Why You Should Start Training for the Philly Marathon Now

Sure, it's still five months away. But lots of training plans for the Philadelphia Marathon start now. Here's why you should begin penciling in long runs and tempo workouts.


Right now we’re 20 weeks out from the Philadelphia Marathon—144 days, 3,456(ish) hours. This may seem like a long way away, but in running terms it really isn’t. Most marathon training plans, like Olympian Jeff Galloway’s, distance coach Greg McMillan’s, and the Philly Marathon’s own Active.net training program, last at least 18 weeks, and that doesn’t include building a “base”—runner-speak for getting your legs used to logging miles on the road.

I know, I know. It’s not even July. November seems lightyears away. How are you supposed to begin thinking about training in 90-degree weather for a marathon that doesn’t occur until nearly Thanksgiving?

Here’s where the Bryn Mawr Running Club (BMRC) comes in to play. It’s starting its marathon training early (tonight, actually), and there’s a method to the madness.

“November or Bust” is what marathoner Kathleen Roach, secretary of BMRC, and former collegiate coach, has dubbed the marathon training program that she has designed for the club.

Tonight’s kick-off party at 7:30 p.m. in the Bryn Mawr Running Company outpost in Bryn Mawr will introduce interested runners to the program, which aims to help runners of all abilities and interest levels get ready to run the Philly half or full marathon in November. It will feature a panel of experienced distance runners, who will talk about their own training experiences.

“While the 18-week training program won’t officially start until the week of July 16th, I’m hosting this meeting now to get people excited while still giving them time to build a base,” Roach says. (See, there’s that word again!)

I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t I just use one of those online programs instead? Well, besides the fact that BMRC’s program is totally free, and many online ones are not, there are plenty of reasons why training is better in a group setting.

First of all, there’s the camaraderie: “A full to half marathon can be a daunting, sometimes lonely challenge, especially for a new-ish runner,” Roach says. “Training with a group gives runners a familiar face to help push them up a challenging hill.”

And of course, the commitment. If you know a group of your running buddies are waiting for you, you’re less likely to hit the snooze button or flake out to go to happy hour instead. Besides, says Roach, “running with a group provides runners, especially new runners, with an additional resource of running knowledge.”

So running with others makes you, well, a better runner. Julie Morrison, president of BMRC, can attest to that. In the four years since she’s joined the club, her mile pace has dropped three minutes. That’s impressive stuff. “The group runs have made me push myself as a runner. BMRC splits us into similar paced running groups so no one is running alone. After time, though, I began to want to try to move up to the next group. I never would have challenged myself if I were running alone,” she says.

The amount of information on the internet about marathon training is daunting. Roach, a marathoner herself, says she was overwhelmed with what a simple Google search provided. But then she went ahead and did the work and put together an 18-week training plan so you don’t have to sift through the web (and wonder if marathonrookie.com is a legitimate website).

Roach also hopes to include supplemental training clinics in the program, covering topics such as injury prevention, strength training for runners, nutrition and sports psychology.

For more information about the program, head out to Bryn Mawr Running Company (828 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr) for the kick-off party tonight, or visit BMRC’s website. And of course, be sure to register for the marathon itself while there are still spots. You can do that here.

>> Looking for other local groups to log miles with? Check out our guide to running clubs here.