Philadelphia Marathon Training: 3 Important Things Your Marathon Training Plan Won’t Tell You

Training for the Philadelphia Marathon? Take note.

Newsflash! The Philadelphia Marathon is a measly 10 weeks away, people! And for those of you who are following a training plan, the words and numbers outlined week by week will likely rule your life, and in some cases, can lead to more questions than answers. If those words and numbers could, well, tell you more than they do about getting your body and mind ready for a marathon, here are the three things they would tell you about marathon training.

(Psst: Check back here every week for our weekly Philadelphia Marathon training coverage from running coach Cory Smith.)

1. What you do between runs can have a greater impact on your training than you think.
This may sound a little dramatic, but often times when people think about trying to improve their running, they only think about the running itself. Most will equate running more and harder with improved performance, and while there is truth in this, there’s another side to the equation: For improved performance, it matters what you do during the other 22 hours a day, when you aren’t running.

It’s important to understand that you don’t immediately get faster from the hard tempo runs or interval sessions. Directly following a hard workout, your fitness actually decreases. It’s only after a period of recovery or rebuilding that your fitness level surpasses its original state. This concept is called supercompensation. Things like sleep, nutrition and stress all have an effect on your body’s ability to recover or rebuild itself after a hard session and play a crucial role in performance improvement. Training plans rarely instruct you to get at least eight hours of sleep per night, eat X carbs, X protein and make sure your life stress is low. If you find yourself struggling, before blaming the training plan, take a look at what’s going on those other 22 hours of the day.

2. Your training plan is not designed to incorporate other fitness routines.
One of the more common scenarios I see with new clients who are training for a marathon is that they’ll still maintain their weekly CrossFit, Spin, Orangetheory or other fitness classes and routines, which can be physically demanding.  While I’m not opposed to incorporating some of these activities into a marathon-training cycle, it’s important to understand that most training plans don’t take that additional training load into account.

For most, just completing the prescribed runs your training plan outlines is hard enough, and adding more workouts can tip the scale towards doing too much. Moreover, the timing of these additional fitness routines, especially more intense ones, such as CrossFit or Orangetheory, becomes extremely important. In general, I would make sure you have at least one to two low-intensity days between each hard running day, which, in a training plan that calls for two to three days of hard running per week, makes it nearly impossible to fit everything in over a seven-day cycle.

3. Know that you’re going to bomb some runs and it has no reflection on your fitness.
Even when you feel like everything is going well and you’re at your fittest, you’re going to have some really bad runs – runs that are going to cause you to question your fitness. You may find yourself thinking, “Things were going so well, and I don’t know what happened. Am I getting worse?”

Training plans never tell you just how much of an emotional roller coaster marathon training can be. You’re going to have good times, followed by bad times, followed by average times. Never judge your fitness level off one or even two workouts, but the accumulation of workouts over months.


Cory Smith is the owner of Run Your Personal Best, an online running coaching business, and a two-time NCAA Division 1 National Qualifier and 4:03 miler while at Villanova University. He also serves as Running Editor for Gear Institute and has been a regular running contributor for Be Well Philly for the Broad Street Run and the Philadelphia Marathon.

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