Marathon Training Schedule for Beginners
A couple of years ago I signed up for my first marathon as a motivation to start running again and lose weight. I was in horrible shape at the time and had gained 10kg so I couldn’t just use a standard 12 week marathon training schedule – that would have been a perfect recipe for injury and not reaching my goal. Instead I did a lot of research and ended up combining my own marathon training schedule for beginners from the many marathon running tips and advice I came across.
Before I go into details I want you to remember that any marathon training program is nothing more than an educated guess of how to optimize your training. If you are preparing for your first marathon you obviously don’t know how your body will react to the training and even if you have completed a marathon before each time will be different. In my case I started training 8 months ahead of the competition and had to make several adjustments to the program as I went along. My point is simply that sticking compulsively to your marathon training plan (no matter how well researched) will most likely not be the best way to prepare. In my case I stopped training completely for two weeks in the middle because my knee started to hurt and I’ve learned the hard way to take that very serious. And I’m convinced that my willingness to neglect the plan I made a couple of months earlier saved me from injury and made it possible to reach my goal. On the other hand you don’t want to use it as an excuse not to train because you don’t feel like it if it’s raining. The gist of any worthwhile marathon training guide is to run a lot of kilometers before the competition and to increase the amount of training slowly. So make a plan, train hard and listen to your body.
In my research I came across several good 12 and 16 week marathon training schedules, but they were all based on being in fairly good running shape already and as you know I wasn’t. In my mind marathon training for beginners shouldn’t start with a running 56km the first week and one 22km run as one of the programs suggested. I mean in that case you’d have to complete a 12 week training program before you can start the 12 week training program for the actual marathon…
Instead I used the culmination of two popular marathon training plans and started out with much less training. They were respectively to run 80km total the hardest week and to run 30km as the longest single training. Then I used the old rule of thumb to increase the total amount of kilometers run per week by 5% and threw the numbers into an excel spreadsheet (download it here). And because I had a lot time to prepare I only had to run 16km total the first week and 6km as the longest training – now that’s how a beginner marathon training schedule should be. The first week I trained three times and I later changed it to four times a week.
I want to leave you with a few more pointers before you head out and start training. I believe it’s a good idea to run the longest training on the same weekday as the marathon. That way your body gets used to running longer distances on the specific day of the competition and that way you take advantage of the natural rhythms of the body.
And it’s also a good idea to have one day a week with long intervals to get some speed and not only a lot of kilometers. I did 4 minute intervals with 2 minutes rest on Tuesdays (the long run was on Sundays) and like the rest of my training I slowly increased the amount of intervals as I went along. And remember to aim for the same pace during all intervals to get the most out of the training. Most people run too fast in the beginning and miss out on the potential benefit of the last intervals because they built up to much lactic acid in the early intervals.
Remember to rest the last two weeks before the competition to give the body a chance to get the effects of all the training you did.
Now you might wonder if my marathon training schedule for beginners worked for me. And I’ll let you judge for yourself, but I completed my first marathon in 3hours and 26minutes – not bad for being overweight and completely out of shape 8 months prior if you ask me.
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