Planning for my fall marathon ALREADY!


Even though I am in total Grandma’s Marathon mode (16 days!!), I can’t ignore the fact that training for Marathon #3 is coming up soon too. I don’t even have a training plan yet, which is crazy for a super planner-y type like me!

The thought of training for my fall marathon is both exciting (I’m looking forward to moving on and trying something new) and dreadful (it’s hard to stomach the fact that I barely have any downtime after Grandma’s before I need to jump right back in!).

The more marathons I do, the more confident I get individualizing and developing my own plans. For my first marathon, I used a pre-developed first timers plan. For Grandma’s, I used Hal Higdon and Hansons as a framework and tweaked it to my liking. For my upcoming Milwaukee Marathon training I am basically ridin’ solo, drawing on the knowledge I’ve gleaned from my last two training cycles to craft a plan myself.

Today I’m giving you a glimpse into my process for mapping out a training plan all on my own. Please note that I’m obviously not a kind of fitness, running, health or training expert; I’m just sounding off about this upcoming training cycle. And, as you’ll see later on in this post – I will need YOUR help, too!

So, here’s how it’s been going down in training-plan-planning land:


Consider my goals

This is the first thing I need to do because it shapes everything – how I will structure my plan, what I will focus on, what kind of workouts I need to do.

I decided long ago that I will not have a time goal for the Milwaukee Marathon. If things go sour at Grandma’s I might change my mind about this, but I need a break from that nonsense for a while.

However, I do have a big goal for this fall – I want to break 1:45 in the half marathon. This will be a challenge for me – it would be at least a 4 minute PR. But based on my current level of fitness level now – 3-4 months out – I think it is very doable for me if I can really focus on it this season.

What that means is that I have to do a delicate balancing act: I need to keep up the mileage necessary to be able to run a marathon in November, but I need to scale back just a smidge so that I have more energy each week to do the harder, faster workouts necessary to build speed for my shorter distance goal. I’m a big advocate of running half marathons during marathon training – I’ve found from my experience that the higher mileage of marathon training helps me cover the half marathon distance more easily without fading in the last few miles. However, during this cycle I also learned that super-high mileage with minimal taper leaves me with residual fatigue that comes back to bite me on race day.

My other big goal for this training cycle is less tangible but just as important – I want to have more balance in my training. I want to become a more well-rounded athlete and improve my all-around fitness. Translation: I want to incorporate a wider variety of endurance training via cross-training, strength training and drills, and yoga.


Look at my schedule

Next up, I need to take a look at my summer schedule to see if there is anything that will impact my training time. Usually there isn’t (I have no life), but – oh look! I am going on a week long vacation in August! We are going on a cruise with Kevin’s family, leaving on a Saturday and coming back the next Sunday. I’m sure I will still be able to run and workout during the week, but due to the timing of the cruise I will miss two long runs. I can probably find a way to sneak one in (maybe do one on Friday before I leave and split it into 8 AM, 8 PM), and hopefully missing the other won’t be the end of the world.

Other than that, we do have a very busy summer but almost all of it is here in town so I won’t have to miss much running.

I have three races this summer – a 10 miler on July 26th, and my two half marathons on September 6th and 26th.


Plan out long runs

The cornerstone of any marathon training plan, I always plan these out first. The long run is the anchor of every week, the last workout we can get away with skipping. To start setting up a plan, I took all of the weekends from now until the marathon and mapped out a tentative long run schedule:



Figure out training priorities and strategy

So, we’ve got the big easy stuff out of the way – now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. Before I can start planning out all of my workouts for the next few months, I need to lay down some guidelines about what needs to be prioritized and which ingredients are crucial for each week’s fitness recipe.

Each week, my goal is to work in:

  • 1 cross training workout (usually cycling)
  • 1 yoga or hot yoga session
  • 1 strength training workout and at least 1 mini strength training workout: stairs on my lunch hour, 20 minutes of planks or push ups after an easy run, etc.
  • 1 set of form drills

For running, I would like each week to include:

  • 1 long run
  • 1 hard speed workout (tempo run, intervals, or hill sprints)
  • 2-3 easy runs

I’m thinking of doing 4 days of running and 1 day of cross/strength each week. I could do 5 days of running and 1 cross, but I have always been fiercely resistant to the idea of working out 6 days a week. Physically I’d be fine, but the time commitment is already too much now and I only work out 5 days. I don’t just run, I read, I write, I work, I eat, I sleep, I explore. I need space. Plus, it’s summer, so there is more going on.

Maybe doing more of my workouts in the morning will help. I don’t know. I’ll just have to see how it goes.



Honestly, I am a little torn about all of this. I have spent weeks debating and changing my mind about how I should train for this marathon and what I really want from it. On the one hand, increasing my running volume and running more miles, while cumbersome, has led to a big improvement in my times, paces, and endurance. You get good at what you practice, and the best way to improve your performance in endurance races is to run more – there’s really no way around that.

BUT, on the other hand, my life and my body are crying out for balance. I feel like that’s seriously lacking in my life and if I don’t shake things up and improve my overall fitness I will eventually plateau. Plus, I can see the writing in the wall. I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t been injured yet and I appear to be a pretty resilient athlete, but if I keep pushing and piling on the miles without anything to balance it out, it’s only a matter of time.


Now, with all that said, here is my homework for the next few weeks before I officially start training:



Once I start learning more about strength and cross training workouts I want to do, I will dig in to the creation of an actual training plan – start scheduling workouts for each week and setting weekly mileage goals.


Anyone have any recommendations for strength training routines, cycling or swim workouts, or form drills? Links are very helpful, FYI 🙂

Are you a planner, or does sticking to schedules and plans stress you out?

Do you follow training plans or develop your own?





39 thoughts on “Planning for my fall marathon ALREADY!

  1. This was a great insight. I like your final point: gradually transitioning to mornings.

    It’s something I’m working on- I’m definitely a night owl and love evening work outs.

    I’m also dealing with jetlag, but I’m trying to take that as an opportunity to reset my body clock to a wee bit earlier 😛

    1. Thank you! I’m 100% with you, I am a night owl through and through. Running in the evenings used to work really well for me but as my mileage increases it’s getting a lot harder, and so is my motivation to run an hour after a long day of work. I just have more energy in the evening, and in the morning I’m always stiff and slow but I imagine – hope – that gets better with practice. I’ve come up with a compromise that I think will suit it – I can do easy running in the AM when pace doesn’t matter and my speed work at night when I have more energy and can run faster. Fingers crossed I can FINALLY make this transition!! 🙂

  2. I have found out recently that my body does better with more rest. This marathon cycle I am going to do 5 days running…
    For strengthening, I honestly have my “grab bag” of core, upper body, and glut strengthening exercises which I do around 4 times per week in the evening while watching TV/helping w homework/hanging out with the family. This means it is usually done in my pjs, or reg clothes, but it is what gets it done. AND *bonus* usually one of the kids joins me–moral support!
    I am going to try to do some cycling–but it isn’t a favorite. I did like doing spin classes (I think the group thing got me going), but I don’t want to pay for it right now!
    I like training with the marathon plan. I, too, will tweak mine this cycle.
    I found a lot of beneficial strengthening, form drills etc. on Runner’s

    1. I’m with you, Cheryl – I perform SO much better when I’m well rested. I ran my indoor half in January during the off season on minimal training and ran a 3 minute PR, and I credit a lot of that to how well rested and fresh I felt. As you may remember, my performances at my two May half marathons were less than stellar, and I credit a lot of that to no taper and lack of rest. So being well rested is very important to me and that’s why I incorporate a lot of it into my schedule, and I’m worried what will happen if I add an additional workout day.

      I also have found great strength exercises from RW. I wish I would have bookmarked more of them. Now I just have to put them all into a routine I can do!! 🙂

  3. Ughhhhh I dread morning runs, but they might be in my training plan as well. I also need to plan out my long runs… With our wedding only 3 months away we are totally booked for the summer and I’ll have to squeeze in long runs in the mornings.

    I’ve started adding regular strength training and I can already feel the difference in my running. Sounds like you have a great plan that works for YOU, which is the most important thing!

    1. I did my long runs early in the AM all last summer and surprisingly I didn’t have issues with it. I think it’s easier knowing you don’t have to go to work afterward :). Early AM long runs this season are unavoidable if for no other reason that to beat the heat. But the upside is that they allowed me to feel like I could still have a normal life. This season I’ve done most of my long runs in the late AM/early afternoon and while it’s nice to sleep in, it throws off my whole day/weekend sometimes.

      You have been strength training like a boss and will be my inspiration to get after it this summer!

  4. Soooo excited to see that you are already thinking ahead! I like having minimal down time. I am doing something very similar after Grandma’s, and then once my November marathon hits I want to take November as a super easy recovery month – no structure. I like your process a lot – you are really considering everything! With your training prep, I can help you with #1, 2, and 5 on your list! Especially swim workouts. I love this book – it’s waterproof:

    I can also pass on some of the swim wo’s my coach gives me, he sends me two each week. I like to follow up every run with a MYRTL routine – to strengthen hips:

    For strength training and core, check out the Nike Training Club App – its free, and the workouts are great! There is a marathon prep workout designed by Paula Radcliffe.

    For form drills, I just researched this! Here is my post – even if you don’t like my conclusion there are some good resources in it!

    Good luck and see you SOOOOON!!!

    1. Ahhhh this is great thank you so much!! I was actually hoping you’d post a link to your post about form drills, I remember it but didn’t want to go searching for it *cough LAZY cough* 🙂

      Funny story, this comment got sent to my “needs moderation” folder. I think all the links must have red flagged it for spam or something, LOL.

  5. These are some awesome goals, and it’s great to see how you plan out the long runs and mileage you need to make it work. It’s something I am keeping in mind as I start to plan for my very first marathon – the need to make sure I give myself enough time to get where I need to be!

    1. Yes, giving yourself enough time is so important, that’s why I always do the macro-level planning first. It’s much easier to adapt to schedule issues – vacations, busy weekends, work travel – if you know it’s coming and can plan around it. It also brings you a little more peace of mind during the unexpected scheduling issues knowing that at least the rest of your training has been under control!

  6. You are doing amazing. I think you are very capable at this point to map out a plan 😉
    That is a long stretch from now till November to be in that high mileage zone, it’s probably good you are going to have the cruise to break things up and have some fun 🙂 Not that running isn’t fun, but you right, feeling tethered to something can weigh on you.
    It’s great to have a plan, I think you really need the plan to stay on track, but it’s okay to have some missing runs along the way. I read a book, You, Only Faster by Greg McMillan and he says you can miss runs in training, but the one thing never to skip is your long easy run, he felt that would have the most impact on your overall fitness while training…I don’t know since I obviously haven’t run a marathon, just something to think about 🙂

    1. Thanks Karen!

      I’ve also heard that the long run is the one thing you can never skip…which sucks because that’s the one I WANT to skip the most! Of course, right? Haha. I still struggle with missing runs, and even with pushing them back a day or two. It’s really irrational but I’ve heard that consistency is really important so I freak out if things get shuffled around. But I try to remember, my body isn’t going to remember that on race day, it will be fine! I’m putting in the work and that’s what counts!

  7. You and I are totally on the same page. When I ran my first marathon I stuck to Hal Hidgon’s training plan to a T. I felt confident going in and had a successful race. But over time, I’ve really learned what works best for me. For my past two marathons, Chicago and Boston, I created my own training plan. I would have loved to have a bit better weather to train for Boston, I ran every run except for 5 on the treadmill – aka no hill work haha. I think because everyBODY Is very different, no cookie cutter training plan will provide everyone with maximum benefits. I’ve contemplated hiring a coach, but not sure if I’m really there yet. I am hoping to publish a similar post in the next few weeks regarding my planning for NYC in November. Right now it feels so far away, but I know it will be here before I know it. Hope you have a fabulous day 🙂

    1. I’ve also contemplated hiring a coach. Like you, I’m not quite ready yet – I’m still doing well and improving on my own and I want to see how far I can go ridin’ solo. But I also know that there will come a day when I’ll need an extra push to get to that next level, and it will be nice to have more individualized attention.

      Look forward to your post about your NYC training and following your progress, as our marathons will be on the same day!

  8. Your schedule makes me tired just looking at it! I guess mine makes me tired too though 🙂
    I’m currently training for a half (next week … aughhhhh!) and after using a combination of about 4 different plans, I finally hired a running coach who created a training plan for me. It was similar to what I was already doing but holy moly she has really kicked my ass! Here’s what it looks like; 1x/wk speed work incorporated in with different mileage; cross/strength train (cycle for warm up then lunges, squats, biceps, triceps, back, hammies with free weights), 55-65 minute run with progression (I also incorporate hill work in this run), easy run, yoga, 1 long run and then 1 day off. I’ve only been doing this plan for 2.5 weeks and I’ve noticed a GIANT improvement in my strength and speed. I’m building mileage and endurance from taking time off. If I were at expert status like you, I might have incorporated more speed work.
    My first half I did NO strength or yoga and it killed me. I don’t take those for granted anymore … my body needs it to make me a stronger runner.
    If I had more time I would probably take a cycling class because THEY ROCK and I heard cycling is GREAT for cross training.
    Happy training!!

    1. Thanks so much Jenny! I think it’s a great idea to hire a coach. I actually will be looking to do that in the future. While I’m doing well on my own and want to see how far I can improve by myself, I know there will come a day when I need outside help to get to the next level. It will be nice to have that individualized attention.

      That’s awesome that you’re seeing such huge improvements on that workout schedule! What you’re doing is a lot like I want to emulate, although I would probably substitute the progression run with an easy run as I have seen a lot of benefit from doing more of my running easy/moderate paces. I can’t wait to incorporate more strength and cross and see my times improve as well as my overall fitness.

      Oh and GOOD LUCK on your half! I’m sure you will kill it!!!

    1. Oh me too. My plan is always flexible – as long as I meet my weekly mileage goal and get in the key workouts, the order doesn’t really matter so much. I can’t think of a single week this cycle that I didn’t end up moving stuff around.

  9. So very awesome! I followed a plan for my first marathon and then started to do my own thing after that. I think it’s easier once you know how your body reacts to that kind of mileage. I can’t believe you’re doing two marathons so close together! My body would crumble! So inspirational! I think your planning looks great. Looking forward to reading all about it.

    1. Thank you Nona! And oh don’t worry, two a year is my absolute limit. It didn’t seem like much at first until I got into all this training and now I’m like, holy crap, how do so many runners run 3x as many marathons in one year??? Once I finally nab my BQ I will be taking it much easier on the marathons but until then, back to the grind! Haha

  10. 16 days!!!! How did this training cycle go by so quickly?! Of course it’s easy for me to say that since I’ve just been sitting here on my butt reading about the hard work that you’ve actually had to put in all these weeks 🙂

    Here are some dynamic warmups that Coach Lauren recommends:

    And post run power exercises:

    Meg always posts the best strength training workouts!

    1. THANK YOU for the links!! Can’t wait to check them out and start developing routines!

      I know. I say 16 days – now 15 – and even though I can see those words on the screen it still doesn’t feel real. Like this race isn’t actually real, I’m just supposed to train for it forever. So weird!

  11. I am not very good at sticking to plans. I kinda just plan what needs to be done for the week and then move things around based on how I am feeling. It’s not always the best thing and at times leads to skipped workouts. My goal for Chicago is to be better at planning (take a page out of your book), and start running in the morning.

    1. I’m a planner and love plans, but I also don’t follow them to a T every week. Life happens, schedules change, and I almost always end up moving things around or tweaking a workout. As long as I hit my mileage goal for the week and do all the workouts I want to do (long run, tempo run, easy runs), the order isn’t as important as the fact that I got them done!! Planning is great but it only goes so far.

      Here’s to us becoming morning runners this summer!! LOL

  12. I know a lot of runners hate to hear this, but have you considered slowing down more on your easy runs so you recover quicker from them and have more energy? I’ve been doing HR-based runs during my downtime and, though I wouldn’t necessary jumping into that right now, I have noticed how much more quickly I am recovering from all of my easy runs since I’ve slowed my pace down. As long as you’re doing tempo and other speed workouts, it shouldn’t matter if you run another 30-60 seconds slower on your easy runs. It’s a bit difficult to go that slowly at first, but eventually it gets easier.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Ariana. It’s good advice and I agree, certainly almost every runner could afford to take their easy runs even slower than they think. I’m aware of how beneficial easy running is, as it’s made a huge difference in my training this cycle. And as I’ve had to force myself to go slower than I want on easy runs, I can certainly attest to your comment that it’s difficult at first but eventually gets easier! I believe that I’ve been doing a good job about taking my easy runs easy, as evidenced in the fact that I have had great long runs and finished strong and fast on almost all of them. I’m sure I could do better still, but believe me when I say I know the importance of easy running and I’m mindful of trying to take it easy. Some days I’m better than others. Of course I still have a lot to learn and with even more practice I will one day find that sweet spot for easy running, although I feel like I’m doing okay so far.

      Unfortunately though, peak marathon training is going to suck energy out of you anyway. No matter how slow you take the runs, it’s still a lot of mileage and time on your feet and that’s just exhausting on the body. To some degree that’s a normal part of training and is even beneficial in that it prepares you to perform on tired legs.

      I think you make a great point and I appreciate your advice, but I still think I need to explore other ways (XT, strength) to improve my balance and and energy management during this cycle. It’s really more so about the balance than the energy anyway. Thank you!!!!

  13. I am a planner as well, but with a traveling hubby and 2 kids along with me working full time I’ve learned to adapt. I toyed with doing another full this fall, but decided after Grandma’s I need a break from distances over the half marathon.

  14. This post was exactly what I needed to read right now! I’ve been struggling trying to find that “balance” as well. It is tough!

    I’m a planner, and I stick to training programs. It’s very easy for me to feel lost when I’m not following a program. I’m doing Route 66 in November, and my training program is 18 weeks in duration. I feel like I’m keeping up my running leading up to starting the program, but it can be difficult at times.

    And, I also plan on trying to wake up a little earlier each day to create a habit for early-morning workouts/runs.

  15. Just discovered your blog & can’t wait to follow along with your training! I recently read “Meb for Mortals” which had a ton of great form drills, now if only I could get myself to spend the extra time doing them! haha

    1. Thank you so much, and happy you stopped by! Oooo Meb for Mortals is a good idea, I’ve been wanting to check that out anyway and now I have an excuse!

  16. I’m late to the party, but these are the form drills I was doing earlier this year. I did get a huge 5k PR, so maybe they help? The video is super cheesy, but it helped seeing what each move was supposed to look like. The video also talks about doing strides between the drills and the importance of going for an easy run after the drills (to help you learn to apply the drills to actual running, or something).

  17. I love how logical your plan-making is. I do something similar. I think if you want to PR in the half, you’re going to need to cut down on the long, long runs (especially if you don’t care about your time at the Milwaukee Marathon) and add in a lot of high-quality running workouts. I bet adding some strength and plyometrics would increase your speed too.

    For Berlin, I’m running four times a week, with one cross training day and one strength training day. I NEED the balance. 🙂

    1. I need balance too, and I’m actually thinking of doing the same as you: 4 run/1 XT/1 strength. I’m still resistant to a 6 day week but for some reason strength doesn’t feel like as big of a sacrifice as adding another run day. Good luck! So exciting that you’re starting training already!

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