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Competitive Marathon Program

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First things first: bookmark this page so that you can check on your progress. You can also add daily run reminders to the Cool Running homepage as you roll through the weeks of this training program (to do this, edit your start page preferences).

Unlike many other marathon programs, your long runs here build beyond the marathon distance, up to 28 miles. This is based on the common-sense idea that to be prepared to race any distance, you must have trained at that distance. The key, though, is to train gently. All of your long runs should be run at a pace about 90 seconds or 2 minutes per mile slower than your current 10K pace. The purpose of your long training run is to get used to covering the distance, not to rush through it.

This program contains many speed workouts to build strength. (For more information on the types of speed workouts, we lay it all out in "The Runner's Building Blocks"). A few quick notes on how speedwork is described here:

  • The distance in parentheses below fartlek runs includes a mile each of warmup and warmdown, in addition to your fartlek sessions. Don't know what a fartlek is? Check out our page about "The Runner's Building Blocks".
  • Whenever you see a pace denoted as 5K pace or 10K pace, this refers to the speed at which you estimate you could run a 5K or 10K on that given day.
  • When you read "4-5 hills," that means you should do 4-5 repeats at 5K pace on a hill about 150 or 200 yards long. Long hills should be 400-600 yards long. If you find it too tedious to run repeats on a single hill, you can also find a route that incorporates the same number of hills, as long as the route is not very long.
  • When you read the notation "4 x 880s," that means you should run four repeats of 880 yards each (two laps on the track). The pace below tells you how fast you should run them. For 880s, give yourself 2 minutes of rest between intervals; for 440s, give yourself 1-2 minutes.

All other workouts (including the long runs) should be run at an easy training pace -- emphasis on "easy." Hold yourself back to a pace about 90 seconds or 2 minutes per mile slower than your current 10K pace.

Finally, the pre-training schedule. You should be able to run this schedule for four to five weeks without much discomfort before starting the marathon program. If not, give yourself some time to build up to that level gradually, or you may risk injury.

  Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat. Sun.
Pre-
Train
6M 6M 4M 8M 6M 4M 12M

 
The schedule

The schedule peaks at about 70 miles per week. If you prefer metric distances, use our distance-conversion calculator to convert to kilometers.

Week Mon. Tue. Wed. Thu. Fri. Sat. Sun.
1 6M 3 x Mile
5K pace
5M 8M Fartlek
(6M)
4M 14M
2 4M 6 x 880s
5K-10K pace
5M 8M 8-9 Hills
5K-10K pace
4M 8M
3 6M 4 x Mile
5K pace
5M 8M 6M 4M 16M
4 4M 6 x 880s
5K-10K pace
5M 8M 7-8 Long Hills
5K-10K pace
4M 9M
5 6M 5 x Mile
5K pace
5M 8M 8M 4M 18M
6 4M 8 x 440s
5K pace
5M 10M 9-10 Hills
5K-10K pace
4M 10M
7 6M 6 x Mile
5K pace
5M 12M 6M 4M 20M
8 4M 9 x 440s
5K pace
6M 8M 8-9 Long Hills
5K-10K pace
5M 12M
9 6M 7 x Mile
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 6M 4M 22M
10 4M 10 x 440s
5K pace
6M 8M 9-10 Hills
5K-10K pace
5M 12M
11 6M 8 x Mile
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 8M 4M 24M
12 4M 8 x 880s
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 6M 3M 10K Race
(Or 12M)
13 4M 8 x Mile
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 8M 4M 26M
14 4M 10 x 880s
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 6M 3M 10K Race
(Or 12M)
15 4M 8 x Mile
5K-10K pace
8M 12M 8M 4M 28M
16 4M 10 x 880s
5K-10K pace
6M 12M 6M 3M 10K Race
(Or 12M)
17 4M 8 x 880s
10K pace
6M 10M 6M 3M 30M
18 4M Fartlek
(10M)
6M 12M 8M 5M 15M
19 4M Fartlek
(8M)
4M 6M 6M 5M 10M
20 4M 6 x Mile
Marathon pace
4M 3M 4M 2M RACE DAY!

        

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