I've never been a big fan of conventional marathon build-up programs. First of all, most of those programs are designed for beginners- and I am of the opinion that if you are starting from scratch you should be looking at a 1 year plan rather than one that lasts only 3 or 4 months.
If you are an experienced runner preparing for a marathon-here are my 2 cents on how to do it right.
6 months out- you should be already be working on doing long enough runs that you feel confident that you can FINISH a marathon. Weekly 15-17 mile runs. They can be slow.
3 months out- your weekly miles and long runs should be peaking. That's right- 3 months out. Maintain that workload for the next 4 weeks. Never run longer than 3 hours or 20 miles in training.
2 months out- you should be focus on improving your long run tempo, not your distance. You have to do some race specific workouts on a weekly basis - at least an hour, which can be part of your weekly long run or a separate trainng session. Another option is to attempt to run a long run at tempo every other week, alternating with an easier long distance run.
I believe the 4 week period between 6 and 2 weeks out from your scheduled marathon should be the most intense part of your training.
4 weeks out- the perfect time for a half marathon or race simulated time trial to test your fitness. Allow yourself 2 good rest days, simulating what you will be doing those last couple of days before your marathon. You should be able to complete your half marathon at or below your goal marathon pace. With more recovery you'll be surprised how easy that pace feels on race day.
2 weeks out- you can start cutting your miles while maintaining intensity. No more runs longer than 90 minutes.
1 week out- nothing longer than an hour- 40-45 minutes of race pace running.
3 days out- your last race pace run for no more than 40 min.
2 days out- light jogging.
Race day-the optimal race plan is one that is run at an even pace- by now you should have a good feel for what that is.
Marathon training is hard work if you expect to run to your potential- the formula includes long runs of 2 hours or more, weekly miles, intervals or tempo work, and recovery days. The trick is putting the components together in a way that works best or you.
(c) Dave Elger 2007 All rights reserved