Marathon Training Plan

The 18-week Marathon Training Plan is designed to get new and slightly experienced runners in physical and mental shape to run a 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 8 miles in a week 1 long run. So you should be comfortable doing that. The Beginner Marathon Training helps to boost your running gradually over the course of 18 weeks, but this plan prepares you to run a stronger, potentially faster, marathon.

About the marathon training plan

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 best marathon.

Getting into the right mental state is an important part of marathon training. Learn more in the article, Marathon Mindset.

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.

Learn more about speed work in this article, Should I Make Sprinting Part of My Marathon Training?

Marathon training plan structure

In these 18 weeks of training, you will start with 19 total weekly miles in week 1 to a peak of 38 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 Run
  4. Cross-Training (XT)
  5. Rest and sleep


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 talk, 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.

Pace running

What is pace running? It’s the pace you’d like to run in the race you’re training for. 

For example, if you want to run a marathon in 3.5 hours, your average pace per mile is 8:00. Run that same pace on the pace run days.

Long 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 8 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 mixes it up

Cardio and aerobic workouts, like brisk walks or slow jogs, expand your lungs and your heart pumping.

morning jogging

Here are some reasons Why Morning Jogging is Good For Overweight People.

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 or spinning classes
  • Rope Jumps
  • Swimming laps or splashing in a Koi pond
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Rowing
  • Stair Climber-ing
  • Aerobics Class (Zumba, Step, Kickboxing, Dance, Stripper)
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
  • Hiking, but only in the mountains
  • Climbing walls, or climbing on big, huge, rocks

Importance of Rest and Sleeping

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

  • To recover after a 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. One study found that “overtraining,” or running without rest can lead to significant “muscle impairment.” 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.

Get started with beginner marathon training

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

marathon training plan