Marathon in a month?

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16/12/2013 at 18:48

I'm one month away from attempting my first marathon. 

On the negative side, I haven't started any training plan, I've never run more than 21km before, an unhealthy food-and-drink-intense Christmas is on the horizon, and the marathon will be in the 25 degree centigrade heat of Mumbai, India.   On the positive side I'm reasonably fit, and go for 5-10km runs when I can fit this into my schedule (typically a couple of times a week, though some weeks I have no runs at all due to overseas travel) . I can reasonably confidently run a half marathon "on demand" (ie without notice or training) in a little over 1h30 without too much push (I did one a month ago - my 3rd - in 1:33, with no injury afterwards), and I can similarly run 5km in 20 minutes . I'm aged 31, 1.80m tall and weigh 64kg.   What should I be doing to prepare for the marathon, given it's fairly soon? I'm not interested in plodding round - 3h30 would be the slowest time I'd be satisfied with (I realise that for many people here that would count as plodding round!). Conversely I don't want to get injured and find myself out of action for some time.    Is this achievable given where I am? Advice very welcome...
17/12/2013 at 02:19

Hmmm.  You've got 33 days to do about 10 weeks training!  Good luck!

For a full marathon, you normally do a 14-18 week programme, with the last 3 weeks being a 'taper', where you reduce your training, to allow your body to recover to peak for the race.  But you're going to need to adapt that This is what I'd do (others might disagree)

  1. look in the mirror and shout at yourself for not having trained before now!... then promise to take it seriously for a month.
  2. Plan a 24 day main programme, starting tomorrow... leading to a 9 day taper. You shouldn't need the full 3 weeks taper, because you haven't had a long hard training programme. And you can't afford it anyway!
  3. You've clearly got natural speed.  And anything you do to hone that speed is, in my opinion, a waste of time because all your weakness is in endurance.
  4. Everything has to be endurance... so everything has got to be SLOW. This trains your slow twitch muscles, and the physiology associated with keeping you going for 26 miles. So virtually every mile you run in the next 3 weeks should be in the range 9:20 to 9:45 per mile.
  5. You also need to read up on nutrition, and on hydration - and on other race day things. Plan what you'll do on race day and, even if you're not training in Mumbai conditions, practice some of it in training runs.
  6. I hope you're not flying to Mumbai the night before.  I almost expect that that's what you've booked!

So... day by day, I'd do something like the following milages. Assuming you're fit, you did a 1:33 HM a month ago, and kept some fitness up since.

  1. 15 miles slow
  2. rest or gentle swim
  3. 3 mile very slow recovery run
  4. 7 slow miles
  5. rest or swim or bike
  6. 7  slow miles
  7.  rest
  8. 17.5 slow miles
  9. rest
  10. 4 miles
  11. 8 miles with 3 of them at marathon pace
  12. rest swim
  13. 6 miles
  14. rest
  15. 20 miles
  16. rest
  17. 3 miles
  18. rest
  19. 6  miles with 3 at marathon pace
  20. 4 slow miles
  21. rest
  22. 18 miles
  23. rest
  24. 3 miles

Then taper down.... read up on that bit.  Fit it in with our travel plans. But I wouldn't be doing more than a few miles in the last week.... but probably do something when you get to Mumbai, just to get used to it.

Finally, I think you'd be mad to go for 3:30.. given your lack of preparation and the high temperatures. If you do 3:45, it would be a good achievement. I'd aim for that.

Good luck

17/12/2013 at 08:34
I think this is called having your cake and eating it.

You lost my support when you said you didn't want to plod round in 3.30.
That's a bit disrespectful to all the guys who train properly and really comit to hitting 3.30 which is a bit faster than plodding. Even for a 1.30 half runner.
17/12/2013 at 10:13

Omigod, I felt a little bit snubbed when I read your post Philip, which I'm sure wasn't your intention.  I am still training for my first marathon (next April) which has taken me weeks of gradual training, research, mistakes and lots of invaluable advice and support from this forum.  I am only beginning to touch the surface of my training schedule.  You say you are reasonably fit, but you will see that it's not your fitness that will hold you back, it will be stamina and weak legs.  You also say that an unhealthy food-and-drink-intense Christmas is on the horizon.  I am the worlds best party animal, who loves her drink and food, but I'm already planning which days around Xmas that I'm going to do my long runs and schedule in the drinking afterwards.  The marathon is a committment and if you do achieve your 3:30 (because you will be disatisfied with anything slower), then I will hang up my trainers and eat my hat!  I wish you the best of luck with your marathon and please keep us posted on your results. 




17/12/2013 at 10:21

Given that 3.30 is the slowest time you will be satisfied with. Given the heat. Given the lack of training. I would set the table for Mr Disappointment.

17/12/2013 at 10:38

Is this Samir's brother?

17/12/2013 at 10:40

Is Mr Troll not already at the table? carb load throughout the Christmas Period then 'jog, round the race in 3:30. Maybe wear a sign letting everyone know that you didn't train for the distance

17/12/2013 at 10:41

Millsy/pipski.. As I waited for the cricket to start, I think I was generous of spirit in the early hours!

I didn't much care for the dismissive tone either... and wondered if he was perhaps a wind up merchant.  But I gave him the benefit of the doubt.  He's an ideal age and if you do a 1:30 marathon, I suppose that doing 9  minute miles will feel like plodding... so I can understand how a poorly-read person would consider a time slower than 3:30 to be inadequate.  Personally, I'd just love to do 3:30... but I'll take his words as a bit clumsy rather than arrogant!

So... Philip.  I repeat my advice to go for 3:45, maybe even 3:50 - but that's up to you.  I also reiterate that there are 2 key disciplines needed for your training.  First, you need to knock out some miles, whilst getting some rest between (hence my suggestion for 3 rest days per week. Maybe I racked you up to 20 a bit too quick. Maybe you should peak at 19 in training, and hope that's enough.   Second...when I said run around 9:30, I meant it.  If you decide that running at 8 minute miles is a better idea, then you're missing the point.

There could be some interesting conditions in Mumbai.  I assume you know the city, the climate well.  It would be good if you could tell us what you think of the suggestions... and update us on your training and the race itself.Good luck.

18/12/2013 at 18:20

Philip.... as a newcomer to the site, I guess you don't frequent it as much as the regulars...  but when you do, it would be good to hear your thoughts.

18/12/2013 at 18:35

Thank you, Nose Newt, for the helpful response, and everyone else for your replies. 

On the practical level, I did 28km (two thirds of a marathon) on the treadmill this morning at a constant 11km/h speed, ie 2h33 total. I ran on a 1% slope to make it a bit more of a workout. Whilst rather mind-numbing, it was certainly useful.  The first 90 minutes were easy, the last hour a bit tougher because of aches and hunger (it was before breakfast, and I didn't take on any food during the run). The AC in the gym was also not working, so it was a bit hot. I recognise that 3h30 will be a challenge. I like challenges.

On the more general level, it is surprising to read in this forum of the hostility to ambition and to not doing things according to "accepted wisdom". Indeed, it seems some people wish a runner to fail because they perceive a lack of "putting the hours in". Of course 3h30 or even considerably slower is a great achievement for some people, and I don't belittle that. But I am where I am (through a bit of focus on fitness over several years, rather than through being a slave to the wisdom of internet experts). As I said in my original post, 3h30 for some serious runners is plodding. For some others it is beyond their wildest dreams. We all are where we are, and for me, whilst by no means guaranteed, it is an achievable  goal with 4 weeks to go.

Happy running!

18/12/2013 at 18:53
Hi Philip

Good luck with your marathon which I assume will be a challenge in itself let alone the time. I think the reason why you got some less enthusiastic responses it that most ppl train for years, several times a week, If not every day doing 30, 40 50 whatever miles a week to get the time they want, and then it's just not easy having someone coming along wanting to do a totally respectable time with 1 month training. You have a good HM time but a HM is different to the full one one and there is the tricky 20 mile mark...

I wish you all the best and hope that you will get around without injuring yourself but be prepared for a challenge

Good luck!
18/12/2013 at 18:58

Mile 18-20 that's when it will happen phillip.

good luck though 

18/12/2013 at 19:06

If you ran 3 and a half hours off one months training then that would be impressive. I'm just doubtful and can't see any reason why you could. Good luck and I wish you to succeed. 

18/12/2013 at 19:10

The advice in which you ask would be the conventional wisdom in which you admit you will not follow. So the advice is you aren't doing it right. But go ahead. I'm sure your failure will mean the death of this thread but I genuinely wish you well.

18/12/2013 at 19:13

Good idea to do your long runs hungry - have you been reading this?

You said you ran half marathons 'without too much push'.  Do you ever push? Do you plan to push in the marathon?

18/12/2013 at 20:23
Philip 2 wrote (see)

On the practical level, I did 28km (two thirds of a marathon) on the treadmill this morning at a constant 11km/h speed, ie 2h33 total. I ran on a 1% slope to make it a bit more of a workout. Whilst rather mind-numbing, it was certainly useful.

I'd switch to 2% - I think this equates to running outside much better.  0% is way easier than running outside and in my experience 1% is not quite enough to mimic real running.  I've run two so far - last time off a 1:38 HM was up at 8:00-8:20 pace for the first two thirds, really easy going - then the last third (or maybe a bit later) the pace just dropped off for a sub 4 hour scrape through.  I really wish I'd done more long runs - just 4x20milers!  But then I'm 9 years older and while the same height, 25Kg heavier than you

18/12/2013 at 22:07

The problem with running on a 2% incline is that you mimic running on a 2% incline.  IMO you may as well accept that treadmill running is a little easier, or better still train outdoors.

18/12/2013 at 22:09

Hey Philip... Probably the main reason for a bit of hostility is that we quite often see people sign up to the forum, ask for advice, then you never hear from them again.  Or you do hear from them and it's clear that they're just trolling.  So, not your fault, and it must look bad from your viewpoint, but from the perspective of the forum regulars  (most have been here much longer than me!) it can be wearing when people do that.

Anyway... to your running.  Do you know how much time went into me thinking through that plan?   I said 9:30  and I said I meant it.  

I'll say it again. You're clearly fit. You've got the speed already. But the one thing that's most likely to trip you up it is endurance.  And running at 8:47 minutes per mile is some way from ideal. 

You're training the bit of your system that is already fit. It's like Kevin Pietersen spending all his practice time trying to get even more perfect at hitting the ball out of the ground.  Very nice, if it comes off, but he'd be a thousand times better having patience and practising some defensive shots.   If you had run for the same 2hr 11 minutes, but run at 10 km/hr, you would have done a lot more good in  the same time.  

Less chance of injury too.  The advice I gave was pragmatic, given your available time... but it still ramped up the mileage a lot quicker than the received wisdom says you should, and on average, your chance of injury is higher.  But if I was you, that would be a risk I'd take.

So really. Do slow down.  Train the bit of your system that needs training.  You might still surprise people and do well, but you'll do better if you slow right down.  It's a lesson that has been learned over and over and over and over again!


Edited: 18/12/2013 at 22:14
18/12/2013 at 22:32

I don't think we need to debate 1% or 2%. That is small fry in the grand scheme of things when putting together a 1 month plan.

Your question can't be answered using  convention. It does come across as though you've bowled up to the start line and then asked "what do we do"

I can't give a conventional plan. I can pass on what I have done when I had limited time to get in shape for a race. But is it applicable? appropriate?

So recently I had 5 weeks to prepare for New York Marathon. When I started I was reasonably fit, could run a half on demand, and wasn't interested in 'plodding around'. 3 hrs was the slowest time I would be satisfied with. Any other similarity would be a guess. Hop on the schedule in in week 2. 


Mon  Recovery Run     5 am    4 pm
Tue   Recovery Run  Easy 7
Wed Easy 6
Thu   Rest
Fri    Easy 11
Sat  Recovery 5
Sun  Medium Long  15

Week 2

Mon  Medium Long 16 incl 4 @MP
Tue  Medium Long 12
Wed Easy 5
Thu  Long Slow Run 22
Fri   Easy 6
Sat  rest
Sun Long Slow Run 21

Week 3

Mon  Easy 8
Tue  Medium Long 16, with 20 mins @  Threshold Pace
Wed Easy 8
Thu  rest
Fri  LSR 20  inc 4@MP
Sat Rest
Sun 10m inc 6 x 1200m

Week 4

Mon  Easy 10
Tue  Easy 6
Wed Med. Long 11  incl 4 @ threshold, 2 @ MP
Thu  Easy 4
Fri  Easy 9, incl 3 x 1M @ 10k
Sat Rest
Sun Easy 13

Week 5

Mon Easy 7
Tue Easy 8
Wed Easy 5, incl 2@MP
Thu  Rest
Fri Easy 3
Sat Rest
Sun Race

18/12/2013 at 22:33

And the important key to this was using a 1% incline (I think)

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