Beginner Full Marathon Training Plan

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” – George S Patton

Are you ready to run your first marathon? The Beginner Marathon training plan is the perfect program for first-time marathoners and those looking to smartly increase their mileage.

The Beginner Marathon training plan is 20-weeks in length and includes four runs per week. You will start with a 6-mile long run in week 1 and progress to running two different 20-mile long runs in preparation for the race. The focus throughout the plan is on a strategic combination of easy runs, long-distance runs, rest days, and cross-training. With this approach, your body will have time to adapt to the increases in running each week and properly prepare you to finish a marathon.

In week 9, I encourage you to enter an actual Half Marathon Event. This allows you to become more familiarly with an organized running event, practice your pacing in a crowd of people. Participating in an actual event also allows you to fine-tine your hydration and nutrition plan. You can achieve your first marathon goal without this half marathon event. However, this test event can greatly improve your comfort level with running longer distances.

This marathon program includes two optional cross-training workouts per week. These cross-training sessions allow you to incorporate other activities you enjoy with this training plan. Cross-training activities may include cycling, yoga, elliptical, swimming, or weight-lifting.

Individuals will want to choose the Beginner Marathon program if they have been running 3 to 4 times per week for 40 to 50-minutes each time for at least the last six months. If you are currently running less, that is okay! Consider starting with the Beginner Half Marathon Plan and building your fitness up to take on this marathon plan.

At a glance

  • Length: 20 weeks
  • Typical Week: 4 Day Run, 2 Day Cross Train, 2 Day Rest
  • Longest Workout: 20 Miles
Download 26.2 Beginner Plan

Beginner Full Marathon Training Plan Terminology

The terms in the Beginner Full Marathon training plan are defined inside the downloaded plan, but let me define them for you here as well.

Warm-Up: Run/Walk for 5 to 10 minutes at an easy effort before every workout (run days and cross-training days). A proper warm-up will help to gradually increase heart rate, improve circulation, loosen up muscles, and prepare you for the days workout.

Cool-Down: Run/Walk for 5 to 10 minutes at an easy effort after every workout (run days and cross-training days). A proper cool-down will help gradually bring your heart rate and breathing back down to normal levels after the days workout.

Perceived Effort: A way to rate your effort level based on your feelings about the level of intensity on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 is considered ‘At Rest’ and a 10 is considered “An All Out Effort.” Use this scale in combination with Pace and Heart Rate to stay in the correct intensity level shown in the training schedule for a given day.

Heart Rate: If you have access to a heart rate monitor then use this device to stay in the correct range and intensity level shown in the training schedule for a given day.

Cross-Training: Include activities other than running and walking in your training plan. If you are completely new to exercise, then you may want to wait until weeks 4 or 5 to add in cross-training workouts. If you are already active 3 to 4 days per week, then start the cross-training as scheduled in the plan. Examples of activities for cross-training may include cycling, elliptical, rowing, strength training, swimming, or yoga. Cross-training will help to reduce the impact on your body and reduce the risk of injury from running. Cross-training can also speed up recovery time between running workouts. If you are ever feeling to fatigued or sore from running, then you may want to consider taking an occasional cross-training day as an extra day of rest.

Strength Training: A form of cross-training, strength training can be a great way to increase lean muscle and boost metabolism while at rest. Strength training can be completed using body-weight, free-weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or classes such as Pilates, Yoga, or Cross-Fit. Include exercises for upper body, core, back, and lower body. Warm-up with a run/walk for 5 to 10 minutes. If you are new to strength training, then start with 1 set of each exercise for 12-15 repetitions. The goal is to work your muscles to fatigue or until you can no longer maintain proper form during the exercise. Continue with 1 set of each exercise for weeks 1 through 3, then progress gradually over a few weeks to 2-4 sets of each exercise for 8-15 repetitions.

Flexibility: Stretch lightly after every warm-up and cool-down period. Stretching will help improve flexibility, increase circulation, speed up recovery, and reduce the risk of injury.

Walking: Don’t be embarrassed to walk during your training runs. Walking, even during your marathon race, is a perfectly acceptable strategy to reaching the finish line. If you are going to incorporate walking into your training, try to develop some sort of rhythm between run and walk. For example, walk for 1-minute out of every 10 minutes or only walk when you need to drink water or take an energy gel. Walking breaks can help you regain control of your breathing, heart rate, and mental focus to know that you can accomplish this goal.

Easy Effort: Easy pace/effort is considered at or slightly above what you can maintain a conversation, 65-75% of maximum heart rate, and 6-7 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Moderate Effort: Moderate pace/effort is where you can hear your breathing, but you are not breathing hard, 75-80% of maximum heart rate, and 7-8 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Long Run Effort: The key to marathon training is the long run, progressively increasing in distance each weekend. The long run should be done at a pace/effort that you can easily maintain a conversation throughout the run. Work on running with an even pace/effort from start to finish of the long run.

Racing: Consider adding a Half Marathon Race in Week 10. This race will allow you to familiarize yourself more with running in a structured event. If you can’t find a race during this week, feel free to modify the schedule around what races are available.

Adaptability: Don’t be afraid to move the workouts from day to day and week to week. This training plan is merely a guide to help you complete a marathon. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter. Listen to your body and progress as your fitness allows you to progress.

Training Plan Structure

The following Marathon Beginner schedule is only a guide. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. You will find more information on marathon training in the FREE downloadable file.

Download Your Marathon Beginner Training Plan

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