This training guide will get you running a marathon in 18 weeks, one step at a time.
If you have completed a marathon or multiple half marathons and are looking to increase the intensity of your performance, this training program is for you.
Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who already have been doing some running, this general program should give you increased speed and endurance so that you can push to the next level!
This 18-week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible with it so that it works for you.
Remember this is an 18-week program and you don’t need to go too hard, too soon – that is what demotivates people or causes injury. Build your way into it.
Training days explained
Long runs: The key to the guide is the long run on weekends, which ranges from 10km to 32km. Consistency and quality is the goal of these long runs – run at a comfortable pace, find your rhythm and enjoy building your endurance.
Run slow: Do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that would allow you to converse with a training partner, at least during the beginning of the run. If you finish the long run at a pace significantly slower than your early pace, you need to start much slower. It’s better to run too slow during these long runs, than too fast, the purpose is covering the prescribed distance.
Walking breaks: It is okay to walk during the marathon – it’s a long distance so listen to your body. You can walk during training runs too. In a race the best time to walk is entering a drinks station, that way you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running.
Cross-training: Mondays in the training guide are for cross-training. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or walking. You don’t have to cross-train the same each week, feel free to mix it up. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and cycling, jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a gym. Cross-training on Monday will help you recover after your Sunday long runs – so make sure you treat it as a recovery session.
Midweek training: Sessions during the week should be done at an easy pace.
Pace: This is defined as the pace you need to run to take your running to the next level. If you are aiming to achieve a 3:30 marathon time then your pace would be 4:58/km. Therefore when you run your pace runs you need to run them at this speed.
Half marathon: The guide recommends completing a half marathon event for race experience. You’ll become accustomed to the start line wait, how much fluid to drink and the feeling of running amongst hundreds or thousands of other entrants.
Rest: Days designated to rest are very important. Muscles actually regenerate and get stronger during rest and rest helps prevent injury. The key to this guide is consistency – so if you are feeling particularly tired at any stage, take an extra rest day and get your energy back to keep going.
Download the full guide here.