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Beginner 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 up to include the actual marathon distance. This is based on the common-sense idea that to be prepared to race any distance, you should train at that distance.

For runners (particularly first-time marathoners) who are more interested in simply finishing the marathon than in racing or running for time, it's not necessary to run the complete marathon distance during training. If this is you, we recommend making the following adjustments to the long Sunday runs:

  • Week 5, Sunday: 10 miles
  • Week 7, Sunday: 12 miles
  • Week 9, Sunday: 14 miles
  • Week 11, Sunday: 16 miles
  • Week 13, Sunday: 18 miles
  • Week 15, Sunday: 20 miles
  • Week 17, Sunday: 20 miles

Whether you're running for time or just running to finish, the key either way 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.

This program contains 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
Off 3M 4M 4M Off 3M 6M

 
The schedule

The schedule peaks at about 45 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 Off 3M 4M 4M Off 3M 6M
2 Off 3M 5M 3M Off 3M 7M
3 Off Fartlek
(4M)
5M 3M Off 3M 8M
4 Off Fartlek
(4M)
3M 4M Off 3M 10M
5 Off 4-5 Hills
5K-10K pace
3M 4M Off 3M 12M
6 Off 3-4 Long Hills
5K-10K pace
4M 6M Off 5M 5M
7 Off 3 x Mile
5K-10K pace
3M 5M Off 3M 15M
8 Off 6M 5M 6M Off 5M 7M
9 Off 5-6 Hills
5K-10K pace
4M 7M Off 3M 18M
10M Off 7M 6M 7M Off 6M 9M
11 Off 4-5 Long Hills
5K-10K pace
5M 8M Off 3M 20M
12 Off 3 x Mile
5K-10K pace
5M 8M Off 3M 10K Race
(Or 10M)
13 Off 6 x 880s
5K-10K pace
6M 8M Off 3M 22M
14 Off 7M 5M 8M Off 5M 10K Race
(Or 10M)
15 Off 6 x 880s
5K-10K pace
6M 8M Off 3M 24M
16 Off 4 x Mile
5K-10K pace
7M 10M Off 4M 10K Race
(Or 10M)
17 Off 5M 3M 5M Off 3M 26M
18 Off 6M 5M 8M Off 4M 12M
19 Off 5M 4M 6M Off 3M 12M
20 Off Fartlek
(5M)
4M Off Off 2M RACE DAY!

        

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