How Advanced Marathon Training Works

Advanced Marathon Training Schedule

Experts offer conflicting advice about running strategies, but if you're an experienced runner, you probably have some idea of what works for you. Keep in mind that the objective is to achieve a gain in speed and consider the reasoning behind each strategy.

Weekly mileage varies among programs and throughout the duration of training, but most clock in at about 60 to 70 miles over a combination of long and short workout days. Beginner and intermediate programs focus on preparing the body without overwhelming it or causing injury, and therefore, the training distances are much shorter (in some cases, you won't even tackle 26.2 miles until race day). Advanced training, however, assumes your body can handle the distance and allows you to focus on speed and stamina.

Leading marathon coach Gabriele Rosa believes that marathoners should work on speed first and endurance second, because when distance comes first, runners are too exhausted to push for speed afterward [source: McMillan]. In Rosa's program, elite runners had success by adding a speed- and core-focused pre-training session for several weeks before regular training began. In this case, the regular training program was a few weeks shorter so the runners wouldn't be lethargic during the most crucial part of their training and worn out on race day.

Trainers agree that runners need a couple days per week to recover; they disagree, however, in the definition of "recovery." Some feel that an easy run, a stamina-building hill workout or light cross-training is an acceptable recovery day, while others advocate a day off for complete rest. The most important consideration is understanding the different objectives for each day and following the program you've chosen [source: Palmer].

Though running generally contributes to better fitness and a healthier overall lifestyle, the intense and accelerated pace of marathon training can cause health problems. A runner who's working to build speed and endurance, both of which are crucial to really race a marathon, is probably working too hard, though it's perceived as a necessary evil [source: Palmer]. Advanced marathon training is especially stressful on your joints, bones and muscles. That's why it's important to adhere to the rest and recovery portions of your program. An injury might force you to drop out of your big race.

Marathoners might be goal-oriented people by nature, but mere motivation can't take you all the way to the finish -- some sacrifices are necessary. Read on to find out how you can fit advanced marathon training into your lifestyle.