Mission to Marathon: Preparing a Training Plan & July Schedule

We have a great new series here on RAD called Mission to Marathon!!  I’m happy to welcome Hannah Suhr as a new monthly contributor…you may remember her from her Lessons Learned from the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year.  Hannah will be sharing her training and travel tips as she preps for the 2015 Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge.  This is going to be an excellent resource for all of you getting ready for any races you may have coming up.  Hannah is super organized and has great ideas on how to stay on track!  I’m thrilled she is here…please join me in welcoming Hannah!  


runDisney makes putting together a training plan super easy. If you aren’t familiar, just check out rundisney.com and under the training tab you will find training plans for Jeff Galloway’s walk/run method. If you are a beginner, this a great program to follow because it is easy to understand and gives you step-by-step guides for what to do.

If you aren’t running Disney (hey, not ALL races are Disney races), you can find similar training programs online through Hal Higdon, Runners World and many other sources. Some plans cost money. I don’t pay for a plan since I feel comfortable enough making my own. But, if you feel like you need it, go for it. Just make sure its reputable before you shell out the dough.

Short post, right? Nope.

While the training plans you can find online can be followed point-by-point and help you achieve the goal you want to achieve, they are not customized for your needs, schedule, experience, etc. If you are okay with that, then by all means. But I like to make it my own.

Here is how I put together a training plan:

1 – Research. I look at all the different options out there and see what they have in common and what differs. For a marathon, training plans for beginners or amateur runners can vary quite a bit. Many take you up to 20 miles for your longest long run, while others go beyond the 26 mile marker. Some have three days a week of running, others have four or five. Some incorporate cross-training, others leave that up to you to figure out. And, very few discuss nutrition (but that’s another post, for sure).

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For me, I either print out various plans or make a comparison chart on paper or in excel.

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2 – Consider your schedule. Do you work a 9 to 5 job? Work weekends? Gotta get up early? Take a look at what your normal weekly schedule is and then compare that to the different training plans. If you find one that works well with your schedule and you’re comfortable with the plan, then go for it, just follow it directly. I’m willing to bet that you won’t find one that fits perfectly and you’ll need to make some adjustments to suit your needs.

For me, I have the opportunity to train with my Team in Training team on Saturday mornings so I like to keep my long run on that day since I know I’ll have company. I also know my weeknight schedule is hectic so I need to keep my workouts as quick and effective as possible.  I also know that I really need to work on improving my strength (specifically my core) in order to improve my running and avoid injury.

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3 – Put it all together. This is where it gets fun. Most plans have you running 3 or 4 days a week and cross training 2 or 3 days. I start by scheduling my long runs. For me, Saturday and Sunday are best so I fit them in there. Then fill in your shorter, speed runs, to suit your schedule. If you’re doing 3 short runs, try to space them out so they aren’t three days in a row. Break things up to give your muscles a break and allow yourself some recovery time so that you won’t burn-out.


I am using the runDisney Goofy Challenge, Race and a Half training plan as my base for my overall plan and as guidance for my long run distances. What is nice is that my husband can modify the plan very simply by skipping the Saturday run (swapping for some strength training, yoga or a rest day) on weeks I am running four days and then do his long run on Sunday with me.

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My weeks will generally look like this:

Monday  – Cross training (strength –  I have been liking the Tone It Up routines lately, but also use the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises to put together my own routines).

Tuesday – Run 30-45 mins; Speed work/Interval training & 20 mins focused strength training

Wednesday – Cross training (strength)

Thursday – Run 30-34 mins; Speed work/interval training & 20 mins focused strength training

Friday – Cross training (yoga/stretch/light strength)

Saturday – Long Run & stretch

Sunday –  Long Run & stretch

Notice I added stretching into my schedule on several days. I need a reminder to stretch. It’s important. If you aren’t good at stretching, just add it to your schedule!

Here’s my July Run Schedule:

1 – Week of 6/30: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 3 miles

2 – Week of 7/7: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 4 miles

3 – Week of 7/14: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 3 miles

4 – Week of 7/21: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 5.5 miles

5 – Week of 7/28: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 3 miles

How do you put together a training plan?


Hannah is an attorney from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She started running in 2011 while preparing for the Bar Exam as a means of helping her focus on her studying. Hannah completed her first half marathon in October 2011 at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. In 2013 she completed 13 running events including 5 half marathons, 2 10ks, 3 5ks and 3 fun races (2 color runs and a zombie run).  She enjoys setting goals and crossing things off of her “bucket list.” Follow Hannah at www.workorrun.com, where she blogs about her everyday goals and challenges.

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