Intermediate Full Marathon Training Plan

“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” – Jesse Owens

The Intermediate Marathon training plan is a slight increase in mileage from the beginner training plan. While this plan still includes four runs per week, there is a larger focus on the length of long runs and race pace/tempo workouts.

This marathon plan is 20-weeks in length. You start with an 6-mile goal race pace run in week 1 and progress to two 20-mile long runs in preparation for the marathon. The gradual increase in distance will have you running farther and feeling more comfortable while covering the distance. Tempo runs and race pace workouts are designed to improve your comfort levels with running a faster pace for an increased amount of time. As the plan progresses, the total running time and intensity of each session will increase. If your marathon covers hilly terrain, you may want to occasionally switch tempo runs out for hill repeats.

The Intermediate Marathon program includes one cross-training workout per week. This cross-training workout allows you to incorporate other activities you enjoy with this training plan. Cross-training activities may include cycling, yoga, elliptical, swimming, or weight-lifting. With the goal on improving your half marathon time, cross-training workouts can make a remarkable difference in building strength and efficiency.

Individuals will want to choose the Intermediate Marathon training plan if they have been running 4 to 5 times per week for 45 to 90-minutes each time for at least one year. It is recommended that you have completed at least one half marathon or marathon in the past year. If you are running less, that is okay! Consider starting with the Beginner Marathon plan or a Half Marathon training plan and building your fitness up to this marathon program.

At a glance

  • Length: 20 weeks
  • Typical Week: 5 Day Run (Tempo Run/Race Pace Run), 1 Day Cross Train, 1 Day Rest
  • Longest Workout: 20 Miles
Download 26.2 Intermediate Plan

Intermediate Full Marathon Training Plan Terminology

The terms in the Intermediate 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.

Race Pace Effort: The goal of these runs is to build confidence and endurance to maintain your goal race pace. Start these runs right at your average goal pace for the marathon and maintain the pace the whole distance. Practice nutrition and hydration just like you plan to do on race day and make adjustments as you learn from your body.

Tempo Run: This is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 10-K race pace. Begin with 10-20 minutes of easy running, then accelerate gradually for 20-30 minutes in the middle of the run, then cool-down with 5-10 minutes of easy run at the end. Tempo runs are not about how long (in time) or how far you run, they can be run hard or moderate. These workouts will build your lactate threshold and endurance, and boost your confidence in your abilities.

Racing: Consider adding a Half Marathon Race in Week 9. 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 Intermediate 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 Intermediate Marathon Training Plan

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