It's time to play...

...Choose that marathon training plan!!

Yes, that's right.  Marathon training season is beginning, and as usual I am on the hunt for a plan that will lead me to the finish line.  For my previous three marathons (well, I guess I could say my only three marathons) I've used the same training plan: the Runner's World Rookie Training Plan.  This 16-week program has done well by me, but it's time for something new.  For one thing, I'd like to think that at this point, I'm no longer a rookie.  For another, I think using the Rookie plan for a fourth time could result in boredom.  That's the last thing I need, since I'll already be contending with long runs, which can be plenty boring without the help of a training plan you've seen about a million times.

I'd like to say that I'm comfortable enough with my knowledge of running to put together my own training plan; I'm sure I'm capable of doing it, but I'm such a worrier (and a self-doubter) that I'm not confident that I'd feel properly trained if I left myself to my own devices.  So a plan drawn up by someone who knows what they're doing is the best route for me.

Right now, there are a few contenders for the coveted position of Emilie's Official MCM 2011 Training Plan (hereafter known as EOMTP), as well as a few plans I've eliminated.  Let's start with the losers:

  • Any plan I have to pay for.  Anyone who is on the hunt for a training plan will notice that there are a number that will cost you anywhere between $25 to $400 (possibly more).  Runner's World has them, Active.com has them, every marathon's website has their own, and there are also a variety of what I'll refer to as boutique plans.  These are offered by running stores or running organizations (such as NYRR in the NYC area, for example) and groups.  My out-of-hand rejection of them is no reflection on their quality, it's based entirely on the fact that I don't want to pay for something I can get for free.  Stingy?  No, not necessarily.  Just broke.
  • Plans offered through Cool Running.  Some of you may recall that I used a CR training plan while preparing for the Brooklyn Half.  My take?  Not too positive.  I just have a hard time thinking highly of a plan that categorizes experience level according to both weekly mileage as well as expected finish time.  You can be an accomplished runner who is capable of handling a training plan that exceeds 40 miles a week and still not run a faster marathon than a 4:20.  Speed and mileage limits are not always directly related to each other.

Now on to the EOMTP contenders:

  • The Dashing Whippets fall marathon training plan.  My schedule hasn't been very conducive to running with the Whippets lately (or running much at all, sadly).  But they do offer training plans and from what I hear they're solid.  If I'm remembering correctly, they'll be sending the plan out this week, so I'll have a chance to look it over and make a quick decision if I want to adopt it.
  • Hal Higdon's Novice 2 schedule, which starts with an 8-mile long run and a 19-mile week.  Each week has two rest days and one cross-training day.  Peak mileage comes to 35-36 miles per week, and every three weeks is a step-back week for mileage.  The plan includes one 18-miler, one 19-miler, and one 20-miler.  This probably wouldn't be significantly different from the RW plan I've used so many times.
  • Hal Higdon's Intermediate 1 schedule (the plan I think I most want to do).  This plan also starts with an 8-mile long run, but 24 miles for the week overall.  There is only one rest day, but still a day for cross-training.  Peak mileage is 43-44 miles, and the plan includes two 20-milers and an 18-miler.  Every third week is a step-back week.
  • The FIRST training plan.  The premise of the FIRST plan is that you do more quality running and less mileage.  It's based around 3 weekly runs: speed work, a tempo run, and a long run.  The advantage to this would be that I could spend less time running and more time on other things, since time management has been an issue for me lately.  The concept scares me a little bit, though.

I won't lie, I'm definitely leaning in the direction of Hal Higdon if only because his plans are based on 18 weeks of training.  I've done 16 in the past and think it might be wise for me to train a bit longer, but of course if I end up feeling like a different plan would be better, I can always extend it by two weeks.

Decision time is coming up soon.  Do you have any thoughts or a favorite training plan of your own to share?

 

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