What is the Ideal Length of Your Marathon Training Plan?


By Rick Morris


One of the most common questions I'm asked as a running coach is "When should I begin training for my marathon?" The question of when to begin marathon training can be sublimely simple or confusingly complex. If your goal marathon is taking place within the next 8 weeks, the answer is very simple - start training now. You don't have any time to waste! But what if your marathon is further in the future? When do you begin your marathon training? What is the ideal length of your marathon training plan? The answer to that question depends upon your current fitness level and how far away your goal marathon is.


The first consideration in determining the ideal length of your marathon training program is in differentiating between dedicated marathon training and your normal running routine. If you are a year round runner, you are always training. But, there is a big difference between non-focused training and dedicated marathon training. When performing dedicated marathon training you're doing specific types of workouts, including progressively expanding long runs, in which your timing is critical. As a year round runner, your best starting point will depend upon your existing fitness level.




























If you are a new runner or a recreational runner that doesn't run consistently, you may need to build a base of fitness before beginning dedicated marathon training. It may seem like there is little difference between base building and dedicated marathon training, but there are important dissimilarities related to the levels of stress on your mind and body. Dedicated marathon training reaches levels of difficulty that are hard to carry on for long periods of time. For that reason, it's important for newbie's and recreational runners to keep the length of their dedicated marathon training to a minimum.


The best marathon training length for highly conditioned and experienced marathon runners will vary greatly depending upon your exact fitness level and your marathon goal. A more basic goal, such as simply finishing, will require less dedicated training time, while a more advanced goal, such as setting a new PR or competing for top finishing positions will require more. Obviously, more fit runners require less training time than those at lower fitness levels. Most highly conditioned and experienced distance runners will need little or no base training because runners at that level are never far from their base.

Here are my recommendations for the ideal length of your marathon training plan.


Low Fitness Level - No Base

18 to 24 Weeks


Low Fitness Level - 5K Base

13 to 24 Weeks


Low Fitness Level -10K Base

12 to 16 Weeks


Moderate Fitness Level - No Base

16 to 24 Weeks


Moderate Fitness Level - 5K Base

12 to 20 Weeks


Moderate Fitness Level - 10K Base

12 to 18 Weeks


High Fitness Level - No Base

16 to 20 Weeks


High Fitness Level - 5K Base

12 to 18 Weeks


High Fitness Level - 10K Base

10 to 16 Weeks


High Fitness Level - Half Marathon Base

6 to 8 Weeks


High Fitness Level - Recent Marathon

4 Weeks





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