The Road to Rhode Island: How to Choose a Marathon Training Plan

The following is a transcript from the video above. It has been edited only in as much as to remove any blatant abuses of the English language. So, if you’re listening to the audio… sorry.

This is Tim Woodbury from Midpack Runner. I’m proud today to announce that I’ve just joined the ranks of the Rhode Scholars for the 2012 Amica Marathon this October in Newport, Rhode Island.
amica marathon
As a member of the Rhode Scholars, over the next several months leading up to the race I’ll be coming to you with a detailed look into what it is that I’m doing to prepare myself for this marathon. At the same time, I’ll be sprinkling these videos with bits of advice – tip, tricks, exercises that you can use to get yourself to your fall races in the best shape you’ve ever been in.

And it all starts with choosing the right training plan.

You see, the right training plan can make the difference between arriving at your race ready to run or being sidelined midseason with an injury. Or worse.

Now we’re going to break down over the next few minutes what differentiates a good plan from a bad plan. And then I’m going to go ahead and talk to you about the plan that I’ve settled on. It’s a little bit shorter so it leaves me some extra time between now and the race, so I’ll talk about what I’m going to be doing with all that time as well.

So let’s start by talking about a bad plan.

Two types of training plans that will leave you injured

Now when you talk about a marathon training plan, it seems like everybody has one and most of them are of questionable quality. It’s basically just, “what I did to get there”. There’s not a whole lot of science behind it. But there is a pretty easy way to identify plans that are going to end up getting you injured.

The first thing to look for is that they won’t include any time in the plan for cross-training. The muscles that you develop to support your running structure are just as important as the ones that move you forward. In fact, even moreso. Those are the ones that are going to prevent you from finding yourself injured. So don’t forget to pay attention to those.

If you find a plan that doesn’t include time for cross-training, toss it away; find a new one.

The second class of thing to look for in these bad training plans is a plan that asks you to go above and beyond what you think you really should be doing in terms of mileage. If they ask you to run 80, 90, 100 miles a week in the middle there it’s a bad plan. You don’t need that many miles.

Your cardiovascular system is incredibly powerful, and you’ll find that you get into shape reasonably well with just one long run a week and then a bunch of shorter runs and extra exercises. So, if you find a plan that seems too long, it probably is. Chuck it out; find another one.

Like having your own vegan sherpa, but for marathoning

Marathon Roadmap Book PackageWhich brings me to what I’m going to be running with. Now I’ve talked about this plan a little bit in the past, but I’ve never actually trained for a marathon using it before. So this will be a first. And you’ll be able to watch me go through, and spot any trouble areas in the plan and in my implementation of it.

It’s Matt Frazier’s No Meat Athlete Marathon Roadmap [Editor's note: Matt also offers a half-marathon roadmap if you're running a shorter race this fall].

I like this plan because it includes time for cross-training. It’s a low mileage plan. There’s only one long run a week and then he’s alternating with a bunch of different interval exercises, hills, all the things that I really feel like a good plan should include.

So, I’ll be doing that.

It’s an 18-week plan, provided that you can run about 5 miles at a go. Otherwise, I think it’s a little longer; its about a 24-week plan. But, I’ll be starting on June 10th with the 18-week portion of that plan.

Preparing to prepare

In the interim, I’m going to be making it a point to spend that time on conditioning, on strengthening, on building the systems that I need to support that running. And I’ll be showing you exactly what it is I’m doing in a future video. So, we’ll talk a little bit moving forward about what the exercises are that you need to really build up your core, to build up some of those stability muscles, moreso.

The other thing that I’m going to be doing is that I’m spending a lot of my shorter runs barefoot. And that’s something that I picked up during my recovery from plantar fascia issues.

I tried all the high structure stuff. I went through the cortisone shots. I tried expensive, expensive orthotics (which, of course, are not covered by insurance, by the way). And none of it worked. Traditional medicine didn’t work.

Then I took my shoes off. And within six months my foot problems had gone away.

So I’ll be doing a little bit more of that. And I’ll talk to you about what the things are that you need to consider should you want to implement a barefoot section of your plan as well.

So, for now, I’m going to leave you with that. Go out there, find your plan, get ready for your marathon. And I’ll see you back here next time.

What races are you running this fall? Will I see you at the Amica Marathon? Tell me in the comments.

  6 Responses to The Road to Rhode Island: How to Choose a Marathon Training Plan
  1. Congrats! Love their Rhode Scholar program; great way to virtually meet other east coast runners.

    I’m using Matt’s program to train for the Cox Rhode Races marathon (my 1st) in Providence. The consistent use of lower mileage, higher intensity workouts in addition to conventional longs have definitely helped keep me from getting bored.

    • Tim Woodbury

      I’ve been following your training posts, Kat (I’m a lurker, sorry :P ). Your race is getting pretty close. Mid-May, isn’t it?

      I’m glad to hear the plan is working well for you. The variety is definitely a big sell for me. Although, coming from Seattle, I’m not sure where I’m supposed to find hills in/near Boston. Blue Hills skyline trail, I guess.

  2. I ran the Newport half marathon a couple years ago (destination vacation, as we lived in Seattle at the time), and it was the most gorgeous race course! Just so lovely, and the sun was shining – it was a great day!

    Good luck in your training!

    • Tim Woodbury

      Did you get the chance to do the cliff walk while you were there, Angela? With the ocean on one side and the historical mansions on the other, it’s a gorgeous trail. Not that I suspect that more foot-based activities were really on your agenda following the race. I know I needed at least a day the last time I went beyond a 10k. ;)

  3. Shawn

    You will definitely see me there. Can’t wait to start training (and reading about yours)! Sounds like a good plan you’re looking at. May have to look into it myself.

    Also, as a Bostonian, I can tell you that while we don’t quite have the hills of the west coast, the Newton hills are pretty good. See this chart.

    Works for the Boston Marathon. Should get you through RI.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Thanks, Shawn. Glad you’ll be joining me in October. As the race gets closer, maybe I’ll schedule a meetup for the Midpackers in the crowd. Maybe pre-race dinner?

      I’ve had Matt’s plan since he released it, just never a chance to use it. Other people have been raving about it though (see Kat’s comment above, for example) – which always made me envious that I hadn’t tried it out.

      The funny thing about that chart is that the first 2.5 miles of the Portland graph is what my normal training runs used to start with back in Seattle. That said, I’ll happily trade hills for the sun to run them in any day of the week.

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