Preparing for a marathon for the first time can immediately freak you out even before hitting the pavement. So, how do you go about putting together a progressive training schedule that will optimise running performance, reduce the risk of injury and implement the correct nutritional protocols? Within Part 1 of this 2 part blog post, I will discuss some of the key areas from the 3 colour zone system to training systems and mileage build-up.

What people need to appreciate when going through a challenging prep like this is the wear and tear it takes both physically and mentally. The mileage of most marathon-training schedules on a graph would tend to show a straight, slowly rising line followed by a short, steep plunge during the taper phase. In reality this will never be this straight forward. What should you expect? Expect peaks and valleys – periods of improvement and stagnation.

People that go through this 3-4 month preparation will be the first to tell you that the Marathon is the Prep. When taking on a commitment like this, variables such as the weather and running conditions need to be appreciated. If we take people that sign up to The London Marathon as an example; The Marathon falls in April every year, re-wind 3-4 months and you’re slap back in the middle of the winter season where the weather is cold, miserable and daylight seems to be never present. Runner’s world will give you some additional points to think about for running a marathon.

Introduction - Laura London Marathon Pose

Client Laura: Completed London Marathon

What questions should you ask yourself before committing to a marathon?


  • Are you willing to make sacrifices and give up plenty of your time?
  • Do you have any serious medical conditions or injuries that will affect your ability to perform?
  • Do you need to hire a coach in order to guide you through the process?
  • WHY are you doing this?
  • What’s your motivation? Charity? Personal Achievement? Bucket List?


What Questions Should You Ask Yourself Before Committing To A Marathon

Client Laura: Harewood House 10k (London Marathon Prep)

Three Colour Zone System:


This system will help you learn how to pace yourself by your breathing rate and how you feel.


Yellow Zone: 

Within this zone you will not be pushing the pace or bursting a lung that’s for sure. The types of training systems you will expect to be implementing here will be recovery/easy runs and your endurance run (long run). Running at this particular effort will allow you to run greater distances without burning and crashing.


Orange Zone:

The orange zone is a step up from the yellow zone and will have you flirting with your lactate threshold (redline). You will be looking at Tempo runs and long interval training for this zone, this will certainly raise the red line.


Red Zone:

Crossing over the (redline) into the red zone will be way out of your comfort zone and testing you on serious levels. This will involve a lot of high intensity work where hill repetitions and intervals come into play.

3 colour zone system

Training Systems: 


When people think of marathon training the general assumption from beginners is that your training must be full of running at just once pace. Long, boring, monotonous runs alone will not provide you with the progressive training model you’re searching for. You will need a mixture of varied training systems in order to create physiological adaptations that will separate you from the rest of the field.

When I program a Marathon training plan for a client you can be rest assured you will see some of the following training systems; Tempo Runs, Hill Repetitions, Cruise Intervals, Tempo Intervals, recovery runs (easy), and the Endurance run. Check out a previous blog I did on “training systems and running routes in Leeds” for more information.

Training Systems - Marathon Training

Mileage Build up:


There are a couple of different approaches you can take to increasing your weekly mileage. Some coaches will advise that you gradually add a little bit of distance to nearly every run each week. My recommendation is that you increase the mileage only on the long run every week. My reasoning for this is to reduce the risk of injury. From experience, there has been a higher rate of injuries in the past when the mileage has increased from session to session.

Planning out your running mileage from week to week needs careful consideration in order to make it sustainable and achievable. You will more than likely have to factor in work and social commitments to ensure that the running schedule is not sacrificed. You should have an end goal in terms of the longest run you would like to achieve whilst also thinking about the total weekly mileage goal. Check out Matt Fitzgerald for information on training plans for a marathon.

Mileage Build Up