Marathon Training Plan – 2 marathons, 2 weeks

Posted: February 18, 2010 in Training

I wanted to thank everyone over the past few weeks who have visited the blog and asked such thoughtful questions about my training plan for this year’s RFD “double”.  Training for two marathons just 13 days apart has definitely required me to take a long look at my preparation.  I have incorporated new workouts, increased cross-training to three days per week as well as added new elements to my traditional runs.  Previous posts that have discussed tempo runs, traditional long runs, fast finish long runs, pace runs and racing as a part of marathon training.  I have included links to those previous posts at the bottom of this page for your review.

Ever since the “Magic Fridge” post I have had a lot of requests for a copy of my actual training plan.  Ahhh, the famed training schedule.  When I started training for my first ever marathon back in 2006 and I poured over schedule after schedule trying to find the similarities and differences between all of the online experts.  I remember thinking to myself, who is going to give me the best chance to finish that first marathon under 4 hours?  I knew picking a training plan was going to be a very important decision for me as with my travel schedule and lack of previous running experience there was a lot of “knowledge” I simply needed without an easy way to acquire it.  I didn’t have a group of experienced matathoners to rely on for advice, nor was I connected to a great group of runner friends like I am today through Daily Mile, Twitter and this blog. 

My first marathon was going to be a true solo mission – and I was fine with that.  I just wanted to know that I was relying on a schedule that was tried and true.  A plan – that’s what I needed, a plan.

Philly Marathon Finish - IT Band Pain

I eventually landed with Hal Higdon.  Hal had run more than 75 marathons himself and had been guiding marathoners to their first race finishes as well as Boston Qualifying times for decades.  I read Hal’s books, downloaded his training schedule and ran each workout religiously to a 3:58:08 finish in my first race.  In hindsight the finish was pretty remarkable as I was suffering with an IT Band problem over the final 14 miles that would land me on the disabled list for close to 3 months afterwards.  Please keep in mind my injury had nothing to do with Hal’s program.  His advice about increasing mileage incrementally, taking your rest days and honoring step-back weeks is all 100% spot on in my opinion.  I simply suffered a all too common training injury at an inopportune time making for a difficult first marathon experience.

Upon recovery however the bug had bitten.  I was coming back and I was going to make a run at a Boston time, it was on.  I took the entire 2007 year away from racing to focus on building mileage base running 5 times a week.  I would begin training for my next marathon in late 2008 focusing on an early spring 2009 marathon that would get me to Boston in 2010.  I incorporated strength training 3 times per week beginning on my 40th birthday in 2008 which I still continue today.  I focused on strenghtening my core, legs, chest and arms as well as learning a lot about distance running through trial and error.  Incorporating all of these elements to my schedule really helped prepare me to train hard for Pittsburgh last year.  Results were a new PR of 3:17:43 and a Boston Qualifying time in only my second attempt at the Marathon distance. 

I say all of that to preface the schedule that I am sharing with you below.  I do not think that I have it all figured out by any means.  I simply kept tweaking and finessing the edges of popular training plans and created my own tracking device.  I feel like the plan I am following today allows for the proper amount of rest, base mileage, speed work and recovery to successfully not only complete my 2 marathon in 13 day commitment to honor my good friend Dom’s battle with cancer, but I plan on making it known I was there.  It is one thing to complete and yet another to compete.  I fully expect to do both.

Instead of using  a traditional 18-week training plan leading up to race day, I am using a modified 16-week schedule leading up to Boston with a full 18-weeks to my second marathon in Pittsburgh.  In some ways the Boston Marathon is actually serving as my third “20-miler” followed by a second taper (recovery) period that will get me to the start at Pittsburgh hopefully physically and mentally ready for another 26 mile 385 yards less than two weeks later.

RFD Back to Back Marathon Training Schedule

Currently Monday, Wednesday and Friday serve as my “doubles” where I strength train after my cycling or running workouts.  The lone exceptions are my Monday rest days scheduled after very long runs or any racing I may be doing.  On these Mondays I rest completely from running or cycling but I still make sure to get my weight training in.  I have reduced my run days from a traditional 5 times per week down to 4 so that I can avoid running on back to back to back days mid-week.  This has allowed me to reduce the pounding on my now 42 year old legs by about 5 miles per week, but in its place increase cross training on the triathlon bike.  These cycling workouts are allowing me to build strength and power in my quads and calves to be ready for the rigors of the Boston marathon course, while reducing the risk of training injury.

When comparing my workouts to last year when I utilized a traditional 5-day per week training plan I have taken between :04 and :06 off of my average mile splits at distances over 12-miles and :15 to :18 off of my average mile splits at distances 10K and less.  All on legs that are a year older.  I think that there is something to be said about running smarter and with great purpose during each workout.  Currently I am trying to really zero in on quality workouts and not just padding my mileage stats for the week. 

For comparison purposes I have included my 5-day per week marathon training calendar that I used one year ago when training for the 2009 Pittsburgh Marathon.

Traditional 5 Run Day Marathon Training Schedule

The lesson here is don’t be afraid to take a plan that is widely accepted and make some changes to it.  Listen to your body, chart your performance and realize that backing off of a run, skipping a workout, adding a rest day or incorporating fast finigh long runs can all prove very beneficial in your training.  It’s not only about logging miles.  They need to be quality miles to get you where we all want to be in the end – toeing the starting line in peak condition, mentally and physically prepared and most importantly – 100% healthy.

The training schedule that I am using today is really just a combination of the key elements from great resources like Hal Higdon, Greg McMillian and the FIRST program from Furman University. 

If you would like the excel version of these training plans, please e-mail me directly at and I will send you a copy for you to have as your own.

Thanks for visiting everyone, here is to happy training!

Tempo runs: 

Traditional long runs: 

Fast finish long runs: 

Pace setting strategies: 


  1. Leslie1976 says:

    Hi Joe, Another great post there. I’d actually figured that your training was based on one of Hal’s schedules. I’m using his intermediate 1 program for London this year and seem to be getting on really well with it. A couple of posts ago you’d mentioned your planned mileage for the coming week and it was very similar to my planned mileage! I currently skip the cross training in favour of another rest day but depending on how I get on at London (and if I ever do another marathon) I might add it back in for future programs!

  2. joerunfordom says:

    Leslie – thanks for the visit and comment! I really do think Hal has it pretty close to spot on. Using his 5-day run week, Intermediate II plan last year I really felt like I peaked perfectly for race day. This go round, more speed work, more cross training and I think my hill work and bike work will really help on those Newton Hills at Boston …. we’ll see, but I’m feeling like I’m about to start peaking here in the next 6-8 weeks which is right on target! Best with the training Leslie! Take good care, J

  3. Sarah says:

    I love the magic fridge concept. I hope mine is as magic for round two as it was for the first time. My daughter likes that it makes ice. 🙂 Great blog, I’ll definitely be checking back. Very inspirational.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Sarah! Thanks for the visit and kind words — the fridge really does have some magic powers over me for sure. Last year after my recovery from Pittsburgh I put up a smaller 1 month at a time “schedule” and my wife said, “wow – the fridge looks wierd with such a small schedule on it”, right then I knew I must be on to something. Take good care, Joe

  4. Lara says:

    Joe, as always, you are entirely comprehensive in your writing and planning. This all makes perfect sense to me. If and when I ever get to the place where I’m REALLY competing, and not just going out to see what I can do any given day, I’m going to have to start doing a good training plan that’s peppered with cross-training and core workouts. I do those things already, but it’s definitely not with a specific goal in mind.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks Lara for the visit! Those extra workouts and cross-training really round out the training that is for sure. You are “wired perfectly” for this when the time is right – no doubt about it! Best, Joe

      • Lara says:

        Ha! I don’t know how “wired” I am (other than on coffee right now). I haven’t run a marathon yet because the added time of a long run just isn’t condusive to family life right now. Maybe I’m good with the Half-Marathons? I don’t know. I just seem to be able to keep a really good base by working out 6-7 hrs a week and can run a Half within a few weeks’ notice. But again, that’s not really TRAINING, that’s just going out and messing around on any given day. 🙂

  5. Meredith says:

    not that I’ll be running a marathon anytime soon, but thanks for the info 🙂 the links are great, too, even for running newbies like me!

  6. nyflygirl says:

    Very interesting post and thanks for all the info!! In my first 3 marathons, I didn’t really follow one of those “famous” plans (e.g., Higdon, Pfitz) I was lucky with my first and one of my team’s coaches helped me out with a game plan. And I just adjusted for the next 2 (upped the mileage). But now I’m wondering if I need something with a little more structure, so to say. I took a look at Higdon’s plans and kinda liked the Intermediate 2 (except it has no speedwork-maybe swap one run day for a speedwork day?)…I think I will need a plan that gives me 2 run days off a week in order to avoid injury (to either cross-train or take a rest day.) Guess I got a few months to decide… 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks so much for the visit and the post – I think Hal’s plan(s) are really a perfect place to start with a solid base and framework. The more experience you get regarding your own running and needs for improvement – Strength, Speed, Endurance can then really zero in on the types of workouts to add. For me it was really increasing the intensity of those tempo runs and my “run fast days” that brought down my splits into the BQ range.

      Those two days off from running a week are non-negotiable for me. I simply won’t be able to train at the same intensity level and stay healthy. Taking a 3rd day off this training period but adding a lot more cycling has been the best of both worlds for sure.

      Best of luck developing your plan! Take good care, J

  7. Kamau says:


    Hi Joe,

    Thank you very much for sharing your insight via your blog. It is great.

    I am currently training for 2 marathons this winter; 1 in October and 1 in Dec. I was considering adding another one is Dec which is how I stumbled across your blog.

    Anyways, I currently cycle 9 miles per way (18 miles in total) (purposely at a leisurely pace (10 to 15 MPH (no hills)) to work 5 days per week. I have yet to find a training schedule or training literature that really considers the impact of bicycle commuting while training. I am afraid that I am not getting any “true” rest days.

    I know specific advice is hard to give without much more background, but do you think I risk over training? Or am I potentially not getting the most out of my runs because of the cycling? I do sometimes take one day off from cycling to work and catch the tube (which I detest).

    I did noticeably start losing weight faster once I began cycling (I started cycling to work about week 7 of my training). Finally I was thinking of maybe running early morning and then cycle afterwards to work…but not sure if that will help?

    Thanks again for your time

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