QUESTION: I plan to use your Novice 2 plan for my first marathon: Philly, end of November. I have been running for nearly a year with a background in high school cross-country and track. (I will be 27 in June, so there has been a gap between then and now.) I have been gradually increasing my mileage, and am currently at 24 miles a week, running four days with a long run up to 13 miles. I am unsure how much I will be able to run during late May and early June due to my wedding and a 2-week honeymoon out of the country, but I hope to return and start serious training mid-July. I am curious as to how much you think I should increase my training to be able to start with a good base.
HAL’S ANSWER: I wouldn't do any serious training in the week or two before the wedding, or during the honeymoon. Focus on what is most important in your life. I suspect your mother has told you that 20 times already, while your future mother-in-law keeps saying to her son, "Why is that girl running all the time?"
But you have a couple of months between now and when it is time to get serious about your Real Life. It might be nice to have some goal race at the end of that period to keep your training on track. If not a half marathon, even a local 5-K or a 10-K might suffice. That would allow you to attain a reasonably decent level of fitness before taking a break, so it will be easier to resume training after that break. And while I'm not going to force the issue, if you could find time to do some working-out every other day while in your so- called “off” period, that would allow you to preserve some fitness, more than you might suspect. I've done a lot of traveling during my life, and I've always found that running in different cities allowed a view of those cities that you don't get on the tourist bus. (Maybe I shouldn't tell you about the time in St. Petersburg when I got lost during a workout and couldn't remember the name of my Russian hotel!)
But you asked about base. Novice 1 is designed under the assumption that people arrive at Week 1 with no base: Zero! It helps, of course, if they have done some running for a month or for before I ask them to do a 6-mile long run that first week. Novice 2 runners usually have more of a background in running, and that includes you. A base of 20-25 miles is plenty. And if some of those miles could include a long run, that certainly would be better still. I would focus my workouts around a single long run on the weekend, but let's not count miles. Say 60 to 90 minutes, and don't worry how far you go. Middle of the week, a couple of more runs at more moderate distances. You'll do fine. Tell Mama not to worry.
Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans. Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here or on his website.