T Nation

Training for NYC Marathon


Okay, so I am back here to try to once again keep myself responsible for my fitness goals. Managed to get into the NYC Marathon last week (via the lottery) and now I have to train for it. Having never run such a long race, I will need all the support I can get. I plan on starting a 32-week training plan for the race later this month and combine it with my traditional 5/3/1 lifting. At the outset, I will be training low-carb in order to cut down on both body fat and total weight. Staring weight was 233 last Tuesday. Already down to 223 this morning. Intermittent competitions leading up to the November 6 race day will help me stay on target. Lift and run in June, sprint triathlon in July and some 5-10K races thrown in as well. Try to update this once a week.

I have no idea what my pace or finish time will be. At my fastest, I ran a 21 minute 5K (but that was back in my early 30s). I also ran a 5K last November wearing a 60 lbs weight vest and finished in 39 minutes.


Been good with my diet and training. Down another 2.5 pounds. Got four 5/3/1 workouts in. Cardio is still at the nascent stage but I have jogged/walked/rode an exercise bike on 6 days.


Managed to get through Easter with diet and training going strong. 531 workouts all week, plus regular steady state cardio work. Managed to put in 2 mile jog plus 60 minutes on the bike on Easter Sunday (before cooking dinner for 13 people). Weight down to 218.5. Already feeling fitter.


Hey, congrats on the lotto win. I tried it a few years ago without luck. I'm interested to find out where you live. I'm on Long Island, looking to start training for a first marathon at 52 years old, and am doing Starting Strength in preparation for 5/3/1. We might be able to bounce some ideas off each other with respect to local races (more like me picking your brain).


Last week's mileage: 8. Three lifting days. Weight down to 216. Watched a bunch of motivational videos on YouTube to remind me that I am not crazy for subjecting myself to this arduous process.

The_Myth: Good luck training.


Congrats on getting into the NYC Marathon.

My daughter is also running it this year.

Marathon running comes down to how much pain do you want to put up with. Galloway's book on Marathon training is a good resource.

There is also a lot of info on his training schedule to get runners through their first marathon online.

What is the longest distance you have run recently?


Thanks. Hoping the pain will not be too, too bad, but I am not naïve. Fortunately, my brother-in-law ran the Ironman a few years back and has served as a valuable resource for "only" running a marathon. I have Galloway's book and read Higdon's stuff online. Longest distance recently was a five mile race in December. Fortunately, I have 7 more months of training ahead of me.


I'm guessing you won't get much in the way of marathon-training advice here...so I'll give you what I can. From 2008-2013, I was a sorta-competitive-ish distance runner (took it up to lose weight after playing college football, before the pendulum swung me back towards a strength-based fitness approach). I ran a bunch of half-marathons (four or five sub 1:30's, personal best of 1:27) and one very painful full marathon, and along the way got to train with some pretty good folks. I like lifting more now, but the running community can be pretty cool and major marathons are a really interesting event, so kudos to you for taking on the challenge.

So first...I think an important thing to figure out for yourselves is how much you care about doing well in the marathon vs. sacrificing other elements of your training and fitness. Realistically, if you're giving an honest go at a strength training program like 5/3/1, there's no way you'll be giving "marathon training" a full go...and that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you're in it just to get to the finish line upright and in one piece (i.e. running to "complete" rather than "compete") you can get by on a bit less running and probably maintain some of your lifting routine.

You're still way out from the race, so I would gradually scale back from four 5/3/1 workouts per week to three per week and eventually two per week (maybe for the next month do four per week, then switch to three per week, then switch to two per week by the time you're 16 weeks out). Each time you remove a 5/3/1 workout, add a short easy run (maybe 2 miles) in its place. Once you are comfortably running 2-5 miles three or four times per week, you'll probably want to start upping the mileage. Do this gradually, and keep at least a couple of those as truly short-and-easy run days (i.e. don't just pile more miles on all four days uniformly; go from running 2-5 miles three or four times a week to something like two 4-mile days, an 8-mile day, and a "long" run which I'll explain in a moment).

You can find many different beginner marathon programs around the web that will have different permutations and combinations of mileage, but all have a couple common threads: a gradual increase in total mileage, a long run that accounts for anywhere from 20-50 percent of the total weekly mileage, a periodic cutback week, and speed work in some form or another. Speed work is entirely optional if you're just in it to finish the thing. The real key for a low-mileage marathon runner (relatively speaking, anything under 30 miles a week is low mileage for marathon training) is getting at least a couple of truly long (16-20 mile) efforts in to get yourself somewhat accustomed to spending that much time on your feet. Not every week - but ideally you should probably get at least three or four of those guys in before the race.

So a typical week now might look something like this:

2 miles / 4 miles / 2 miles / 4 miles

About 16 weeks out, you should be able to do something like this:

4 miles / 6 miles / 4 miles / 8 miles

About 8-10 weeks out, your training should start to look like this:

4 miles / 8 miles / 4 miles / 16 miles
4 miles / 8 miles / 4 miles / 12 miles
4 miles / 8 miles / 4 miles / 18 miles
4 miles / 8 miles / 4 miles / 12 miles
4 miles / 8 miles / 4 miles / 20 miles

About 2-3 weeks out, you should start cutting back and probably cap your longest run around 12 miles. By that point, you really aren't going to get significantly fitter, so the focus should be on getting to the starting line healthy, rested, and ready to roll. Many a beginner marathoner has screwed themselves up by running a 20-miler one week before the race.

Other miscellaneous tips

  • figure out what you can drink during a run. Many a beginner marathoner has screwed themselves up by just drinking water during training, then drinking Gatorade because that's what the race was giving out...and given themselves all kinds of lovely GI issues. I was lucky enough that this never got me during a race, but you really don't want to have to stop for 4 minutes at a port a john and then have to start running again.

  • figure out what you can "eat" during a run. Similar to the above...many a beginner marathoner has screwed themselves up by trying one of the fancy GU energy packets that the race was giving out when they'd never tried one before, and ended up with sickly sweet stuff stuck in their mouth because they didn't drink any water with it. For what it's worth, I don't think GU and its cousins are necessary - if someone is on course to give you a banana or some peanut butter or honey that may work - just be advised that you'll want to experiment with this a little bit.

  • figure out what you can eat the night before a long run, too. I would not advise getting the all you can eat clams and scallops the night before a race if you usually eat steak and vegetables. Also, the night before a race, bland is probably good, and a spicy burrito is probably bad.

Ummm...that's about all for now. Oh, and start doing a yoga class once a week if you can find one, preferably the day before or after your long run. That might be handy, too.


Thanks ActvitiesGuy. I posted here because I wanted feedback from non-traditional marathon runners who focus primarily on strength training. Don't care about time, just finishing. The faster I can finish the race, the sooner I will be finished torturing myself. Have yet to reach the point in training where long runs will necessitate mid-run eating and drinking. Figure I have a few more months before that becomes a consideration. Highly unlikely I can cram a yoga session in to my training schedule. I am stretching post runs and after leg day.

Last week's mileage: 8.5. Altering my 531 routine to allow for extra rest for running. Still got to the gym three times, but now doing a push day, leg day and pull day routine while following the 531 reps/weight plan as best I can. Weight down to 214.5.


I used to race. 5Ks, 10Ks, and sprint triathlons. But no marathons. For me, it's a whole different mindset than powerlifting. Good luck to you!


Thanks kpsnap. I run a few 5K and a sprint tri every year, but this is a new challenge.

Last week's mileage: 9.5. Finished up my first abbreviated 531-style cycle. Weight down to 213.5.


Agree that it is not yet "necessary" at all - of course you can make it through 3 or 4 miles without much worry over that. The only reason I recommend it now is that you'll want to give yourself some time to play around and figure out what your stomach can take / what you actually like during a run.


Last week's mileage: 11. Still not looking at how long it takes me to complete my runs. Weight down to 211.5. Even, as I am losing weight, I feel like my lifts are getting stronger. Not close to where I was last summer, but I have no doubt I will get there and then surpass those levels so long as I stay consistent. I will reset my maxes next week and possibly chart my lifting as well.


Last week's mileage: 12. Long run was 5 miles, which took approximately 55 minutes. Weight down to 209.5. Lifting solid.


Last week's mileage: 13.5. Long run: 5.5 miles. Weight down to 206.5. Lifting solid. Managed to get in all of my scheduled workouts despite being incredibly busy at work.


Last week's mileage:14.5. Long run: 6 miles. Weight down to 205.5. Lifting solid. Bench reps (touch and go) on 5+ day: 235 x 10.


DUDE! I used to be a middle distance runner. Good GOD I hated every minute of it.



Last week's mileage: 15.5. Long run: 6.5 miles. I was dragging the last mile and a half. Probably need to take in more calories the day before the long run. Weight down to 204. Lifting solid. Don't know my exact bench reps on 3+ day because the guy I asked to spot me kept touching the bar, starting with rep 3. Did 8 total reps at 250 with my bad spotter. Definitely would have completed 6 reps unassisted, probably 7, doubtful 8.


Last week's mileage: 16. Long run: 7 miles. Stronger on the last mile than last week. I ate more food this week in the hope that it would make the long run less arduous. Weight only down to 203.5. Probably a sign my body was adjusting to taking in more food than usual. Lifting solid. Got 4 solid bench reps at 265. Probably could have toughed out one more rep but I prefer not to struggle on a rep and risk injury.


Last week's mileage: 11. Long run: only 4 miles. Deload week. I incorporated some hills in the long run to start to prepare for the elevation changes in the race. I also managed to bike a total of 20 miles, with a long ride of 9 miles. Weight down to 201. Body has adjusted to the prior increase in calories. Lifting solid. 10 clean bench reps at 240. Since I "won" the NYC Marathon lottery, I am down 32 pounds, endurance is way up and strength has also progressed nicely. Hopefully the next three months will be very productive as well.