7 Reasons 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 trying to find the best training program can be like trying to find the perfect shade of paint to redo a room in your house.

Even among the “white paints,” there are dozens of available hues, and even among high-quality marathon training programs from reputable coaches and running sites, there are dozens of seemingly good choices.

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:

  • About the Marathon Handbook Marathon Training Plans
  • How Do the Marathon Handbook Plans Compare With Other Marathon Plans Available Online?
  • 5 Reasons Why Our Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Out There

Ready? Let’s jump in!

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, we have an appropriate marathon 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, Thomas has worked with hundreds of runners and developed marathon training plans through ongoing research, his coaching of other marathon runners, and his 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.

Our marathon training plans have now been used by over 100,000 runners of all levels. We are always excited to share their success stories and testimonials on our 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 other fellow running friends or family members, some marathon runners do it alone.

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

For this reason, we have a special Facebook group dedicated to runners who are 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 are using the training plans, and runners in the community also help 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 just can’t afford to miss and 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.

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 PRs. 

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 the various free marathon training plans that we offer.

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, and 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 workouts per week 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.

Being able to have 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:

7 Reasons Our Free Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Available 1
7 Reasons Our Free Plans Are The Best Marathon Training Plans Available 2

Here’s our 20 week beginner marathon 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 be doing every day as you prepare for your marathon, with little instruction or explanation about how and why you should be doing each workout.

Each of our plans includes a page of notes that explain the rationale of the plan and how to perform every single workout.

The instructions guide you on what your pace or effort level should look or feel like 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 that are specifically targeted to the marathon training plan that you are following.

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 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.

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

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 7000 marathon runners, and our Instagram community can give you additional support.

#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!

Ready to get going? Choose a free marathon training plan HERE.

People running in a race.

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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