My “Busy Mom on the Run” Marathon Training Plan

Bixby BridgeEarlier this week I was given the ok to run again after the x-rays from my ankle injury looked clear! Hallelujah! The very same day I got an email from the Chicago Marathon stating that there were just 18 weeks until race day! Coincidence? I think not! While I feel like I just finished running my first two marathons in Big Sur and Cleveland this past spring, it looks like it’s time to lace up my sneakers and get ready to take on The Windy City! October 11th sounds really far away. I still have an entire summer to survive (ahem) enjoy with my kids home from school. But I know that, just like every other one before, this season will race by and suddenly I’ll be heading to Chi-town to run my third marathon down some of the streets I called home for a few fabulous years after college. Guess I’d better get to work!

315088_197903707_XLargeSpeaking of summer, I’ve been feeling a little anxious about how I’m actually going to fit in training for this race with all three of my kids home from school. All. Day. Every. Day. It’s hard enough to find a few minutes to sneak away to go to the bathroom by myself for Pete’s sake. How will I ever find time to train for my next marathon in between the snack requests, the tattle-tales, trips to and from swim practice, golf lessons and tutoring? That’s not to mention my role as Summer Activities Director and the constant dishes and endless laundry left behind by a potty-training toddler. By the way, whomever called it summer “break” was evidently NOT a mom. Nope! Not a “break” for mommas.

Well, when I am faced with a challenge, I find a way to conquer it. My parents always tell me they thought I’d grow up to be a lawyer because of my relentless persistence. No time to train for a marathon? Says who? Not anymore. I’m proud to announce that I have worked together with well-known running coach, long time Runner’s World Magazine contributor, best-selling author, Olympic Trial Runner and World Masters Champion Hal Higdon to develop a marathon training plan to fit into my time-crunched life. Introducing my…

“BUSY MOM ON THE RUN” MARATHON TRAINING PLAN!

Getting CloserI know there are lots of other busy mommies and daddies (and just busy people) out there who love to run. Some of you have run marathons before and you know that it is indeed a big commitment. Others would like to run their first marathon but just can’t see how they could possibly find enough time to fit in all the appropriate training considering it is difficult many days to find time to even get a shower. That’s exactly how I felt last fall when I first began thinking that my next running goal SHOULD be a marathon, but that there was no way I COULD find the time with three young children at home. Now I can’t tell you what’s right for you, but today I will share my plan for training for the Chicago Marathon over this crazy busy summer.

Surprisingly, training to run 26.2 miles with three small children at home IS feasible. Yes, it takes time and dedication. It means setting aside some of my other responsibilities in order to meet my goal. Training for a marathon requires sacrifices from everyone in the family. (Lots of dishes were left in the sink, laundry baskets were overflowing and toys were left scattered everywhere during the months I was training for Big Sur.) It means spending part of my weekends running instead of playing with the kids (of course I’m always catering to their needs the rest of the day). Sometimes it means running through rain or snow, frigid temperatures or scorching heat. Other times it means logging double digit runs on the “dreadmill” early in the morning or late at night. There is often guilt, but the confidence I gain from meeting such a huge goal that I thought was never possible has transcended every part of my life. Running makes me a better person and a better parent. I can say from experience now that training for a marathon with three kids at home is definitely within reach. Here’s my approach.

RUN THREE DAYS A WEEK… YEP, JUST 3!

Who has six, five or even four days a week to get out to run like many marathon training plans suggest? Not me. Not unless I wanted to run 10 or 20 miles pushing a jogging stroller. But I haven’t seen one made to fit three kids yet. This winter between the illness and the snow days and the bitter cold, I was lucky if I got to run even twice a week some weeks. Yet I still got in enough training to finish Big Sur, one of the toughest courses out there, and then I ran the Cleveland Marathon just three weeks later, finishing in 4:06, beating my previous time by 40 minutes.

By modifying and combining some of Hal Higdon’s plans, I’ve created this schedule that allows for running on just three days of the week while not losing out on any of the miles. Mr. Higdon has reviewed, approved and encouraged me to share my plan with you “for the benefit of all”. It includes one “long run” day (which I plan to do on Saturdays) and two shorter runs (which I plan to do on Tuesdays and Thursdays). Both increase in mileage as the weeks go by except for a few “stepback” weeks to allow you to gather strength for the next push upward.

WEEK DAY 1 DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4 DAY 5 DAY 6 DAY 7
1 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 6 m run CROSS
2 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 7 m run CROSS
3 CROSS 5 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 5 m run CROSS
4 CROSS 5 m run CROSS 5 m run REST 9 m run CROSS
5 CROSS 5.5 m run CROSS 5.5 m run REST 10 m run CROSS
6 CROSS 5.5 m run CROSS 5.5 m run REST 7 m run CROSS
7 CROSS 6 m run CROSS 6 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
8 CROSS 6 m run CROSS 6 m run REST REST Half Marathon
9 CROSS 7 m run CROSS 7 m run REST 10 m run CROSS
10 CROSS 7 m run CROSS 7 m run REST 15 m run CROSS
11 CROSS 8 m run CROSS 8 m run REST 16 m run CROSS
12 CROSS 8.5 m run CROSS 8.5 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
13 CROSS 9 m run CROSS 9 m run REST 18 m run CROSS
14 CROSS 9.5 m run CROSS 9.5 m run REST 14 m run CROSS
15 CROSS 10 m run CROSS 10 m run REST 20 m run CROSS
16 CROSS 8.5 m run CROSS 8.5 m run REST 12 m run CROSS
17 CROSS 6.5 m run CROSS 6.5 m run REST 8 m run CROSS
18 CROSS 4 m run CROSS 2 m run REST REST Marathon

CROSS TRAINING

My EllipticalI’ve allowed for three “cross” days because those are a little more flexible and can potentially be done at home before the kids wake up or during their nap (If you are lucky enough to have a kid that still naps, I’m jealous.) For me, cross training includes either a 30 to 40 minute elliptical workout, a spin or circuit/”boot-camp” class, strength training or a workout video. I like to mix things up and keep things fresh. My fear is that if I run too much I will get bored or burned out. I enjoy too many other activities to only run and I feel strongly that cross-training helps me run faster. As the miles build and my runs get longer I will begin to stick to “safe” cross training activities that will not leave me feeling sore and unable to properly accomplish my runs.

REST

Mr. Higdon is always a big proponent of rest days.

“Scientists will tell you that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can’t run hard unless you are well rested. And it is hard running (such as the long runs) that allows you to improve. If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential.” – Hal Higdon

You’ll notice I have only included one day of rest here in my “Busy Mom On the Run” Marathon Training Plan. Here’s why. With kids at home, I know that when I get the chance to run or get any workout in, I’d better take it. Because there is no doubt that some unforeseen event will arise on a day when I have a workout planned and that will become an unscheduled rest day. Like I always say, “Seize the Day” or really it’s more like “Seize the Hour” when you’re a running mommy. However, if I have cross training scheduled on a particular day and haven’t had a rest day yet that week and/or can tell my body really needs it, I sometimes use a ‘CROSS’ day for rest instead. One or two rest days a week are very important for me.

FLEXIBLE

As moms we are used to being flexible. We have to be. As a busy mom marathoner, I need a flexible training plan too. That’s why another feature of my Busy Mom’s Marathon Training Plan is that I have not labeled the days of the week. For me Day 1 is Monday. Many people do their long runs on the weekend. That’s what I plan to do this summer. During this past year I actually did nearly all of my long runs on Wednesdays during the three hour window of time where all three of my children happened to be at school. If you decide you want to use my schedule, modify it to work best in your own crazy calendar of kids activities. I don’t feel bad when I have to swap days around a bit. Runs will be missed because of other priorities. Don’t fret. Sometimes I use a “cross training” or rest day to fit it in (just not too close to the long run). I focus on getting in the long runs and the other two runs fall into place somehow during the week.

CARVE OUT THE TIME

Mission AccomplishedSo I realize that even finding three days a week to get out and run for an hour or more is not easy. Many runners I know get up really freaking early and run before work or before the kids start asking for stuff. With my husband’s unusual work hours I don’t have this luxury. I do have him home in the late afternoon though, so often we take turns running and babysitting (he is a marathon runner too). During the school year I used every bit of the three hours that John was at preschool to get in my runs. My plan for the summer is to run in the late afternoons when my husband is home or I am considering running during the hour that my girls are at swim team practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays while having a friend’s daughter play with John for a bit. Multi-tasking! My husband and I will take turns doing long runs on Saturday or Sundays.

It is not easy. If it were, everyone would do it. Just like the roads you will run, training for and running a marathon will have its peaks and valleys. For me, the sense of accomplishment, confidence, self-love, pride, happiness and feeling of physical and mental toughness that results is worth all the time and effort required.

Cleveland Marathon Finish

PLEASE NOTE: I am not an expert. Just an average mommy and an average runner. This is simply my personal blog where I’ve captured my own training plans for myself. Please consult your doctor before training for a marathon or beginning any new exercise routine.

My Busy Mom on the Run Training Program is based on programs by Hal Higdon, specifically his Marathon 3 program. All of his programs are available for free on his website. Hal also posts tips and answers questions on Facebook at Hal Higdon’s Marathon.

25 thoughts on “My “Busy Mom on the Run” Marathon Training Plan

  1. Great training plan! I certainly admire you for accomplishing all you have. I just started running three years ago (when I was 48), after my two girls were out of the house. With working and kid stuff, I don’t think I could have done it earlier.

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  2. I love this on so many levels!! You sound just like me…husband is a marathon runner also, we have 3 kids…I just started training for my second marathon. Used Hal’s beginner for my first. I simply cannot run 5 days a week…even 4 is stretching it! Thank you!!

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  3. runchica

    Love this. Perfect for me. Chicago Marathon on October 11 also! Home all summer w two boys ages 5 and 10. I also will be doing T/TH/SAT schedule. I have my (super) Mom helping me those days and will be running at 5am to get it done! Whatever it takes right? The journey is the fun. Thanks 🙂

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  4. Kristine

    I feel like I share a very similar life to yours ! This is great, I like what you have done with the training plan and explanation, the #1 thing I have always told myself is that any run is better than no run and it’s always better to be slightly undertrained than over trained. Being a mommy runner is tough work but oh so gratifying 🙂

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  5. Angie

    Thank you for sharing this. Just signed up for my first 1/2 and have been looking at training plans. Even though this is for a full I think it will be very beneficial to me.

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  6. Would you recommend this program to someone who is training for their first marathon? I’m prone to knee problems so I’m wondering if 3x a week will help (it’s usually what I do for half marathons) but also nervous the 9-10m runs 2x a week could hurt it as well.

    Thanks!

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  7. Would you recommend this program for a first time marathoner? 3x a week seems PERFECT for me as a mom! But I’m nervous as this is my first marathon. I’ve isually only done 3 days a week for half marathons lately. My knee tends to hurt if I do more. But I’m also nervous that the longer runs 2x a week might hurt it as well. Thanks!

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    • Yes! This is virtually the plan I followed to train for my first two marathons. You may want to decrease the mileage on the shorter runs though as they get higher. Like the week of the 20 miler you might not want to do two 10 milers that week. Hope you find this helpful.

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      • Thank you! I think I’ll give it a go and maybe when I get up to the 9-10m just decrease by a mile or 2 then. Would walking/strength(weights)/yoga be good cross training? I can do those with my little man.

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  8. Jaina

    Ok so I’ve only been running since march of 2016 but I don’t understand how you can only run 20 miles before the marathon and feel ready. Maybe I’m just different but I would have to run at least 24 to know for sure. I guess I’m skeptical of myself. I have 5 little ones and my husband helps me make time to run. It’s a great help! Congrats on not giving up!!

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  9. Beth Likewise

    Hello. I read your article and schedule for training for a marathon 3x a week. I was excited to see a schedule like that. I don’t have kids, but I am almost 50 and haven’t ran a marathon in 6 years. My goal is to do one more before I turn 50 in June. I am starting next week. Thanks for the advice.

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  10. Sahithi Sangapu

    Hey Ashley, I am a great admirer of your blogs.
    I will be running a half marathon this month, Feb 2017. I am planning to start training for my first marathon thereafter. I was planning to run a marathon in October 2017 ( we have a race in our city that month). What should my marathon training schedule be from Feb 2017 to October 2017? Please advise. I am 36 , a mother of 2 young children with a full time job as a family physician.

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