Designing a marathon training schedule

A training schedule is a key part of achieving success in marathon running.

It’s your map of how to get from

  • Where you are now
  • …to where you want to be

So clearly you need to establish:

  • Where you really are now
  • Be realistic about your current capabilities. If you haven’t run in years, you’ll probably find it helpful to do some gentle running for a few weeks or months before diving into a marathon training schedule.

  • and where you want to be when your marathon takes place
  • Are your trying to achieve a certain time, or will finishing the marathon be enough for you?

What a well designed training schedule should contain

  • Plenty of rest
  • Training is where you test your body, recovery is where your body improves its capabilities.

  • A variety of types of training
  • This is as much for the mind as the body. A good programme will involve cross training, some hill running, speed work and any other relevant training that you enjoy.

  • A practice race or two
  • Even if you’re an experienced marathon runner, including a couple of shorter races gives you short term targets to look forward to and an enjoyable experience as well.

  • A gradual build up
  • When marathon runners get injured, it’s often because they’ve over-trained. A gentle increase over a sustained period of training is nearly always more effective than thrashing your body to breaking point.

  • Two to three weeks of tapering
  • This is where your body builds up its reserves so that you start the marathon as fresh as you can possibly be.

A 16 week marathon training programme

You can see an example of a 16 week marathon training programme for beginners here.

This shows that applying the above principles isn’t rocket science – although it gets much more tricky for elite marathon runners.