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Free Marathon Training Plans For All Abilities

Whether you’re a beginner who’s unsure how to train for a marathon, a pro looking to beat your personal best, or anywhere in between – you’re in the right place.

These marathon training plans have been refined and road-tested by tens of thousands of runners, and each comes in various formats (printable file, PDF, Google Sheet / Excel) with accompanying guidance notes. 

With our wide range of novice, intermediate, and advanced plans to choose from, you can pick a training plan that reflects your current state of running fitness, the amount of time you have available, and your marathon goals. 

Free Marathon Training Plans For All Abilities 1

Beginner And Novice Marathon Training Plans

> Couch To Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: New runners

Assuming you’re already an active person, you can go from couch to marathon in as little as six months.

The Couch to Marathon program is split into 4 distinct sections; 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon. Each of these is a separate stage and should be treated as such. Feel free to pause between training plans.

Length: 24 Weeks / 6 Months

Weekly Schedule: 3 comfortable mid-week runs, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 2 rest days

couch to marathon training plan Printable

> 6 Month Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: New runners, as well as those with a little bit of experience under their belt

Ideally, you should be able to run 2-3 miles without stopping before you begin this plan, but you can choose to adopt a run/walk strategy too!

The plan doesn’t have a speed or pace focus at all – the objective is to get the required mileage in and get comfortably to the finish line.

Length: 24 weeks / 6 Months

Weekly Schedule: 2 comfortable mid-week runs, 1 faster mid-week pace run, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 2 rest days

6 Month Marathon Training Plan Printable

> 20 Week (5 Month) Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Newer runners, or runners who are used to shorter distances

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 comfortable mid-week runs, 1 faster mid-week pace run, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 2 rest days

20 Week Beginner Marathon Training Plan Printable

What Is The Best Training Plan for Beginners?

If you have plenty of time, we would highly recommend the 6 month marathon training plan. It’s designed so very gradually build up the mileage volume, so you shouldn’t get overwhelmed by the crazy workload.

Why Is There No Speed Work in the Beginner / Novice Plans?

Speed-based sessions (interval training, repeats, Yassos, etc.) are excellent for improving your marathon pace, but they add a lot of intensity to an already busy marathon agenda. 

For novice runners, adding speedy sessions exponentially increases the risk of injury – so we don’t include it in our novice training plans.

Intermediate And Advanced Marathon Training Plans

> 16 Week (4 Month) Marathon Training Plan – Ideal for First Marathons

Who’s It For?: Runners with some short-distance experience

Ideal who those who may have run a few 5k’s or 10k’s and want to push themselves – either to hit a target time or simply run the whole 26.2 miles.

The ‘race pace run’ is designed for those who have a specific target finish time in mind: during these runs, stick to your target pace. If you don’t have a target pace, maintain a comfortable, sustainable pace.

Length: 16 weeks / 4 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 comfortable mid-week runs, 1 faster mid-week pace run, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 2 rest days

16 Week Marathon Training Plan Printable

> 12 Week Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Runners on a tight training timescale

12 weeks is the shortest timeframe we’d generally recommend for anyone preparing for a marathon, as sufficient time is required to build up the base mileage without cramming in too many miles and causing overtraining injuries.

This plan is good for runners who have established an initial running base, or have an existing good fitness level. You should be able to run 10km without stopping.

Length: 12 weeks / 3 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 comfortable mid-week runs, 1 faster mid-week pace run, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 2 rest days

12 Week Marathon Training Plan Printable

> 8 Week Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: At only 8 weeks long, this is our shortest Marathon Training Plan. Therefore, it is suitable for those who already have a high fitness level.

This plan is designed for those who have a very tight training window before an upcoming race, and who feel that they are experienced enough to train for a marathon in only 2 months.

Length: 8 weeks / 2 months

Weekly Schedule: 1 speed workout, 2 comfortable runs, 1 tempo/threshold run, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 cross-training session, and 2 rest days

8 week marathon training plan Printable

> 20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Experienced runners who are looking to push their limits

Whether it’s a new PB or another ambitious target, this training regime is intense from week 1 and rachets things up from there. Note that it starts with a 10-mile long run, and includes 3 x 20-mile long runs.  

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 easy runs, 1 tempo run, 1 interval and leg strength day, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 1 rest day

20 Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan Printable

> 20 Week Advanced 2 (INTENSE) Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: As our toughest training plan, it 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. 

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

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 1 easy run, 1 pace run, 1 tempo run, 1 interval and leg strength day, 1 long slow weekend run, 1 strength training session, and 1 rest day

20 Week Intense Marathon Training Plan Printable

Time Goal-Based Marathon Training Plans

> Sub 4-Hour Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Our Sub Four Hour Training Plan has been reverse-engineered from the goal of crossing the finish line in less than four hours, with 20 weeks to get there.

Great for runners who have established an initial running base, or have an existing good fitness level and want to beat the 4hr time.

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 comfortable training runs, 1 interval run, 1 strength training session, 1 long slow weekend run, and 2 rest days

Sub 4 Hour Marathon Training Plan Printable

> Sub 3:30 Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Runners who have previously booked a sub-4-hour marathon and are looking to reach the fairly ambitious goal of 3:30.

This plan gives you 20 weeks to get ready for a sub-3:30 marathon attempt.

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 4 midweek training runs, 1 interval run, 1 rest day or cross-training day, and 1 long slow weekend run

3.30 hr Marathon Training Plan Printable

> Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Plan

Who’s It For?: Our sub-3-hour marathon program is reverse-engineered around beating the three-hour mark, with 20 weeks to get ready.

This goal isn’t for the faint of heart…be prepared to train 6 days a week, including several strength training sessions and speedwork sessions.

Length: 20 weeks / 5 months

Weekly Schedule: 2 easy mid-week runs, 1 interval training and leg workout day, 1 tempo run, 1 strength training session, 1 long slow weekend run, and 1 rest day

Sub 3 Hour Marathon Training Plan Printable

Keep reading to get the low-down on how the plans work, who makes them, how to pick the right one, and other training tips.

runners feet at the outside of a race

Marathon Training FAQs And Guidance


How Long Is a Marathon?

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers.

How Long Does It Take To Train For A Marathon?

You should spend at least three months training for your marathon, although most good training plans are generally four to five months in length. This allows sufficient time to build up the required mileage base, without ramping up too quickly.

(we’ve got a 3-month plan above!)

How Far Do You Need To Run During Marathon Training?

In terms of distance, most marathon training plans are unlikely to have you running much more than 20 miles (32.2 km) in a single run during your training. You will not usually run the full marathon race distance until race day.

In terms of weekly mileage, most plans start with between 10 to 20 miles (16-32 km) per week, depending on running ability. Beginner plans generally reach around 35-40 miles per week (56-64 km), but highly advanced runners may run 100+ miles a week during their training.

How Often Do You Need To Run To Train For A Marathon?

To effectively train for a marathon, your program should include four to five runs per week, although some plans may only include three runs per week. One of these runs should be a longer run that gradually increases in distance each week, and the others should be shorter training runs.

Most good schedules will also include an additional day of cross-training per week to help keep the body flexible, strong, and prevent injury.

All of our plans come with accompanying guidance notes, as well as links to many more of the marathon resources that we’ve got on the site!

Related: Marathon Time Calculator: Predict Your Marathon Finish Time

What Should I Do If I Get Injured When Training For A Marathon Race?

The most important point is to never run through your injury; you may worsen any damage done and then have to ditch your marathon goals.

The good news is that most common running injuries can be diagnosed quickly and easily by a specialist, and often a rehab plan can be put in place that has minimal impact on your actual training plan.

Cross-training is something we’re huge advocates of – both for injury avoidance and performance, as well as adding volume to your training. All of our plans come with at least one cross-training day (though if you can squeeze in 2, even better).

In short, most injuries shouldn’t derail your race altogether as long as they are addressed early on.

As always – prevention is better than cure. Therefore, try a gentle 5-minute warm-up before starting your running workouts to reduce the chance of injury. This is particularly important for speed work or higher-intensity workouts that have a higher risk of injury.

What Kind Of Strength Training Should I Be Doing On Cross Training Days?

Cross training – and specifically strength training, or resistance training, is a huge tool in your marathon training toolkit.

Not only does it help ward off weaknesses and imbalances that can lead to injury, but also makes you stronger, more powerful, and faster.

For the most bang for your buck, we recommend lifting weights. But, even if you just do bodyweight resistance workouts, you’ll notice a huge difference.

See Strength Training For Runners for our full guide on which specific muscles, exercises, and types of workout you should focus on.

What Shoes Should I Be Wearing?

Getting a good pair of running shoes is critical to marathon success.

You don’t need the latest, carbon-plated, $300 performance shoes.

But equally, those old worn trainers in your closet probably aren’t ideal.

Here’s our complete guide on how to choose running shoes and here are some recommended marathon running shoes to check out.

One thing to note is that we wouldn’t recommend buying a new pair of running shoes just before race day, as it can take a while to ‘wear in’ running shoes. In general, running shoes should be replaced after approximately every 300-500 miles of use.

How Do I Choose A Marathon Training Plan?

Deciding which marathon program is right for you is a personal choice – it depends on what your current running ability is, how long you have until your marathon, and what your marathon goals are.  

Check out the notes alongside each plan above to help you choose.

How To Customize Our Marathon Training Programs?

At Marathon Handbook, we aim to help you to run far.  

With that in mind, all our plans are completely free and fully customizable.  

Do other commitments mean that you can only train on certain days?  

Need to trim a couple of weeks off the schedule?

No problem, edit the plan as you see fit.  

Our training plans come in Google Sheets, PDF, and Printable formats; feel free to grab a copy of the Google Sheet, edit it, download it to Excel, print it – do whatever you want!

runners' midriffs as they run their race

Who Has Designed These Training Plans?

Hi!

I’m Thomas, a UESCA-certified running coach and ultra-runner. 

I’ve worked with hundreds of runners and developed these training plans through ongoing research, my work with other marathon runners, and personal experience.

We’ve shared our training plans online for free since 2016.

We’re big believers in marginal gains and constantly improving what we do, so over the years we have continually revisited and refined each marathon training plan as our knowledge – and feedback from our runners – has improved.

These plans have now been used by over 100,000 runners – we share their success stories and testimonials on Instagram.

We also have a dedicated Facebook group where runners discuss our plans, their challenges, and share their finish-line photos!

An image of Thomas from Marathon Handbook
marathon handbook logo
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How Do These Plans Compare With Other Marathon Run Plans Available Online?

Alright, so you’ve probably googled ‘marathon training plan‘ and seen there are many sites offering plans.

We’re big fans, and friends, with many of these coaches . . . for years before I became a coach, I followed Hal Higdon‘s training plans for each of my marathons, and credit the Hal Higdon training plan for getting me through my first couple of marathons.

You’ll also find awesome plans from the likes of Runner’s World, Nike, Jeff Galloway, and major race organizers – I’d encourage you to check them out and compare them to our free plans before you commit to a specific plan. Always choose the plan that looks right for you.

Our plans differ from other plans you’ll find online in that they are:

#1. Customizable / Free To Edit

We’re big believers that there’s no one-size-fits-all training plan. You can grab a free copy of any plan and move things around to suit you using either Google Sheets, Excel, or similar software.

Want to cut off the first couple of weeks and jump in at week 3?

Need to move a weekly session to suit your existing commitments or family?

Need to adjust things because of an illness, injury, or just feeling the need for a break?

That’s why a customizable, dynamic training plan is so important – your training plan should work for you, not the other way around.

#2. Include Extensive Guidance Notes

Each plan includes a page of notes that walk you through the rationale of the plan, and how to perform every single workout.

We tell you how hard to push it (either in terms of a specific pace or RPE), your long run pace, give you tips for how to do every workout, and walk you through how to train towards your race pace.

#3. We Follow Up With More Helpful Material (All Free)

We’ve been helping runners get through their marathon training for many years now, so we know all the main sticking points and common problems that are faced.

So when anyone signs up for one of our plans, we stay in touch – after you get your plan, we’ll pepper your inbox every couple of days with tips and training strategies specific to your marathon journey. Not interested in extra material? Just unsubscribe at any time.

#4. We Want To Keep Getting Better

We’re constantly getting feedback from runners on our plans – everything from the exercise frequency to the clarity of information to the suitability of the runner’s experience level. We also work hard on the plan format to ensure it’s clear, easy to follow / edit / print off, and is best suited to the runner.

That’s why we’re constantly revisiting our plans; we did a major overhaul in 2024 and are constantly making small tweaks to improve them.

#5. We Are A Support Community

Through our in-house coaches and runners, our Facebook group of over 20,000 runners, and our Instagram community, we want to make sure you’ve got the support you need for the long run as you take on your marathon training journey.

Don’t You Have a Marathon Training App?

Actually, we do!

We’ve partnered with TrainingPeaks to offer all of our training plans through their app, where you get more in-depth information about each session, follow along with target pace/exertion levels in real time, and log your training directly in the app itself.

We do charge for these premium training schedules – but it’s less than half the price of a pair of running shoes, so if you’re interested, check out our TrainingPeaks Marathon Training Plans.

marathon training plans trainingpeaks

If All This Is Really Free, How Do You Folks Make Money?

We keep ourselves going by charging for a couple of premium products we’ve put out there: our TrainingPeaks Training Plans and our Marathon Training Masterclass.

The Masterclass is designed for any runner who really wants to dive deep into their marathon training: it includes over 6 hours of video tutorials on everything from injury prevention, nutrition, race day strategies, and more.

But – feel free to just grab a free training plan and be on your way!

Training Plan Elements Explained:

Training Runs

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. 

Long Runs

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 at an easy conversational level (more info). They’re the most important run of your week, whether you’re training for the New York Marathon or the London Marathon.

Speed Work / Interval Training

Run sessions 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).

Cross Training

Any form of exercise that 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.