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Even the thought of training for a marathon can easily become a huge project. Get started by breaking down the training into phases.

Want to run the Telenor Copenhagen Marathon next year, but don’t know how to get started?

What training plan should you choose? What should your pace be? What’s right and wrong, do’s and dont’s?


Being a first-timer, getting started training for a marathon can seem almost insuperable. 


Let’s make it clear: You don’t have to follow a training plan for a whole year to get to the finish line.

It doesn’t need to be that complicated, so Anna Holm, who is currently the best marathon runner in Denmark.

About Anna Holm

29-Year-old Anna Holm is defending Danish champion over the half marathon distance and participated at the Olympics in Rio. During the past three months she has set new personal bests over 10 km, half marathon and marathon. Her life time marathon best is 2 hours and 33 minutes.

Based on her own marathon training, Anna will give a few pro tips on how to plan your marathon training.

#1: Get started on the basic training

You don’t have to train for a marathon a whole year. Being an elite athlete, Anna only begins her specific marathon training three months before it’s time to peak.

Until then she is doing basic training.

What is basic training?

“The basic training is what the word says: basic. Its about improving your endurance, and the way to do it is to run lots of kilometres in a slow pace, simply with the purpose of getting your body used to running.”

The basic training is probably the most important part of your preparations for a marathon.

Get ready for marathon with Nike+ Run Club – Get your training plan here

#2: Forget pace, focus on continuity

During the basic training, there are lots of things, that are not at all important yet.

You may have dream about clocking a sub-something time or keeping a certain pace. But if you haven’t run a marathon before, this is not what you should be thinking about at this stage.

“I would not be concerned with all of that at this point. Right now, it’s about establishing continuity in your training. Every week.”

How often you should be training is different from one person to another, Anna points out.

It depends on how much time you can and want to allocate and still keep a balance between your training and your other commitments, work and so on.

“A rule of thumb, however, is to not train more than every other day, if you are not used to running or training for long distance. You need to be running lots of runs in a slow pace, so you don’t push yourself to hard and end up injured.”

#3: Take it slow

The pace, you should be running, will vary. When you do your long slow jogs, it really should be slow.

Here’s a tip:

“Make sure to run your easy runs and long slow runs in a pace that allows you to keep a conversation. Perhaps you can team up with somebody and let the slower of you set the pace – it makes it much easier to keep the pace down.”

3 things you should be thinking about

So, make sure to focus on these 3 things at this point:

  1. Continuity – Decide for yourself how often you can or want to train, and stick to your plan. Don’t run 5 times in one week and 2 in the next. Stability and continuity is key.
  2. Frequency – Your weekly number of trainings is contigent on the amount of time available to you. However, don’t train more than every other day, if you are not an experienced runner.
  3. Easy pace – Run in a pace that allows you to keep a conversation. Don’t focus on keeping your pace, but keeping it down.

3 basic elements in your training

During the basic training phase there are three elements, which should be a part of your weekly training plan: Intervals (or fartlek), easy runs and a long, slow run.

3 elements in your weekly training

  1. Intervals / fartlek
  2. Easy runs
  3. A long, slow run

How to do intervals

Many think that intervals must be run “all out” until the point where you can’t push yourself any further. But when you’re training for long distance, this is not the way to do intervals.

Basically intervals is about varying your pace. Divide your run into shorter or longer blocks of high pace and low pace. A variant of intervals is called “fartlek, which is an unstructured type of training with alternate moderate to hard-effort running and easy effort running.

“Fartlek in the woods or hilly terrain is ideal during fall and winter. Try for instance running up hill and easy pace down hill or use lampposts or signs as markers. Don’t focus on the time, but on shifting pace.”

Anna Holm does intervals 1-2 times a week.

“When you do intervals, you can do a classic interval session such as 5 x 1000 metres. It’s okay to run with moderate to high intensity, but you have be able to jog in between – that’s your pace guideline,” Anna explains. “It’s better to go with a pace which a little too slow rather than a little too fast, since most runners tend to set out too fast.”

Further, Anna has an important guideline when it comes to intervals.

“I run most of my intervals in 10 km pace, and the rest are slower. That’s a good guideline, I think. When you run intervals, it should not feel as a race – you need to have enough energy for the next training. If you don’t you are running too fast.”

Du skal altså ikke løbe dine intervaller hurtigere end din 10 km-fart, og ofte langsommere, f.eks. din 15 km-fart.

What’s your 10 km pace? 

Your 10 or 15 km pace is the maximum pace you can sustain over a distance of 10 or 15 km. If you did a 10 or 15 km “all out” race recently, you can use that pace.

The long run

The weekly long run is a must when you are training for a marathon. It is important to get your body used to running for longer periods of time – both from a physical and mental point of view.

But how far is far?

There are different opinions about that. But most marathon training plans have quite a few long runs of 20 – 25 kilometres and peak with 2-3 runs of 25-30 kilometres.

“You can add more and more distance from one week to another. The most important thing is that you keep it slow.”

You can seek inspiration from the official Telenor Copenhagen Marathon Sunday training plan. However, it is still important that you listen to body and continuously adjust your training.

See the Sunday training plan here

Targeting the marathon

Once you get into a good basic training rutine and have got used to running, you can start targeting your training specifically for marathon. This would be 3-4 months before race day.

The main difference is that you start doing runs in your marathon pace.

“You want to start getting used to running in your anticipated marathon pace.”

You can do that by incorporating blocks of marathon pace into your runs, e.g. 3 x 2000 metres marathon pace with jogging in between.

But until then – have fun getting started on your marathon training!

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