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 speed/tempo workouts.

This marathon plan is 20-weeks in length.  You start with an 8-mile long 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.  Speed workouts are meant to improve performance by focusing on a faster pace and efficiency.  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.

The Intermediate Marathon program includes two cross-training workouts per week.  These cross-training workouts allow 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: 4 Day Run (1 Day Speed Work), 2 Day Cross Train, 1 Day Rest
  • Longest Workout: 20 Miles
Download 26.2 Intermediate Plan
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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: Walk for 5 minutes at an easy effort before every workout (run-walk 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: Walk for 5 minutes at an easy effort after every workout (run-walk days and cross-training days). A proper cool-down will help to gradually bring your heart rate and breathing rate 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 from 1 to 10. 1 is considered ‘At Rest’ and 10 is considered ‘An All Out Level.’ Use this scale to stay in the correct range listed in the training schedule for a given day (i.e. 6-7).

Heart Rate: If you have access to a heart rate monitor then use this device to stay in the correct range listed in the training schedule for a given day (i.e. 60-75% of maximum heart rate).

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 a cross-training workouts. If you are already active 3 to 4 days per week, then start the cross-training as scheduled in the plan. Activities for cross-training may include cycling, elliptical, rowing, strength training, swimming, and more. Cross-training allows you to rest your running muscles and work opposing muscle groups. These activities will help to reduce the impact on your body and the risk of injury. Cross-training can also speed up recovery time between run-walk workouts. Cross-training workouts should be done at a moderate level, Perceived Effort of at least 7, or a Heart Rate of 75-80%.

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 free-weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or classes such as pilates, yoga or cross-fit. Include exercises for upper body, core, and lower body. Warm-up with a walk or another form of cardio. 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 4, then progress to 2 to 3 sets of each exercise for 8-12 repetitions.

Flexibility: Stretch lightly after every warm-up period. Stretch again after every workout to improve flexibility, increase circulation, and reduce the risk of injury.

Easy Effort: Easy pace/effort is considered slightly above what you can maintain a conversation, 70-75% of maximum heart rate, and 6 to 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 to 8 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Long Runs: The training plan calls for running longer miles on Saturday each week. These runs will build both your endurance and mental confidence in knowing you can cover the marathon distance. The pace for these long runs should be kept easy, meaning you should be able to maintain a conversation while running. You should aim for 45-60 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace.

Speed Workouts: Warm-up with 10-15 minutes at an easy pace. Then complete the appropriate speed workout for the day. All hard efforts are considered 90-95% of heart rate, 9+ Perceived Effort. You should be able to hear yourself breathing hard. It is very important to make sure your easy recovery effort is truly easy. Running to fast during the recovery can have a negative impact on your performance during these workouts and throughout the other parts of the training plan.

Training Plan Structure

The following Full 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 half marathon training in the the FREE downloadable file.
Download 26.2 Intermediate Plan