Marathon Training Plan - Intermediate Anaerobic

Event Type: 
Marathon (26.2 miles)
Skill Level: 
25 Weeks


This plan assumes that you previously ran at least 2-3 marathons and currently have a strong aerobic foundation.  This means that you have been running consistently for several years and are able to run 25-30 miles a week.  The plan takes an anaerobic approach to training and implements a technique called “reverse periodization,” i.e., improving technique, strength, and speed at a low weekly volume during an initial base period, followed by increasingly longer-distance aerobic work during the later stages of training. 

It should be noted that an anaerobic approach is very different from the traditional model of endurance training.  For more information about the research and evidence behind this approach, see our blog at 

This plan is it not intended for novice runners who have not developed a strong aerobic base over several years of training.  This plan occurs over the course of 25 weeks.  The weekly mileage begins at 20 miles per week and culminates at 48 miles.  The base period occurs over the first 17 weeks, which seek to build power and improve mechanics for more efficient work output at lower intensities as mileage increases.  Each week in the base period includes one long run on Saturday, two strength and speed days on Monday and Wednesday, three easy short runs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and one rest day on Sunday.  The base period will include high-speed interval training, hill repeats, and an option for strength training in the gym.  These high-intensity interval workouts are designed to progressively build upon skills that initially develop power and anaerobic endurance, and then advance to aerobic intervals, tempo intervals, and steady state runs.  It is important to improve your power output and anaerobic capacity first so that you will be more efficient once you perform aerobic and tempo intervals.  It should be noted that while the base period emphasizes building power, you are still training your aerobic system during the long runs.  The anaerobic system works in conjunction with the aerobic system to maximize running economy. 

The next phase, which occurs during weeks 18 to 23, scales back on strength and speed work and increases aerobic capacity by running longer distances at lower intensity levels.  Each week during this phase includes one long run on Saturday, one speed day on Tuesday, two intermediate-distance days on Monday and Thursday, two easy days on Wednesday and Friday, and a rest day on Sunday. 

The final taper period occurs during weeks 23-25.  In this period, you will reduce your weekly training volume to allow for complete recovery and preparation for race day. 

This training plan allows for some flexibility and includes options to enhance your training.  You can adjust various days to fit your schedule, but try not to schedule two hard workouts back-to-back as it can cause fatigue, promote poor technique, and increase the chance of injury.   There will be four 20-plus mile runs, with the longest being 22 miles.  Since the plan occurs over a period of six months, it is feasible to miss 2-3 long runs if necessary.  It isn’t advisable to miss long runs on consecutive weeks as they are particularly important to building aerobic endurance.  These workouts were designed to offer guidance only; if you do not feel well on a particular day or don’t feel you can perform an entire workout, skip it or reduce the load

The plan also includes options to run races, as these can help simulate the race experience, prepare you mentally, and build confidence (which can sometimes be the most important factor) for the big day.  If you do choose to race a particular week, we suggest cutting out the speed session for the week. 

Before you begin this training plan, you should assess your current level of fitness.  This will help you predict your goal race finish time and set the appropriate intensity levels of your workouts.   You can assess your current level of fitness by performing a time-trial on your own or you can enter a race (such as a 5K).   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.