People often ask me, how do you train for a marathon when you’re busy?
After 9 years of training and running marathons, I always say...
If you want your first marathon to be a success or any race for that matter, you must balance three key pillars: time, money and relationships.
Otherwise, everything else can and will get in the way.
With a full workload, a beautiful family, friends, and other outside commitments, adding a demanding training schedule can quickly become overwhelming. Then before you know it, race day is only a month away, and you feel unprepared, fearing failure.
But if you’re anything like me, you like to do things properly. You prepare and don’t like to quit once you commit.
If that’s you, keep reading.
In this post, we break down everything you need to know about time management and what you need to do to train efficiently and effectively.
What we’ll cover:
- Get clear on your objectives
- Avoid injury
- Formulate your training program
- Building your team, and
- Train efficiently
Get clear on your objectives
This is REALLY important. The physical aspect of training is of course, important, but equally important is our mental training and toughness. This starts with your why.
Why do you really want to run a marathon?
Why is it important to you to complete this challenge?
There will be some really challenging times, both during your training and in the race.
You are going to feel tired, the weather won’t be comfortable, you’ll feel like you can’t go on and you’ll want to quit.
At some point in a race, your body will cry out to you to stop, but there is nothing -- no possessions, no trappings, no status etc. At that point, it’s just you and your head. This is the moment where you decide whether you’re going to stop or push through.
This is where you need your why -- to get you over the line.
It’ll also inform your training schedule.
If you’re training for fun, your training schedule will be fairly flexible. However, if you want to beat a record or your personal best, you’ll need a stricter schedule with more to consider before starting.
Look at the time you have available to commit to training before the race, including recovery.
Make sure your time frame is realistic.
If you can run 5ks you can run a marathon. It’s just the time to train.
To give you a rough guide though, you’ll need up to 18 weeks of specific marathon training. Depending on your level of fitness, this level of training can take up to a year to build up to.
How to avoid injury
Before commencing any training program start with an assessment. Missing this important step is a mistake rookies often make. An assessment helps you work out where you’re at, and how to best modify your training to get your best possible result.
Running Coach, Chris Truscott recommends that beginners undergo an assessment by a physiotherapist to ensure you can handle the level of training required to achieve your goals.
Then assess your shoe situation. If required, your physio may recommend a new pair. Otherwise, there are a number of specialist running stores that offer this service, including Running Science.
How to formulate your training program
To create your training schedule, you have two options:
- Hire a personal coach, or
- Get on google
Obviously, there are pros and cons to both...
Hiring a personal coach
This approach to creating your training program is professionally tailored, comes with accountability, expertise, and is time efficient. All things that increase the likelihood you’ll achieve what you want. However, it comes with a cost -- your financial investment.
Important to note: if you have any health concerns or injuries, they will need to be managed in your training. Here, it’s important to learn from your coach’s expertise, experience, and mistakes, so you don’t make your own.
Marathons and events can be expensive, and having committed that money you want to ensure you’re able to perform at your best. In this context, the cost of an external coach might not be that significant, but it could make a big difference to your enjoyment of your trip. The legendary running coach Hal Higdon lists 10 benefits from hiring a running coach in this article.
Get on google
This can be a great way to educate yourself and be proactive in seeking your own knowledge. This is important, regardless of whether you get a coach or not.
Be careful though, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and it can be confusing. If you’re a busy person, this option is time-consuming and be aware the authors have no accountability. It may come at no financial cost, but it could cost you in other ways.
To get you started, see:
Join a Running Club
Another great way of getting advice is to join a running club. They are located all around the country, and are full of people who love running and are only too willing to help you. You can tap into their knowledge while also finding a group you can run with - this will certainly make your training more enjoyable.
You can find a running club near you by using this tool from Athletics Australia.
Build your team
The people you have around you affect your mental state which needs to be in a peak state for the race. If you’re considering a coach, it’s important to find the right one for you -- someone who can bring out your best.
How to find the right coach:
- Meet at least three, and see who you get along with
- Make sure they have a tailored approach -- ask questions that relate to your body, situation, and assessment
- Go with a reputable coach -- I use Chris Truscott
Then there’s family and friends to consider.
Marathon training represents a big commitment of time and energy, and will impact on your family and friends. It is important to ensure they are supportive of your goals, and prepared for the impact this venture will have on them. This is particularly important if this is something you might like to do again in the future. See: Marathon Training and Relationships
Last but not least, don’t waste energy, effort and time. Train efficiently.
Your training schedule will be a mixture of easy sessions and hard sessions over many weeks. Running Coach Chris Truscott says it is important to recognise this and to focus on three key aspects to train efficiently:
- Run hard days hard
Put in your maximum effort and stretch your limits -- in body and mind. This trains you to deal with fatigue and pain you’ll experience on race day.
- Run easy days easy
Rest is important and highly underrated. Don’t be tempted to run harder when you have an easy session scheduled. Save it for your hard sessions, and push harder on them. You need to give your body time to recover from your hard efforts. Ensure you get plenty of sleep, eat well and drink plenty of water.
Massage and stretching are also important to reduce stiffness in your muscles and the chance of injury.
- Be consistent
Your success won’t come from a single session, but the aggregated effect of all sessions. Of course, you may miss a session here and there because life gets in the way, but don’t let that stop you. Focus on the total plan and get back on track.
As a result of your training, come race day you’ll be on autopilot, able to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the race.
We’ve developed a checklist to help you prepare for a marathon - it also covers extra issues you need to consider if you are planning to run in an event overseas. You can download it here: