Beginner Marathon Training

This beginner marathon training is perfect for new and experienced runners.

The 18-week Beginner Marathon Training is designed to get new runners in shape to run their first marathon.

Getting ready to run a marathon

This plan helps you get mentally and physically prepared to run a marathon, which is 26.2 miles. Many marathon training programs start with the assumption that you can run at least 3 miles multiple times per week and at least 5 or 6 miles in a week 1 long run. So you should be comfortable doing that. The Half Marathon Training helps to boost running gradually over the course of 12 weeks, but this plan prepares you to run your first marathon.

About beginner marathon training

Most training programs are goal-oriented. You train for a certain number of weeks and then show up at the starting line of a marathon ready to go. 

This 18-week program will provide structure to build your running level and get you ready to run your first marathon.

Measured in distance and pace

This plan will lay out how many miles to run each day. On some days, this training does require you to run at a race-pace speed. You are building a mileage base, gaining road running experience, and adding race-pace speed workouts.

For example, if the training calls for a long run of 6 miles, run 6 miles. Some people can do 6 miles in 60 minutes, while others may be able to complete 6 miles in 90 minutes. That’s okay. You’re working from your own running level. We’re all in this together.

Beginner marathon training structure

In these 18 weeks, you will start with 15 total weekly miles in week 1 to a peak of 31 total weekly miles by week 15, then taper off to week 18 which ends with your marathon race. The training is composed of the following:

  1. Running
  2. Pace Run
  3. Long Runs
  4. Cross-Training (XT)
  5. Rest


This plan is designed to help you run consistently,  focusing on completion. Run at a comfortable pace, a conversational pace, which means you’re not too winded to carry on a conversation. If you can’t do that, you’re running too fast. Your body will become stronger and more conditioned throughout the program, as will your confidence in running. Speed will come with time.

Race pace runs

What is race pace? It is the pace you plan to, or want to, run in the marathon you’re training for. 

For example, if you want to run the marathon in 4.5 hours, your average pace per mile is 10:30. So you would run that same pace on the pace run days.

Long distance runs

Since you are training for a long race, the key to the program is the long run. 

There is one long run every week on Saturday. It begins with 6 miles in Week 1 to a peak of 20 miles in Week 15. The training then tapers off so that you arrive at the marathon prepped and well-rested. You can skip an occasional workout, or change up the schedule depending on other commitments. But don’t cheat on your long runs. The schedule has a long run on Saturdays, but if you need to you can switch to Sundays or even other days of the week to suit your schedule.

Cross-Training exercises add variety

Cardio and aerobic workouts, like brisk walks or slow jogs, expand your lungs and your heart pumping. The reason the duration of each workout increases is to help you build endurance, which is a measure of how long you can keep it up. Cross-training helps increase your aerobic activity while changing things up with other exercises. Cross-training sessions allow you to be creative and do things that you like or try things for the first time. Here’s a list of great cross-training workouts to boost your cardio and aerobic activity:

  • Cycling
  • Spinning Class
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Rope Jumping
  • Stair Climb
  • Aerobics Class (Zumba, Step, Kickboxing, Dance)
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Hiking 
  • Climbing

When it’s cold outside or the weather is bad, try this Easy HIIT Treadmill Workout for Runners.

Sleep and rest are vital

As you’re getting started on this fitness journey, understand the importance of rest. In this plan, rest is twofold:

  • To recover after the Saturday long run
  • Give your body a break when the plan calls for an increased mileage

Many scientists suggest that the rest period is when muscles get stronger. And many prominent running coaches say that you shouldn’t run hard unless your body is well-rested. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you remain consistent through the full 18 weeks, you can benefit from sufficient rest periods.

Learn more about the importance of sleep.

Get started with beginner marathon training

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to get running. Start today. 

beginner marathon training