20 week marathon training program for beginners

Congratulations on your decision to train for your first marathon! This training schedule (see table below) is perfect for a beginner runner and a first-time marathoner whose goal is to finish the 26.2-mile race. To start this beginner marathon training schedule, you should have been running for at least six months and should have a base mileage of 12-15 miles per week.

If you have not already had a physical, visit your doctor for medical clearance to train for a marathon.

Notes about the training schedule:

Always make sure your shoes are in good condition before running

Mondays: Most Mondays are rest days. Rest is critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so do not ignore rest days.

Tuesdays and Thursdays: After your warm up, run at a moderate pace (slightly faster than your long run pace) for the designated mileage. Cool down and stretch after your run.

Wednesdays and Fridays: Do a cross-training (CT) activity (biking, swimming, elliptical trainer, etc.) at easy-to-moderate effort for 30 to 45 minutes. If you are feeling very sluggish or sore on Friday, take a rest day. It is important that you are feeling strong for your Saturday long run.

Saturdays: This is the day for your long slow distance run. Run the designated mileage at an easy, conversational pace. Use your breathing as your guide. You should be able to breathe easily and talk in complete sentences comfortably during your run.

Sundays: This is an active recovery day. Your short run should be at a very easy (EZ), comfortable pace, which helps loosen up your muscles.

Note: You can switch days to accommodate your schedule. Just make sure you do not do two really intense or long workouts two days in a row.

Beginners’ Marathon Training Schedule

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 Rest 3 mi CT 3 mi Rest 4 mi 3 mi EZ
2 Rest 3 miles Rest 3 mi CT or Rest 5 mi 3 mi EZ
3 Rest 3 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 6 mi 3 mi EZ
4 Rest 3 mi Rest 4 mi CT or Rest 4 mi 3 mi EZ
5 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 6 mi 3 mi EZ
6 Rest 4 mil CT 4 mi CT or Rest 8 mi 3 mi EZ
7 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 10 mi 3 mi EZ
8 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 8 mi 3 mi EZ
9 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 12 mi Rest
10 4 mi EZ 4 mi Rest 4 mi CT or Rest 10 mi 3 mi EZ
11 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 14 mi 3 mi EZ
12 Rest 5 mi CT 5 mi CT or Rest 10 mi 3 mi EZ
13 Rest 4 mi CT 5 mi CT or Rest 16 mi 3 mi EZ
14 Rest 4 mi CT 5 mi CT or Rest 12 mi 3 mi EZ
15 Rest 4 mi CT 5 mi CT or Rest 18 mi Rest
16 3 mi EZ 5 mi Rest 6 mi CT or Rest 12 mi 3 mi EZ
17 Rest 4 mi CT 6 mi CT or Rest 20 mi 3 mi EZ
18 Rest 4 mi CT 4 mi CT or Rest 12 mi 3 mi EZ
19 Rest 3 mi 20 minutes 3 mi CT or Rest 8 mi 3 mi EZ
20 Rest 2 mi 20 minutes Rest Day 20 minutes Race Day! Rest Day!

 

5 Training Universals

In training, run on soft grounds to reduce impact

Rest – This means not merely no running. It means a day off, period. “Active recovery” is an oxymoron.

Repeat – All of your non-race training weeks will be repeated. That is, weeks 1 & 2, 6 & 7, and so on, will be the same. This lets you make adaptations in pace and recovery based on your experience the first time around–an opportunity to master one cycle before moving on to the next, more rigorous one.

Go Soft – In training, run on even grass or hard-packed dirt whenever possible to reduce impact.

Hydrate Wisely – Drink the same carbo fluids in training that you will use in the marathon. No need to add stomach problems to the stress of race day.

Become Race Fit – Short races (5- to 10-K) are terrific fitness boosters that let you run much faster than your marathon goal pace–an effort that you just cannot replicate in training, no matter how motivated you are. So all three schedules feature two races because, according to a recent study, race efforts can dramatically boost aerobic capacity and lactate threshold. This can only help your marathon performance.

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