18 Week Marathon Plan - Intermediate

Average Weekly Training Hours 00:19
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours 00:19
Training Load By Week

This plan is designed for the intermediate athlete who has run at least a sustained 20+ miles per week. This plan is ideal for anyone looking to run between 3 to 4 hours in the marathon.

You will find that each workout is prescribed an RPE. This is Rate of Perceived Exertion and describes what effort you should be running at to get the desired physiological adaption. It's very important that you follow this RPE scale so that you don't risk getting injured. Run your easy days easy and your hard days hard.

RPE 1 - Recovery effort. Walking, jogging very easy, and able to carry a conversation comfortably.
RPE 2-3 - Aerobic. Able to carry a conversation and feel like you can sustain this effort for hours.
RPE 4-6 - Tempo. Moderate activity that you feel like you can hold for hours, but breathing is harder.
RPE 7-8 - Anaerobic. Uncomfortable, short of breath, hard to complete sentence.
RPE 9 - VO2Max/Speed. Can barely speak and can only sustain for around 3 minutes.
RPE 10 - Power. Unable to speak, max effort, unsustainable for even short a period of time.

If you use heart rate zones and have been tested for your lactate threshold, use the following conversion:

RPE 1 = Zone 1
RPE 2-3 = Zone 2
RPE 4-6 = Zone 3
RPE 7-8 = Zone 4
RPE 9-10 = Zone 5

Your training program is broken down and periodized into phases based on the law of specificity. Meaning as the workouts progress throughout the weeks, they will become more and more specific to your race demands.

Preparatory Phase: Week 1
Strength Phase: Weeks 2-8
- VO2Max Phase: Weeks 2-4
- Tempo Phase: Weeks 5-8
Race Specific Phase: Weeks 9-15
Taper Phase: Weeks 16-17
Race Week: Week 18

Throughout each phase there will be a heavy and dominate load of aerobic endurance. That's because a marathon is an aerobic event and requires aerobic fitness.

If your race has a lot of hills, make sure you include courses that have hills in them in weeks 9-15 of your plan.

Ensure that before every workout, you get a proper warm up with dynamic exercises. Here is a sample dynamic warm-up:

10 squats
10 alternating lunges
10 calf raises
10 leg swings
10 high knees
10 butt kicks

This is critical to perform before higher intensity workouts such as VO2Max, but it's important to do before every run.

Sample Day 2
3mi
Easy Run - RPE 1

Easy Run at RPE 1. Yes, this is painfully slow.

Sample Day 3
6mi
Aerobic + Running Economy - RPE 2

6 mile run at RPE 2

Then, complete 5 x :15 strides w/ 2 min rest in-between

Sample Day 4
3mi
Easy Run - RPE 1

Easy Run at RPE 1. Yes, this is painfully slow.

Sample Day 6
5mi
Aerobic + Running Economy - RPE 3

5 mile run at RPE 3

Then, complete 5 x :30 strides w/ 2 min rest in-between

Sample Day 7
10mi
Aerobic - RPE 3

10 mile run at RPE 3

Sample Day 9
3mi
Easy Run - RPE 1

Easy Run at RPE 1. Yes, this is painfully slow.

Sample Day 10
0:45:00
VO2Max

Make sure you are properly warmed up before this session. If your race has hills, do these intervals up hill.

10 min easy warm up @ RPE 1
3 x :15 strides

Main Set:
4 x 3 min hard interval @ RPE 9 w/ 3 min recovery jog at RPE 1

10 min easy cool down @ RPE 1