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Marathon Training Plan - Beginner
This plan assumes that you have had six months to one year of running experience and can run at least 15 miles per week. It may be helpful to have had 5K, 10K, or even half-marathon experience. This plan occurs over the course of 25 weeks. Each week contains one long run, two easy days, two hard days, and two rest days. The long run occurs on Sunday, hard days occur on Wednesday and Friday, easy days occur on Tuesday and Thursday, and rest days occur on Monday and Saturday. You can adjust these days to fit your schedule, but try not to schedule two hard workouts back-to-back as it can increase the chance of injury (not to mention wearing you out).
The training mileage begins at 17 miles per week and culminates at 40 miles per week. The plan is broken into three stages: a base period that lasts the first 17 weeks, a sharpen period that occurs weeks 18 to 24, and a taper period that occurs weeks 23 to 24. The base period seeks to build your aerobic endurance by progressively increasing your training volume. The runs during the base period should be performed on fairly flat terrain, at a slower pace, and at a lower intensity. Try to alternate between trail, grass, and asphalt running to reduce wear and tear. The sharpen period seeks to build your endurance by increasing power and refining neuromuscular pathways. This period will include high-speed intervals, tempo runs, and hill repeats. Your training volume will decrease to accommodate for increased intensity of the workouts. Finally, the taper period seeks to help you recover and prepare yourself for the race by decreasing the training volume.
The training plan allows for some flexibility and includes options to enhance your training. Since the plan covers a period of six months, it is feasible to miss 2-3 long runs if necessary. It isn’t advised to miss the long runs consecutively as these runs are particularly important for building aerobic endurance. The longest run will be 20 miles and the plan calls for you to repeat this 3-4 times. This will help your body prepare for the mileage demanded in a marathon. There are also options to run shorter races during training as these can help simulate the race experience and prepare you mentally for the big day.
Before you begin this training plan, we suggest that you assess your current level of fitness. This will help you determine your goal race finish time. Even if your goal is “just to finish,” it will help you set the appropriate intensity levels of your workouts. You can assess your current level of fitness by performing a 5K time-trial on your own or you can enter a race. Once you have established your fitness level, you should train according to what your current ability is. There will be opportunities after several months of training to reassess your fitness level and adjust race goals.
We recommend that you consult a physician before taking on a training regimen of the nature called for in this plan.