Running a marathon is fun (no, really). The atmosphere of the race, being surrounded by other runners as you roll through the kilometers cheered on by friends and strangers alike gives you an intrinsic feeling of accomplishment and encouragement. The pure elation that arrives as you cross the line is incredible and unforgettable. The weeks and months it takes to get you to that point, however, are less… erm, exciting. It’s estimated that it takes the average beginner about 15 weeks of training to get themselves mentally and physically prepared for a marathon. 15 weeks - hundreds of hours and kilometers to then run 42.2 km in around 4 and a half hours (the world average marathon time). To help you get race ready no matter what ‘level’ of beginner you may be, we’ve created a modular plan below so you can start with as much (or as little) time as you may need / have.
If it’s your first marathon, we recommend you start at the beginning – 16 weeks out from the marathon, but however many weeks away your marathon may be, we’ve got you covered (yes, even no training at all, though disclaimer up front, this a bad idea). Before you begin, we’ve listed a few things for you to make sure of for your training plan to get off to the best start possible.
Note: If the marathon may seem too much for you for now, see our half-marathon training guide for getting you prepared for the half marathon, after which, you may want to pick up your marathon training where the half marathon guide ends.
The Marathon Training Guide
Below are the breakdowns of marathon preparation for starting from 4, 3, 2 and 1 months/month out, to not training at all (which you should 100% not do).
Think of them as a weekly breakdown of how far you should be running to make sure you’re covering enough distance to be ready for the run of your life.
Some guides have you mixing your running schedule with interval trainings or hill sprints, Fartleks or track runs, but as this is our beginner guide, we’ve just focused on the numbers needed to get you over the line.
Key to the guides
- Rest: Take it easy on these days. It’s all about listening to your body. If you want to do some mixed-sports training on these days because you feel good, that’s up to you, however it’s better to make sure you give your muscles and joints a chance to recover. Stretch and do an activity like yoga or Pilates. Or simply nothing at all. Remember, rest is training too.
- Mixed: One day over the weekend should be dedicated to another kind of sport to compliment the running you’re doing. This can be anything from hitting the gym to swimming, cycling to recreational sports with friends. The idea is that you at least push yourself to sweating point, and as a rule, the session lasts more than 30 minutes. Other than that, it’s up to you what your mixed day exercise may be!
- Saturdays and Sundays: Can be switched as needed, with the long run more important than the mixed workout (if time permits only 1 training over the weekend).
4 months out (16 weeks left)
Well done! You’ve got time on your side and so this is all going to be a breeze come race day. This first month is all about helping you get into the rhythm and habit of exercising regularly.