by Scott Lewandowski in Training Tips

Chicago Marathon Training Tips

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Only 1% of our America’s population has run a marathon, but it is a challenge that many of us consider tackling at least once in our lives.  Chicago boasts one of the largest marathons in the world, expanding the field this year to 45,000 participants.

The route winds through the various city neighbourhoods lined with more than 1.2 million spectators to cheer you to the finish line.  Preparing for the marathon is essential for successful completion.

May: Increase Mileage

Increase your weekly mileage by no more than 10%.  There is plenty of time before the actual marathon so increasing weekly mileage one to three miles per week is right on track.  Practice your diet.  Marathon training does not require a major shift in your daily meals, but you should be eating a balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  Focus on hydration.  Increase your intake of water and sports drinks containing electrolytes.  Daily recommendation of water intake is eight, twelve-ounce glasses of water.  For the actual workouts, drink eight ounces of water or sports drink before exercise, 6 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes, and sixteen ounces for every pound lost during running.  Staying hydrated will help muscles recover and decrease the risk of a muscle strain.

June: Training Program

Participate in the Fitness Formula Clubs Chicago Marathon Training Program that starts the week of June 7.  Running with a coached team ensures safe supervision of workouts and camaraderie of fellow runners progressing on the same journey. A marathon schedule should begin approximately eighteen weeks prior to the marathon date.  Essentials of a successful program include longer runs, interval training, tempo runs, hill runs, and a few races to practice race strategies.

Continue to eat in a way that supports your training. Complex carbs, protein and fat in balance will help support your body as you increase your mileage. In addition to proper hydration before and during your workouts, drink sixteen to twenty ounces of a post exercise recovery fuel at the conclusion of the workout.  Recovery Fuels provide a mixture of carbohydrates for glycogen replenishment, protein for quicker muscle recovery, and antioxidants to boost immunity following a training session or race.

July: Workout

Weekly mileage should range between 20 – 30 miles/week.  Long runs will range between 7 – 12 miles.  Include hills and speed-work in your training schedule.  Hills and speed-work will improve form, speed, and stamina.  These workouts are advanced and should only be performed if you are injury-free with a proper running base.  Example workouts include 3 x 1600m with 3 minute rest, 6 x 800m with 2 minute rest, and 10 x hills.

You can try experimenting with energy gels.  These packets provide you with a concentrated form of energy to maintain blood sugar levels and resist fatigue.  The most popular brands are GU, Clif Shot, PowerGel, and Hammer Gel.  It is important that you take the gel with water.  Remember, the gels compliment the drinking that you will be doing on your runs and during your race not replace it.

Remember that Cross Training is pivotal to your success. Augment your running training with strength, yoga and Pilates components.

August: Pump it up

Weekly mileage should range between 30 – 40 miles/week.  Longs runs will range between 13 – 16 miles.  Introduce Tempo Runs.  Tempo runs are short- to mid-distance runs at paces 20 – 30 seconds per mile faster than your marathon goal pace.  Tempo runs improve running efficiency.

Practice your race skills by participating in a 10k and half marathon prior to the actual marathon.  It is important to become accustomed to running in larger crowds.  Pre-race responsibilities, negotiating water stations, and maintaining a realistic pace amongst spectators and other runners can be intimidating and stressful.

Include cut back weeks! Cut back weeks allow for the body to recover from wear and tear of heavy mileage.  Cut back weeks are recommended between your longest runs.

The Fitness Formula Clubs’ Marathon Training program has been training runners to successfully complete the marathon since 1997.  Their coaches have over 50 years of coaching experience and are certified as knowledgeable coaches by USA Track & Field.  If you are interested in joining the coached team, contact Scott Lewandowski at to inquire about registration.

-Scott Lewandowski, FFC Regional Director of Fitness

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