Interesting article on the subject in today’s NYT.
[quote]SO you want to run a marathon?
During the first running boom three decades ago, aspirants embarked upon a six-day regimen of arduous runs hellbent on crossing the finish line in the fastest time possible. Hollow cheeks, hobbled feet and an overuse injury or two were badges of honor for the mostly middle-class men who tackled the 26.2-mile challenge. Their icon was Frank Shorter, a Yale-educated lawyer whose victory in the 1972 Olympic marathon ignited the mass running movement.
Things have changed.
Today’s marathoner is less likely to have been motivated by an Olympian than by Oprah. Her slow-but-steady completion of the 1994 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., is considered the start of the second marathon boom. . .
Today, some popular schedules involve as little as three days a week of pounding the pavement. “It’s gone from being excessive training for what many would consider to be an excessive event to a very trimmed-down, less-is-more approach,” said Toby Tanser, a marathon coach in Manhattan . . .
One of the leading less-is-more programs for running the marathon involves walking. It was developed by Jeff Galloway, a 1972 Olympian who believes that regularly timed walking intervals increase the likelihood of covering the 26.2 miles. . .
“The expectation has changed,” said Bill Pierce, the chairman of the health and exercise science department at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., and the creator of a popular three-day-a-week program. “It’s O.K. now to walk. It’s O.K. to finish over five hours. . .
the primary goal of all marathon programs is the same: to build your endurance to the point where you can cover 26.2 miles. Hence, the common denominator of every program is the weekly or every-other-week “long run” — a slow-paced run that starts at whatever distance you can now complete and, over months, grows longer. . .
The long run is the one element, experts agree, that cannot be red-penciled out of a marathon program. But how long is long?
Here, experts disagree. Many say 20 miles is sufficient. Others, like Mr. Galloway, recommend conquering at least the full marathon distance in training. Still, whatever the distance of the longest long run, novices can’t go from zero to 26 miles overnight, which is why most plans are at least 12 weeks long, and some last up to 30 weeks. What’s more, most coaches and exercise physiologists recommend against even starting a marathon program until you have regularly run shorter distances for a couple of years. . . [/quote]
Link to the article