Marathon #2 Training Plan!

20141130-190615.jpg 20141229-221052.jpg


I know I keep lamenting that marathon training feels like forever away, but the reality is that it will be here before I know it. February 16th is right around the corner! What better way to pass the time and get myself ready than to start developing my training plan?


For marathon #1, I purchased a first-timers plan from It was a decent plan and it worked well enough for me. I don’t have a trainer, so purchasing a more detailed plan was a good call for me since I was new to marathoning and needed the guidance.


But this time, I wanted to take advantage of the free resources out there and build on my own experience, so I decided to make my own plan this time. Well, okay….with a lot of help from Hal Higdon. 🙂

I am using Hal Higdon’s Intermediate 2 plan as my framework, and making tweaks in the long run schedule, weekly mileage, and types of workouts to suit my goals and ability. I’m trying to develop a plan for myself based on what I’ve learned about my abilities and what worked/didn’t work for me in the past. I may end up being wrong about some things, but what’s great about training plans is they are not carved in stone! I’m definitely going to be flexible and if I find something’s not working, I can adjust as I go!


The Basics


  • My plan is 18 weeks. Last time I did a 16 week plan and it worked out fine, but I am the first to admit that doing a short plan is risky because it doesn’t allow much wiggle room for cutback weeks and unexpected time off. I wanted a longer plan this time to accommodate the three half marathons I am running this Spring. The only way to make room for those extra races without compromising my training schedule was to add more time to the plan. Fine by me, I can start sooner!
  • Long runs start at 10 miles and peak at 22, including two 20 milers. Same as last time.
We're baaaaack!!
We’re baaaaack!!
  • My weekly mileage starts at 27 and peaks at 52, as of now. I am still tinkering with the workouts so that may still change
  • Each week (except for the week of my goal half marathon) has one speed workout. Higdon’s Intermediate plans don’t include any speed work, so I had to add my own.
  • Each week has 5 days of running, 2 days of rest. The plan wants me to do 5 days of running and 1 cross training day every week, but I am changing that because I don’t work out 6 days a week. I need more than one rest day. Every once in a while I will try to work in XT, depending on my schedule, but I’m just going to be honest now and admit that it’s not gonna happen every week.



This plan is structurally very similar to my last one: rest Monday; run Tues, Weds, Thurs; rest Fri; run Saturday and Sunday. But there are a few changes that I’ll be implementing:

20141207-191947.jpgWeekends: Higdon has me doing a moderate length (5-10) mile run on Saturday and then a long run on Sunday. Sometimes the Saturday runs are at race pace. It’s intimidating, but I think this is an awesome strategy and I am totally up for it. It is a great way to train yourself to run on tired legs and simulate the physical demands of running a marathon. I trust ya, Hal!

More of my weekday runs will be workouts instead of just logging “junk miles” (I hate that term, but it does get the point across). I am trying to get faster and stronger and improve my marathon time, so I want more focused workouts that will help me do that. I will be very careful not to overdo it, but I want each workout to have a purpose and challenge me and help get me closer to my goals.

20140825-090133.jpgMy weekly mileage is increasing. Instead of peaking at 42, I’ll peak at 52.

Although I mentioned I would only be doing sporadic XT, I will be doing body weight strength training exercises several days a week – planks, squats, bridges, lunges, etc. I love equipment-less strength training – it is so easy to do at home, it doesn’t take much time, and going to the gym and using weights is such a drag.


The Wrench

Racing half marathons is awesome. Trying to fit them into your marathon training schedule? Tricky.

So…trying to fit 3 half marathon races into a marathon training schedule is kind of hard. In crafting my plan, my biggest challenge has been trying to work around my three races in weeks 7, 11, and 13 of my training.

Having a half marathon on the weekend means I can’t stick to the Saturday/Sunday thing. My last race is on a Sunday and it’s not a goal race, so I will be doing a run that Saturday but only 5 miles. For the other two, which are on Saturdays, I just decided to do a shorter “recovery” run on Sunday so my mileage for those weeks doesn’t dip too low.

Even though they are cutback weeks, I have to strike a balance each week between keeping my legs rested and fresh, and making sure I’m keeping my training mileage consistent. During the week of my goal race, the Wisconsin Half Marathon, I’ll do three runs but keep the miles easy. During the other two race weeks, I’ll throw in one speed or race pace workout but keep the other two runs easy. I can’t overdo it – even though these aren’t goal races, I still want to be able to perform well!


Speed Demon

I am excited to be doing more speed work this time around (even more excited because with my new gym membership I’ll have access to a TRACK!! Finally!). Most of my speed work is interval workouts, because those are my favorite.

This is where I could use your help – I would love some suggestions for speed interval workouts that are more “marathon” specific. Here’s what I have, if you know of anything I could add PLEASE let me know!

photo – Yasso 800s (duh)
– 1600m intervals
– 800s & 400s mix (4×400 w/ 200m recoveries, 1 or 2×800 w/ 400m recoveries, repeat, finish with one more set of 4x400s)
– 400m intervals



My plan isn’t “done” yet, I’ll continue to tinker with it in the coming weeks, but all the parts are in place now and I could not be more excited! Get ready, Grandma’s Marathon: I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with!!


Have you used Hal Higdon’s training plans? How do you like them?


15 thoughts on “Marathon #2 Training Plan!

  1. I utilized Hal’s training plan for my first Marathon, and personally it did not go so well. I did the wrong type of workouts at the wrong period of training. His book and plans are informative, but definently not something I would consider the “Marathon Training Bible”. After my first Marathon I picked up a coach and everything turned around.

    Few Tips to consider in your training:
    1) Nutrition – Always practice nutrition during your Long Runs.
    2) Running on Tired Legs – Super important during training!!
    3) Easy Days are Easy Days – You called them “Junk Miles” but they really are not. I run nearly sub 600min Marathons.. and my easy days are 730+. Super important to recover from workouts and LRs with easy days. So use those days to turn the legs and recover!
    4) Speed Workouts: I do a lot of variety in my training, 400 and 800 repeats (@ 10k or <5k paces) 6-12 depending on the period of training. But mileage repeats are fun. 3X2mi, 2x3mi, 2x4mi, etc. All at paces that are equivalent or slightly faster than your Marathon Goal Pace.

    I have learned a lot from my coach (Matt Thull – ThunderDome Running) and he has taken me from a 3:13 to a 2:44 and aiming for sub 2:40 in Boston this year. If you want some ideas as well, I usually outline my workouts in my weekly Training Recap post on my blog.

    1. THANKS so much for the tips!

      I agree about the importance of easy miles and definitely won’t underestimate them in training! During my last marathon, I did almost all easy miles and I walked away from it feeling like I wasn’t challenged as much as I could have been and that I could have done more. I am trying to do some more harder workouts this time to improve, but of course I don’t want to overlook the easy miles – just make more room for stuff that’s not so easy. It will be an adjustment and a learning curve for sure. All the advice I get is very helpful and I’m eager to see how everything goes!

  2. I’ll be happy to pass on all my speed workouts I’ve accumulated and tried through the years! I personally don’t think 400s are that helpful for marathon training (as much as I love them!) and instead concentrate on longer intervals and tempo/pace-based runs. If you have a specific goal pace, I highly recommend the race simulator workout I tired for the first time this fall–it’s tough, but a huge confidence builder. Let me know if you want me to send you my spreadsheet of workouts.

    Related–I’m thinking of throwing in my name for the lottery for the half marathon at Grandma’s. Since it starts so much earlier than the full, I could run it and still get to cheer you and Tim on for most of the marathon!

    1. Thanks Lyndsay! I would love to see your workouts, feel free to send them over!

      That would be awesome if you got into the half marathon!! Fingers crossed!

  3. Such a great post–it has me “itching” to get on a plan…
    As for track workouts…basically what you had I did those with a 2 mile warmup, 1 mile cool down
    10x400m repeats w 200m rest, Ladders, 800m repeats…But the “speed” was my goal race pace, or just a bit faster to avoid getting hurt. My plan had track workouts alternating with “pace runs” (same warm-up cool down with the middle miles race pace) once a week.
    I agree with the previous reader, it is so important to make easy days, easy. That is how your body recovers.
    My plan was 20 weeks, 6 days of running ( I wouldn’t do that again), and topped out at a 20 mile run (while I think I would have benefitted from a 22 miler, I don’t think my body would have handled it. I was on the brink of a serious injury…) My plan also had you race starting with a 5k going up to a half built into the plan…
    Really focus on the nutrition…I can’t really give any advice as it is something I really need to work on myself.
    I look forward to reading about your training. I am excited for you!

    1. Do you know when your next marathon is yet?

      I will be doing most of my speed workouts faster than race pace, since I have separate runs dedicated to race pace practice. Plus, my marathon race pace is fairly easy for me (8:40-8:45), so doing it as speed work wouldn’t really be that much of a workout for me. Holding that pace for 26.2 miles is the hard part!

      Nutrition will definitely be a big focus. I’ve never been bad at it, but I’ve never been particularly good at it either. Lately I have noticed that I really struggle in my running when I haven’t eaten much in the last 12 hours, so I need to start paying more attention to diet and fluid intake!

  4. I’ve used Hal’s intermediate 2 plan as well, except I subbed one run day for an XT day. I don’t really like the idea of running 5 days/week, but it’s something I’m considering for my Berlin training.

    One type of speed workout you may want to consider are tempos/pace/threshold runs. During a long run, maybe run 2-3 miles in the middle at tempo pace or do your shorter runs at tempo pace. I’ve found tempos really effective even though I hate them.

    I think your plans for the weekends when you’ll be racing a half are sound. I think a half marathon at race pace is likely more effective than an 18 mile slow run, you know?

    1. Re: your last point about half vs. 18 miler – yes absolutely! I’m sure hoping so anyway! That’s why I felt that as long as I added more time to my plan, doing half marathons would not only be manageable but beneficial. 3 is definitely the limit though!

      Tempo runs are great speedwork. I love tempo runs but I just don’t do them enough. Usually my runs are just “easy” or “not easy” and I really need to get more nuanced about pacing.

      Running 5 days a week sounded scary before my first marathon, but I got used to it. I’m pretty resilient, so it worked for me. But that’s my limit. I admire people who can work out 6-7 days a week but it’s just not for me and I have no desire to train that much.

  5. SOOO exciting that you’re going to start marathon training again!

    It sounds like you’ve put together a great plan for yourself. I think the only thing I would add is doing fast finishes on some of your long runs. My coach included those for me every couple of weeks… so 15 mile run with last 3 at race pace, etc. That teaches you to give it your all at the end! I think it sort of worked for me. Even though my marathon debut was just terrible, the last couple of miles were faster than my middle miles! hah!

    1. Yes! I know I could benefit from that! My last few miles of my marathon, and most of my half marathons, were decidedly slower than the rest.

      I have been hitting negative splits in my long runs these past few months though!

  6. That is fantastic you know two days of rest is what works for you but that you will still be doing strength. That is what I was going to ask about! 🙂

    I am doing mile repeats and chunks of miles at goal race pace for the WI half for speed work, but I don’t do race pace miles during my LRs. I wonder, if since you are doing those, if the speedwork can still be shorter (400s, 800s), etc.

    Looks like a lot of fun, either way! Good luck! 🙂

    1. Yeah, that’s why I’m trying to mix it up with my speed work, because there are just so many different things you can try that are all beneficial! I’m anxious to try mile repeats/1600s when my training starts. I’ve never done those before and they sound brutal but it seems that longer intervals are best at building the endurance necessary for long runs/races.

      As for the WI half, it’s hard because I have to balance it with full marathon training, but I like 400s, 800s, and tempo runs for speedwork!

  7. I mixed a bunch of training plans together when I made my marathon plan. The Higdon was one of them but I didn’t completely follow it because I couldn’t commit to 5 days of running a week. I think it’s a great plan if you have the time and dedication though!

    1. Yes, it’s definitely a time consuming plan. That’s part of the reason why I put my foot down and said NO, I am not working out 6 days a week. I mean, seriously.

Comments are closed.