The Ultimate Marathon Training Plan For Beginners

Published:

Whether you are training for your first or fiftieth marathon, trying to break five hours or qualify for the Boston Marathon, or want to run as many or as few miles per week while still having a good race, you need a great marathon training plan.

Even though it is important to follow a training plan no matter what running level you are at, a marathon training plan for beginners is even more crucial to be able to get to the marathon fully prepared and injury-free.

In this guide, we have created an 18-week marathon training plan for beginners to do just that.

We will look at: 

  • How Long Is a Marathon?
  • 18-Week Marathon Training Plan For Beginners

Let’s jump in!

A pair of running shoes, a water bottle a heart and a cell phone.

How Long Is a Marathon?

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 km long.

18-Week Marathon Training Plan For Beginners

We designed this 18-week marathon training plan for beginners to be approachable to new runners who have some endurance built up but have yet to take on any formal marathon training. 

You will need to be able to run 6 miles without stopping before taking on this program. If you are not yet up to that distance, consider our Couch To Marathon, 6-Month Marathon Training Plan, or 20-Week Marathon Training Plan for beginners.

The beginner marathon training plan below is designed to be unintimidating. There are no track workouts. You will do some speed work, but it is in the form of fartlek runs.

These can be done on the road, trails, or even a treadmill, so if you do not want to have to go to a track or you feel anxious about timing yourself on a track, a fartlek run is a great way to work on your leg turnover in a more relaxed way.

Like most marathon training plans for beginners, you will gradually progress the distance of your long run, and you will do some tempo runs and a little bit of marathon pace work.

Cross-training workouts are also important to reduce the stress on your musculoskeletal system while still improving your aerobic fitness.

A runner running down the road.

Here are a few tips for the workouts you will find in this beginner marathon training plan:

  • Cross Training: Any form of non-running aerobic workout. Examples include cycling, swimming, rowing, elliptical, aqua jogging, and hiking.
  • Distance Run: Base-building run to improve your endurance. These should be run at a comfortable pace—something around a 7 out of 10 on a rate of perceived exertion scale or a heart rate around 70-75% of your maximum heart rate.
  • Fartlek Run: Distance run involving bursts of fast running (think 5k race pace or faster) without stopping. Take 30-60 seconds of easy running in between each interval based on how you feel.
  • Easy Run: Run at a conversational pace to aid recovery from harder workouts. These should be a 6-7 on an RPE scale.
  • Strides: Accelerations or sprints at an all-out effort after a run. Walk to recover.
  • Long Run: Long endurance workouts to improve physical and mental stamina.
  • Threshold Workout and Tempo Run: Run at a pace you can sustain all out for one hour.

Ready to take on your very own marathon training plan for beginners? Let’s go!

A group of runners training.
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Cross-training: 30-45 minutesFartlek Workout: 2-mile run (4 km) with 10 x 30 seconds hardDistance run: 3 miles (5 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 3 x 4 minutes at tempo pace with 90 sec recovery in betweenRestLong run at an easy pace: 6 miles (10 km)
Cross- training: 40-45 minutesFartlek Workout: 2-mile run (4 km) with 10 x 30 seconds hardDistance run: 3 miles (5 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 2 x 6 minutes at tempo pace with 90 sec recovery in betweenRestLong run at an easy pace: 7 miles (11 km) 
Cross- training: 45 minutes Fartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 10 x 45 seconds hardDistance run: 3 miles (5 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 3 x 7 minutes at tempo pace with 90 sec recovery in betweenRest or 30-min cross trainingLong run at an easy pace: 8 miles (12-13 km)
Cross- training: 45 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 10 x 45 seconds hardDistance run: 4 miles (7 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 2 x 10 minutes at tempo pace with 90 sec recovery in betweenRest or 30-min cross trainingLong run at an easy pace: 9 miles (15 km)
Cross- training: 45 minutes Fartlek Workout: 4-mile run (7 km) with 10 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 4 miles (7 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 1 x 15 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m strides Long run at an easy pace: 6 miles (10 km) with the last 2 miles at goal marathon pace
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 4-mile run (7 km) with 10 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 4 miles (7 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 20 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) Long run at an easy pace: 12 miles (19 km) 
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 4-mile run (7 km) with 8 x 90 seconds hardDistance run: 5 miles (8 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 25 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m strides Long run at an easy pace: 14 miles (22 km) 
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 4-mile run (7 km) with 8 x 90 seconds hardDistance run: 5 miles (8 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 25 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run at an easy pace: 15 miles (24 km) 
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 12 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 6 miles (10 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 20 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run at an easy pace: 16 miles (25 km) 
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 12 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 6 miles (10 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 30 minutes at tempo paceRest or 30-min cross trainingLong run: 10 miles (16 km) with the last 5 miles at goal marathon pace
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 20 x 45 seconds hardDistance run: 8 miles (12-13 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 30 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 18 miles (29 km) 
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 20 x 45 seconds hardDistance run: 8 miles (12-13 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 2 x 20 minutes at tempo pace with 90 seconds in between at easy paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 20 miles (32 km) 
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 10 x 90 seconds hardDistance run: 10 miles (16 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 2 x 20 minutes tempo pace with 90 seconds in between at easy paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 15 miles (24 km) 
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 6-mile run (10 km) with 10 x 90 seconds hardDistance run: 8 miles (12-13 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 40 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 20-22 miles (32-35 km)
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 6-mile run (10 km) with 18 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 10 miles (16 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 40 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 16 miles (25 km) 
Cross-training: 60 minutesFartlek Workout: 5-mile run (8 km) with 10 x 60 seconds hardDistance run: 8 miles (12-13 km) at an easy paceRestTempo run: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 30 minutes at tempo paceRest, 30-min cross training, or easy run: 4-5 miles (7-8 km) and 4 x 75m stridesLong run: 10-12 miles (16-19 km)
Cross- training: 45-60 minutesFartlek Workout: 4-mile run (7 km) with 12 x 45 seconds hardDistance run: 5 miles (8 km) at an easy paceRestThreshold workout: Warm up and cool down 1 mile (2 km), 1 x 15 minutes at tempo paceRest or 30 minutes of cross-trainingLong run at an easy pace: 8 miles (12-13 km)
Cross-training: 30-40 minutesRestDistance run: 4 miles (7 km) at an easy pace and then 4 x 50m stridesRestEasy run to loosen up: 15-20 minutes and 4 x 75m stridesMarathon!Rest

If you’re looking for an intermediate, advanced, or time-based marathon training plan, check out some of our other free online marathon training plans.

Runners in a marathon.
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.

Leave a Comment

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