How Intermediate Marathon Training Works

Intermediate Marathon Training Schedule

Most intermediate training schedules can prepare an intermediate runner for a race-quality marathon within a 16- to 20-week period. The kinds of running and extra activities conducted on those days vary in order to increase endurance, speed, efficiency and even the psychological wherewithal necessary for a marathon. For example, speed-oriented workouts focus on improving speed and performance, and become longer as the training period progresses. Each week, you'll run a total of anywhere between 25 to 40 miles (40.2 to 64.3 kilometers). Maybe more.

First, let's look at the different kinds of training activities an intermediate marathon runner may do.

  • Aerobic intervals are two-to-three minute periods in which you run a bit faster than normal training or race-day pace, enough to increase your breathing. That's followed by a minute or so of slow recovery jogging.
  • Uphill time is time spent running up inclines.
  • Tempo runs are quick bursts of running, alternating with jogging.
  • Long runs are 8 to 10 miles (12.8 to 16 kilometers) and they help increase your endurance.
  • Speed work is bursts of running of a few miles -- some at the pace you plan to run the marathon and some faster -- that help enhance cardiac strength and even psychological determination.
  • Strides are gradual but smooth accelerations run over 100 meters (328 feet) in a straight shot, followed by deceleration, then walking. These are generally a part of the mandatory cool-down period.
  • An easy run is similar to a warm-up pace, in that it is comfortable and paced consistently; if you can talk while you're running and feel like you could be running faster, that's an easy run.
  • Goal pace is the per-mile/kilometer speed you'd like to obtain in the real marathon.
  • Cross training activities are non-running tasks that will increase your body's ability to perform. Cycling, yoga and swimming are a few examples.

How these all fit in together is a very intricate puzzle that changes gradually and carefully over 16 weeks for optimal marathon preparation. Take a look at the sidebar for an example training schedule.

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