Training for a Marathon in 16 weeks and 3 phases
Training for the marathon is never going to be easy. The marathon is the ultimate running challenge and you need to be focused, disciplined and motivated to get through it. But don’t worry; you will reap the rewards when you cross that finish line after 26 miles of rhythmic pounding. You might feel like you want to die physically, but you will also feel an enormous sense of pride in what you have achieved. And don’t forget, running also makes you look good and feel great, so you have everything to train for here!
The following 16 week schedule is designed for those of you that have dabbled with running in the past. Maybe you have done the occasional park run or even a 10k or more and have now decided that you want to give a marathon a go. Well, if you are unsure what to do, don’t spend too much energy thinking about it. Instead, just invest your energy into this plan and you will be setting yourself up with every chance of achieving the ultimate running challenge. If you haven’t taken a step faster than walking pace since your school PE lessons, then take a look at our beginners guide to running; start with that before jumping straight in.
In addition to the below plan, think carefully about your diet and listen to your body. Eat the right foods at the right times (we have plenty of articles on this in the nutritional section), wearing the right trainers and, importantly, when your body is craving rest, then rest! The last thing you want to do is over train or worse yet become injured. Over training can really undo all of your hard work and it is important to find the right balance between training and over training.
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The first phase of our plan is about laying a base. We can’t start training properly for the marathon until we have the right base. This is no different whether you are an elite athlete or you have never run a 10k in your life. Even Mo Farah would aim to lay a solid base before moving into a more specific phase of training roughly 12 weeks before the Marathon. So let’s start easy, get our legs used to running slightly further than normal and start laying the foundations.
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Phase 2 is now the start of proper training. This will be the phase where all the hard work goes in. It’s only 8 weeks long so if you’re planning any big holidays then try to avoid this period! Most days you will be waking up a bit tired, going to bet even more tired and spending most of your weekends tired. This is what it’s all about, and it will all be worthwhile. One day you will look back and say that was a tough 8 weeks, but I loved it!
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Phase 3 is all about looking after yourself and making sure that you are right for the big day. By now, the hard work has been done and it’s time to start getting some freshness back into your legs. We can’t back off too much, but it is safe to say that it will be downhill from here and won’t be feeling much running pain until about 18 miles into the race!
Things to Note
- WU/WD is Warm up & Warm Down and should be 5-15 minutes of jogging with some light stretches and 2/3 stride outs for 8-12 seconds
- TMP is Target Marathon Pace
- Jog speed is just time on your feet, running with no strain
- Pace in interval sessions you will begin to master after just a couple. They should be significantly faster than marathon pace and aim to improve your lactic threshold and VO2 max