Updated November 21, 2021Anyone can run a marathon with a proper training program. Training for a marathon requires hard work and dedication to increase the body’s endurance, speed, and strength. On average, training for a marathon takes 18 to 22 weeks.Our article shares basic marathon training plans for all skill levels—beginner, intermediate, or advanced. For more specific training plans, there are many excellent online sources and free marathon training plans which outline specific workouts to improve time and distance goals.Beginner Training PlanBefore starting a beginner training plan, we recommend new runners start training for a marathon if they have been regularly running for six months and can run 3 miles. Also, check with your healthcare provider to see if you’re fit enough to train for a marathon. Running a marathon is not a small thing and requires full commitment.A beginner training plan lasts 18 to 22 weeks. As you train for your first marathon, include cross-training, running, and rest days each week. Cross-training includes biking, walking, or any other exercise you enjoy that raises your heart rate. Try to cross-train one to two times a week for at least 30 minutes.Long run days are when you run for longer distances at an easy pace—you should be able to breathe without difficulty. Slow your running pace if you’re trying to catch your breath to maintain a regular rhythm. Slow to a brisk walk when you need to take a break from running.Try to do a 3 to 4 mile run two days a week, and a long run once a week. Each week, push yourself to run an extra mile or two, so you’re gradually building your muscular endurance and reaching the long-distance goal of running 26.2 miles for a marathon.Plan on three recovery days in between cross-training and running days. Taking a day to recover helps your muscles build strength and prevents injury. Runners can quickly get burned out if they don’t take the time to rest.Intermediate Training PlanIntermediate training is for experienced runners who have already run at least one marathon and are looking to improve their time. Runners in this category should be able to run 6 miles comfortably and they currently run five days a week for at least 60 minutes each run. An intermediate marathon training plan can take up to 18 weeks and includes cross-training, strength training, tempo runs, interval workouts, long runs, hill repeats, and rest days.As previously mentioned, cross-training should be a cardio workout that gives your running muscles a break. Cross-training includes elliptical training and swimming. Try to do one day of cross-training each week for 60 minutes.Add one day of strength training, including an easy pace run afterward within a few weeks of training. Focus on strengthening the core and lower body to build up muscle, then follow up with a 4 to 5 mile run at an easy pace (you should be able to breathe and talk without struggling for air).Tempo runs help you develop an anaerobic threshold (AT), or the highest level of intensity you can sustain for a long period of time. AT is key to improving your running speed.For example, for a 60-minute tempo run, start running at an easy pace for 5 to 10 minutes, then pick up your pace and maintain that speed for 40 to 50 minutes. Slow back down to an easy pace and cool down for 5 to 10 minutes. Schedule a tempo run one to two times a week for 40 minutes.An interval workout is when you run hard for 400 meters, then power walk or jog for 200 meters—repeat five to eight times. Interval runs enhance athletic performance by helping you run at a higher intensity and increase your overall speed. Begin interval workouts once a day starting on week 5 and continue through week 8 of intermediate marathon training.Like the beginner training plan, run two days, but for 5 to 6 miles, at an easy pace twice a week, and a long run once a week. About week 14 is when you want to start running at a race pace—the targeted speed you want to run during a marathon. Try to maintain a steady pace for 4 to 6 miles. A long run should start at 6 miles, then increase the distance by at least a mile, so you’re running 20 miles by week 13.Add hill repeats around week 9 to build your endurance. A hill repeat is quickly running uphill, whether outside or on a treadmill, then jogging slowly or walking downhill. Repeat this process four times, then gradually increase to 7 hill repeats.Don’t skip rest days; otherwise, you could injure yourself. You can run every day but won’t see much improvement in the long run. It’s better to rest one to two times a week and give your body time to recover.Advanced Training PlanYou’re ready to move onto an advanced training plan if you run five days a week and can comfortably run 8 miles without stopping. The advanced training plan is for elite runners looking to break their personal records by increasing their speed and endurance. An advanced training plan involves 18 weeks of intense training with one to two rest days. If this plan seems too much, try the intermediate or beginner training plans instead.The advanced training plan includes cross-training, tempo runs, strength training, interval runs, hill repeats, and rest days. However, the advanced training plan increases the number of intervals, increases speed work, and combines different workouts on a given day. The higher intensity further builds your strength, speed, and endurance, enabling you to run 26.2 miles within a shorter time frame compared to the beginner or intermediate programs.Cross-training activities include swimming, biking, or any exercise other than running that works your heart rate. Cross-training gives your running muscles a break from activity. Plan to cross-train one to two times a week for at least 60 minutes.Tempo runs should last no more than 40 minutes once a week. A tempo run builds your stamina by maintaining a faster pace for a longer period of time, followed by a 5 to 10 minute cool down.Strength training combined with an easy run once a week increases muscle strength and burns extra fat. Start with a 3-mile run at an easy pace and then gradually increase the mileage, so, at week 11, you’re running 6 miles.For long runs, or regular runs, you want to save a day of the week that you have the most time, like Saturdays or Sundays. Begin your first week running for 8 miles at a moderate to fast pace, then each week, add an extra one to two miles, so by week 15, you can run 20 miles.In an advanced training program, interval runs increase from 400 meters to 800 meters, with five to eight repetitions. Start by running at an easy pace for 200 meters, then run 800 meters at a race pace, so your body can establish a rhythm running at a faster speed.Hill repeats should be done every other week, five to eight times. Quickly running uphill, followed by an easy walk or slow jog back down the hill, increases your endurance and speed.As always, take one to two rest days and don’t ignore them. Not exercising for a couple of days may seem like a waste of time when you could be training, but rest days actually improve your performance. Muscles build strength when you allow them to rest. There’s also less risk of injury when you take a break.FAQsHow many weeks should you train for a marathon?It can take anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks to train for a marathon and depends on your skill level. During training, you need to build up your strength, stamina, and speed, which takes time. You also need to leave plenty of time for muscle recovery between training sessions, so there’s less risk of injury and mental burnout.What is a respectable marathon time?It takes about 4 to 5 hours for the average person to finish a marathon. Intermediate runners can finish a marathon in under 4 hours, and advanced runners within 2 hours. If you’re a beginner runner, start training for a marathon and aim for 5 hours, then gradually build up your endurance and speed to decrease your run time.Can I train for a marathon on a treadmill?You don’t have to train for a marathon by only running outside—marathon training on a treadmill is just as effective as outdoor running. A treadmill allows you to control your speed and keeps track of running distance and heart rate. Unlike hard cement, the running belt is softer than concrete and has a lower impact on your legs and knees, so you’re less likely to injure yourself. Plus, the flat, even surface is easier to run across compared to rough terrain.Is it bad to run every day?It’s not a good idea to run every day—you need to give your body time to recover from a run so you can build muscle strength. Also, you’re less likely to injure yourself from muscle fatigue. Instead, try to mix up your workout routine each week. Plan to run for three days, and then add cross-training workouts, like cycling and weight training.Does running reduce belly fat?Running is an excellent way to burn belly fat. Running is a full-body workout, engaging your arms, abs, and legs. Running burns more calories and better reduces visceral fat, unlike walking. Walking, while also a good cardio exercise, may take longer to burn belly fat because fewer muscles are engaged, and the body burns less energy—to burn the same number of calories in a 20-minute run, you would need to walk at least 45 minutes at a fast pace.ConclusionTraining programs are an excellent way to reach your marathon goals through speed workouts, endurance exercises, and strength training. Marathon training also includes other health benefits, like weight loss and lower blood pressure. One study found that training for a marathon improves heart health by reversing the aging process in blood vessels and reducing aortic stiffening.Following a good marathon training program prepares you mentally and physically, so on race day, you’re ready to cross that finish line.This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional. Comments Cancel replyLeave a CommentYour email address will not be published. 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