Why Our Free Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Available

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There are many resources online where you can find paid and free marathon training plans.

In fact, there are so many options for online marathon training plans that finding the best training program can be like finding the perfect shade of paint to redo a room in your house.

While we totally admit to our bias, we think our free marathon training plans are among the best marathon training programs available online, including paid or premium plans.

The fact that they are free is just icing on the cake!

So, while we won’t take offense if you choose to go another route with your approach to training for your next marathon, today we wanted to share why we think our free marathon training plans are the best out there and learn what they can offer you.

So whether you are training for New York, London, or a local marathon in your hometown, we have the perfect training plan for you.

A notebook open to a workout plan.

About the Marathon Handbook Marathon Training Plans

If you’re new to marathon running and are looking for a beginner-friendly marathon plan or have run one or more marathons in the past and hope to set a massive PR or qualify for the Boston Marathon, we have an appropriate training plan for you.

Marathon Handbook has been offering free online marathon training plans since 2016.

The majority of our marathon training plans were developed by Thomas Watson, the founder and CEO of Marathon Handbook.

Thomas is a UESCA-certified running coach and ultra-runner. Over the years, he has worked with hundreds of runners and developed marathon training plans through ongoing research, coaching marathon runners, and personal experience.

One of the tenets by which we try to approach the design and composition of our marathon training plans is that we believe in constantly improving and tweaking things.

Much like running shoe companies like Brooks use the feedback from large groups of diverse wear testers to inform updates to running shoe models, we continually and constantly revise the plans—as needed—by evaluating the feedback and results from real runners like you who use our plans. 

A group of people running on the coast.

Over 100,000 runners of all levels have used our marathon training plans. We are always excited to share their success stories and testimonials on Instagram.

We also believe that training for a marathon is such an exciting—and sometimes intimidating undertaking. 

Although many marathon runners have local running buddies or support from fellow running friends or family members, some do it alone.

Even when you have a group that understands your commitment and devotion to running, it can be super helpful to have a dedicated, supportive community going through the same sort of training, trials, and tribulations you are.

For this reason, we have a special Facebook group dedicated to runners tackling one of our free training plans. 

This super-supportive community gives runners like you a safe and welcoming space to discuss our plans, crowdsource advice for your personal challenges while training for your marathon, share your successes as you work through the training plan, and of course, share your triumphant finish line photos and awesome finish times.

A marathon in progress.

We help answer questions that may arise while you use the training plans, and runners in the community also provide helpful advice to quell jitters about your first long run and give you suggestions for long-run fueling strategies if you have been experiencing GI distress.

There are race recaps from marathon courses you can’t afford to miss, as well as inspiring stories of weight loss or overcoming personal hurdles and demons through marathon training using one of our best marathon training plans.

Related: Marathon Time Calculator – Predict Your Marathon Finish Time

How Do the Marathon Handbook Plans Compare With Other Marathon Plans Available Online?

Admittedly, there are hundreds of online marathon training plans that you can find for free. We will be the first to admit that we are big fans and supporters of many coaches offering such plans as Galloway, Hanson, and Daniels.

Before Thomas created his first round of marathon training plans (and even before he became a running coach in his own right!), he followed the world-renowned Hal Higdon‘s training plans. These fantastic plans have helped thousands of runners become first-time marathon finishers and set personal bests. 

We encourage you to check out any and all online marathon training plans that pique your interest in one way or another and see which looks to be the most suitable for you.

As we said up top, finding the best marathon training plan is truly a personal experience, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with “shopping around“ and “trying on“ before you commit to any particular plan.

However, we believe that many runners can find an excellent fit with one of our various free marathon training plans.

A person looking at their workout plan.

7 Reasons Why Our Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Out There

#1: Our Marathon Training Plans Are Fully and Easily Customizable (And Come In A Variety Of Formats)

One of the most important factors to consider when taking on a training plan is that you are unique as a runner.

Stock marathon training plans that cannot be easily adjusted or customized can be problematic because there is truly no one-size-fits-all approach to training for a marathon.

Even though you can theoretically tweak or adjust workouts on any marathon training plan you find online, most of them are not easily adjustable when you download them onto your computer.

You might get a PDF or photo image of a marathon training plan calendar that you cannot edit directly on your computer.

A person in a pink tank top running.

You would have to print out the training plan, cross out various workouts, and pencil in your own adjustments.

Our marathon training plans are free to download. Then, you can open the file and edit or move any of the workouts around as you see fit using Google Sheets, Excel, or similar software.

For example, if you want to move the weekly long runs to a different day and swap the order of the easy runs, tempo runs, rest days, cross training, or speedworkouts based on your lifestyle commitments, you can just make the adjustments in the columns directly in your spreadsheet software or Google Sheets.

If you get sick for a few days or need to take a work trip out of town for a conference, you can move workouts around or fill in what you plan to do on the road instead.

Having a readily editable, dynamic training plan that can truly be customized to your needs, preferences, and changing circumstances is a great way to take the structure and guidance from experienced coaches and vetted training plans and tweak it to your own personal needs for the best possible fit.

We also provide each plan in a variety of formats, including PDF and nice printables:

Why Our Free Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Available 1
Why Our Free Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Available 2

Here’s our 20 week beginner marathon distance training plan: the black and white plan is the Google Sheet / PDF version, and the color one is the printable. Both are totally free to access!

A runner looking at their phone.

#2: Our Marathon Training Plans Include Extensive Guidance Notes

Some free marathon training plans are a basic calendar of the specific workout you should do every day as you prepare for your marathon, with little instruction or explanation about how and why you should do each workout.

Each of our plans includes a page of notes explaining the rationale and how to perform every workout, from training runs to speedwork.

The instructions guide you on what your pace or effort level should be for each workout (either in terms of a specific pace or RPE).

There are also actionable tips for how to do each workout and how to progress towards your goal marathon pace.

A group of runners smiling.

#3: You Will Get Additional Guidance and Support Along the Way

Harkening back to the notion that marathon training requires a lot of support and guidance, both in terms of social support and encouragement, as well as tips and advice when anyone signs up for our plans, we provide free additional information along your entire training journey.

We will send you emails every few days, sharing tips and training strategies for common sticking points and challenges that runners may feel, motivational tips and hacks for when you feel overwhelmed, and strategies specifically targeted to the marathon training plan you are following.

Questions will most likely come up regarding things like how many gels you should take during your longest runs or what you should eat before your 20-mile long run during peak week.

All of this follow-up guidance is free, and you can unsubscribe from receiving these emails if you prefer to go at it alone.

Legs of runners in a marathon.

#4: We Adjust and Adapt Our Marathon Training Plans Based On Feedback From Runners Like You

As mentioned, we constantly source feedback from runners on our plans and use it to inform updates. For example, we strive to make things as clear to follow and best suited to the fitness level and type of runner who takes on the plan.

It’s a dynamic interplay that leads to improvements.

#5: We Provide a Supportive Community During Your Marathon Training

We are here for you.

You can always reach out to us, and we will put you in touch with our in-house coaches and runners; plus, our Facebook group has over 11,000 marathon runners, and our Instagram community can give you additional support.

You may have questions about hydration and electrolytes, strength training, weekly mileage, how to warm up, or what a complete race day checklist should look like. No matter what your question, we have the resources to support you.

We even offer one-on-one virtual coaching!

#6: You Get Free Access To All Our Plans, Forever

There’s no time limit on our training plans. Use them for as long as you like!

#7: Going Premium Is Optional

All our training plans are also available on TrainingPeaks; this means that if you’re willing to pay a little, you can get the plan on your TrainingPeaks app and track your training in-app alongside the plan.

If you’re not convinced about going premium, no worries – the free plans have exactly the same content!

Whether you are an experienced runner looking for an advanced plan or time goal or a newer runner looking to toe the starting line of their first marathon, we have a plan for you:

If you think you may be biting off more than you can chew, and a half marathon may be a better choice for now, we also have a database of 13-miler plans!

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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