Marathon training tips from Amy Robillard


Has the Flying Pig inspired you to run a marathon, but you don’t know where to start? Cincinnati’s own past Pig winner and Olympic Trial Qualifier, Amy Robillard, offers some advice to those moms out there hoping to complete the bucket list goal of completing a marathon.

What tricks do you have for those who love to run, but by nature, it isn’t in their genes?

Change things up and keep challenging yourself. You don’t need to be married to a pace or distance. Just go run! I honestly think the burn out and loss of motivation happens when people put too much pressure on themselves or have skewed expectations. Turn the negatives into positives to eliminate self doubt and lack of desire.

What advice would you have for both the newbie and seasoned marathon runner or what schedule seems to work best for first timers and seasoned runners?

Stick to your plan and pace. A lot of runners get sucked into the hype and excitement and go out way too fast leading to nightmare scenarios. Also, get to the start with plenty of time to park, use the bathroom and get into the corral.

As for training schedule, there are many options out there that fit different needs and wants. A typical week for me includes yoga and strength training along with 6 runs and a cross training day. A long run, a mid-week long run, a few speed sessions, a tempo or race pace workout and a recovery run. Always plan to start your training 12-15 weeks out, depending on experience, to give you enough time for possible hiccups and injuries.

What would you suggest leading up to the race?

A month out, you should be about maxed out and then a taper happens following that (reduced mileage). One week out you are resting up and keeping running light and fun. The night before you have to try to sleep (impossible) and eat dinner early because most marathon starts are in the 6 am hour.

Any tips on supplements during the race or training?  Should you take anything else with you?

Because I am a minimalist when it comes to this, I don’t usually take much with me on runs, except if it’s over 16 miles (2 hour mark). I am a huge fan of Hoist (an isotopic sports drink) and Huma gels or honey stinger products. Always try out what you plan to use on race day on the long runs to see how your body responds and how your stomach digests it. It really is trial and error.

What about recovery?  

Recovery is key! I have gotten better at this the older I get because your body will haunt you if you don’t. I take at least 2-3 days off, most should take a week off (depends on experience) of any exercise. Then I start back with easy running and cross training. Nothing structured because your mental game needs a break, too.

Do you suggest cross training and how?

I cross train a lot as secondary workouts to add volume and muscle fatigue. I aqua jog, swim, do spin classes, use elliptical and stair climber, as well as hot yoga and strength training. Seems like a lot, but this is not all in one day or week!

The Pig is pretty impressive and intimidating; what would you say to anyone wanting to run but is afraid of our local marathon?

Don’t be afraid of the local race! You’ve got to stick to your own pace the first 6 miles because the first big climb is after that, when running out of the city. Your pace will and should slow down while attacking the hills, but you can get that back on the down hills. There is so much fan support you will manage the hilly sections just fine! The last 5-6 are flat and back into the city, so that is a motivator that the finish is within reach.

Couch potato to marathon runner – how much time would you suggest to build up to the marathon? 

At least 6 months to start running and build a base and then go into training. The smartest way is usually the longest way.  

What if a person can’t invest in a personal trainer?

Personal trainers aren’t usually running coaches, so I’d suggest heading to a local running store and there will be tons of info for a new marathoner, as well as running groups, coaches, and experienced runners willing to help.  As for a plan, I don’t know exact names because I’ve never used one but if you search “beginner marathon training plan,” pages of results will pop up.

What would you suggest, based on your training, for a week spread of training?

This depends on the runner’s schedule and life demands, but the most common one you’ll hear or read about looks like this:

  • Off day 
  • Workout run day 
  • Recovery run 
  • Mid week long run 
  • Speed session run 
  • Long run (generally sat/sun) 
  • Cross train day 
* beginners wouldn’t be doing this much 
**5 days a week or running with cross training would suffice 

Any other advice you would want to give to moms wanting to run the Pig or a marathon for their first time?

Realize how strong and capable you already are. Raising kids is the hardest job, so preparing for a 26.2 mile race is less daunting. Mom-hood preps you for setbacks and roadblocks, so when training issues arise, you know how to navigate it and move on with a plan. Not every training run will be ideal due to many reasons out of your control. Roll with it and get in whatever you can because any run is better than no run.
Cincinnati Moms Blog thanks Amy for her openness about training and managing life and racing.  We will continue to cheer on our hometown runner, coach, and mom as she races through both future runs and motherhood.


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