Marathon Training Plan, Injury Prevention & Nutrition

Thank you all so much for the words of encouragement on my last post about losing my running mojo to the heat! It’s very reassuring to know that many of you feel the same way, and the tips were really helpful, too – if you missed the comments on the post and are also struggling with hot weather running, check them out! Sounds like getting up ridiculously early (or going later at night) to beat the heat might need to start happening ASAP… that, and bringing my trusty CamelBak (filled with ice) with me on even short runs!

And now, as promised, I’m back to share more about my marathon training plan!


As I mentioned, Mary over at Fitness Fruition created a customized training plan for me for my first full marathon, which is Richmond in November! Mary and I first met back in January at our friend Meghann’s wedding; she’s an awesome runner, personal trainer, and has just started up a running coaching business, so when she read that I was doing my first marathon, she offered to serve as my run coach in exchange for me spreading the word about her new services. Thank you, Mary!

I told Mary that I wanted to stick with 3 days of running per week – I know that most people usually do 4 or 5 days of running a week when training for a marathon, but in the interest of not getting bored or injured (more on that next), I’m sticking with what works for me.


Mary sent me a detailed spreadsheet with a week by week plan, incorporating any races I have on the docket between now and the marathon and sharing exactly how far and around what pace each run should be every week, plus the total overall mileage each week. I’m not going to share the full plan per her request, but here’s what we’re going for:

Marathon Training Plan

3 days a week of running:

  • 1 long run
  • 1 speed/tempo workout
  • 1 mid distance run (usually hilly)

3 days a week of cross training:

  • 2 days of higher intensity workouts – either CrossFit or kickboxing/bootcamp
  • 1 day of lower intensity – either yoga or swimming

1 rest day

In terms of mileage, Mary has me doing two 20 milers and one 22 miler, to make sure that I’m fully prepared for the distance come race day. My biggest mileage week will be 40 miles three weeks before the marathon, but most of the weeks are totaling between 25 and 35 miles. I’m definitely a little nervous about the long runs – I’ve never run more than 13.1 miles, after all, and haven’t really done more than 20 or 25 miles total in one week before – but it will also be exciting because anything over 13.1 will be a new distance record. :) I’m going to be doing a LOT of exploring the DC area on foot this summer, that’s for sure!


Regarding time goals, I’d love to finish under 4 hours, and apparently that’s doable given my half marathon PR (1:43:44 – a 7:54 min/mile pace), but the beauty of doing a race distance for the first time is that anything will be a PR, so my overall goal is obviously just to finish!

That said, Mary and I came up with an A Goal, a B Goal, and a C Goal, and used those goal times to come up with my target goal pace and tempo run paces. My tempo run pace (for the speed workouts) is about 45 seconds faster than my race goal pace – between 8 and 8:30ish minute miles, but with a 1 mile warm up and cool down at a slower pace. My long runs are done at about 30 seconds to a minute slower than my goal pace, so I’m aiming to do my long runs around a 9:15 or 9:30 minute mile average.


Injury Prevention

I’ve had a few people ask me how my knee/calf situation has been lately, especially given that I did so many half marathons in the spring. Those who have been reading for awhile will remember that I was dealing with some knee pain and calf/inner ankle tightness back when I first started doing longer races. I wrote a post back in 2010 after my first half marathon with some reflections: How I overcame a knee injury. Fingers crossed, but so far continuing to do what I wrote about in that post has been working! I really think that doing a lot more cross/strength training has majorly helped – I’m pretty sure the knee problems were coming mostly from having weak hips/core, which put more pressure on my knee. I think doing CrossFit and boot camps and things like on a regular basis that really helped to strengthen the rest of my body, in turn helping my knee. I also make sure to ice my knees after runs and to use my foam roller. (Not sure how to use a foam roller? Check out my nerdy video from a couple years ago: How to use a foam roller.)


Regarding the calf, wearing compression sleeves when I run really helps, as does foam rolling. I’ll probably be busting out the compression sleeves once I start getting up in mileage. I like wearing the sleeves during a run, and compression socks when I’m recovering/hanging out at home, since they’re not quite as tight and more comfy.

Fingers crossed that upping the mileage to distances I’m not used to goes okay and that my knees don’t bother me! I’ll keep you guys updated.

Marathon Nutrition

I’ve also had some questions about nutrition and running. Before runs, I have a few standard go-to snacks. If it’s a shorter (less than 4 or 5 miles) early a.m. run, I’ll eat a banana and head right out the door immediately. If I’m going longer than 5 miles, I’ll have something more substantial – usually 1 piece of Ezekiel cinnamon raisin toast with a thin smear of almond or peanut butter and either half a sliced banana or a smear of jam/honey. I can usually eat this just shortly before running and it doesn’t bother me.


Regarding fuel during runs, I usually start fueling for runs over 9 or 10 miles. For these runs and up to 13 miles, I’ll have one gel (usually a Clif Shot Gel or a Hammer Gel – I love the ones with caffeine, especially for early a.m. runs, although the Margarita Shot Bloks are a new fave since they taste good in this really hot weather and have added salt) around the 1 hour mark, and that’s enough. Once I start doing runs longer than 13 miles, I’m planning to have 2 gels – one around the hour mark and another around the 2 hour mark or a little earlier if I feel like I need it. We’ll see how it goes. If I’m having gels, I’ll probably stick with just water in my CamelBak (vs. coconut water or a natural version of Gatorade), but we’ll see.

hammer gel

Regarding nutrition after long runs, my favorite thing to do is to have some chocolate milk immediately after the run – it’s the perfect combination of recovery carbs and protein, and obviously delicious and cold, too. :)


After the chocolate milk, I’ll shower up and then shortly after have a real meal. My favorite post long run meal is a biscuit sandwich with scrambled eggs, or an omelette with lots of veggies and toast – and of course bacon. :)

Anyway! Time to get back down to work. I hope you guys found this post helpful – please let me know if you have any other questions! I have 10 miles on the docket tomorrow for training – here’s hoping it goes better than yesterday’s run. :) Have a great day, everyone, and good luck to those of you who are also training in this heat!


  1. 1

    This is a solid plan – well, except I would want to swim more often :).

    If you are still struggling with the heat/humidity, consider Endurolytes or Saltsticks for extra salt. Those things have saved me during more than one race! You probably won’t need them come fall, but they are awesome in July and August.

  2. 4

    Good luck with your training! I am currently training for my first race. While it is nowhere near 26.2 miles (I’m running a 10K) this is all super helpful in regards to planning/prep. I usually do 2 runs plus 4 days of other activity. I run at 5:30am and have not been eating before. I feel fine and given that my distance is relatively short (5 to 10km) do you think this is okay? On the day of the race I will eat something though– hm but I have not been training this way! Help! Sorry for the lengthy comment :)

  3. 7

    Smart stuff! I an so inquisitive I probably drive my coach crazy! I need to find another camelbak, though, with a chest strap as mine doesn’t stay on too well

  4. 10

    Thanks for sharing your plan & nutrition! Injury prevention is most important to me as I tore my plantar fascia last year, still recovering & progressing towards a half in Dublin. Just a half but for me it’s very mental, focusing on what’s in front of me one step at a time. You’ll do it!!!

  5. 12

    Your plan seems very similar to mine. I’ll be running a marathon in Dec, my second. I can’t do the gels and use shotbloks on my long runs. I’m going to be checking into the margarita flavored ones.

  6. 13
    Melissa R says

    Endurolytes are my BFF! Meant to mention that in my comment. I get them on amazon.

  7. 14

    Really interesting read! I love hearing about training plans and injury prevention. I have just (pretty much) recovered from hip/knee issues to do with my IT band. Man it was a complete drag. Still not 100% over it and it is holding me back a little but, like you said, increasing the strength workouts and foam rolling has helped a fair bit. I’ve recently joined a gym so hope to do some proper pump classes to really max on this. Hope the training goes well :)

  8. 15

    seems like you might like to read this book to go along with your training. it’s similar and gives you other tips for running just 3 days a week. your plan is very much the same as what is in this book

  9. 16

    This heat is killing my long runs but I’ve been doing pretty good with my tempo runs on the treadmill indoors. I think you are smart to only run 3 days a week. Anymore than that does not work for my body. Everyone is different though.

  10. 17

    Sounds like you have it sussed! Will be looking forward to all the update posts. I’ve only just started considering possibly doing a half marathon which would be epic for me!

  11. 18

    Wow that training sounds intense! I do the same workout plan as you just less intense right now. I do my long run on Sundays, Yoga on Mondays, Run Tuesday-Thursday or strength class on Thursday, Friday off, and then Swimming if I can on Saturdays! I love mixing it up. Keeps it interesting!

    Sara :)

  12. 19

    Kudos to you for having that much discipline! Peanut butter toast with sliced bananas is one of my favorites too.

  13. 20

    Thanks for the great post! I am starting my first marathon training in 3 weeks and am nailing down my plan now. It will be fun to follow along!

  14. 22

    I’m training for my first marathon after a bunch of halves myself. I’m also doing a 3 a week plan from Run Less, Run Faster. In fact your plan with the cross training is similar to my plan. I used a 3 a week plan with cross training for my last half and took 15 minutes off my PR. For me the 3 a week works great! Hopefully it will for you too. Good luck!

  15. 24

    I’m glad you’re doing 3 runs a week as I always felt a bit guilty about “only” going out 3 times but my body can’t cope with more than 3. I also do one long run, one tempo and another medium one so all good :D

    I usually have porridge before my runs (long or short), seems to work for me! I’m kinda new to the fueling during the actual run though – will have to check it out. xx

  16. 25

    Sounds toe like you are pretty much going to follow the book “Run Less Run Faster” rules, runs and workouts. It’s a great plan. I’ve loved only running three days a week to train.

  17. 26

    Anne… You inspire and amaze :)

  18. 28

    Looks like a great training plan! I’m training for my first half marathon and I’m doing cross training too as well as Pilates and foam rolling to help with a previous knee injury too.

  19. 29

    I found that when I’m running in the heat, I loose way too much sweat and just drinking water actually makes everything worse. I’ve suffered from minor hyponatremia on long runs this spring and I started switching to electrolyte mixes (like Nuun, Fizz – non-sugary/calorie ones) that helped keep my electrolytes (especially sodium) in balance. It made an incredible difference.

  20. 30

    Thanks for sharing your plan! I’m not signed up to run a marathon, but it’s one of my goals for one of these days.

    I’m especially interested in learning about fueling during a race. I’ve never had to do that (other than drinking) since the furthest I’ve ran is 14 miles.

    Good luck for your 10 miler :)

  21. 31

    I definitely found last year during marathon training that I didn’t need a lot of sports drinks if I was using shot blocks or gels (a lesson learned the hard way when I over did it on a 20 miler and made myself sick). For my long runs, I tended to only carry water for hydration, and then planned my routes so they looped near my house or somewhere I could stash/buy Gatorade if I felt like I needed it.

  22. 32

    This is great! I stick with 3 running days and love CrossFit too! I’ve been wondering if I could do both CrossFit and a marathon so your post is brilliant! Good luck!

  23. 33
    Walter K says

    Good luck on the race. I saw you mentioned knee pain. 3 weeks before my one and only Marathon, I developed knee pain. Stopped my in 13.1 warmup ran in the city, and had to take taxi back to starting point. Bummer to say the least.
    I found my IT band was weak and the cause of pain. Researched and found good set of exercises to build gluteus Maximus and medius. These control the bad that attach to knee.
    I have 4 exercises I do every day.
    One legged squat
    One legged dead lift
    Resistance band side walk
    Resistance band scissor lift
    A doctor friend sent me an article, but I am not sure it is open to non medical folks.
    “Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises”

    Here is a video of dead lift (with weights – I do not use)
    And side walk (sorry, video is a little cheesy…and you do not need fancy band. 3 set at big box for $8)
    Finally, my newest pain is plantar fasciitis, or heel pain in early AM.
    The Sock Doc has a good video on treating calf/shin to deal with foot.

  24. 35

    I had no idea gels came in flavors that have caffeine in them. I need to invest in a few of those! They sound perfect for a morning run.

  25. 36

    That sounds like a great plan. I did a plan similar to that for my second marathon and got a PR too. I am doing a similar plan this for STL marathon. The cross training days are so important and unfortunately so many runners overlook it. One thing I’m working on different this go around is the nutrition part. I like your tips you post. I would totally blow it after my long runs and eat/drink whatever I wanted and that was not good for me. Not this time. And those big miles will come easier then you think. I’m sure you will be surprised. Thanks for sharing your training plan.

  26. 37

    Anne, I’m so glad you are going forward with the marathon training and race! I am running my first half mar on Sunday in Chicago. And although it has been hard to get motivated for long runs my best advice is go early in the AM, you beat the heat and feel great when done because you have already ran 10 – 15 mi and it’s only 8:00 or 9:00 AM! Not very many people can say that. I also recommend changing up your route, even if that means driving a few minutes to utilize a beautiful trail that you don’t run on frequently.

    I am also very glad you posted this info. You answered my exact questions without having to ask them! You don’t even know me, and you read my mind! In the summer, when the weather is nice, I run more, but I also find myself getting injured come August because I have amped up my running. This year I have tied in some strength training and I have found that it has helped, but I definitely think I need to do more, especially after hearing from you in this post.

    Thanks again for your advice and tips!

  27. 39

    That plan sounds like an ideal training plan! I seem to get burned out on running if I’m doing it more than 4x a week! I’ve always felt a little guilty feeling that way for some reason. I’m excited to see how your plan treats you … sounds like a winner paired with cross fit, etc. I’m about to start my training soon, so I’m curious to see how your plan works out. Incidentally, I’m also running in Richmond, but I’m running the half instead of the full!

  28. 40

    Sounds like you’ve got a good plan. Can’t wait to follow your training. :)

  29. 41

    That sounds like a good plan. I’m training for my first too! I would also like to get under 4 but just finishing is a major accomplishment so I’m not too worried about it!

  30. 42

    This is making me really want to sign up for another marathon!! But I do not envy you training in the heat of summer. Looking forward to following along with your training. Good Luck!

  31. 43

    Do you have an example of the (4) mile hill workout that you do on your training plan??

    • 44

      I don’t follow a specific workout – I just meant that one of my runs each week will probably include a massive hill since I live by a lot of them. :) So it would be a normal run for whatever the distance I’m supposed to do is on a hilly route.

  32. 45

    How exciting!! I’m running Richmond too and in the middle of training with the Charlottsville Track Club- I’m looking forward to following you on your jouney!

    A book I highly recommend, especially for RDs who get geeked out with sciencey nutrition stuff is Thrive by Brendan Brazier. The way he writes about nutrition + endurance sports is fascinating!


  33. 47

    I’m doing a 3 day/week running training plan too!

  34. 48

    I’m embarking on my first marathon journey and found your blog while searching for marathon training and nutrition tips. Looks like you’ve got lots of great tips and information that will benefit me! I’m excited to read more of your blog. Thanks!


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