Marathon Training Plan

Running a Marathon

Deciding you want to run a marathon, making a plan and actually committing to your programme are three distinct phases. Your actual plan may change depending on your injury and training history, current fitness and willingness or ability to train around your work schedule or any other commitments that you have. 

In this section we provide some questions and give some professional insight that should help you plan for running a marathon, but before we do you might want to buy some training gear. We’ve highlighted some recommendations below.

Training Gear for Marathon Training

When I coached track and field athletes at college I always looked at what they were wearing so that I could get some insight that could help with my own training. Some simple trends emerged. The majority of these athletes wore Asics, Brooks or Solomon runners and used Garmin or Polar watches to track their workouts. 

They would change their gear based on the weather, but always wore high quality running socks.  Wearing leggings, running shorts and spandex was most common, and most athletes would wear loose, polyester type short sleeve shirts. Sometimes athletes would wear light rain jackets also. 

The cost of runners, watches, clothes and other running related gear can vary significantly. If you find yourself limited and have to choose just one thing I highly recommend that you buy a pair of quality running shoes. There are three different types of shoes you could consider depending upon your foot arches- you can read more about what you should be looking for here.  

How to Train for a Marathon

Are you currently physically active and a normal body weight?

If  you answer yes to both questions you can skip to step two. 

If the answer to either question is no you will likely need to extend your marathon timeline or start a little earlier than anticipated. 

The main reason is that you will need to prepare your body for the weekly running volume that is required to make gains in fitness and performance.

Most coaches call this a foundational or base training programme. The goal of this programme should be to lose excess body fat through low impact fitness activities and increase muscle and tendon strength by lifting weights. This phase should last six to eight weeks.

We recommend training two to four times per week for 45 to 60 minutes or refer to the recommendations regarding physical activity each week.

Your Running Plan

How many times per week are you willing to train? Up to four sessions per week or five or more sessions per week?

These numbers are on the conservative side as we want to ensure that you can successfully run and complete a marathon. 

If 4 sessions per week = you need a 20 week training plan

If 5 or more sessions per week = we recommend a 16 week training plan

Goal Setting

You have now decided on the duration of your training plan. Look at your calendar as it is now time to add specific details. 


We highly recommend adding some 5km, 10km and half-marathon races to your calendar. This should help settle some nerves, familiarise you to running in large groups but most importantly help set realistic paces that you can aim for with longer runs and eventually with your marathon race. 

If available in your area, enter a race at least every two weeks. Park Runs are free events and could be a great opportunity to help develop your race pace.


You can find pacing charts and pacing calculators online. These should also aid in your training and give you the opportunity to set some realistic goals for your marathon training. 

Weekly Running Plan

Try your best to keep a consistent weekly training routine. This will go a long way to ensuring that you don’t overtrain or risk injury. Plenty of running examples exist online but here’s one simple option.

monday tuesday wednesday thursday friday saturday sunday
run run run off run run off

Types of Runs

This section could be a book in itself so we’ll do our best to keep things simple here. At a basic level, your training plan should consist of three types of runs. 

These are slow, medium and fast paced runs. 

The bulk of your training should be slow paced runs. This is where you’ll gradually build your running distance and help get your body used to running continuously for four hours or more. 

You can gauge your effort based upon heart rate or kilometre training splits or a combination of both. 

Running Volume

Recommendations regarding weekly running volume (distance run per week) range between 40 to 65 kilometres. This distance does not be completed in the earlier stages of training (weeks 1-4) but should become a moving target throughout your training plan. 

As mentioned previously the bulk of your training should be completed at a slower pace or feel relatively comfortable. You can use a pen and paper along with a calculator to determine your training plan or you could use Microsoft Excel to help with your marathon training plan. 

Let’s give a simple example below: 

monday tuesday wednesday thursday friday saturday sunday
8km run (moderate) 5km run


16km run


off 10km run


16km run



The example training plan above equals 55km of running per week with 32km (58%) covered at a slow pace, 33% run at a moderate pace and the remainder run at a faster pace.   

General Training Recommendations

  • Taper (decrease) total weekly distance in the 10-14 days prior to your marathon race 
  • Increase total distance run each week by no more than 10%

Why do you want to run a marathon?

Training for a marathon is not an easy process. You will have good and bad training days, and might even wonder at times if it is all worth it. In our experience we have found two things that can be beneficial here. 

Running Group

Train with friends or join a running group: you might find yourself more accountable to train if you have help from your friends or a running group. It will definitely be harder to quit or decide you don’t want to run on a cold and dark morning or night when you have a group effort. 

Run for a special cause: Do you have a charity or special cause that you would like to raise funds for? If you have friends or family that have donated to a cause you are more likely to complete each training run and to keep your training progress on track.  

Supplemental Training for Runners 

Supplemental work in the form of pilates, yoga or strength and conditioning classes can help strengthen your body and decrease your likelihood of injury throughout the training programme. You don’t have to do much here to make progress. One session per week could be enough. 

We offer 10 session class plans and pay as you go gym classes in Waterford. If you would like to complement your running or marathon training plan and train with us in person send us a message for more information.