The next type of run is the tempo run which helps build endurance and pace. You will transition between a slower warm-up mile, increasing speed to an almost uncomfortable pace for about 3-4 miles, slowing back down again for a mile. These would be performed one time per week leading up to the marathon. You will also want to incorporate speed workouts, or interval training, into your weekly schedule. These are more difficult workouts with a goal of increasing pace. Typically, these start with a 1-mile warm-up, run at a difficult pace for ½ mile, then rest for ¼ mile. You would repeat this process 2-3 times. Then, run at a difficult pace for ¼ mile, with a ¼ mile rest, repeated four times. All of these runs should finish with a 1 mile cool down run at an easy pace.
Other components to marathon training include strength training for both upper and lower body, and do not forget the core! On your off days, meaning you are not doing any running, strength training should be performed. Some suggested lower body exercises include: single leg bridges, clamshells, single-leg deadlifts, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, and calf raises. Some suggested upper body exercises include: chest press, bicep curl, triceps press, seated row, and lat pull down. The plank is also an important full-body exercise to incorporate into your strength routine.
Remember when we said it was a full year commitment? After all of this running and strength training, you still have to make time for stretching, foam rolling, and rest. Your muscles are working very hard throughout the week and if you expect to make it through the year to the race day, you will need to take care of them with proper rest, hydration, and nutrition. If you run into an injury along the way – do not panic! Physical therapy can assist you in your training speed bump and get you back on track, do not ignore pain while training! Another important aspect of marathon training is your support group (which can include your physical therapist). Running coaches and partners, family and friends can play a major role in your success with this training program. Best of luck to you as you train! Stay positive!