Plans at the ready as now’s the time to start training for the Dublin marathon


‘Anyone serious about completing the Dublin marathon should start their training no later than the first week in July.” So says Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan on the race’s official website.

It’s an idea that might cause one or two of those who have been rather more serious than that to smile knowingly, while those who cut a corner or two in previous years to wince at the thought of “the wall”.

Still, the Minister apparently knows what he’s talking about having done the event at 57 years of age for the first time in 5:10:41 four years ago.

“Just think,” you are doubtless saying to yourself right now, “what could be achieved if I started two weeks before Jimmy.” The answer, as it so often is in these situations, is it depends but with 17 weeks and six days to go before this year’s race, the chances are that you could still complete the distance if you have even the most basic level of fitness and act now.

Straight off the couch?
“Well, if you’re talking straight off the couch then frankly it’s likely to get a bit messy,” admits Declan Ryan, the Meet and Train group’s coach at Dundrum South Dublin Athletics Club (DSD) who will host its second annual marathon seminar at Ballinteer Community School this evening.

“But anyone who has been out three or four times a week in the past few months, doing three or four miles during the week and then four or five at weekends; they should be able to pretty comfortably take on a marathon and really be looking at running it all.

“Most people who start the marathon will have been training from before now,” he says, “but there’ll probably be 1,000 or so who have either come late to the whole thing or haven’t trained properly and a lot of them will finish. They just have to appreciate what they’re getting themselves into.”

That, of course, is the point of this evening’s event which will provide those planning their first assault on the distance with the sort of information on training, nutrition and injury prevention that most local clubs will also willingly offer newcomers on an ongoing basis these days.

In addition to Ryan, speakers include national marathon champion Maria McCambridge, Olwyn Dunne (herself a title holder over 50km just five years after taking up running at the age of 42), Annette Kehoe, a first timer in 2011 who takes would-be debutantes through what they might expect, and national masters cross-country champion Peter Mathews, who focuses on strength and conditioning.

Training plans will be among the topics discussed and such advice is usually welcome for first timers if only because there is so much out there. Apps have added still further to the options over the past few years but there are some tried and tested sources from longer established sources.

David Carrie’s plans for Irish Runner magazine are well regarded and the Dunleer-based coach will get about 100 hopefuls successfully over the line this year. That said, his plan for novices stretches over 22 weeks so that, even if week one involves only six miles completed over five runs, this week’s schedule of up to 16 miles would be a little daunting for anyone starting from scratch.

Now 82, long-time Runner’s World contributor Hal Higdon has certainly had his share of disciples. As it happens, today might be considered day one of his classic 18-week plan if you’re applying it to Dublin.

Week one, however, involves three three-mile runs, a six-mile one this weekend and an hour’s cross training somewhere along the line; slightly more demanding stuff than some of the other options.

There are quite a few billing themselves as 16-week plans, though, including one developed at Iowa University in the 1980s, tweaked ever since and published as The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer by David A Whitsett, Forrest A Dolgener and Tanjala Mabon Kole.

Running ability
Like Tere Stouffer Drenth’s in Marathon Running for Dummies, it presupposes an ability to run for three miles or roughly half an hour and spells out a preliminary six-week programme to get that far if you can’t. Once you can, though, it makes particularly encouraging claims about your chances of completing the distance come race day.

The official Dublin marathon website also provides 16-week plans, starting around the first week of July, which again look manageable enough if you’re sure of your health (check with a doctor if you’re not) and you’re not too hung up on your finishing time. Clearly the demands will vary with targets between four hours and eight and the most sensible starting point is simply to target getting through in one piece.

Deenihan, by the way, did just that in marathon number one with, as he puts it, just a few weeks’ training under his belt. For what it’s worth, though, he started training for number two the January before the marathon.

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