Contents

Marathon Training Guide (Beginner – 18 Weeks)

Download your training guide here

Don’t forget to stretch! It’s important to start each training session with some stretches and gentle movement to prepare your body for your workout. After your session, cool down with more stretches to help with recovery.

You’ve set yourself the challenge of your first marathon. Congratulations! This training program will build on your running endurance and get you ready to race in 18 weeks.

Remember, everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. If you find some of the early runs in this guide a little challenging, consider completing the half marathon training guide first to give yourself a strong base to work from.

This 12-week training guide is just that – a guide – so feel free to be a little flexible with it to make it work for you. If you want to swap some of the days, go ahead. If you miss a run, you can make it up. The real aim is to be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter as much.

Training days explained

Long runs: The key to the guide is the long run on weekends, which builds from 10km in week 1 to 32km in week 15. The long runs are really the ones you can’t miss. Every third week you will drop back in distance to allow you to push forward again the following week.

Run slow: Do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that would allow you to converse with a training partner, at least during the beginning of the run. If you finish the long run at a pace significantly slower than your early pace, you need to start much slower. It’s better to run too slow during these long runs, than too fast, the purpose is to cover the prescribed distance.

Walking breaks: It is okay to walk during the marathon, in particular your first marathon. You can walk during training runs too. In a race the best time to walk is entering a drinks station, that way you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running.

Cross-training: Sundays in the training guide are for cross-training. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or walking. You don’t have to cross-train the same way each weekend and you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and cycling or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a gym. Cross-training on Sunday will help you recover after your Saturday long runs.

Midweek: Training sessions during the week should be done at an easy pace.

Half marathon: The guide recommends completing a half marathon event for race experience. You’ll become accustomed to the start line wait, how much fluid to drink and the feeling of running amongst hundreds or thousands of other entrants.

Rest: Days designated to rest are very important. Muscles actually regenerate and get stronger during rest and rest helps prevent injury. The key to this guide is consistency – if you are feeling particularly tired at any stage, take an extra rest day and get your energy back to keep going.

Download the full guide here.

Marathon Training Guide (Intermediate – 18 Weeks)

Download your training guide

If you’ve got a couple of half marathons under your belt and now you want to push yourself further, this is the training guide for you. Over 18 weeks, you’ll build your strength, speed and endurance to hit a new personal best.

Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who already have been doing some running, this general program should give you the extra speed and endurance to take your performance to the next level.

This 18 week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible with it and make it work for you. Mix up days and runs when you need to, and if you miss a session you can make it up. The real aim is to be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter as much.

Long run: The key to the guide is the long run on weekends, which ranges from 10 km to 32 km. Consistency and quality is the goal of these long runs – run at a comfortable pace, find your rhythm and enjoy building your endurance.

Run slow: Do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that would allow you to converse with a training partner, at least during the beginning of the run. If you finish the long run at a pace significantly slower than your early pace, you need to start much slower. It’s better to run too slow during these long runs, than too fast, the purpose is covering the prescribed distance.

Walking breaks: It is okay to walk during the marathon – it’s a long distance so listen to your body. You can walk during training runs too. In a race the best time to walk is entering a drinks station, that way you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running.

Cross-training: Mondays in the training guide are for cross-training. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or walking. You don’t have to cross-train the same way each week, feel free to mix it up. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and cycling, jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a gym. Cross-training on Monday will help you recover after your Sunday long runs – so make sure you treat it as a recovery session.

Midweek training: Sessions during the week should be done at an easy pace.

Pace: This is defined as the pace you need to run to take your running to the next level. If you are aiming to achieve a 3:30 marathon time then your pace would be 4:58/ km. Therefore when you run your pace runs you need to run them at this speed.

Half marathon: The guide recommends completing a half marathon event for race experience. You’ll become accustomed to the start line wait, how much fluid to drink and the feeling of running amongst hundreds or thousands of other entrants.

Rest: Days designated to rest are very important. Muscles actually regenerate and get stronger during rest and rest helps prevent injury. The key to this guide is consistency – so if you are feeling particularly tired at any stage, take an extra rest day and get your energy back to keep going.

Download the full guide here.

Training

Beginner 17 Week Training Plan

If you’re new to running, use this guide to get yourself in shape for the Virgin Money London Marathon.

Introduction: The following training programmes cover a period of 17 weeks. Before embarking on one of these marathon training plans you should have done four to eight weeks of steady running so that you have a foundation of fitness to build on. Each programme is designed to cater for different levels and abilities so it’s important that you choose the right plan for you. A training schedule needs to be challenging but not so that you feel out of your depth.
Key: ER = Easy Run, SR = Steady Run, TR = Threshold Run, HR = Hill Run, FR = Fartlek Run, IR = Interval Run, LR = Long Run, MP = Marathon Pace, 1/2MP = Half Marathon Pace, H&N = Hydration & Nutrition Strategies

Week 1
Monday Rest
Tuesday 10min walk, 20min ER, 5min walk
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 10min walk, 30min ER, 5min walk
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 5min walk, 30min LR, 5min walk, 10min ER, 5 min walk
Week 2
Monday Rest
Tuesday 35min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 5min walk, 35min ER, 5min walk
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 5min walk, 45min LR, 10min walk
Week 3
Monday Rest
Tuesday 40min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 15min ER, 10min SR, 15min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 5min walk, 55min LR, 5min walk
Week 4
Monday Rest
Tuesday 40min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 45min FR as 5min ER, 10min SR, 5min ER, 5min TR, 10min ER, 5min SR, 5 min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 5min walk, 65min LR, 5min walk
Week 5
Monday Rest
Tuesday 45min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 45min FR as 5min ER, 15min SR, 5min ER, 5min TR, 5min ER, 5min SR, 5 min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 5min walk, 75min LR, 5min walk
Week 6
Monday Rest
Tuesday 10min ER, 5 x (3min IR, 2min ER), 15min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 45min FR as 10min ER, 15min SR, 5min ER, 10min TR, 5min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 10miles LR
Week 7 (An easier week to help your body recover and adapt to the training)
Monday Rest
Tuesday 20min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 40min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 50min ER
Week 8
Monday Rest
Tuesday 10min ER, 8 x (2min IR, 2min ER), 10min SR
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 10min ER, 3 x (7min TR, 2min ER), 10min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 12 miles LR. Practise H&N
Week 9
Monday Rest
Tuesday 40min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 50min SR
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 14 miles LR. Practise H&N
Week 10
Monday Rest
Tuesday 50min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 10min ER, 20min HR, 5min ER, 10min SR
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 16 miles LR. Practise H&N
Week 11
Monday Rest
Tuesday 10min ER, 5 x (5min IR, 2.5min ER), 10min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 40min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun Run a Half Marathon
Week 12
Monday Rest
Tuesday 50min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 10min ER, 3 x (8min TR, 2min ER), 5 x 30sec fast, 5min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 18 miles LR 3 x 4 miles MP at start, middle and end. Practise H&N
Week 13
Monday Rest
Tuesday 35min ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 5min ER, 40min SR, 5min ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 20 miles LR. Practise H&N
4 Weeks to go!
Monday Rest
Tuesday 30 mins ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 1 mile ER , 4 miles HMP, 1 mile ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 22 miles LR. This will be your final long training run. Practise MP and H&N
3 Weeks to go!
Monday Rest
Tuesday 30 mins ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 2 miles ER, 4 miles HMP, 2 miles ER
Friday Core & stretching
Sat or Sun 13 miles LR. Practise MP and H&N
2 Weeks to go!
Monday Rest
Tuesday 30 mins ER
Wednesday Rest
Thursday 1 mile ER, 5 x (2 mins IR, 2 mins ER), 1 mile ER
Friday Core & Stretching
Sat or Sun 8 miles ER
1 Week to go!
Monday 10 mins MP, 20 mins HMP, 10 mins MP
Tuesday Rest
Wednesday 20min ER
Thursday Rest
Friday 20min ER
Saturday Gentle stretching
Sunday Race day! Remember to stretch & warm down with a 15 min walk. Eat & drink well.

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Marathon running programme

Types of training

All the training programmes involve long runs and light / moderate (recovery) runs, and some also include faster runs (tempo and speed).

Easy runs

These allow your legs to recover from hard efforts and prepare you for the next day of training. Take them at a light to moderate pace (effort level of five to six). You should be able to enjoy running without feeling tired.

Steady runs

These runs should be at a slightly challenging pace with an effort level of six to seven. You should be able to hold a conversation, but find it difficult. This will become your race pace and be used for your long runs. It will increase your distance and build up your aerobic fitness, efficiency and endurance.

Tempo runs

Constant speed running is sometimes referred to as tempo running. This improves your running pace.

Although the true definition of tempo running varies, aim to run at a constant speed that feels ‘comfortably hard’. This should be about an 8 on the effort scale. Stick to about 15 to 20 minutes at this pace and always include warming up and cooling down as follows:

  • 30 mins total:
    • 5 mins warm up (effort level 5)
    • 20 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins cool down (effort level 3–4)

  • 40 mins total:
    • 4 mins warm up (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 3 mins easy jog (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 3 mins cool down (effort level 3–4)

  • 50 mins total:
    • 5 mins warm up (effort level 5)
    • 20 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins easy jog (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins cool down (effort level 3–4)

Interval training

Training with intervals builds your aerobic fitness, strength and speed. Interval training involves running fast (but not sprinting), over a set distance or time, at an effort level of 9. Follow each hard interval with an easy one of at least the same length, then repeat. Try using a treadmill or running track to help you get the distances and times right.

As you go through your training programme, try filling the recommended time with these sequences:

Don’t forget to perform 5 minutes of warm-up and cool-down before and after your interval training.

Cross training

This helps you to keep up your fitness but reduces the strain on the muscles you use for running. Take one session a week to do an activity such as swimming, cycling or using a cross trainer in the gym. This will work your muscle groups in different ways and help to stop you from getting bored of just running.

Marathon Training

Marathon To Finish—for runners and walkers

How to Train for Marathon by Jeff Galloway

This program is designed for those who have been doing some running or walking for a
few weeks. If you think that you need more conditioning before starting the program, use the “conditioning program.”

Note: This is the minimum that I’ve found necessary to finish with strength. If you are already running/walking more than this amount and are able to recover between workouts, you may continue to do what you are doing—but be careful.

1. I don’t recommend that first-time marathon participants try for a time goal. Do the first one to finish, running/walking at a comfortable training pace.

2. To begin this program, you should have done a long run/walk within the past 2
weeks of at least 3 miles. If your long one is not this long, gradually increase the weekend run/walk to this distance before starting this program.

3. (Runners) What is my current level of performance? Read the chapter in this book on “Choosing The Right Goal…”. After you have run 3-4 “magic miles” (MM), multiply by 1.3. This tells you what you are currently capable of running in a marathon right now (at a very hard effort), when the temperature is 60° F or below and when you have done the long runs listed in the schedule. Even in the marathon itself, I don’t recommend running this fast—run at the training pace that was comfortable for you on your last long runs.

4. (Runners) What pace should I run on the long ones? Take your MM time and multiply
by 1.3. Then add 2 minutes. The result is your suggested long run pace per mile on long runs at 60° F or cooler. It is always better to run slower than this pace.

5. Walkers and runners should pace the long one so there’s no huffing and puffing—even at the end.

6. When the temperature rises above 60° F: runners should slow down by 30 seconds
a mile for every 5 degrees above 60° F on long runs and the race itself. Walkers, slow down enough to avoid huffing and puffing.

8. Walkers—use the walk-shuffle ratio that works for you to avoid huffing and puffing

9. It is fine to do cross training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday if you wish. There will be little benefit to your running/walking in doing this, but you’ll increase your fatburning potential. Don’t do exercises like stair machines that use the calf muscle on cross training days.

10. Be sure to take a vacation from strenuous exercise on the day before your weekend runs/walks.

11. Have fun!

To Finish – for runners and walkers
Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 3 miles
2 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 4 miles
3 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 5 miles
4 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 2.5 miles/MM
5 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles
6 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 3 miles
7 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 7.5 miles
8 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 3 miles/MM
9 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 9 miles
10 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 4 miles
11 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 10.5 miles
12 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 4 miles/MM
13 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 12 miles
14 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 4 miles
15 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 14 miles
16 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 5 miles/MM
17 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 17 miles
18 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 5 miles
19 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles/MM
20 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 20 miles
21 off 30 min run of 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles
22 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles/MM
23 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 23 miles
24 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles
25 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 7 miles
26 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 26 miles
27 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 7 miles
28 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles
29 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 7 miles
30 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off MARATHON
31 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 7 miles
32 off 30 min run off 30 min run easy walk off 6 miles

How far is a marathon?

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometres.

How long does it take to train for a marathon?

Most typical marathon training plans are 16 to 20 weeks long. During this time, you’ll typically run three to five times a week, increasing your mileage as you get nearer to race day. On the other days, you can cross train, do some low intensity exercise (think yoga or Pilates) and, most importantly, rest your legs, allowing them to fully recover.

Which plans are best suited for beginners, or what marathon finishing time should I aim for?

If you’re a complete beginner, it’s best to start with a training plan focused on getting you round the course, not finishing in a certain time. If you’ve run a few races and are used to running longer distances, take a look at our race time predictor using a recent finishing time to work out which plan is best suited to you.

What pace should I be running at?

Each training plan will include different runs, which require you to alter your pace to avoid burning out. From an easy run training pace, to a tempo run training pace, whether you’re a beginner or a well-practised marathon runner, it can be difficult working out how fast to run. Use our training pace calculator to work out how quickly you should be running on each type of training run, by entering a recent race, or run, finishing time.

Train like a pro

What should I do if I miss some of my marathon training plan?

Very few runners will get to the end of their marathon training schedule without missing some runs due to illness, injury or life getting in the way. If you’ve missed four weeks or more, our best advice is to postpone your marathon, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get the time you want on race day having missed a month.

If you’ve missed two or three weeks, you should still have time to build up to your longest training runs, which are a key to race-day success. If you are coming back from injury, spend a week or two gradually increasing your training volume, using previous weeks on the training plan as a guide.

I’m finding the training hard, how do I know when I need to back off?

If you are pushing the pace to get faster or adding distance to go further, your body will talk back to you. During training, learn to distinguish ‘good pain’ (discomfort from leaving your comfort zone) from ‘bad pain’ (something verging on injury).

Injury chat

I’ve got a last-minute charity marathon place, what should I do?

If you’ve got less time than the training plan suggests, the key goal should be to make your marathon as comfortable as possible, rather than aiming for a time. If you’ve done little or no running before, it’s going to be hard and you should built up the length of your training sessions using a combination of running and walking, and plan to use the run/walk strategy on race-day. By walking briskly for a minute a mile, you’ll finish with far less damage to your body, and probably just as fast overall as if you’d attempted a straight run.

Mix and match training schedules to work from your starting point with a view of extending your long run by no more than two miles a week, and your overall training volume by no more than four to six miles, depending on your fitness.

What about strength training for a marathon?

Of course, strength and conditioning is important for any runner, but especially when you’re training your body to run a marathon. We’ve got plenty of strength workouts for runners on our website, including a 16-week strength training plan for marathon runners.

Train like a pro

What shoes should I buy for the marathon?

Before you begin training, it’s a good idea to get your gait checked, and yourself kitted out in a pair of shoes that will last the distance. We’ve rounded up the best men’s and women’s running shoes here.

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2

Won: Best Update 2019

Price: £159.95

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Reebok Floatride Energy

Won: Best Value 2019

Price: £59.46

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Hoka One One Rincon

Won: Best Debut 2019

Price: £105

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

Saucony Ride ISO 2

Won: Best in test 2019

Price: £107

Buy now – men’s

Buy now – women’s

What are the best, free marathon training plans out there?

Whether it’s your first marathon, or your attempt at your fastest, finding the right plan to get you across the finish line is key. To make things easier, we’ve rounded up our best training plans for every kind of runner here:

Beginner’s marathon training plan to get you round

A 16-week training plan for complete beginners, if you’re new to running but gearing up for your first marathon, this training plan will get you round, with some run-walk breaks. Running 4-5 days a week, the idea here is to get you to the finish line, regardless of speed.

Intermediate marathon training plan – for those aiming for a 3:30-4:30 marathon

This schedule is for runners who are already used to clocking up some weekly mileage. Building up from 32 miles to 48 miles per week, training over 5-6 days, this plan should get you across the line between 3:30-4:30.

Advanced marathon training plan – for those aiming for a sub-3:30 marathon

A free, advanced training plan for runners aiming for a sub-3:30 marathon. You’ll need to be pretty used to running several times a week, as this plan builds up from 44 to 60 miles, training over 6-7 days.

RW’s 16-week sub-5:00 marathon training schedule

A 5:00 hour marathon is approximately 11:30 per mile though a target pace training of 11:00 per mile (4:48) could be beneficial. To break five hours, you should eventually be capable of a sub-2:15 half marathon (10:15 per mile) and sub-60:00 10K (9:30 per mile). Right now, you should be used to running comfortably for 30-60 minutes, three or four times a week.

RW’s 16-week sub-4:30 marathon training schedule

To run a 4:30 marathon, you’ll need to do approximately 10 minute miles for the entire course. To break 4:30, you should be capable of running a sub-2:00 half-marathon and a sub-53:00 10K. (Use our race time predictor with one of your recent running times to see if this training plan works for you). Before starting, you should be used to running for 20-30 minutes four or five times a week.

RW’s 16-week sub-4:00 marathon training schedule

Running a four hour marathon works out as approximately 9 minute miles for the entire race. To break four hours, you should be capable of running a sub-1:50 half-marathon (8:20 per mile) and a sub-50:00 10K (8:00 per mile). Before starting this plan, you should be running at least 20 miles per week, and be able to comfortably run for an hour non-stop.

RW’s 16-week sub-3:45 marathon training schedule

To run a 3:45 marathon, you’ll need to stick to around 8:30 minute miles for the entire 26.2. To break 3:45, you should be capable of running a sub-1:45 half marathon (which works out as 8:00 minute miles), and a sub-46:00 10K (7:30 per mile). Right now, you should be running at least 25 miles per week and be able to run for 1:15 non-stop.

RW’s 16-week sub-3:30 marathon training plan

A 3:30 marathon is approximately 8 minute miles. To break a 3:30 marathon, you should first be capable of running a sub-1:37 half marathon (7:20 per mile) and a sub-43:00 10K (7:00 per mile). Before starting this plan, you should be used to running around 25-30 miles per week, and be able to comfortably run for 1:30 non-stop.

RW’s 16-week sub-3:15 marathon training plan

To run a 3:15 marathon, you’ll need to stick to 7:20 minute miles for the entire course. To break a 3:15 marathon, you should first be capable of running a sub-1:30 half marathon (6:50 minute miles) and a sub-40:00 10K (6:30 per mile). Before picking this training plan, you should be running at least 30-35 miles per week.

RW’s 16-week sub-3:00 marathon training plan

Our sub three hour training plan is suited to runners who are used to clocking up around 35-40 miles per week already. To run a three hour marathon, you’ll need to run 6:50 miles for the entire 26.2. To break a three hour marathon you’ll need to be capable of running a sub-1:25 half-marathon (6:30 per mile) and a sub-38:00 10K (6:00 per mile).

I’m not ready to run a marathon just yet, how should I train for a half?

If you’re looking to half the distance and train for a half-marathon, take a look at our half-marathon training plans for every kind of runner.

A 16-week training plan for complete beginners, if you’re new to running but gearing up for your first marathon, this training plan will get you round, with some run-walk breaks. Running 4-5 days a week, the idea here is to get you to the finish line, regardless of speed.

What are the different runs in the training plan?

The training plan below starts with simple run-walking as you build up the miles – focus on running for the time mentioned and not so much the speed. As you progress through the training plan, you will do some speedier runs to build the mental and physical toughness you’ll need to get to 26.2 miles.

Related: How slowing down can help you speed up

Related: What is tempo running and why should I do it?

What pace should I be running at?

At the beginning of the plan, don’t worry too much about your pace, just get through the different runs. As you get nearer the marathon, use our training pace calculator to work out what pace to aim for as you run the marathon. As well as the runs, the training plan includes those all important rest days – make sure you use these properly to avoid burning out.

Related: How slow should my long-runs be?

What should I do if I miss some of my marathon training plan?

Very few runners will get to the end of their marathon training schedule without missing some runs due to illness, injury or life getting in the way. If you’ve missed four weeks or more, our best advice is to postpone your marathon, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get the time you want on race day having missed a month.

If you’ve missed two or three weeks, you should still have time to build up to your longest training runs, which are a key to race-day success. If you are coming back from injury, spend a week or two gradually increasing your training volume, using previous weeks on the training plan as a guide.

I’m finding the training hard, how do I know when I need to back off?

If you are pushing the pace to get faster or adding distance to go further, your body will talk back to you. During training, learn to distinguish ‘good pain’ (discomfort from leaving your comfort zone) from ‘bad pain’ (something verging on injury).

Related: Running injuries – when to run and when to stop

“There is a difference between muscles that burn at the end of a workout and something that hurts every time you take a step,” says sports psychologist Jim Taylor. “Part of training is learning body awareness. You also need to experience some discomfort so when it occurs in a race, you know you can push through it.”

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Week 1 15 minutes jogging. You’re allowed to stop and walk, but this doesn’t count as part ofthe training Rest 20 minutes jogging. You’re allowed to stop and walk, but this doesn’t count as part ofthe training Rest Rest 25 minutes jogging. You’re allowed to stop and walk, but this doesn’t count as part of the training 1 hour ramble. No pressure
Week 2 25 mins jogging Rest 35 mins jogging Rest Rest 30 mins jogging 75-min ramble
Week 3 30 mins jogging Rest 40 mins jogging Rest Rest 35 mins jogging 90-min ramble
Week 4 35 mins jogging Rest 45 mins jogging Rest Rest 35 mins jogging 1 hr jogging and walking.
Week 5 20-min run Rest 50 mins jogging Rest Rest Timed run over a 2M course 90-min ramble, or run in a 10K road race
Week 6 25-min run Rest 55 mins jogging Rest Rest 25-min run 1 hr 45 jog-walk
Week 7 30-min run Rest 30-min run Rest 30-min run 30-min run 8M run
Week 8 35-min run Rest 60 mins jogging Rest 30-min run 35-min run 2-hr jog-walk or half-marathon race
Week 9 40-min run Rest 3 x 1M session, timed, with 5 mins rest after each Rest 30-min run 40-min run 8M run, walking when you have to
Week 10 45-min run Rest 3M run, timed Rest 30-min run 35-min run Long, slow 12M run
Week 11 40-min run Rest 3 x 1M session timed, with 5 mins rest after each Rest 30-min run 30-min run Long, slow 14M run
Week 12 35-min run Rest 3M run, timed, at a faster pace Rest 30-min run 25-min run Half-marathon race
Week 13 30-min run Rest 3 x 1M, timed, with 5 mins rest after each, aiming at a faster average speed than Wk 11 Rest 30-min run 20-min run 16M endurance run, taking drinks, walking 5 mins in every hour
Week 14 25-min run Rest 3M run, timed Rest 25-min run at marathon pace 15-min run 10K or 10M race, or 10M run inc 5M at a brisk pace
Week 15 20-min run Rest 30-min run at marathon pace Rest 2 x 1M session, timed 15-min run 1 hour inc 30 mins at marathon pace
Week 16 20 mins easy Rest 30 mins easy, inc a few strides Rest Rest 20 mins jogging, in racing kit RACE DAY

This isn’t the plan for me, what should I do next?

If this isn’t challenging enough for you to reach your goal, take a look at our other marathon training plans for every kind of runner.

Marathon Training for Beginners

Marathon training will be challenging, but should be fun and enjoyable. Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment that less than 1% of people in the world can say they have achieved. You are about to be one of them!

Are you a beginning runner? Already a runner? Haven’t run in a long time? Either way, you can finish a marathon. Learning some of the basics will help you get started.

Motivation:

Building mental stamina is essential. It’s one thing to be motivated to begin training. It’s another to stay motivated every day. Naturally, we think running a marathon will not be easy. Even so, many finishers say it was even tougher than they thought. Staying motivated and developing the proper mindset is key to enjoying training and crossing the finish line with a smile on your face.
Goals:

Finish time goals, weight loss goals, “just finish” goals…we all have a reason(s) for wanting to run a marathon. If your only goal is to lose weight, good luck. You’re likely to quit. You are likely to quit just like so many people who join health clubs each year for the same reason only to stop going after seeing little results in little time. You must have the right goals and reasons for running in order to be successful.
Wear the right gear:

Treat your feet to a good pair of running shoes (or three!). Running shoes will be the most important piece of gear. Shoes are designed to fit feet with different arches, pronation, and more. Visit a local specialty running store to find the best shoes for your feet.

Nutrition:

Carbohydrates provide the fuel runners need. During marathon training, 65% of your total calories should come from carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates. 10% should come from protein (you need 0.5 to 0.7 grams per pound of your body weight each day). 20-25% of your total calories should come from unsaturated fats. Be sure to get the nutrition you need to keep you strong and allow for adequate recovery.
Recovery:

Obviously, it is important to run as marathon training, but recovery is equally important. You should not run every day. Your body needs to rest between runs so it can recover from one run to the next, getting stronger between each run. Nutrition and eating the right foods at the right time also play a vital role in recovery. Take recovery days equally as serious as your running days.

Hydration:

On runs of an hour or more, carry fluids with you and consume 6-8 oz. every 20 minutes. During pre-training and marathon training, weigh yourself before and after each run to rehydrate and get your body weight back to the weight it was before the run by drinking water or sports drink within the first hours after the run.

Avoiding Injury:

Use your non-running days to rest and recover. Ice down any soreness, particularly in knees or shins (most common) four times per day for 15-20 minutes. Injuries often sneak up without warning. Doing all the right things right will minimize your chances of injury.

Pre-Training:

Before you begin marathon training, you should be able to run for at least 30 minutes without stopping. Distance is not important right now. You just need to get your body used to running.

Combinations of run/walks are great to use during pre-training because they ease your body into the exercise and minimizes the chance of experiencing a running injury.

It’s also a good idea at this point to go ahead and select a marathon and get signed up!

Training:

Your mileage should gradually increase each week with your longest run being 18-20 miles. You should then taper off in the final weeks leading up to the marathon to allow your body to recover from training and so you will be strong on marathon day. Having a 20-mile run under your belt will give you a major psychological advantage on marathon day.

Following is a suggested beginner marathon training schedule. The schedule assumes you have been running for at least 6-10 weeks at can run for at least 30 minutes without stopping (See 26-week schedule).

16-Week Marathon Training Schedule

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
1 3 Rest 4 3 Rest 5 Rest 15
2 3 Rest 4 3 Rest 6 Rest 16
3 3 Rest 4 3 Rest 7 Rest 17
4 3 Rest 5 3 Rest 8 Rest 19
5 3 Rest 5 3 Rest 10 Rest 21
6 4 Rest 5 4 Rest 11 Rest 24
7 4 Rest 6 4 Rest 12 Rest 26
8 4 Rest 6 4 Rest 14 Rest 28
9 4 Rest 7 4 Rest 16 Rest 31
10 5 Rest 8 5 Rest 16 Rest 34
11 5 Rest 8 5 Rest 17 Rest 35
12 5 Rest 8 5 Rest 18 Rest 36
13 5 Rest 8 5 Rest 20 Rest 38
14 5 Rest 8 5 Rest 9 Rest 27
15 3 Rest 5 3 Rest 8 Rest 19
16 3 Rest 3 Walk 2 Rest 26.2 Rest 34.2


Printable Schedule (PDF)

Marathon Day:

Tapering in the final weeks before the marathon will help your body recover from marathon training and be strong for your big day. You will also want to carbo-load the week leading up to the race. Given the atmosphere at most marathons, you will likely feel full of adrenaline after leaving the starting line. Remember though, marathons are about endurance and pace is critical. Maintain pace to save everything you have left for your big finish!

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Marathon Rookie: How to Train for a Marathon…and have fun doing it! is a fun to digest, inspiring book that teaches you everything you need to know to enjoy marathon training and cross the finish line for the first time. More

A Training Schedule for Marathon Beginners

A training schedule for marathon beginners that will provide a balanced plan should look at the two components to long-distance running: cardiovascular fitness and musculoskeletal resilience (your muscle and skeleton’s ability to bounce back). As race distance increases, there is a much larger musculoskeletal resilience factor than a cardiovascular fitness component. In other words, if you are going to race short, fast races, you need the ability to get oxygen from the atmosphere to your mitochondria as fast as possible.

If you are planning to run all day, you need the ability to tolerate compressive and ground reaction forces on your musculoskeletal system. A marathon fits into a middle ground that challenges both components. While some elite runners are taking their cardiovascular system to the limit for two hours, those of us who take twice as long will likely feel the stress in our joints and muscles by the last six miles.

This training program will have three runs per week along with two cross-training days and two rest days. The three running days will consist of a short/fast run, a medium run, and a long run. Choose your days as you like, just make sure that you have a rest day on either side of the long day. Cross-training can be biking, swimming, aerobics class, or hike, with an emphasis on moving in a different way than running.

Short Runs

The short-run day will be either a three or four mile run, with an emphasis on cardiovascular stress. Do these on the treadmill so you can adjust your pace and elevation easily. Start with a five-minute warm up at about a 5.5 mph at 0% incline.

At the sixth minute, go to 6 mph for the rest of the first 10 minutes. For the remaining 20 minutes, increase the speed a tenth of a mph each minute. By the time you are done with 3 miles, you will be going about 8.0 mph. Obviously, you can adjust your speed if you are faster or slower than me.

Another type of short run is a hill run. Start with a five minute 5.5 mph warm up and then go to 6 mph for five minutes. At the 10 minute mark, increase the angle by .5 percent every minute for 10 minutes, then decrease the incline every minute for 10 minutes. At the maximum speed or incline, you should feel like your rate of perceived exertion is at a 9/10.

Middle-Distance Run

The middle-distance run day can be outside or on a treadmill. The purpose of this run is to bridge the short and long run. You should run at a pace that is comfortable, but not able to have an easy conversation. This run should feel good, and give you confidence about the fact that you are able to run for an hour or more without passing out. You should not need any nutrition, but may want to drink some water when the time exceeds one hour. If you are running on a treadmill at the gym, they typically won’t allow you to go beyond an hour. I like to split the run into two sections with a walk to the water fountain in between. This really decreases the mental fatigue of running 8s and 9s on a treadmill.

18-Week Half Marathon Training Schedule

Designed for beginners and even experienced runners who wish to take extra time with their training, this 18-week training plan allows you to run four days per week and achieve your long run gains in a more gradual manner.

This plan is much like our 16-week training plan – in fact, it’s virtually the same plan, with two extra weeks added in, as well as some slight changes to the long runs. You’ll alternate between adding a mile each week to your long runs, and repeating it the next week.

Bear in mind that you can always run the miles below using a one-to-one run-walk pace (run for one minute, walk for one minute, etc.). Or you can use a method like Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run, in which you run for three minutes, walk for one minute, and so on.

Use your shorter, mid-week runs for building up your speed and ability to run shorter distances in better times, while using your longer weekend runs to build up your endurance and ability to lengthen your miles more slowly.

18-Week Training Plan for a Saturday race:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 off 3 miles off 3 miles off 3 miles 3 miles
2 off 3 miles off 3 miles off 4 miles 3 miles
3 off 4 miles off 4 miles off 5 miles 3 miles
4 off 4 miles off 4 miles off 5 miles 3 miles
5 off 5 miles off 5 miles off 6 miles 2-3 miles
6 off 5 miles off 5 miles off 6 miles 2-3 miles
7 off 6 miles off 4 miles off 7 miles 2-3 miles
8 off 6 miles off 4 miles off 7 miles 2-3 miles
9 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 8 miles 2-3 miles
10 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 8 miles 2-3 miles
11 off 6 miles off 5 miles off 9 miles 2 miles
12 off 6 miles off 5 miles off 9 miles 2 miles
13 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 10 miles 2 miles
14 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 10 miles 2 miles
15 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 11 miles 3 miles
16 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 12 miles 2 miles
17 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 6 miles 3 miles
18 off 4-5 miles off 4-5 miles off 13.1 miles! off

18-Week Training Plan for a Sunday race:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 off 3 miles off 3 miles off 3 miles 3 miles
2 off 3 miles off 3 miles off 3 miles 4 miles
3 off 4 miles off 4 miles off 3 miles 5 miles
4 off 4 miles off 4 miles off 3 miles 5 miles
5 off 5 miles off 5 miles off 2-3 miles 6 miles
6 off 5 miles off 5 miles off 2-3 miles 6 miles
7 off 6 miles off 4 miles off 2-3 miles 7 miles
8 off 6 miles off 4 miles off 2-3 miles 7 miles
9 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 2-3 miles 8 miles
10 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 2-3 miles 8 miles
11 off 6 miles off 5 miles off 2 miles 9 miles
12 off 6 miles off 5 miles off 2 miles 9 miles
13 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 2 miles 10 miles
14 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 2 miles 10 miles
15 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 3 miles 11 miles
16 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 2 miles 12 miles
17 off 5-6 miles off 4-5 miles off 3 miles 6 miles
18 off 4-5 miles off 4-5 miles off 2 miles 13.1 miles!

Consider cross-training on the days you don’t run — anything from strength training to walking a few miles, which will provide the cardiovascular benefits without the pounding impact that running can cause.

Beginner’s half marathon training plan (18 weeks)

The following half marathon training plan is meant for novice runners who have been averaging 8-10 miles per week over the last few months and simply want to finish a half marathon. The plan contains no speed workouts and the all mileage is meant to be run, though you could easily substitute your favorite run/walk pattern into any of the workouts. The plan involves running four days per week and it maxes out at 27 miles per week.

For general fitness and injury prevention, you’re encouraged to devote 2-3 of your “off” days to cross training (cycling, swimming, yoga, etc.) or strength training. Combining the Myrtl routine, the basic core strengthening routine, the basic leg strengthening routine and the basic upper body routine will go a long way toward keeping you injury free throughout your training.

Click for a printable version of the beginner’s 18 week plan.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total
Week #1 3 (miles) Off 3 Off 3 Off 3 12
Week #2 3 Off 3 Off 3 Off 4 13
Week #3 3 Off 3 Off 3 Off 4 13
Week #4 3 Off 4 Off 3 Off 5 15
Week #5 3 Off 4 Off 3 Off 5 15
Week #6 3 Off 4 Off 3 Off 6 16
Week #7 4 Off 4 Off 3 Off 6 17
Week #8 4 Off 4 Off 3 Off 7 18
Week #9 4 Off 4 Off 3 Off 7 18
Week #10 4 Off 4 Off 3 Off 8 19
Week #11 4 Off 5 Off 3 Off 8 20
Week #12 4 Off 5 Off 3 Off 10 22
Week #13 4 Off 6 Off 3 Off 10 23
Week #14 4 Off 6 Off 3 Off 12 25
Week #15 4 Off 8 Off 3 Off 10 25
Week #16 4 Off 8 Off 3 Off 12 27
Week #17 4 Off 6 Off 3 Off 8 21
Week #18 3 Off 3 Off Off 3 13.1 (Race) 22.1

Marathon training plans beginners

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