Step 6: Slow and steady ... finishes the race.
"For building up distance, the 10% rule works best," says Bakoulis. "Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% over the week before. This helps to prevent the injuries that occur when you run too much or increase your weekly training program too quickly."
Here's how it works: Let's say you now run 10 miles a week, run 11 miles the next week, then 12, and so on. "Within 8-10 weeks, you will be running 20 miles a week, and what's more, this gradual increase will help you grow stronger and fitter as a runner," says Bakoulis, who has completed 26 marathons. "The 10% rule is good to follow no matter what type of race you are gearing up to run. It's tried and true."
Step 7. Feel the need for speed?
Speed training involves intervals of running at faster-than-training speed, Bakoulis says. "Training pace is a conversation pace -- meaning that you can hold a conversation while doing it," she explains. "Don't introduce speed training until you can run 20 to 30 minutes at a conversation pace," she says. Remember, "if your goal is just to finish whatever race you have set your sights on, speed training is not necessary," Bakoulis says. However, "if the goal is to maximize performance, then speed training is important." Speed training gets your body used to racing conditions. Many road runner clubs offer speed-work classes, or you can do it yourself by sprinting the stretches and jogging the curves at your local high school once a week during training.
Step 8. The long and short of it.
The basics of any training program involve a combination of hard runs, easy runs, and long runs. "Alternate your days with hard runs and easy runs," Bakoulis says. "You can do this by running every other day or by running roughly twice as much on the hard days as the easy days." Don't add miles to implement the hard runs. Instead, figure out how many miles you are doing now and divide them up so that you are running more on the hard days, less on the easy days. Get it?