RW 20-Week Marathon Plan (20 weeks)

Training Load By Week
Training Load By Week

This 20-week marathon training plan is designed for those who have been running regularly at least four times per week for three months and ideally at least one year. It includes easy days, rest days, long runs and marathon-pace runs. The first four weeks are low mileage with four runs per week; the final four weeks also have four runs per week, but with higher overall weekly mileage. At the beginning, the pattern allows for a smoother transition between routine running and formal marathon training. Near the end of training it allows you to ease off of the peak weeks and into the taper with longer endurance-building workouts that simulate what you'll do on race day, and give you the opportunity you need to rest and recover.

Sample Day 1
3mi
3 Miles Easy

Welcome to week 1 of the 20-Week Marathon Training Plan. Each Monday, you'll get a note about your training for the week ahead, and each day, you'll get an email reminding you about your workout, plus one of Runner's World's best tips on training, nutrition, and injury prevention. You're training kicks of with a three-mile easy run, and will be followed this week by three short, easy runs and three days of rest. Here's a guide to this week's workouts: REST DAYS: Ideally, on rest days you should do no exercise at all. But it's okay to cross-train with a no-impact activity like stretching, yoga, or swimming. EASY DAYS: All runs, unless otherwise noted, should be done at a comfortable, conversational pace, about one to two minutes slower than your 5K pace. Or you can cross-train on a bike or an elliptical trainer. CROSS-TRAINING: On easy days, cross-training should involve a sustained aerobic effort with an activity like cycling or using an elliptical trainer, for the same amount of time you'd spend on the day's mileage. On rest days, cross-training should involve a no-impact activity like stretching, yoga, or swimming. LONG RUN (LSD): This is a long, slow distance run to build endurance. These should be done at an easy, conversational pace, one to two minutes slower than your goal marathon pace. ADDING MILEAGE: If you want to add miles, do it on an easy day. Don't extend any run by more than one or two miles, and don't add miles on Saturday (the day before your long run).

Sample Day 3
3mi
3 Miles Easy

On easy runs, maintain a comfortable, conversational pace. These easy days are meant to strengthen muscles, build endurance, and burn fat, but the key is to keep the effort conservative so you're not worn out for the hard workouts ahead.

Sample Day 5
3mi
3 Miles Easy

Take your easy runs at a comfortable, conversational pace, about one to two minutes slower than your 5K pace. These easy days are meant to strengthen muscles, build endurance, and burn fat, but the key is to keep the effort conservative so you're not worn out for the hard workouts ahead. Don't go so hard that you're sore tomorrow.

Sample Day 7
3mi
3 Miles Easy

On easy days, cross-training should involve a sustained aerobic effort with an activity like cycling or using an elliptical trainer, for the same amount of time you'd spend on the day's mileage.

Sample Day 8
3mi
3 Miles Easy

Welcome to week 2 of training. This week you'll follow the same pattern as last week, with three short runs at an easy pace. You'll add one mile to your Sunday run. Be sure to take the rest days for rest. You may feel like you can go farther, but it's best to stick to the plan and build your mileage gradually so that you can get fit without getting hurt. Here's a guide to this week's workouts: REST DAYS: Ideally, on rest days you should do no exercise at all. But it's okay to cross-train with a no-impact activity like stretching, yoga, or swimming. EASY DAYS: All runs, unless otherwise noted, should be done at a comfortable, conversational pace, about one to two minutes slower than your 5K pace. Or you can cross-train on a bike or an elliptical trainer. CROSS-TRAINING: On easy days, cross-training should involve a sustained aerobic effort with an activity like cycling or using an elliptical trainer, for the same amount of time you'd spend on the day's mileage. On rest days, cross-training should involve a no-impact activity like stretching, yoga, or swimming. ADDING MILEAGE: If you want to add miles, do it on an easy day. Don't extend any run by more than one or two miles, and don't add miles on Saturday (the day before your long run).

Sample Day 10
3mi
3 Miles Easy

When it comes to fueling your workout, timing is everything. Before your workout, you'll want to have something that will give you a boost of energy without leaving you with an upset stomach on the road. So focus on carbs, and foods that are low in fiber and low in fat. In general, the bigger the meal, the more time you'll need to digest. Each person is different, but you'll want to eat at least 30 minutes before you head out so you don't have GI distress when you're on the road. Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue, and carbohydrates to restock your spent energy stores. This will kick-start the recovery process so that you can bounce back quickly for your next workout.

Sample Day 12
3mi
3 Miles Easy

When you're powering up hills, watch your form. Accentuate your arm swing. Don't make fists. Keep your hands loose, to help your whole body stay relaxed. Let the road rise to meet you.