Welcome to the second part of a 6-month marathon training program. At this point you’ve put in a good amount of work on your legs and they’re primed and ready for the next step. The first 12 weeks were focused on building a great base for your marathon training by working on building base mileage, aerobic fitness, and capping it off with a half marathon (optional).
If you’re just picking this up, I would highly encourage you to go back to part 1 of the marathon plan for the first three months of the training plan. This is not meant to merely get you through a marathon, but to help you realize your potential through targeted workouts and good, old-fashioned hard work. It is not necessarily an easy plan, but it is one that will help you get the most out of your training time by strategically placed workouts, easy running and rest days.
If you’ve finished the first three months with a half marathon, I would caution you to jump back into training slowly. Make sure that you’re adequately recovered before training again to mitigate any potential injuries. Also, take that new data from your race finish time, whether it’s a half marathon or another distance, and use that to recalculate paces for your projected marathon time, half marathon pace, and tempo run used in your training. Most likely you’ll find that you are in better fitness than when you started training, and you’ll need to adjust those paces down a bit.
The next 12 weeks will further prepare your body for the rigors of a marathon using structured long runs, with a specific focus on the breakdown period near the end of 26.2 miles. It will also continue to build mileage and endurance, and put the finishing touches on your fitness in the taper phase. During the taper phase, the main focus should be on feeling good and preparing your mind to race. Training takes a back seat and can only get in the way of a successful run. Don’t think too much about it. My coach always used to say, “The only thing you can do at that point is screw it up.”
The marathon can be a dauntingly long way for the human body to propel itself. But the distance is special, not for being easy but because it is so hard. To finish one is a huge accomplishment, and to execute a successful one is rare and can potentially be life changing. Along with all the hard work, don’t forget to inject a little fun into your training and enjoy the journey you’re on.