A Simple Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

Marathon Beginner

The marathon is one of the most challenging events in endurance athletics. Success requires well-developed aerobic capabilities as well as stable connective tissue and a psychological resolve not seen in other events. Executing a proper training program is essential to maximizing performance on marathon day.

This maxim rings particularly true for first-timers who are likely to make common errors in the critical final 12 weeks of build-up. This plan lays out an intelligent approach to the final few months of marathon training—both for beginners and for those returning to the event after an extended hiatus.

Background Work

The final 12 weeks of a marathon schedule—considered the “specificity” portion of the training program— is where the realization of hard work is found. The background work, however, is what allows a marathoner to train intently through that specificity with reduced risk of injury. As a general rule, I require any first-time marathoner to complete a minimum of six weeks running of no less than 18 to 24 miles each week prior to the 12-week specificity period.

Pro Tip: If you have the time, add one to two non-running sessions (swim, stationary bike spin, elliptical session or a hike) to add some additional aerobic work in the lead up to the critical “final 12.”

Introductory Period

Sunday : 6-7 miles, easy running

Monday: Off/rest

Tuesday: 3-4 miles easy, with 6x100m post-run form strides for economy

Wednesday: Repeat Tuesday

Thursday: Off/rest with 40-min non-run aerobic (swim, stationary bike spin, elliptical, etc.)

Friday: Short run, 3 miles

Saturday: 5 miles with light pick-ups (6 to 7 moderate 1-minute surges with 1:30 recovery walk/jog between each) over the final 3 miles

Approximate Total: 22 to 23 miles

Pro Tip: Be sure to hit three key elements in the first 2 weeks of the final 12:
-A longer run with gear changing
-A medium long run
-A run with some moderate sustained running

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About the Author

Pete Rea

ZAP Fitness is a Reebok-sponsored non-profit facility that supports post-collegiate distance runners in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. ZAP puts on adult running camps during the summer and is available for retreats all year. The facility has a state-of-the-art weight room, exercise science lab for testing, and a 24-bed lodge. Coaches at the facility include 2-time Olympic trials qualifier Zika Rea, 2007 USATF National XC Champion Ryan Warrenburg, and head coach Pete Rea. For more information, go to zapfitness.com or call 828-295-6198.

ZAP Fitness is a Reebok-sponsored non-profit facility that supports post-collegiate distance runners in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. ZAP puts on adult running camps during the summer and is available for retreats all year. The facility has a state-of-the-art weight room, exercise science lab for testing, and a 24-bed lodge. Coaches at the facility include 2-time Olympic trials qualifier Zika Rea, 2007 USATF National XC Champion Ryan Warrenburg, and head coach Pete Rea. For more information, go to zapfitness.com or call 828-295-6198.

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