This Couch To Marathon training plan is perfect for new runners, or runners with a little experience under their belt!
Assuming you’re already an active person, you can go from couch to marathon in as little as six months.
The training plan comes in four goal-based stages, for example running a 10k. If you follow each of the training plans consecutively with no breaks in-between, it’ll take you 6 months to get marathon-ready.
The key is simply in ramping up your endurance – the amount of time you can continuously run for.
We want to do this as efficiently but also as safely as possible; that’s why it’s important to follow a training plan with a good structure, like ours. It will guide you through every training run while gradually adding the mileage in a sustainable way.
Ramping up your mileage too fast, or without structure, often leads to over-training injuries and burnout.
That’s why it’s so important to stick to a plan!
How Fit Should You Be Before Beginning Couch to Marathon Training Plan?
It certainly helps for you to have some existing fitness, either from other sports or from simply being an active person.
Everyone starts marathon training from different backgrounds and ability levels, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
You should ideally already to run continuously for at least 5-10 minutes. However, our training plan starts off with walk/run sessions, where you run for a little while, then walk. This way, you can gradually build up the ability to run continuously.
How to know if you’re ready to start?
There are three sets to figuring out if you’re ready:
1. Check out the first week of the training plan below
2. Put on your running shoes
3. Get started!
There’s no time like the present, and remember you can always mix walking and running
24 weeks // 6 months.
Couch To Marathon – Training Runs Explained
The Couch to Marathon training plan is split into 4 distinct sections below:
- couch to 5k
- 5k to 10k
- 10k to half marathon
- half marathon to marathon
Each of these is a separate stage, and should be treated as such.
Feel free to pause between training plans.
For example, if you do the ‘Couch to 5k’ training plan, you don’t immediately have to jump straight into the ‘5k to 10k’ training plan.
You can spend a few weeks consolidating your fitness before moving forward – simply keep repeating the last week of that plan until you’re ready to push to the next stage.
This way, you can manage the plan to suit your personal progress.
Don’t jump from one plan to the next too quickly if you’re not feeling ready; take the time to rest, and consolidate your new running fitness, before moving forward.
Walk / Run Workouts
These exercises are designed to get you used to running continuously, by mixing up walking and running.
For example, the very first workout is 10 x 2 min walk, 1 min run.
This means you walk for 2 minutes, then run at a comfortable pace for 1 mile.
Repeat this 10 times – in total it should take you 30 minutes.
As the plan progresses, you’ll see that the ratio of walking to running gradually reduces, encouraging you to run continuously.
Cross training can be any form of complimentary exercise which doesn’t involve running.
I recommend yoga, strength training (nothing too intense though), pilates, and swimming. Try and avoid contact sports, or anything which involves running.
These are long, slow runs which you’ll do at the weekend.
Their purpose is to help you build up your endurance base – the amount of time you can run for without stopping.
These are designed to be done at a slow, easy pace – slower than your other training runs. So don’t even think about pace – just think about building up that time on your feet.
A training run is simply a classic run – the kind you might do before work, or in the evening. They vary in length from 1.5 miles to 7 miles, and are designed to add mileage to your training week and get your body adapted to running.
Your training run pace should be comfortable and sustainable if you’re going from Couch to Marathon in 6 months. Just let your body find a nice speed you can maintain, and follow that.
Changing The Plan
If you have a hectic schedule and need to miss one day of training, my advice would be to skip one of the short training runs. It will mean you’re a little less prepared come marathon day, but should still make it round.
Many runners decide to drop cross training from their plan. While cross training is definitely optional, I can tell you that it’s effects on your marathon performance are greater than one short run. That’s why I always include one day per week of cross training in each of my training plans.
Feel free to move around the order of these runs to suit your own schedule – just drag and drop using the spreadsheet, once you’ve downloaded it. My one piece of advice is to leave a rest day after the long run day.
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 customisable), in both miles and kilometers.
The most comprehensive plan you will find
I had run a couple of half marathons and was in reasonable shape coming into the plan and it was a good rise in intensity throughout. You need to want to do an event like this – I was getting up at 3am to get my long run in before kids weekend sport etc and this was hard. When you combine the plan with the online community through the Marathon Handbook FB page and website, you get complete support. Have used this plan with great success and now looking at upping the pace in the marathon space… GREAT JOB!
I used the plan to train for my first marathon, and happy to say I hit a time of 3:58! (With a little bit of gas left in the tank) I didn’t have much of a running base when I started the plan. I had some cardio from playing rec hockey, but didn’t do any running before hand. Had enough of a base to run a 5k with moderate effort, and a 10k with high effort.
A Great Training Plan
This was a great training plan to follow. Ended up doing my 1/2 marathon in 1:58.45 which is 20 minutes better than my previous PB. Thanks a mil!!
Thanks for helping all the runners out there
Really nice work by Thomas. Everyone should download and follow his training plans.
Get out of my way
Really good book. Not a lot of extra fluff. Here is what you need to do. Now go do it. Building for my 1st marathon. See you on the other side.
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 hundred of runners, refined and improved – and are free to download and customise to suit your needs!
Training Plan Elements Explained:
These are standard runs, typically of 3 – 6 miles in length. They are used to build running form and time-on-your-feet. They should be performed at close-to your target race pace, or at a conversational pace if you have no target speed.
These are longer distance runs, designed to increase your stamina. They are purely about building up the length of time you can continue running – don’t worry about your pace, keep it an easy conversational level (more info).
Speed Work / Interval Training
Run workouts designed to increase your speed! These come in various forms – Yasso’s, intervals, Fartleks, etc. They are useful if you have a speed-based goal, but if you don’t then no need to focus on them – they can be tiring (more info).
Any form of exercise which does not involve running, and preferably one which is low impact (avoid contact sports). Good forms of cross training include yoga, swimming, and strength training.