How To Train For a Marathon in 6 Months (+ Training Plan)

Hey guys, in this post we’ll go through an in-depth guide into how to train for a marathon in 6 months.   

If you’re looking to jump ahead and grab a copy of the training plan, here it is – 6 month marathon training plan.   But be sure to come back to this article later, as it has loads of useful tips!

Enjoy!

* * * 

Training for a marathon is a huge undertaking . . .  26.2 miles in one continuous effort is a lot of work!

In general, the longer you have to prepare and train, the better.  

With a 6 month marathon training plan, you have plenty of time to very gradually build up the volume in miles required.  

This means that you have less risk of injury, over-training, or burn-out (basically exhaustion).

The plan propose includes 4 days of running per week, and one day of cross training (although you can make some changes if needed – we’ll get to that in a bit!).

So let’s jump in and explore how to train for a marathon in six months!

How To Train For a Marathon in 6 Months 2

What Kind of Training Runs Should I Do?

There are actually different types of training runs to do – the different types work on different areas of your marathon preparation.

Your training runs have two (sometimes three) objectives:

1. They condition your body for running; this means your kinetic chain (all the muscles which contribute to your running motion) is being improved.  We do this mostly through our regular mid-week short training runs, which are the foundation of your training and add mileage to your plan. 

2. They increase your distance running capacity; once per week (normally at weekends), you will perform a Long Slow Run. The objective of this run is to gradually increase the maximum distance your body can run.  More on them later in this post!

3. They improve your running speed; typically as you run more miles and your body becomes better conditioned for running, you’ll see your speed improve. Some marathon training plans include speed-based workouts, designed to improve your speed.  In the 6 month marathon training plan, we haven’t included any speed-based workouts – the reason is that it highly increases the risk of injury for inexperienced marathon runners.

With that in mind, you should be performing the following types of training runs:

Easy, Short Training Runs

These are a staple of marathon training. You should be doing 2 or 3 per week in order to condition your body and get the required miles in. They start at 2-3 miles each, and by the peak of your training reach up to 7-8 miles.

I recommend performing these runs at a comfortable, sustainable pace.  Unless you have a time-based marathon goal, you should simply focus on completing these runs – preferably without stopping or walking – and don’t worry too much about your pace.

Long, Slow Runs

Do one of these every week – most people squeeze them in at weekends. 

They are designed to increase your maximum running distance – as the name suggests, they’re long, and should be run slowly.

Run your Long Runs slower than any other training run – keep it slow and maintainable. If you can run the entire distance without stopping – regardless of pace – then that’s awesome.

Long, Slow Runs are all about getting those miles on your feet, not how long it takes!

Speed Work (Optional)

I’d only recommend speed work for anyone who has an existing running base fitness, and is looking to complete their marathon in a specific finishing time.

If that’s the case, you may wish to consider running your regular training runs at ‘close to your planned marathon pace’.

 You can also switch out one of those short training runs for some speed work – such as Yassos or Intervals.

How Many Days Per Week Should I Be Running?

Ideally you should be running 4 days per week. 

I also recommend adding in 1 cross training session per week.

This leaves 2 rest days every week.

The 6 Month Marathon Training Plan is based around 3 Short Training Runs and 1 Long Slow Run per week.

If your schedule gets hectic or you feel you need a break, I’d recommend dropping one of the easy short runs.  

(I would actually recommend you to keep in cross training over a short training run, more on that later…)

How To Train For A Marathon In 6 Months 2

How Should I Do My Long, Slow Runs?

Most people get these in at the weekend, as it’s when they have the most time available.

They’re good to do with a friend if possible, or while listening to an audiobook or podcast.

I also find them to be a nice opportunity to run somewhere new – I sometimes hit the trails and explore a new area in order to avoid getting bored during my long runs.

Consider doing a tune-up race as race day approaches in order to iron out your racing strategies!

How Long Should My Longest Long Run Be?

20 miles is plenty.

All of my training plans max out at between 20 and 22 miles.

Why not further?

The farther you push yourself in training, the more you run the risk of injury!

So there’s always a middle-ground between being sufficiently trained, and sabotaging your marathon.

Trust me, 20 miles is sufficient for your training. 

That leaves 6.2 virgin miles for you to nail come marathon day!

Should I Be Worried About My Running Speed?

Only consider your running speed if you have a target finishing time in mind.

If that’s the case, figure our what your target marathon pace is, and train towards that pace. As mentioned above, you may wish to include some speed training in your plan – swap out one of the easy training runs for a speed day.

But – only do a maximum of one speed session per week!

For everyone else, I highly recommend you don’t get too hung up on pace – especially if it’s your first marathon. 

Focus on completing the miles and having a great time!

how to train for a marathon in six months 3

Should I Include Cross Training in my Training Schedule?

Absolutely!

I highly recommend that everyone training for a marathon have some form of cross training once per week, in their training plan.

Why?

Running continuously for mile after mile puts a lot of strain on your muscles and joints.  

All that unilateral movement makes some parts tight, other parts weak, and basically makes your kinetic chain a little unbalanced.

Those imbalances can quickly lead to injury – usually related to hips, glutes, knees, and achille’s tendons!

Perhaps the best way to avoid these is through some preventative maintenance, in the form of cross training.

Yoga, pilates, and strength training are very effective forms of cross training.  They can target weak and tight areas caused by your running, and tease them out.

It’s the number one thing I recommend to runners – and yet so many marathon runners ignore it!

There are also mental benefits – switching up your workout can help keep you mentally engaged, and provide a break from all that running.

Do yourself a favour and don’t skip the cross training!

What About Stretching?

Stretch for 5 minutes before each run, and 10 minutes afterwards.

The 5 minutes before each run should be light, and designed to loosen up your legs and get the blood flowing.

After each run, focus on stretching out your legs – especially the glutes and hip – and spend 5 minutes on the foam roller to release and built-up strain in those leg muscles.

What If I Get Injured?

Injuries are a common part of marathon training.

The trick is to address it is as soon as possible and get back to training.

It can be tempting to try and run through injuries, but my advice is to stop running when you feel an injury and address it.

Usually the most effective way is to go to a sports physio and get a professional opinion. 

Make sure that you explain that you’re in marathon training mode, and are looking for a solution that doesn’t just involve sitting with your feet up for the next 4 weeks.

Often you can find temporary solutions by taping affected areas, and can strengthen weak zones in the gym.

If you are out of training for less than 3 weeks, you should be able to resume the training plan as if you’d never stopped.

How To Train For A Marathon In Six Months

How Do I Get Started With My Marathon Training?

Go and grab a copy of my 6 Month Marathon Training Plan

Download it, print it out, and pin it to your wall or fridge.

Start the plan and see how you get on – remember, you can always run/walk if you are struggling to run the complete mileage.

How Can I Learn More And Take My Marathon Training Further?

Looking for more information?

We offer a FREE 5-day Marathon Training Bootcamp.

(note: if you download the training plan you’ll be automatically enrolled).

If you want to get our most in-depth, complete guide to your marathon training then check out my Marathon Training Masterclass.

It includes 6hrs+ of exclusive video tutorials and downloadable guides, including modules on:

  • Defining your marathon goals and customising your training plan around them
  • Researching your marathon
  • In-depth training runs guide
  • Nutrition and Hydration
  • Shoes and Running Gear Guide
  • How To Overcome Setbacks (Injuries, Illnesses, and other setbacks)
  • The Taper Explained
  • Race Day Advice
  • and a mountain of more info (check out the curriculum!)
Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.