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.
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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.”
Sunday : 6-7 miles, easy running
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