Putting Together My Chicago Marathon Training Plan

Even though my current focus is on training for Rock ‘n’ Roll DC, since one of my big goals for the year is to run my first marathon, I’m constantly thinking about how I’ll put my training plan together.  Some of the factors that I’m considering and the questions that I’m asking myself include:

  • How many weeks will I spend training for Chicago?
  • What race(s) do I plan to run while training for Chicago?
  • What plans do I have on my calendar, particularly on the weekends, that might impact my ability to complete a long run?


Some of the answers to the questions that I’m asking myself are:

  • I am a ZOOMA ambassador and will be running Annapolis the first weekend of June, though I still need to decide whether I’ll be running the 10k or the half marathon.
  • Our family will be spending a week in Florida during my Spring Break in April, vacationing with good friends.  While I look forward to running during our time at the beach and at Disney World, I don’t want to feel guilty if I don’t keep up with a regular training schedule while we’re on vacation.
  • Preston and I will be attending at least one, if not two, weddings this summer, one in July and one in August, and both of them are out of town (one is actually out of the country).  It will definitely be unrealistic to do a run longer than a 10k during either of those wedding weekends.

What I do know is that just like with my half marathon training I will be following a modified version of one of Jeff Galloway’s plans.  His run-walk method has helped me progress as a runner over the past couple of years, so there’s no need to break what isn’t broken.  If I follow one of his 18 week plans that would put me starting my training at the beginning of June, but I’m thinking that because I want to give myself a buffer and some flexibility with the long runs that I might bump my start date up to sometime in May, or even April.

One thing is for certain: I’m excited to officially start training for my first marathon.  I’m so excited to run the streets of Chicago in October and to run for Team Ronald McDonald House Charities.

QOTD: For those of you who have run a marathon, what are your answers to any of the questions that I’m asking myself?  Are there any factors missing from my list?

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48 Responses to Putting Together My Chicago Marathon Training Plan

  1. I follow a 12-13 week training plan. Since I have a strong base, that is what has worked for me in the past. The risk of training for 18 weeks or longer included injury and burnout! My advice? Don’t overdo it.

  2. I would not start training for your marathon in April. Six months is a very long time to be in one training plan and I think the risk for burnout would be high. I’d go with your planned 18 week plan and commit to following it as closely as possible. Good luck!

  3. I just started using Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method a few weeks ago! I ran two minutes and walked 30 seconds at my half on Saturday and finished in 2:28:57 in really warm weather conditions! I’ve only run one marathon and I was injured so if I run another one I will definitely run/walk! Which plan of his are you using? Good luck with your training!

  4. My coach generally has me stay consistent with an 8, 10, 12 rotation for long runs during my “off race” periods. It is a way to keep up endurance and has worked well for me. I agree with Courtney that a 6 month plan would be tough. Usually anywhere rom 12-16 weeks is the standard timeframe for marathon training plans. A huge part of that is where you are in terms of your fitness level too.

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m so excited for you!!!

    I do an 18 week plan. My coach writes it. I am a sheep and follow it. 😉

  6. ilkasblog says:

    Congrats on running Chicago! How exciting!! I think 12-14 weeks is sufficient if you are already an established runner.

  7. I agree with what’s been said, starting too soon is probably unnecessary since you already have a strong base. Having never done the Galloway method, I may be way off-target here…but I would think the run/walk would give you some leeway with your training since you’re not attempting to run nonstop for the longer training runs (?). And, like all training plans (no matter the distance), it’s not critical to hit every run as prescribed….missing a long run (periodically) will not derail the entire training cycle. You totally have plenty of time, and you don’t need to sweat out these small details 😉

  8. SuzLyfe says:

    I’ve followed a number of training plan lengths, and it just depends on where I am in my training. If you are in half marathon shape, you don’t need such a long plan unless you need a more solid base.

  9. I usually do a 16 week plan. I’d also think about how many days you want to run each week and what you’ll be doing to crosstrain 🙂

  10. I did not know that you were doing the Galloway method. I am curious to hear how that works for you.

  11. I followed the Galloway training plan for my first marathon and I think I over did it so I switched it up a bit during my second one. Try a few things and find what works for you. I can appreciate building in that buffer but that seems like a very long training cycle.

  12. Excited for you! I have never ran a marathon, so I have 0 advice for you 😉

  13. milebymileblog1 says:

    Its so fun to start planning for marathon training! It sounds like you are on the right track. Planning ahead is key!

  14. While I’m no expert, I don’t see anything wrong with starting early. With your travel plans and little one, it gives you some breathing room to be flexible should things come up in your schedule that might hold you back from a long run or derail you for some time.

    I”m so excited for you!

  15. Jenny says:

    I’m considering my first marathon too!! I’ll be following along as you train for yours! I entered the lottery and if I don’t get in to that I’m thinking I’ll aim for maybe a winter marathon because I’m worried about having to train during summer. We’all see though. I tend to give myself lots of extra time to prepare but I could see where having too long a training season could cause burnout too.

  16. urbanmile says:

    So awesome! I’m planner to run my first New York Marathon this year if I get accepted. I’m so excited 🙂

  17. Yay! It’s so exciting to start a new training cycle and bonus that it’s for a first! Chicago is one of my all time favorite events to run. My advice? Enjoy every minute of the experience. Don’t let anything steal the joy of this experience. Keep us updated on your training.

  18. Awesome! I always decide how many weeks I’m going to train, then fill in other scheduled races, and build around that. It can be hard, and sometimes I even have to sacrifice some shorter races because it just doesn’t fit into the plan. But I love the excitement of a new training cycle! The only thing I would caution with starting earlier is to make sure you don’t peak TOO soon. Sometimes more is not always better!

  19. Janelle @ Run With No Regrets says:

    I’m excited to follow your training for your first marathon, I know Chicago will be an amazing experience!

    When I ran the Philly Marathon in November, I started officially training on August 1 and did a month of “pre-training” in July. It worked really well for me as a first-timer. Races can serve as long runs or as a practice to see how you can handle your race pace.

  20. Ariana says:

    Ahh I’m so excited for you and excited to run this race myself this year. I would have to agree with basically everyone else and recommend not committing to anything longer than 18 weeks for marathon training. It’s a long and some-what demanding process as it is and you will likely burn out if you try to stretch it out over 6 months. The extra 4-6 weeks (depending how long your half marathon training cycles are) will allow you to really solidify your base and, since you’re not starting from scratch, that should be enough. I’m not familiar with the Jeff Galloway training plans themselves, but my guess is that you will easily be able to switch things around to make it work for those wedding weekends. It’s definitely a great mindset to be realistic with what you will be able/want to do those weekends. I am so excited to follow your training!

  21. Cassandra says:

    I love Jeff! He is so easy to talk to and he really wants to help people find what works for them. I have run several events using the run/walk method. Good luck in your training!

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  23. So excited for you that you are running your first marathon! The training can definitely be a juggle sometimes but you can make it work and shuffle workouts as needed. I definitely do feel guilty sometimes though about trying to get in my long runs when I have family obligations or we are on vacation.

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  25. ishouldrun says:

    I’ve been wondering the same things for my Chicago training. The main thing I worry about is my kids getting sick from starting school this coming year and then me getting sick and not being able to get a runs in. Because of that, I’m going to buffer my training by getting some high miles before the June start date. I think you’ll get your training runs in even with your travel plans and it will be fun to mix it up like that! Good luck.

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