Taking Your Marathon Training Plan to the Next Level

5 Strategies to Shave Seconds or Even Minutes off Each Mile!

So you’ve completed your first marathon and you’re still eager to try again? You’re not alone! As difficult as those final miles can be, that feeling of triumphantly crossing the finish line is unforgettable — and some might even say addictive.

If you have decided to put the work and effort into running another marathon, then you are probably intent on topping your old finishing time. (Most people with enough drive to finish a marathon in the first place have a bit of a competitive streak, after all, and self-improvement is the name of the game!) So below, we have compiled a quick list of tried-and-true strategies that runners can use to improve upon their old times.

Strategy #1: Increase Your Weekly Mileage

If you are looking to improve upon your last marathon training time, then simply adding more miles to your training plan might be your first instinct. As we recently discussed in our “Beginner’s Marathon Training Plan” article, for example, building a base of weekly miles is undoubtedly the first step. Moreover, several important studies, such as this one published online by the National Institutes of Health, show a strong correlation between the number of miles run before the marathon and lower finishing times. So yes, increasing your weekly mileage is a highly effective method of finishing your next race faster. However, it is far from the only method:

Strategy #2: Utilize Hill Runs

Both uphill and downhill runs work slightly different muscle groups in slightly different ways that regular running. (And, because of the explosive uphill motion, they usually work those muscles harder than regular runs, as well!) Hill work can also increase your lactate threshold while boosting your endurance, and (somewhat counterintuitively) these workouts actually tend to place less stress on vulnerable tendons and ligaments due to the shorter stride length of uphill movement.

Strategy #3: Try Incorporating HIIT

Yes, we talk about HIIT quite a bit on this blog — but that’s because it’s benefits are numerous and highly effective. Learn more about this training style by visiting the Top Fitness HIIT Overview.

Strategy #4: Build Muscle

Though most long-distance runners don’t aim to get “huge” the way a bodybuilder might, it is still useful to add lean muscle, even in the core and upper body. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • An efficient arm and shoulder swing will help optimize the energy you put into running — and sustaining this for 26 miles is impossible if your upper body is out of shape.
  • Core strength facilitates efficiency in a similar manner.
  • Strong core muscles also help provide stability and reduce the risk of injury to the back and neck.

Strategy #5: Attend a “Practice” Event

One final tip: try attending a half marathon at some point during your training program. Not only will this help you get in some “race pace” training, it is also great practice for dealing with all the physical and psychological challenges that only a real race can provide. (I.e. logistics, carb loading, trying to sleep the night before, etc.)