A Marathon Training Plan That Will Have You Ready for 26.2 Miles in 3 Months

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This article and training plan was written by expert running coach, Greg McMillan, from McMillan Running.

The thrill of crossing the finish line with 26.2 miles behind you is a bucket list goal for many, and there is no doubt that running a marathon is a monumental accomplishment. However, tackling a marathon is a physical and mental test that should not be taken lightly. You'll need to prepare and you need a plan that will not only have you crushing your goals, but one that incorporates cross-training such as rowing, yoga, and mobility, as well as rest, so that you stay healthy and injury free.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Marathon?

There's no reason to sugarcoat it—running a marathon is hard on you physically and mentally. That is why I am a proponent of easing into training and incorporating cross-training into your weekly regimen. I have been lucky to coach thousands of runners, and because of that, I have figured out a solid 12-week plan that allows runners to adequately prepare while also keeping their minds and bodies happy and healthy.

This three-month plan allows novice and moderate runners to fit training into their daily lives. By committing to a 120-day plan, I have found that runners are not worn down by race day, but it also provides plenty of workouts that will simulate the type of fatigue that they will face on race day.

Why You Should Follow a Marathon Training Plan

The very nature of a marathon means that there are going to be a slew of unknowns. However, by following this training plan, runners are able to gradually yet progressively build their ability to match the demands of whatever race days throw at them. Training plans will leave runners feeling confident that they have enough endurance, stamina, strength, and speed to eat up 26.2 miles. Furthermore, a proper training plan exposes runners to the mental challenges that they will face when undertaking a marathon. If people stick to their training plan, race day becomes more like being on autopilot rather than worrying about the nuances and challenges of a particular course.

The Marathon Training Plan - Know the Lingo

It is important for runners of all levels to stick to training plans, and that includes getting familiar with some of the jargon and learning how to evaluate your progress.

  • Cross-training: Cross-training incorporates a variety of other exercises, such as yoga, rowing, resistance training, and mobility, into your weekly plan. Cross-training increases your overall fitness, trains other muscle groups, and helps reduce injury. It is important to not skip these days.
  • Steady-state run: When running at a steady state you will keep a continuous easy-medium pace.
  • Intervals: Although your ultimate goal with this plan is to crush a marathon course, intervals will play an integral part in getting you there. Intervals are short, intense runs that are repeated several times. There are small breaks between each interval.
  • Tempo run: Tempo runs are also called "threshold runs" because you run at a pace slightly below your current marathon threshold pace—approximately 25-30 seconds per mile slower. They help your body learn to run at a harder pace for longer.
  • Rest days: Just as our bodies need exercise, they also need rest. Rest days allow our muscles to restore and rejuvenate. They also help keep us from burning out during our training.
  • Down week: Down weeks consist of running less mileage than the weeks leading up to them. They can help you stay healthy and energized for an upcoming race. Like rest days, it is critical to adhere to your schedule for down weeks.
  • Progression run: Progression runs start a slow, comfortable pace and then build to a faster pace at the end.
  • Goal pace: Once deciding on your goal finish time for your marathon, you can gauge the average pace that you will need to run each mile to meet that goal.
  • 3rds progression run: On these runs, you will break them down into thirds. The first third will be a slow, comfortable pace. During the second third, you will increase to a steady running pace, and the third will be done at a strong, fast pace.
  • Yasso 800s: By utilizing Yasso 800s, a series of 10 fast 800-meter intervals alternated with short rest periods, you will feel the effort and speed of running a marathon at your goal pace.

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Marathon Training Schedule

The cross-training programs featured in this marathon training schedule are provided by Hydrow. To access these trainer-led videos, shop Hydrow.

Week 1

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Pivot
  • Day 4: Hill sprints - 6-8 sets of 60-75 sec.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Stress and Tension Release
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Goal pace long run - 10-12 miles (optional: last 3-4 at marathon goal pace)

Week 2

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Resistance Row
  • Day 4: Steady-state run - 20-40 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Opening Restorative Yoga
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 12-14 miles

Week 3

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: 80s Runner's Prep
  • Day 4: Hill sprints - 6-8 sets of 60-75 sec.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Mobility for Running
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 14-16 miles

Week 4 (Down Week)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cross-Training Row
  • Day 4: Goal pace run - 6 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Steady Endurance Row
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: 3rds progression run - 90 min.

Week 5

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Rowing for Runners
  • Day 4: Yassos 800s: 6-8 sets of 800 meters
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Stretching for Runners
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 16-18 miles

Week 6

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Setting Goals Row
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 15-25 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cardio Burn Row
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Fast finish long run: 14-16 miles, with last 4-6 miles at marathon goal pace with fast finish (or race 10K-13.1 miles)

Week 7

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 60-80-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Low Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: Goal pace - 8 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Post-Run Mobility
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: 3rds progression run - 90 minutes

Week 8 (Down Week)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Power Marathon Row
  • Day 4: Yassos 800s: 6-8 sets of 800 meters
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Hip Opening Flow
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Fast finish long run: 16-18 miles, with last 6-8 miles at marathon goal pace with fast finish (or race 10K-13.1 miles)

Week 9

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 60-80-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Cross-Training Row
  • Day 4: Goal pace - 10 miles
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Bodyweight Hip Strength
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Long run - 18-20 miles

Week 10

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 50-60-min. jog
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Low Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 20-25 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Full-Body Mobility
  • Day 6: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Fast finish long run: 14-18 miles, with last 6-8 miles at marathon goal pace with fast finish (or race 10K-13.1 miles)

Week 11 (Peak)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 40-50-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Marathon Training Row
  • Day 4: Tempo intervals - 3 sets of 1,600 meters, with 3-min. jog between sets
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: Happy Hamstrings Align Yoga
  • Day 6: 30-40-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Goal pace long run - 8-12 miles, with last 4-6 miles at marathon goal pace

Week 12 (Peak)

  • Day 1: Rest day
  • Day 2: 30-45-min. jog/run
  • Day 3: Featured Hydrow Workout: Lower Rhythm Power Warm-Up
  • Day 4: Tempo run - 10 min.
  • Day 5: Featured Hydrow Workout: 80s Runner's Prep
  • Day 6: 20-min. jog/run
  • Day 7: Marathon

Hydrow offers several full-body rowing workouts that fall into three categories of intensity: Breathe, Sweat, and Drive. Tackle them individually or combine them for a dynamic cross-training program to help reach your running goals.

How to Prepare for a Marathon

One of the best things about running is that it does not take a lot of gear to get started. However, you will want to make sure that you're outfitted with the proper gear and fuel. Additionally, although we can't change the weather, we can be prepared for it. Take a look at some of the best running accessories, ways to fuel and hydrate on the go, and the items to make you comfortable when the climate is less than ideal.

Accessories

Fuel and Hydration

Outdoor Conditions

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