The best marathon running schedule begins with your current fitness level and steadily increases your endurance so you train without injury.
Keep reading to find two training plan suggestions, along with tips for running your first marathon.
Marathon Running Schedule: Before You Start
Are you ready for marathon training?
Before you begin, you’ll need the stamina to run for 30 minutes continuously. 1
A better base includes running 4 days a week for 3 to 6 months, with race experience in the 10k or half marathon. 2
Most marathon plans span 16 to 20 weeks. But, if you’re starting from a non-running base, you must add another 4 to 10 weeks to your training.
One more thing: choose a fall race if you’d rather train through hot summer months and a spring race if you prefer training in cold weather.
Your First Marathon Goal
Your goal is to finish strong.
While setting a time goal is tempting, it has a few downfalls:
1// It may push you train harder and faster, leading to over training and injury.
2// Or, during your marathon, you may start out too fast, deplete your energy, and hit the dreaded ‘wall’.
Your pace drops once you hit the wall, and you’d feel discouraged for not running according to plan.
3// If you ran a strong race but fell short of your time goal, you’d feel like a failure even though you completed a marathon.
So, if your goal is to finish, you’ll have a less stressful and successful marathon experience.
What’s the Best Marathon Running Schedule for You?
Find a plan that matches your current fitness level. Don’t choose a plan that requires a weekly mileage of 40-miles if you only average 10-miles a week.
A good, safe training plan increases mileage by 10% every week. Ten percent pushes you toward gaining endurance without the risk of injury.
Look for a marathon plan created by a coach with a degree in exercise physiology or kinesiology and experience working with endurance athletes. 3
Marathon Running Schedule Suggestions
The goal of these marathon running schedules is to ensure a strong and enjoyable marathon, to turn you into a lifelong runner.
1// Hansons Marathon Method: Run Your Fastest Marathon the Hansons Way by Luke Humphrey, with Keith and Kevin Hanson
Kevin and Keith Hanson created The Hansons Marathon Method and coaches elite runners in the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.
The ‘Just Finish Program‘ is for new runners who run about 10 miles a week, who’ve never run a marathon, and have no experience with running workouts.
Though there are 5 to 6 days of running for a slow, deliberate build to increase your endurance.
The Hansons believe in the cumulative fatigue principle, which means that you’ll start your next run slightly tired from the previous run. It’s meant to simulate the tiredness you’ll feel during a marathon.
Let’s say that you ran 3-miles yesterday and plan to run 4-miles today. Today’s run is meant to feel like the middle marathon miles – mile 11, 12, or 13.
2// The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer, by David Whitsett, Forrest Dolgener, Tanjala Kole
This easy to understand plan is 16 weeks long.
And, there is a preliminary training program if you are brand new to the sport.
The goal for the 10-week preliminary training is to get you running for 30-minutes without stopping.
It doesn’t have to last all 10-weeks, depending on your fitness level. You’ll choose the week that closely matches your current fitness level to start building your endurance.
The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer includes both mental and physical preparation. You’ll run 4 days a week with this plan, starting with a total weekly mileage of 15-miles and building to the longest run of 18-miles.
Each week in the marathon running schedule focuses on an element of mental preparation (visualization, positive self-talk, goal setting) and physical (stretching, hydration, rest and recovery).
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You May Also Like
- The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer ↩
- Marathon Training, Runner’s World ↩
- How Closely Do You Really Need to Follow a Race Training Plan, Greatist ↩