20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan (Elite/Intense)

Our 20 week Advanced Marathon Training Plan (INTENSE) is our toughest and most elite marathon training plan.

It is based on the Advanced Marathon Training Plan, but replaces one of the easy runs with an extra speed work day. This means two days of speedwork per week; 5 days of running, one day of cross-training, and one rest day.

Note: this training program is for people aiming to crush it and reach for the ‘elite’ section. Even if you’ve run several marathons before, this training plan might not be for you. If you’re training for Boston or to truly compete, then you’re in the right place.

Keep scrolling to access the training plan for free in PDF or editable Google Sheets format in both miles and kilometers.

The Elite Marathon Training Plan: Essential Info

Who Is It For?:

Ambitious, experienced runners who are looking to train for the fastest marathon of their lives and seriously compete in a race.

Runners who have a good existing running base and want to really push their limits in their marathon effort. Perhaps you’ve already run a few marathons and are looking to set a new PB. You should already be capable of training six times per week, and run 10 miles continuously. 

Not sure this is the plan for you? – Check out our other marathon training plans.

How Long?: 

Five months // 20 weeks.  

How Many Days Per Week?:

The training program features 5 days of running workouts, plus one day of cross-training – leaving one day of rest per week.

A man running on a running track

Training Breakdown: What Will Your Weekly Schedule Consist Of?

This plan starts off with a good level of intensity, and continually rachets it up. 

Training Runs are there to add to your mileage and get time on your feet – both essential in any marathon training schedule. These should be done at close-to your target marathon pace; they should be sustainable but requiring some effort.

Pace Runs should be done at your intended marathon pace. If you’re not training for a particular marathon finishing time, you may wish to consider one of the intermediate training plans instead.

Cross Training is there to compliment your run training, and give your legs a break. Cross-training improves your cardiovascular health and strengthens some of the muscles weakened through running, thereby reducing your chance of injury. Recommended cross-training exercises include bodyweight exerciseslight gym work, swimmingyogapilates, and cycling!

Check out our cross training guide for runners to learn more.

A lady running in front of a concrete wall on an asphalt ground

Intervals are included so you can work on your speed; the method included in this training plan is essentially that of Yasso 800s.   Run for 800m at a high intensity level, where you are uncomfortable, and then bring it right down to a comfortable job for 800m.   Repeat as many times as the plan calls for.

Tempo Runs also build speed; you should start off slow and easy (first 10 mins), then gradually build speed until you are pushing yourself to marathon pace, or to the point of discomfort; then slow down back to an easy run for the last 5-10 minutes.

You can utilize our Marathon Pace Calculator to calculate your target pace and even splits based on a particular finish time goal. We recommend setting a pace target of 5 to 10 minutes faster than your finish time goal to give yourself some headroom and account for any delays.

Long runs should be performed at a slow, conversational pace – don’t worry about speed when doing your long runs, focus on getting the hours on your feet in.   If you try and do your long runs at marathon pace, you’ll end up overtraining and getting fatigued.   If in doubt, run the long runs at 60 – 90 seconds per mile slower than your planned marathon pace.  Note that the training plan includes 3 x 20 mile runs to really solidify your base.   Anything over 20 miles really just increases the risk of burnout.

20-Week Marathon Training Plan (Intense) – Free Download

20 Week Intense Marathon Training Plan - Printable

Download The Training Plan Here

Enter your email, and I’ll send you this free training plan now, in PDF and Google Sheets formats (completely customizable), in both miles and kilometers.  

After entering your email, you’ll be prompted to create an account on the Grow platform we use to control access to the plans. It’s completely free – make sure to complete the process to gain access to the plan!

Previous visitor or not seeing where to sign up?

Head over to our marathon training plan database for full access to all plans.

download the free training plan

Check Out The Premium Version of The Advanced 2 Intense Marathon Training Plan . . .

We’ve teamed with TrainingPeaks to offer a premium version of the Advanced 2 / Intense Marathon Training Plan:

Access the plan via the TrainingPeaks website and app, track your workouts in real-time against the plan, and get performance data analysis on your progress.

Check out the premium marathon training plan here!

20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan (Elite/Intense) 1
trainingpeaks training plan

20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan (Elite/Intense) 2
20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan (Elite/Intense) 3

Proven Training Plans by a UESCA-Certified Running Coach 

Every one of our training plans has been developed by Thomas Watson, a UESCA-certified running coach.

Thomas is also a podium-finishing ultra-marathon runner and has dozens of marathons under his belt.

Each training plan has been road-tested by hundreds of runners, refined and improved, and is free to download and customize to suit your needs!

Other Suggested Marathon Training Plans

Beginner + Novice Training Plans

Intermediate Training Plans

Advanced Marathon Training Plans