Are you ready to take on the Amsterdam Marathon?
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or preparing for your very first, this comprehensive guide will be your go-to resource for training effectively and tackling most of the challenges posed by this iconic race.
In 2019, I spoiled myself for my birthday with an entry and a trip to the Amsterdam marathon. It was one of the best races and travel experiences I have had.
Training for the Amsterdam Marathon requires dedication and a well-thought-out plan.
Typical marathon training plans schedule 4 (perhaps 5 days if you are a Sub3h30 marathoner) running days each week, with one to two days reserved for strength training and/or cross-training and another for rest and recovery.
Some plans may have only three running days per week.
If you’re wondering how to prepare for the Amsterdam Marathon, you’ll find all the essentials right here in this article.
We’ve packed it with everything you need to know, from taking those first steps in your training to nailing speed workouts, hill training, and ultimately, crossing that finish line!
Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
Getting Started With Marathon Training Essentials
Before we continue, let’s lay down the basics of marathon training, backed by established and proven principles.
How Long Does It Take To Prepare For A Marathon?
The beginning of your training is determined by several factors: your experience, your current fitness level, and the specific time goal you’ve set for the race.
For the best shot at success, it’s advisable to start your training program around 16 to 20 weeks before the marathon race day. This duration will allow you to gradually build up your endurance and reach peak performance.
The shortest recommended program is 3 months or 12 weeks.
What’s The Required Fitness Level For Starting Marathon Training?
Ideally, having recent running fitness is important. If you’ve completed a half marathon in the past year or two, you can step up to the entire 26.2 miles (42.2 km).
However, if you’re currently less active, it’s advisable to dedicate more time to gradually reintroduce running into your routine.
If you’re uncertain, we strongly recommend considering a 5K or even running a 10K first to build a solid foundation.
How Many Miles Should I Run Each Week?
Your weekly mileage will gradually increase during your training. The starting point depends on your fitness level.
Depending on your goals, your marathon training plan might have you running around 40-50 miles per week at its peak. But I highly recommend not focusing on the distances completed but rather working and training according to time/hours.
This will allow you to be your best on different days without chasing a number and perhaps putting yourself at risk of overreaching.
How Often Should I Run Each Week?
There are many different marathon training plans out there.
Some of these can have you running 6-7 days per week. At Coach Parry, our principal is 4x running per week. (Perhaps 5x if you are a 3h30 or faster marathoner.)
We highly advocate for 1-2 strength training days, and you can perhaps complement this with a cross-training day. Along with that, we believe that it is vital that you dedicate one day to rest and recovery.
Some plans opt for three running days per week. This is fine if you are doing strength training.
You might want to consider running with a partner or group, as this can boost your motivation, especially on those long runs! It also helps keep you accountable for days when you are lacking motivation
Is Strength Training Important for Marathon Training?
Strength training is an essential part of marathon training. It helps maintain overall strength, reduces the risk of injury, and enhances your running performance.
Reducing any injury concerns and niggles means you stay on the road for longer and have more consistency in your running, which is going to be the number one factor in your success on race day!
Strength training will play a massive role in helping reduce your fatigue at the later stages of a race and improving your running economy (i.e., making you a better runner!)
Each of our marathon training plans includes 1-2 days of strength work.
Making sure you do the correct strength training is important. The good news is we’ve created a free strength training plan for runners that you can download by clicking here.
Should I Set My Marathon Goal?
We recommend establishing your marathon goal early in your training. Your goal can shape your training strategy.
Examples include simply finishing the marathon or achieving a specific time, like running a sub-4-hour marathon.
Chat with our coaches to help you determine a feasible goal based on your recent 5k, 10k, or half-marathon times.
How Long Should My Longest Run Be In Marathon Training?
When it comes to figuring out how long your longest training run should be, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
It depends on a few things, like how much you’ve been running, your risk of getting injured, and what time you’re aiming for in the marathon.
Different training plans have different ideas. Some say you should run for a certain amount of time, others focus on how many miles you should cover each week, and some even have you run the full 26.2 miles (42.2 km) of a marathon in one go (this is not what we recommend!)
A long run of around 2.5-3.5 hours is recommended, determined by your ability and training.
Usually, this longest run is scheduled about 3 to 4 weeks before your actual marathon. While it is often a great psychological booster to know you’ve managed this long run, just remember that it is never 1 run that is going to make or break your race day.
It is rather the accumulated effect of every training day building up,days on days, weeks on weeks, that is going to determine your success. I find that so many people place way too much emphasis on this one long run, and sometimes things can go wrong on that day.
That doesn’t mean your race is messed up, especially if you have managed to be consistent in the rest of your training.
In the same breath, you also don’t want to only have 1 good long run without the consistency and buildup of the whole training plan.
Do I Need A Marathon Training Plan?
A structured marathon training program serves as your roadmap. It gradually boosts your mileage, balances intensity with rest, and prepares you for the race as efficiently as possible.
Marathon Training Run Types Explained
A lot of folks who are new to running might think that training for a marathon is all about running as many miles as possible. But there’s more to it than that.
Experienced marathon runners will tell you that it’s essential to mix up your training sessions with a variety of training runs:
Easy training runs are a crucial part of your weekly running routine. When we say “EASY,” we mean really easy. These runs should be so comfortable that you can chat with a running buddy without gasping for air.
In Coach Parry’s training plans, you’ll typically find 2 or 3 easy runs scheduled each week. These runs help you build up your weekly mileage in a gentle and sustainable way.
Long runs are a key part of your preparation for the Amsterdam Marathon. These runs serve several important purposes, with the primary one being to boost your endurance and aerobic capacity
They help your muscles become more efficient at utilizing the fuels needed to perform well over longer distances.
In addition to enhancing your running economy, long runs also teach your body to handle extended periods of activity. They provide a chance to experiment with different nutrition strategies to find what works best for your stomach.
As mentioned earlier, the longest run should be scheduled 3-4 weeks before race day. This run is pivotal in both mental and physical preparation for the Amsterdam Marathon.
It allows you to assess your readiness for the full marathon distance and gives you the confidence and mental fortitude needed for the big race day.
When we run, our bodies experience the impact of hitting the ground, leading to a type of muscle contraction called an “eccentric contraction.”
During this contraction, our muscles both contract and lengthen simultaneously, serving as shock absorbers to protect our bones and joints. This causes a lot more micro-fiber tears in the muscles.
Cross-training therefore offers a fantastic opportunity to still work on aerobic capacity and building endurance without this eccentric muscle contraction.
It allows us to train without the same level of eccentric contractions, which, in turn, reduces the strain on our bodies and minimizes the potential for damage.
For your Amsterdam Marathon training, consider incorporating various cross-training activities such as swimming, cycling, using the elliptical machine, rowing, and practicing yoga.
These activities provide a break from the repetitive stresses of running while still helping you build strength and stamina.
Speed work can be a useful addition to your training plan, it can significantly boost your performance. But only when added in the correct quantity and manner.
At Coach Parry, we believe if you are at a level to be incorporating speed work into your training, that it should not constitute more than 20% of your overall training load.
It enhances your aerobic capacity and can even make your regular runs feel less strenuous. The two most common types of speed work are intervals and tempo runs.
Intervals involve completing a series of short, intense sprints, each followed by a recovery jog. For instance, you might do 4 sets of 1-mile sprints at a brisk pace, with 5 minutes of slow jogging or walking between each mile.
Tempo runs, on the other hand, are longer than intervals but shorter than long runs, typically ranging from 4 to 10 miles, depending on your training phase.
These runs are done at a challenging yet sustainable pace, never at a maximal pace. They help train both your body and mind to sustain a demanding effort over an extended period.
Before diving into speed work, ensure you warm up and cool down with a few easy miles at the beginning of your workout, followed by a few short strides or builds and some coordination drills.
This prepares your body for the intense effort and aids in recovery. A cool-down recovery run at the end of your speed work is also recommended.
Hill repeats are structured running workouts that involve alternating between intense effort while running uphill and recovery while running downhill.
In simpler terms, a hill repeat consists of repeating a specific segment of a hill multiple times.
During each repetition, you’ll exert a significant effort running uphill, testing your strength and endurance. Then, you’ll turn around and jog or run easily, or even walk downhill to recover and catch your breath before starting the next repetition.
During a hill repeat session, you’ll select a hill that matches your fitness level and training objectives. This is usually a hill with a gradient between 3-5%
These workouts help you progressively build running strength, enhance your fitness, boost your stamina, and ultimately enhance your overall running performance.
Let’s talk about the 80/20 Rule in running, which is a fundamental principle for effective training. The idea is to balance your training intensity appropriately.
The 80/20 Rule
In this approach, about 80% of your training should be done at a low intensity, while the remaining 20% or less should be at a high intensity.
This balance ensures that you can push hard during intense workouts while allowing your body to recover during easier runs.
However, it’s essential to understand that the 80/20 principle is not always as straightforward as it seems. Many factors come into play when determining your ideal training mix.
For instance, if you run approximately eight hours a week, following the 80/20 rule would mean dedicating about an hour and a half to high-intensity training.
While this can be beneficial, it’s crucial to consider the type of high-intensity sessions you’re doing. Whether it’s speed workouts or hill sessions, they should incorporate recovery time, so it’s not a strict 80/20 split.
Now, there are exceptions to this rule.
Exceptions To The 80/20 Rule
Some individuals should reduce their high-intensity training to 10% of their total volume.
This applies to runners over 50, less experienced runners, those recovering from injuries, and individuals with physically demanding jobs that keep them on their feet.
For example, instead of weekly high-intensity sessions, you might opt for a three-mile or five-kilometer time trial every other week, which provides a challenging workout without dominating 20% of your training volume.
Remember, finding the right balance that suits your specific circumstances is key to successful training.
Now, let’s talk about the critical aspects of hydrating and fueling during your marathon training.
Marathon Hydration And Fuelling
Now, let’s talk about the critical aspects of hydrating and fueling during your marathon training.
During the Amsterdam Marathon, you’ll find water and aid stations every 3-6 kilometers (approx 1.9-3.7 miles) along the route.
However, it’s essential to prepare for race day hydration.
Don’t attempt anything new during the marathon that you haven’t tried during your training.
Now, during your training runs, you won’t have the luxury of aid stations. So here are some strategies to consider:
- Carry Your Hydration: Invest in a hydration pack, belt, or handheld bottles to carry your water. It’s essential to get used to running with these well in advance—never try something new on race day.
- Loop Courses: If possible, plan long runs on short-loop courses. This way, you can stash water at a designated spot along the way for easy access.
- Route Planning: Strategically design your long-run routes to include water fountains. Just make sure they’re operational, especially during colder months.
- Pre-Stash Your Water: Another option is to stash water bottles along your route the night or morning before your run. This way, you’ll have hydration waiting for you.
Fueling Your Runs:
You may have heard of the dreaded “hitting the wall” or “bonking” experienced by many marathoners around the 20-mile (32.2-km) mark.
This occurs because your body can only store a limited amount of glycogen, which is its primary energy source during a marathon. As you deplete your glycogen reserves throughout the race, your muscles will begin to feel fatigued and heavy.
While consuming fuel during the race won’t completely replace your depleted glycogen, it can help prevent hitting the wall. Energy gels, fruits, or energy bars can be effective options.
For runs lasting over 2 hours, aim to consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour.
It’s crucial to test various types of fuel during your training runs to determine what your stomach tolerates best. This way, you’ll be well-prepared to fuel confidently on race day.
Rest And Recovery
Rest days mean no running, and they are just as crucial as your training days. Here’s why:
- Recovery is Key: Our bodies adapt and grow stronger during recovery. Without it, you won’t fully benefit from your training. Rest days allow your body to absorb the hard work you’ve put in.
- Injury Prevention: Rest days play a vital role in injury prevention. They give your muscles and joints a chance to recuperate, which is essential for your marathon training.
Consistency is key, even when it comes to rest. Allowing yourself to recover after runs sets the stage for a better performance in your next training session.
Tapering involves reducing your training volume in the weeks leading up to your marathon.
Tapering allows your body to fully recover from training and ensures you’re in peak condition on race day.
While you cut back on volume, you maintain some training stimulus perhaps by adjusting or keeping intensity and frequency the same. This keeps you sharp without overtaxing your body.
However, tapering can be challenging because many runners fear reducing their training. And most people have different responses to a taper period.
Some people feel great and ready to go, but others feel heavy and tired. Chatting with a coach to help you with this process is always useful.
Now, let’s talk about some practical tips to make your race day go smoothly.
Race Day Tips
Remember, race day is not the time to experiment with new gear or habits. Stick to what you know works for you.
Here are some key pointers:
Before the Race:
- Hydration: Make sure you’re well-hydrated in the days leading up to the marathon. Around 4 hours before your marathon, it’s a good idea to aim for hydration by drinking 2-3 ml ( 0.1 ounces) of fluids per pound ( 0.5 kg) of your body weight. This ensures you’re adequately hydrated and ready to perform at your best during the race.
- Breakfast: Enjoy a simple, high-carbohydrate breakfast several hours before the race. Options like bagels, oatmeal, energy bars, and fruit are good choices.
- Arrive Early: Make sure to plan your travel route and arrive at the starting line with plenty of time to spare. This gives you the opportunity to get mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming race. It’s always better to have some extra time rather than rushing at the last minute.
- Dress Appropriately: Be mindful of the temperature. Don’t overdress, especially if it’s chilly at the start. You can wear an oversized trash bag over your clothing to stay warm until the race begins. Many races also allow you to drop warm tops etc. that they then donate to charities. So be sure to take an older / unwanted warm top with you that you are happy to drop.
During the Race:
- Start Slow: Don’t let race-day excitement push you to start too fast. There are plenty of miles ahead to pick up the pace if you’re feeling strong. It is not advised to “bank time.” You are only going to hit the wall sooner with this strategy.
- Aid Stations: Don’t rush through aid stations or try to drink while sprinting. Practice drinking on the run before race day, or take a brief pause to hydrate.
- Bathroom Strategy: Queues for the bathrooms are longest at the first few aid stations. If you can hold off for a couple more miles, it might save you time.
- Supporters: If you have friends or family cheering you on, plan where they’ll meet you along the course. Their encouragement can provide a significant boost.
Remember, the marathon is a long race, and pacing yourself is key to a successful run. Stick to your plan, stay hydrated, and enjoy the journey!
After Crossing The Finish Line
Right after you cross that finish line, it’s important to take care of your body. Drink several cups of water or a sports drink to help your tired muscles recover.
If you can, walk around a bit to let your muscles cool down. Gentle stretching can also help. And don’t forget to eat some simple carbohydrates and protein, even if you don’t feel like it.
After Race Day:
Give yourself at least a week off before you even think about going back to your regular running routine. When you do start running again, take it slow and gradually build back up to your usual distance and frequency.
Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of sleep and eat balanced meals.
If you picked up any injuries or issues during the race, address them promptly. Your immune system may be a bit weaker right after the marathon, so be sure to nourish it.
And remember, recovering from a marathon is a process, so be patient with yourself.