Thursday, 30 September 2010

Sydney Marathon: Training Program

For those of you bored with my marathon posts I promise that this will be the last one in a while, but in response to my good friend Blue Eyes' request for information about my training program I thought I'd treat you all to one last blog.

I was following the Hal Higdon Intermediate I training program. The website looks dreadful, but the information contained is fantastic.

Hal Higdon has five different marathon training programs which all follow the same basic pattern. They are all eighteen weeks in length and have you training five or six times a week:

- Monday: Cross training. Aerobic exercise e.g. swimming or cycling. I used to skip Monday training quite frequently as I was so tired from the weekends.
- Tuesday: A short run.
- Wednesday: The 'long' mid-week run.
- Thursday: A run very similar in length to Tuesday.
- Friday: Rest day, yes!
- Saturday: A steadily paced, medium length run.
- Sunday: Longest run of the week. The maximum I ran before the marathon on a Sunday was 22miles / 35kms.

I found it was really important to get into a routine so that I could fit in all of the runs, for me this meant a lot of 6am starts.

I didn't really worry about having the right gear until I started running over 20km. Then I found foot troubles (keep your toenails short) and chaffing started to become a problem. I'd recommend:
- Go to a running shop and get yourself a proper shoe fitting. I bought two different pairs of shoes and alternated them through training.
- A pair of Thorlo socks.
- Breathable, quick drying running shorts, top and hat.

If you can afford it I'd definitely recommend a GPS watch as well. I found this a really valuable training guide. When you need to run 16km today, how do you know you've actually done the right distance without spending hours measuring out routes?

I've never experimented with Skins or any of the other body socks. I'm a bit sceptical, but other people swear by them.

This is an area where I probably didn't focus as much as I should have. During my longer runs I was taking GU energy gels which I do think help to sustain you when you are running over 20km. For the long runs I'd also recommend drinking a Powerade when you finish. I found the re-hydration salts really helped me hydrate after a run.

It's good to work out what is the best pre-run breakfast for you. I was eating a banana and honey, sometimes adding in a slice of wholemeal toast.

For the month before the marathon I was eating pasta everyday for lunch. In the final week before the race I was carbo, protein and water loading too.

It's important to develop a good stretching routine. I'd regularly spend 10-15mins stretching at the end of runs, holding individual stretches for a minute each. Most people underestimate the importance of stretching.

I did a bit of experimenting with ice baths, walking in the swimming pool and having the cold/hot contrast of using the sauna too. I found that I recovered remarkably well from all of my runs through the combination of stretching and aiming for cold compression of the muscles.

I had a couple of physio sessions before the marathon which I found invaluable. I didn't have any injuries before I went, but the physio was able to identify issues before they became problems and give me exercises to resolve them. I was amazed how insightful and valuable these sessions were. It might depend if you can find a good physio though.

Any questions BE (or anyone else), let me know!


  1. Excellent stuff. I shall refer to this again. I have only been running twice a week on average, so that needs to be "upped". I also have an embarrassing issue with chafing of the inner thigh when I run more than about eight miles. I think I know what the solution is, it's just finding the correct equipment!!

  2. I had some chaffing on the inner thigh too. It took me a while to work out what it was, but I finally realised that it was the seam on my shorts.

    I went to a sports shop and tried on 5/6 different pairs of running shorts and finally chose one that didn't have a seam in the offending area. I ended up with a pair of Asics if it is any help.