Marathon Training - Intermediate

Synopsis: Marathon Training Intermediate by Frank Norris shows how to integrate speed work, tempo runs, recovery, and tapering into a plan for a marathon PR. Includes a complete marathon training schedule.

FinishIf you are in good enough shape to start training for a marathon like this schedule calls for, this schedule will get you in the best shape of your life.  There are other options.  Some of the training links provided on the web page offer marathon training programs.  One of the advantages of some of these programs is having others to train with.  On a day when you don't quite feel like it, having others waiting for you may help with motivation.  However, if all you want is a plan, this schedule provides a good plan to get faster and run that marathon PR you have been looking for.  It is intended for intermediate runners, defined as pretty competitive local age group racers.  It is not for the beginning runner and may not be challenging enough for elite athletes.

Prerequisites

In order to begin this training program you should be an experienced runner and already running not less than about 30 to 40 miles per week.  If you are doing less, build up to that level for a couple of months before starting this program.  The training offered will improve your times, but is very stressful.  If you are not ready physically, you will get injured or get sick due to your body just breaking down from the load.  Even if you are properly prepared, you still may risk getting injured, but your chances are much better of successfully completing the program and setting a personal best in your next marathon.  All training carries some risk, especially when you are pushing your limits and trying to reach your potential.

Making the Schedule Work For You

Some common sense and adaptation is required to make this plan work for you.  Perhaps you can run on Friday, which this plan often uses as a day off.  Well, simply trade Friday with another easy day that is harder for you to get in a run on.  You also could take a day off completely each week without significantly impacting the training, especially if your schedule allowed you to perhaps add a second easy run on one of your hard days.  Also, Sunday may not work out for you to do your long runs. You can trade days off, just keep in mind the need to follow a hard / easy pattern.  You can't do day after day of hard training without breaking down.  Your body needs to recover.

If you are already doing more miles than called for, you can extend this schedule a few miles by adding a mile here and there, but be careful.  You need to follow the basic plan, including easy days.

Paces

We recommend that you read the article Training Basics before trying to attempt this or any other schedule.  The article describes different paces and why each is important.  The purpose in speed work, for example, is not to race as fast as you can.  The purpose of speed work is to spend as much time as possible at your maximum oxygen uptake level.  Similarly, the purpose of a tempo run is not to race the distance, it is to spend as much time as possible at your max aerobic pace, without going into oxygen debt or overstressing yourself to the point where you can't complete the other important workouts.  And most importantly, when the schedule calls for easy pace, this means running very easily, typically 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per mile slower than your 5K race pace.  You should finish your easy runs feeling like you just walked around the block and could do much, much more.  Your body needs the recovery on the easy days so you can run like a crazy person on your hard days.  A mistake many people make is running at the same pace every day.  Don't!

Easy - 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per mile slower than your 5K race pace (This is EASY and leads to recovery)

Tempo -  About 20 to 30 seconds per mile slower than 5K pace (This is pushing it but still aerobic)

Hard - About 10 seconds per mile faster than 5K pace (This is controlled, but quite fast).  However, this pace only applies for repeats up to about 5 minutes.  If you are running mile repeats hard, you will probably have to back off about 10 to 20 seconds per mile.  If so, that is OK.  The mile repeats will still push your aerobic system, but also develop stamina that you need.

However, for precise paces, based on your current 5K race pace, see our Training Pace Tables.

Races

The plan includes a few "warm up" races.  These are intended as hard workouts that allow you to get used to running hard and also add a significant training stimulus.  Try not to skip them.  You get stronger by racing, within limits.  The schedule has you training through them, with the possible exception of the last one, the half marathon tune-up.  For the races you are training through, understand that you will not run your fastest and don't be concerned.  They are training runs and part of your build up.  Your real goal is to set a PR in the marathon at the end of the schedule.

Tapering

The last couple of weeks the miles start tapering off and the workouts get easier.  Don't be afraid to back off.  You need to train hard for a few months to get ready, but you need to back off to be fresh and ready when race day arrives.

Putting it All Together

Your real goal is to set a PR in the marathon at the end of the schedule.  If you stick with the plan you are setting yourself up to do just that.  Believe in yourself and believe in all of the hard training you will be doing over the next 4 months.  You can do it!

Intermediate Marathon Training Schedule

(Start 4 Months Prior to Marathon)

Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Total Miles

1

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
3 x 1 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

6 Miles with 3 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

Day Off

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

11 Miles

35

2

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
6 x 400 (Hard)
15 min Cooldown

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
3 x 1 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

Day Off

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles

36

3

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
4 x 800 (Hard)
15 min Cooldown

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
2 x 2 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

13 Miles

42

4

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

10 Miles with 4 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
4 x 1 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

Day Off

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

14 Miles

44

5

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
5 x 800 (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
2 x 2 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

4 Mile Easy
(Strides)

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 Miles

47

6

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles with Last 4 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 x 1 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

Day Off

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

16 Miles

51

7

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
2x400,800,1200 (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 min Warm-up
2 x 2 Mile Tempo
15 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

15 Miles

50

8

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles with Last 5 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

Day Off

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

17 Miles

52

9

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
3 x 1 Mile (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
2 x 2 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

2 Miles Easy

15 min Warm-up
5K or 10K Race
15 min Cooldown

15 Miles

53

10

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles with Last 7 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

18 Miles

58

11

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 x 1 Mile (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
2 x 2 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

Day Off

15 min Warm-up
10K or 15K Race
15 min Cooldown

15 Miles

54

12

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles with Last 8 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

7 Mile Easy

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

19 Miles

61

13

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 x 1 Mile (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

12 Miles with Last 8 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy

15 min Warm-up
5K or 10K Race
15 min Cooldown

15 Miles

65

14

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

14 Miles with Last 8 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 Mile Tempo
20 min Cooldown

Day Off

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 Miles

58

15

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
4 x 1 Mile (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

10 Miles with Last 6 Miles at Target Marathon Race Pace

5 Mile Easy

2 Miles Easy

Half Marathon

48

16

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
6 x 800 (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

8 Miles Easy

Day Off

5 Mile Easy

12 Miles

45

17

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

20 min Warm-up
6 x 400 (Hard)
20 min Cooldown

Day Off

5 Mile Easy
(Strides)

Day Off

2 Miles Easy

Target Marathon

17 + Marathon

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Copyright 2009 by Florida East Coast Runners and Frank Norris. Reproduction or reprinting without written permission is illegal.

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