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Conquering my first marathon would be impossible without the right training plan. But, after analyzing the USA Olympic Track & Field "Marathon Training Plan for Intermediate Runners" and speaking with a few racing experts, I'm finally armed and ready to go with my training plan for the next three months. This is, at a minimum, what I'll be doing on a weekly basis:

3 Training Runs on Non-Consecutive Days:
1 long run (usually Saturdays) with drills and recovery stretches
1 lactate threshold run (Mondays or Tuesdays) with drills and recovery stretches
1 V02 max run (Wednesdays or Thursdays) with drills and recovery stretches

3 Cross-Training Sessions:
1 HIIT or metabolic conditioning class
1 strength training or non-impact aerobic class
1 yoga class
*Or interchange any of the above cross-training sessions for a nice and easy 30- to 45-minute run

-1 off day (usually Sundays)

The Runs
Going at a different pace each time is essential to improve performance and minimizes the risk of repetitive stress injury. In the end, this will help me run faster and build my fitness level while keeping my body safe.

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But when I first picked up that packet, I wondered exactly what the lactate threshold and VO2 max business was. Lactate threshold is specified as your "5K pace plus 45 to 60 seconds per mile," so just a little slower than you would run a 5K. The VO2 max pace is meant to increase your endurance, so it is a little more challenging of a run. It's basically the equivalent to your 5K race pace. I consulted elite Track & Field coach Andrew Allden to get the scoop on exactly how to come up with these paces for me. He said that because I ran my half-marathon at about a 10-minute per mile pace, I should start with the following paces for my training runs, and then adjust them as I progress:

Long run pace: 11:25 minutes per mile
Lactate threshold pace: 9:35 minutes per mile
VO2 slow pace: 9:07 minutes per mile
VO2 fast pace: 8:44 minutes per mile

The interesting thing is that the goals for my training runs are measured by time, not distance. In other words, I'm not going to be shooting for eight miles, but rather 80 minutes of running at different paces. When I asked Andrew about this, he explained that scientifically it helps because "energy systems are more a function of time than distance." When I thought about it, this totally made sense. I've always run against time and focused less on my miles when I've run over the years. It just seemed easier to do it that way. Now I get why.

Cross-Training, Drills, and Recovery Stretches
Training for a marathon is certainly not all about running. I must keep my body strong and build muscle that will support me as I track all these miles, otherwise I could risk injury. And building up my endurance is not just about VO2 runs, but also HIIT or metabolic conditioning workouts, and I'll also be completing other non-impact aerobic classes like spinning. To keep my body flexible, increase core strength, and improve breath control and focus, I've also made a personal goal to complete at least one yoga class a week. Finally, my training plan outlines core recovery stretches and drills that I will be sure to complete after each run.

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As with all plans, sometimes they don't go absolutely perfectly, so I've also decided to map out exactly when I'll be doing each of the three runs, cross-training sessions, and my rest day on a weekly basis so that it works with my schedule and no surprises pop up. (Like this weekend, I'm also completing the Dirty Girl 5K Mud Run tomorrow, so I've switched my first long run to be on Sunday instead of on the usual Saturday, and my rest day is today instead of Sunday.)

From here on out, I'll be tweeting the runs, mileages, and workouts I've completed along with which classes I'm taking, so make sure to follow along to get all the details of exactly what I'm doing along the way. Next up: My first official (84-minute) long run on Sunday!

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