A trend that just won’t stop is running a marathon. More people are running every year which is awesome! But you can’t just jump into marathon training. You need a marathon training plan and that’s why I’m offering my 16-week marathon training plan FOR FREE below.
This beginner marathon training plan and intermediate marathon training plan will help you get fit to run the marathon distance in a safe and sustainable way. It will gradually build your base-building runs to longer distances in a way that keeps you healthy as you get fit.
So, let’s get started!
Related: A New Approach to Goal-Setting
How long is a marathon?
A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers.
How long does it take to train for a marathon?
It takes at least 16 weeks to train for a marathon. Most people need at least 4 months to train for a marathon safely.
Ideally, you have about 5 months to train for a marathon including a solid “base phase” in which you are doing easy running to spur physiological adaptations necessary to run 26.2 miles.
These adaptations include increasing capillary density and mitochondria production, increasing glycogen storage (for fuel/energy), improve cardiac stroke volume, and strengthening muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.
By including some speedwork in your training, you will also push your lactate threshold, and improve muscle activation and neuromuscular coordination.
What makes a good marathon training plan?
Most marathon training plans will include at least 2-3 easy days, 1-2 long run days, 1-2 complete rest days, 1-2 cross-training days, and 1-2 speed days. It should also include two strength training days.
The weekly long run is the most important aspect of a marathon training program in terms of getting you to the starting line fit and ready. These long runs are done slow at a comfortable, conversational pace. Read more about how to do a long run here.
What is a good marathon time?
The world average marathon time for women is about 4 hours and 45 minutes.
The average world marathon time for men is about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
To be among the top 1% of marathon runners in the United States, you need to run a marathon faster then 2 hours and 49 minutes. To be among the top 10% of marathoners, you need to finish a marathon in less than 3 hours and 24 minutes.
How many miles a week do you need to run to run a marathon?
You need to run at least 25 miles a week to run a marathon. That is the bare minimum. To comfortably run a marathon, your weekly mileage should be in the 40s. (This is also true for this wanting to qualify for the Boston Marathon).
Should you run 26 miles before a marathon?
You should not run 26 miles before running a marathon. Running 26 miles is very stressful on the body and takes a long time to recover from. Therefore, in training, you will cap your long run at about 20 miles, give or take.
The training around your long runs teaches your body to go the extra 10k, including the taper period in which your body becomes up to 3 percent fitter.
Related: How to Taper for a Marathon
How long should the long run be?
Your longest run of marathon training depends on what your estimated marathon finish time will be. If your marathon finish time goal is below 4 hours, you will likely run 1-3 long runs over 20 miles.
If it is above 4 hours, you will cap your long runs at about 3:30 hours. If your estimated marathon finish time is about 5 hours, you will cap your long runs to 4 hours. Running longer than that unnecessarily taxes the body and weakens it before race day.
Related: The Benefits of an Easy Running Pace
Is it okay to miss a long run during marathon training?
The marathon training plan is written in pencil. Life happens and we miss a long run or a training week. That’s okay! But it is necessary to proceed with caution. DO NOT try to make up mileage. (This is when having a running coach is best to help you adapt the plan to fix your life).
If you miss a long run, you can turn that week into a “down week” in which your mileage is reduced to absorb your training load before going back up. You can also add a couple of extra miles to your mid-week run so you can a longer distance that day. You can run a race or time trial in place of the long run. You can also back up and run the previous week if you don’t have a goal race.
There are many options to continue the momentum if you miss a week of marathon training. Even if you miss an entire week, you will not lose much fitness. However, you need to return with caution. Depending on how much time you took off, you can’t jump right back in or you risk injury.
What should I do if I can’t do all my training in my marathon plan?
If you’re struggling to do your marathon training plan, then it’s not the right marathon training plan for you or it’s not the right time to train for a marathon.
I suggest looking at the time you have to train per week and seeing what mileage you can fit in realistically. If it’s not enough to adequately train for a marathon, then consider running a different distance such as a half-marathon, instead.
If you have missed a lot of time during your marathon training, you can choose a different race at a later date.
In fact, it’s best to do your marathon training and then sign-up for the marathon so that you are giving yourself plenty of time to train and aren’t rushing your fitness. This increases your risk of injury!
Sample Marathon Training Schedule
What does a marathon training schedule look like?
The biggest differences between my beginner marathon training plan and intermediate training plan is the absence of speedwork and less mileage. Speed workouts will include tempo runs, intervals, marathon pace work, and “fartlek” (speedplay) to name a few. Choosing the best marathon plan for you depends on your experience and fitness level. It’s so important to train from where you are!
Here is week 10 of my 16-week marathon training plan for intermediate runners.
- Monday: Run 4 miles, 4 strides
- Tuesday: Warm-up 1-2 miles, 6 by 800 meters, with 1 minute rest, cool-down 1-2 miles
- Wednesday: Run 6 miles, 4 strides,
- Thursday: Run 6 miles with 4 at goal marathon race pace
- Friday: REST
- Saturday: 17–mile easy long run
- Sunday: REST, or easy walk
12 Marathon Training Tips
Here are some marathon training tips to set you up for success!
- Be as consistent as possible. Even if you can’t run what’s on the schedule, run what you can that day.
- Practice your race day fueling on long run days.
- Do dress rehearsals with that you will wear on race day during your long runs.
- Run with friends and running groups.
- Switch up the location to keep training interesting.
- Read running books and listen to training podcasts (like my The Passionate Runner Shameless plug, I know).
- Lube up before long runs with an anti-chafing stick.
- Stick to your marathon training schedule as best you can!
- Don’t push a run if you feel exhausted, sick, or an injury coming on.
- Be sure to get enough sleep!
- Eat before and within 30 minutes of runs longer than 45 minutes.
- Keep your easy runs EASY!!
Get ALL the marathon training tips in my post, 26 Tips for Going 26.2!
Download My Free 16-week Marathon Training Plans
Beginner Marathon Training Plan
Ready to go the marathon distance for the first time and learn what’s inside? This Beginner Marathon training plan prepares first time marathoners to slay 26.2 miles in 12 weeks! It safely builds up the distance and includes cross-training and strength-training days to ensure you stay healthy and get stronger.
It’s also flexible to fit your busy mother runner lifestyle. What’s more, it includes training and race day tips, and full support of me with encouragement to email with any questions, so you can have a successful first marathon.
This plan serves as a wonderful starting block for you to conquer even bigger goals as a mother runner. It was developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners.
Intermediate Marathon Training Plan
You’ve run 5ks, 10ks, a half-marathon. You’ve maybe even run a marathon with the goal to finish. But now you’re ready to get more competitive with yourself and see what potential lies within. You want to rack up those PRs! This Intermediate Marathon training plan is for you (as long as you are running about 25 miles a week already)!
But beware, this plan is not your typical intermediate. It is a bit more challenging because I BELIEVE IN YOU! Over the course of 16 weeks, you’ll hone your speed and endurance with two days a week dedicated to speed and two days a week dedicated to more mileage.
Be rest assured, the intensity is gradually increased with built-in rest days. This Intermediate Marathon training plan, developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners, also comes with training tips and encouragement to contact me with any questions.
If you’re looking for advanced and customized training for a marathon, I highly recommend getting a running coach. A running coach can tailor a plan to your background, needs, goals, and lifestyle. Check out my coaching services to help you reach your goals!