Some choose to run marathons because they strive to conquer personal goal and prove their own determination. Others may wish to cross an impressive feat off their bucket list. And still, others do it simply because they are crazy enough to enjoy running mile after mile after mile.
Regardless of what drives you, it is important to understand that willpower alone is not enough to get across that finish line — you need a training plan, as well. A quality marathon training program will help optimize your efforts so that you can reach your full potential. The only thing better than managing to cross the finish line on race day? Doing so with a smile on your face and the knowledge that you finished faster than you ever expected!
Below, we have put together a simple guide that can help you build a training plan that works for you:
Beginner Marathon Training Plan — Overview
For those who are striving to run their first marathon, the most important element of training will be the simple accumulation of miles. The more you can manage to run in the months leading up to the event, the better you will perform on race day.
Most experts recommend running an average of at least 30 miles a week for 12 weeks before running. It is also best to divide these miles up in a way that leaves you with one “long run” per week — starting small (close to 5 miles) and slowly adding miles all the way until your longest “long run” is roughly 20 miles.
This final long run should be performed at least 2 weeks before the marathon itself, as this will give your body the time it needs to rest and recover. (This final period of reduced mileage before the race is known as a taper, and helps ensure that you are feeling strong and prepared on race day.)
Below, we have put together a day-by-day breakdown of what a minimum-mileage, 12-week training plan might look like.
Day by Day Breakdown
- Monday: 4-mile run
- Tuesday: 4-mile run
- Wednesday: Rest
- Thursday: 4 Mile Run
- Friday: 4 Mile Run
- Saturday: Rest
- Sunday: 4 mile run on week 1; add 2 miles each week.
Customization (and a short disclaimer.)
Of course, every athlete is unique, and there is no one-size fits all plan. Developing a personalized strategy for health, fitness, and achievement goals is a task that only you, your doctor, your personal trainer, and other people with expertise and direct contact with you can undertake. Some runners may require more preparation, less preparation, or a different type of training regimen, for example — and some people simply aren’t in a state of health to be running marathons at all.
Additional resources for first-time marathon runners:
- The Top Fitness Magazine Running Archives
- The “First Marathon” Subreddit Community.
- The US Marathon Directory from the online running forum MarathonGuide.com
- The Top Fitness Magazine Nutrition Archives.