How to Go From Zero to Marathon in Six Months

Sample Weeks 7 to 12

  • Sunday: Run for 70 to 90 minutes (run should last for 90 minutes by weeks 10, 11 and 12) easy with moderate 1-minute pick-ups every 6 minutes over the last hour. Return to a comfortable training rhythm between each surge. Pick-ups should be assertive but only so fast. Conclude run with 6 x 100m strides for economy. Practice consuming fluids and energy (calories, preferably carbohydrates) during your long runs. Take 6 to 8 ounces of fluid every 30 to 35 minutes, and ideally 100 to 120 calories of energy intake within the same period.
  • Monday: rest day (no running); optional aerobic cross-training such as swimming or stationary biking for 55 to 65 minutes
  • Tuesday: Run easy for 45 minutes with 8 x 100m strides to finish run.
  • Wednesday: Run easy for 15 to 18 minutes followed by 6 to 7 x 2-minute moderate pick-ups, each with 2 to 3 easy jogging between intervals. Cool down for 10 minutes (roughly a one-hour workout).
  • Thursday: rest day; no running or optional cross-training
  • Friday: Run easy for 45 minutes with 8 x 100m strides to finish run.
  • Saturday: cross-train for 60 to 70 minutes

Note the less-than-gradual ramp-up in terms of the overall volume of work as well as the amount of non-running exercise. In addition the first "harder" workout was added to allow your body to begin working on the early elements of anaerobic threshold development. One must train "uncomfortably" at times to see breakthroughs.

Sample Weeks 13 to 19 (7-Week Transitional Block)

After three months of "training to train" comes the period of marathon adaptation. In other words, the first 12-week period was designed simply to prepare you intelligently for what is to come. Assuming you have completed the above first three months, it's time to begin preparing legitimately for your marathon.
  • Sunday: Run for 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 25 minutes with 2 to 3 "pushes" within the run at or a hair harder than marathon effort (I recommend a 3-mile push followed by a 2-mile push with 15 to 20 minutes easy between the pushes over the final hour of the run). This long run should be abbreviated by 20 percent every third week in this period
  • Monday: rest day (no running); cross-training optional
  • Tuesday: Run for 50 to 55 minutes at a conversational pace.
  • Wednesday: Warm up for 15 to 20 minutes, then run 3 miles at roughly 15 to 20 seconds per-mile slower than your current 10K race fitness. After this opening piece, jog slowly for 5 minutes to recover, then run 6 x 4-minute pick-ups at the same pace or a touch quicker than the opening 3-mile block. Jog easy or walk for 3 minutes to recover between each pick-up. Cool down for 15 to 25 minutes
  • Thursday: Run for 30 to 40 minutes followed by 45 minutes of cross-training.
  • Friday: Run for 60 minutes with the final 30 minutes run at a moderate pace.
  • Saturday: cross-train 

Week 19 is a planned down week in which the long run should be largely non-existent.

MORE: The Importance of Base Building for Marathon Training

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