Free Marathon Training Plans & Tips

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How To Train For A Marathon

The best way to train for a marathon is to build up your training slowly over a period of weeks and months. When you’re starting out, it’s important to avoid the temptation to run too far, too fast or too regularly – these are common mistakes that can lead to injury and fading motivation. A good place to start is by getting an expertly designed training plan. People who use training plans have been shown to be twice as likely to succeed in reaching their goals.

Table of Contents (click to scroll to each section)

Running Tips

As a general guide, beginners should start by aiming to run two or three times per week, starting with 15 or 20-minute runs. If running non-stop feels too hard for you initially, include periods of walking until you’re eventually fit enough to jog without stopping.

Aim to increase the duration of your workouts by no more than 10% per week. If you ignore this, you increase your risk of getting injured. Your runs should not feel too intense at this stage either – ideally, you should be able to talk while you’re running, as a way of knowing that you’re not going too hard. If not, slow down or include some walking sections.

Once you have built up to running 30 minutes, you can then base your training around three key runs per week. The first key weekly run should be a longer one, where you build up over the weeks and months to 2 hours 30 minutes of low intensity running. The second key run should be a speed session, with a warm up, a warm down and some harder efforts sandwiched in between – such as 4 x 4 minutes hard with 2-minute recoveries. These sessions will train you to run at any given pace for less effort.

Your third key weekly run should be a marathon race pace session. Aim to build up from 30 to 90 minutes, at your target marathon race pace. Any other runs you do in addition to your three key sessions should be steady jogs of 35 to 60 minutes.

If possible, do some of your running on soft surfaces like grass or trails, to reduce the impact on your body. Training on hillier terrain is good too, because it spreads the load to a broader range of muscle fibers, compared to running on flat ground. Always be mindful of avoiding injury – over half of all runners are injured every year. In our beginner, intermediate and advanced marathon training plans we make every fourth week an “active recovery week” where the training is half as much as normal. This gives your body a chance to recover and get stronger, reducing your chances of getting injured.

Strength Training Tips

In our marathon training plans, there are usually two 40-minute strength and conditioning sessions each week. These workouts can help improve your strength and flexibility, leading to more efficient movement patterns and fewer injuries. We suggest you only do strength work in addition to at least three runs per week, rather than instead of them.

Using A Marathon Training Plan

Our training plans are for athletes who don’t feel the need for a personal coach, but who still want the structure and planning of an expertly-written training program. Research has shown that you are twice as likely to reach your goals if you train with a structured plan.

For a beginner who has some recent background in fitness or sport, we suggest you give yourself at least 20-24 weeks to get fit and ready for your Marathon. The sooner you start, the more time you have to build up your fitness gradually. Fitness adaptations take weeks and months to occur, rather than days.

The free 8 and 12-week training plans on this page give you an idea of what to expect, but you may also benefit from a longer plan that starts easier and ramps-up more gradually. Click here to browse our 8 to 40-week training plans (with email support).

Do your best to follow the workouts below, ideally in their given order. To help you train at the right levels, we use five training zones, based on feel or heart rate. If you use heart rate, you can use our simple heart rate training zone calculator. Note: our premium plans include fitness tests for smarter, personalised training zones on every workout.

  • Zone 1 – Feels like “Easy/Recovery” – Heart rate 68-73% of max.
  • Zone 2 – Feels like “Steady/Endurance” – Heart rate 73-80% of max.
  • Zone 3 – Feels like “Mod. Hard/Tempo” – Heart rate 80-87% of max.
  • Zone 4 – Feels like “Hard/Threshold” – Heart rate 87-93% of max.
  • Zone 5 – Feels like “V. Hard/VO2 Max” – Heart rate 93-100% of max.

We abbreviate your zones to keep things easy to read:

  • Z1 to Z5 – Your training zone.
Download All Our FREE PRINTABLE Marathon Plans Here!

*Plus, you’ll also receive free regular training tips from head coach Phil Mosley! Unsubscribe at any time.

12-Week Beginner Marathon Plan

This training plan is suitable for Beginner or time-limited runners, aiming for their first Marathon. With just 12 weeks to go until event-day, this plan assumes you are currently able to run for up to 90 mins. The training builds up to race day and helps improve your fitness and confidence. A good way to avoid injury and stay motivated is by following an expertly designed training plan. People who follow a training plan have been shown to be twice as likely to succeed in reaching their goal.

Average weekly training hours are 4:12 with the biggest week at 5:42 hours. This includes three to four runs and a 45-minute strength and conditioning session. There is usually one workout per day, with two or three days off each week. Every fourth week is an active recovery week, with less training, to help your body recover and adapt.

Week 1 - Base Phase (3 hrs 57 mins)

Monday: Tempo Run – Hard/Threshold (41 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 2 x (10 mins in low Z4 + 3 min recoveries in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Tuesday: Recovery Day

  • Allows for recovery whilst promoting adaptation to previous training stresses. Helps you get faster and keep injuries at bay

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (35 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2. These runs are to be done slowly. They will gradually build your endurance and increase your efficiency. If you do them faster, you’ll increase your injury risk for no real benefit.

Thursday: Strength – Adaptation Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Strength Endurance – V. Hard/VO2 Max (36 mins 30 secs)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 5 x (90 secs in low Z5 up a hill (gradient should be 3 to 6%) + 2 min recoveries in Z1-Z2).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (1 hr 20 mins)

  • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2. This is your long run and will gradually increase in duration. If you need to include some walking sections in these runs, in order to keep your heart rate down, that’s fine.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Tempo Run – Hard/Threshold (42 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2 to Z3.
  • Main Set:
    • 3 x (7 mins in low Z4 + 2 min recoveries in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Adaptation Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Strength Endurance – V. Hard/VO2 Max (30 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 7 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 4 x (90 secs in low Z5 up a hill (gradient should be 3 to 6%) + 2 min recoveries in Z1-Z2).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (1 hr 30 mins)

  • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Tempo Run – Hard/Threshold (45 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 9 mins in low Z4 + 2 mins recovery in Z1,
    • 8 mins in low Z4 + 2 mins recovery in Z1,
    • 7 mins in low Z4 + 2 mins recovery in Z1.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (45 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Endurance Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Strength Endurance – V. Hard/VO2 Max (33 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 6 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 6 x (60 secs in low Z5 up a hill (gradient should be 3 to 6%) + 2 min recoveries in Z1-Z2).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (1 hr 40 mins)

  • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

  • It’s vital to make the most of these recovery weeks. You need to fully recover and start each new training phase feeling fresh and eager to train hard. There is enough training during the recovery weeks so that you won’t lose fitness.

Tuesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (30 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Wednesday: Tempo Run – Hard/Threshold (31 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 12 mins in low Z4.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Thursday: Recovery Day

Friday: Speed  Run – V. Hard/VO2 Max (27 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 6 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 4 x (2 mins in Z5 + 60 secs in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Saturday: Strength – Endurance Phase (45 mins)

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • Easy or steady run all in low to mid Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Progression Run – Hard/Threshold (45 mins)

  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in low Z2,
    • 10 mins in upper Z2,
    • 5 mins in low Z3,
    • 5 mins in upper Z3,
    • 5 mins in low Z4,
    • 5 mins in mid Z4.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Endurance Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Marathon pace Efforts – Steady/Endurance (48 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in high Z2 + 2 mins recovery in Z1,
    • 9 mins in high Z2 + 2 mins recovery in Z1,
    • 8 mins in high Z2 + 2 mins recovery in Z1.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (1 hr 50 mins)

  • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Progression Run – Hard/Threshold (50 mins)

  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in low Z2,
    • 5 mins in upper Z2,
    • 10 mins in low Z3,
    • 5 mins in upper Z3,
    • 5 mins in low Z4,
    • 5 mins in mid Z4.
  • Warm Down:
    • 10 mins in low Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Endurance Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Marathon pace Efforts – Steady/Endurance (55 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in high Z2 + 90 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 9 mins in high Z2 + 90 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 8 mins in high Z2 + 90 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 7 mins in high Z2 + 90 secs recovery in Z1.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (2 hrs)

  • With Race Paced Finish:
    • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2,
    • Do the last 10 minutes at high Z2.
  • This run will help you stay strong when the race feels the toughest. Doing this at the end of your long run in training will give you the confidence to push for the finish on race day

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Progression Run – Hard/Threshold (1 hr)

  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in low Z2,
    • 10 mins in upper Z2,
    • 10 mins in low Z3,
    • 10 mins in upper Z3,
    • 5 mins in low Z4,
    • 5 mins in mid Z4.
  • Warm Down:
    • 10 mins in low Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Endurance Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Marathon Pace Efforts – Steady/Endurance (53 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 10 mins in high Z2 + 60 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 9 mins in high Z2 + 60 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 8 mins in high Z2 + 60 secs recovery in Z1,
    • 7 mins in high Z2 + 60 secs recovery in Z1.
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (2 hrs 10 mins)

  • With Race Paced Finish:
    • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2.
    • Do the last 15 minutes at high Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Wednesday: Tempo Run – Hard/Threshold (42 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 15 mins in Z2 to Z3.
  • Main Set:
    • 2 x (10 mins in low Z4 + 2 min recovery in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Thursday: Recovery Day

Friday: Speed Run – V. Hard/VO2 Max (31 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 10 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z4 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 4 x (2 mins in Z5 + 60 secs in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in Z2.

Saturday: Strength – Strength Phase (45 mins)

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • Easy or steady run all in low to mid Z2.

 

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Speed Run – V. Hard/VO2 Max (38 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 8 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z5 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 7 x (60 secs in upper Z5 + 2 min recoveries in Z1).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Wednesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (60 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Thursday: Strength – Strength Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Aerobic End./Strength – Steady/Endurance (40 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2. Ideally on a hilly route

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (2 hr 20 mins)

  • With Race Paced Finish:
    • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2,
    • Do the last 15 mins at high Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (25 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2

Wednesday: Aerobic End./Strength – Steady/Endurance (60 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2. Ideally on a hilly route.

Thursday: Strength – Strength Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Speed Run – V. Hard/VO2 Max (35 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 7 mins in Z2.
    • 5 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z5 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 4 x (90 secs in upper Z5 with 3 min recoveries in Z1 to Z2).
  • Warm Down:
    • 5 mins in low Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (2 hr 30 mins)

  • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

Tuesday: Recovery Day

Wednesday: Aerobic End./Strength – Steady/Endurance (60 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2. Ideally on a hilly route.

Thursday: Strength – Strength Phase (45 mins)

Friday: Speed Run – V. Hard/VO2 Max (37 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 8 mins in Z2.
    • 4 x (30 secs accelerating from Z2 to Z5 + 30 sec recoveries in Z1).
  • Main Set:
    • 3 x (2 mins in upper Z5 + 3 min recoveries in Z1 to Z2).
  • Warm Down:
    • 10 mins in low Z2.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Aerobic Endurance – Steady/Endurance (1 hr 30 mins)

  • With Race Paced Finish:
    • Easy or steady run/jog all in low to mid Z2,
    • Do the last 15 mins at high Z2.

Monday: Recovery Day

  • This week you will maintain your fitness and eliminate any traces of fatigue. It’s a good time to double-check your race day logistics and strategies. If your race is on Saturday, move your Friday run to Thursday and take Friday as a rest day.

Tuesday: Taper Week Run – Steady/Endurance (30 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2.

Wednesday: Taper Week Run – Hard/Threshold (30 mins)

  • Warm Up:
    • 15 mins in Z2.
  • Main Set:
    • 3 x (60 secs in low Z4 + 2 mins in Z2).
  • Warm Down.
    • 6 mins in Z2.

Thursday: Recovery Day

Friday: Taper Week Run – Steady/Endurance (30 mins)

  • All in low to mid Z2. If your race is on Saturday, move today’s run to Thursday and take today as a rest day.

Saturday: Recovery Day

Sunday: Race Day

Download All Our FREE PRINTABLE Marathon Plans Here!

*Plus, you’ll also receive free regular training tips from head coach Phil Mosley! Unsubscribe at any time.

12-Week Intermediate Marathon Plan

This short training plan is suitable for Intermediate runners, who want to maximize their Marathon potential. With just 12 weeks to go until event-day, this plan assumes you are currently able to run/jog for up to 90 mins. Your training builds up to race day and helps improve your fitness and confidence. A good way to avoid injury and stay motivated is by following an expertly designed training plan. People who follow a training plan have been shown to be twice as likely to succeed in reaching their goal.

Average weekly training hours are 5:14 with the biggest week at 6:36 hours. This includes four to five runs and a 45-minute strength and conditioning session. There is usually one workout per day, with one or two days off each week. Every fourth week is an active recovery week, with less training, to help your body recover and adapt.

12-Week Advanced Marathon Plan

This short training plan is suitable for Advanced amateur runners, aiming to achieve peak Marathon fitness. With just 12 weeks to go until event-day, this plan assumes you are currently able to run for up to 1 hr 50 mins. Your training builds up to race day and helps improve your fitness and confidence. A good way to avoid injury and stay motivated is by following an expertly designed training plan. People who follow a training plan have been shown to be twice as likely to succeed in reaching their goal.

Average weekly training hours are 6:53 with the biggest week at 8:38 hours. This includes six to seven runs and a 45-minute strength and conditioning session. There is usually one workout per day, with one day off each week. Every fourth week is an active recovery week, with less training, to help your body recover and adapt.

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About Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)
About Phil Mosley (Coach & Founder)

Phil is a recognised expert with over 20 years of experience, having featured on many endurance sports publications (below). He founded MyProCoach in 2010 to to offer the world’s most comprehensive range of online training plans, all designed to help you enjoy the same success that my athletes and I have, while still making sure you have quality time for your family, friends and career (read 190+ detailed reviews here).

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