Marathon Preparation Workout


As a marathoner, learning to run the correct pace is important, and the only way to do that is by practice!  If you have a time goal for your next marathon, this is my favorite confidence-boosting workouts.  I believe it is what helped me run my first sub 3 marathon. Not only does it teach your body pace, but it is a workout that you can easily see and measure progress. I find that when I can see weekly progress, it motivates and encourages me.

WHAT TO DO…   The first session, just do a single 5k at marathon pace (with a warm up and cool down) so the total run is about 7 miles. The second session, warm up with 2 easy miles (slower than marathon pace). Run a 5k at marathon pace or 5-10 seconds per mile faster. Recover for 0.9 miles (slow jog, but no walking). Run a second 5k 5-10 seconds faster than marathon pace, then cool down 1.9 miles so the total run is 11 miles. I try and run the second 5k slightly faster than the first.  If you were to do 3 x 5k, it would be a 15 mile work out, and if you did 4 x 5k with 2-3 easy miles at the beginning and end, it could be a 20 mile workout. When I ran my sub 3 marathon, I worked up to 4 x 5k, with the first one at marathon pace, and the final one about 10 seconds faster (per mile).

As a marathoner, learning to run the correct pace is important, and the only way to do that is by practice! If you have a time goal for your next marathon, this is my favorite confidence boosting workout. I believe it is what helped me...

PACING is very important. Be sure to warm up slowly, and jog the recovery slowly. Focus on breathing during the recovery and relaxing during the interval.  If the effort is difficult, then reevaluate your goal. 

TIMING of these workouts is also a consideration. It should not replace speed work or a tempo run because those are faster than marathon pace. Depending on your weekly mileage, it can be a midweek medium long run, or in place of your long run when you are doing 3 or 4 repeats. If you find they make you tired, be sure to focus on recovery and do an easy workout the following day.  Some runners are able to build up intervals weekly, others need to do so bi-weekly.

LOCATION: I know I am in the minority, but I do not mind the treadmill. In fact, there are times when I see it as a beneficial tool. This workout is the perfect example. If the goal is to teach your legs the correct pace, a treadmill can be helpful for leg turnover. 

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I worked up to 4 x 5k when I ran my sub 3, and I did 5 x 5k for my marathon PR (2:53). I am hoping to work up to 5 x 5k again for Boston. One thing I did notice, as your marathon time gets faster, it becomes more important to run each 5k progressively faster. The photo above is from my 2 x 5k last week. I can’t wait to do 3 x 5k tomorrow!

NOTE: This was originally posted on my former blog in 2017.

Marathons in the RUN717 Area

Here is a list of marathons within driving distance in the South Central Pennsylvania area. Let me know if you know of any additional races that should be added.

Would you like some guidance on how to pick a marathon? Read my post for some tips: How to Pick a Marathon

George Washington Birthday MarathonGreenbelt, MD2/16/2020
Lower Potomac River MarathonPiney Point, MD3/8/2020
B&A Trail MarathonSeverna Park, MD3/15/2020
RnR DC MarathonWashington DC3/28/2020
Two Rivers MarathonLackawaxen, PA3/28/2020
Two Rivers MarathonLackawaxen, PA3/29/2020
Salisbury MarathonSalisbury, MD4/4/2020
Western Maryland Rail Trail MarathonHancock, MD4/5/2020
Coastal Delaware Running FestivalRehoboth Beach, DE4/19/2020
Discover Bank Delware MarathonWilmington, DE4/26/2020
North South MarathonGettysburg, PA4/26/2020
Pittsburgh MarathonPittsburgh, PA5/3/2020
Potomac River Run MarathonCarderoc, MD5/3/2020
Cleveland MarathonCleveland, OH5/17/2020
Jim Thorpe MarathonJim Thorpe, PA5/17/2020
Pocono Marathon aka Run for the RedPocono Summit, PA5/17/2020
York MarathonYork, PA5/17/2020
Independence SeriesVarious6/3/2020
God’s Country MarathonGaleton, PA6/6/2020
1/2 Sauer 1/2 KrautPhiladelphia, PA6/13/2020
Conquer the CanyonWellsboro, PAend of July
Drakes Well MarathonTitusville, PAbeg of Aug
Run the Loop MarathonDowningtown, PA1st Sun Sept
Abebe Bikile Peace MarathonWashington DC9/12/2020
Via MarathonAllentown, PA9/13/2020
Chasing the UnicornWashington Crossing, PA9/13/2020
Erie MarathonErie, PA9/13/2020
Potomac River Run MarathonCarderoc, MD10/3/2020
Wineglass MarathonCorning, NY10/4/2020
Morgantown MarathonMorgantown, WV10/4/2020
Monster Mash MarathonDover, De10/7/2020
GAP MarathonFrostburg, MD10/7/2020
GAP Trestles MarathonMeyersdale, PA10/9/2020
Salisbury MarathonMeyersdale, PA10/10/2020
Hancock MarathonHancock, MD10/11/2020
Steamtown MarathonScranton, PA10/11/2020
Baltimore, MDBaltimore, MD10/17/2020
Marine Corps MarathonArlington, VA10/17/2020
Bucks County MarathonWasington Crossing, PA11/8/2020
Harrisburg MarathonHarrisburg, PA11/8/2020
Richmond MarathonRichmond, PA11/14/2020
Philadelphia MarathonPhiladelphia, PA11/22/2020
NCR MarathonSparks, MD11/28/2020
Rehoboth Beach MarathonRehoboth Beach, DE12/5/2020

How to Pick a Marathon

Are you overwhelmed with choosing a  marathon? It’s no wonder because there are over 800 marathons in the US alone, according to Running in the USA. How do you go about choosing the right race for you? Here are some things to consider:

WHEN: Narrow down your race date first. If you can’t pick a date, at least narrow the timing down. Take into account your family schedule, work commitments and holidays. I find it easier to search for race options once I’ve picked my marathon month. Also, consider your training schedule – you may not want to run a September marathon if you have to run huge mileage in the August heat and humidity.

COURSE: Terrain, elevation and elevation change are also important factors to consider. Know your running strengths, and decide on a race that is good for these strengths. Some courses are pancake-flat, like the Chicago Marathon, and advertised as super fast. Other courses are net downhill, like Steamtown. Both courses can be fast, but speed isn’t guaranteed. I like marathons with rolling hills. Think also about specific course characteristics – some offer shade and protection from the sun. Many spring marathons along the east coast can be windy, which makes for a challenging race day.

COURSE SUPPORT AND SWAG: All marathons offer support on the course, which can include water and sports drinks, fuel and timing clocks. It’s important to know when these are offered so you can have a fuel plan. Be sure you practice your long runs with the sports drink used on the course. Some races also offer on-course entertainment that can help the miles pass. Besides finisher medals, more races are trying to give runners an entertaining and unique experience. Some races are known for their post-race parties (Rehoboth Beach has a great one!) Most races give shirts and some races offer specific finisher items such as hats or glassware. These runners are showing a spiffy blanket from the Richmond Marathon.

LOCATION: Hometown marathons offer easy logistics and are usually the most affordable. A local race can be easy to plan because you can sleep in your own bed. Reducing stress can help you focus on the race. On the other hand, traveling to a race can be a great way to see different areas. 

SIZE: The size of the marathon refers to the number of participants. A larger marathon may offer more on-course support due to the increased resources.  Running with tens of thousands of runners offers comradery and can help the miles pass quickly. Depending on your pace, you may find yourself running some miles alone in a smaller race, but smaller races can provide a more intimate experience. Larger marathons are typically found in larger cities, so decide if that’s important. Keep in mind that larger-city races often require you to register early, months ahead of the race.

TECHNICAL: Is the course USATF-certified course? This matters if you’re trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Boston-qualifying races will usually advertise this and you can check on Boston’s site.

COST: Races can be expensive, however, they often offer early registration discounts. When considering cost, take into account travel and housing fees. It isn’t worth traveling to an inexpensive race if you have to fly there or if the race is in an expensive city.

NEED MORE HELP? There are a number of websites that can help you narrow down your search. One of my favorites is Marathon Guide. This site allows users to search by date and includes previous results. You can also read comments by other runners who have raced the marathon you are considering. Another excellent website is Find My Marathon. This website includes course profile information and it assigns a score to each marathon that can help you determine your best option for getting a PR or Boston qualification. Another great site is Running in the USA. This site offers an interactive map of upcoming marathons. All three sites are great resources for picking your marathon – whether you are a newbie or seasoned marathoner. But nothing beats talking to other runners! 

Are you near the RUN717 area? Check out my list of local marathons here!


Information about a local rail trail

LOCATION: 99 Champ Blvd, Manheim, PA 17545

Click below for driving directions.

Looking for a new place to run? This rail trail has been on my to-do list because it’s near Spooky Nook. My son has been practicing lacrosse there so I was eager to check it out. The Lancaster Junction Rail Trail is one of the many convenient rail trails we have in our area.

A sign lets you know that you are in the correct place! One of the many features of this rail trail are bathrooms located near the parking.

I love rail trails. I cannot get lost, I enjoy running out and back, and I enjoy the softer surface. This trail is about 2.5 miles one way, so I would not suggest doing all of your long run here. Crushed stone surfaces are not ideal for shorter speed intervals, but they are great for easy runs, recovery days, and the occasional tempo run. Most rail trails have unique features that keep them interesting and they are very user friendly. This rail trail even has a bathroom at the parking area.

Not far into your run you are greeted by sweet-smelling pine trees.
Further along, you have a little creek to enjoy.
Do be careful when running on this rail trail – there are two road crossings. One at Spooky Nook Road, the other at Colebrook Road. Both are well marked.
There is no chance of getting lost – this sign makes the end quite clear!

Do you like running on rail trails? Check out my other blog post about local rail trails: