Congratulations on your decision to train for your first marathon! For most people, the decision to run a marathon is a personal challenge, but you may have been talked into it by a friend or want to help raise awareness for a charity. Whatever your reason, make sure that it’s your decision and not someone else’s. Marathon training, and the race itself will test you emotionally, physically and mentally, so the commitment needs to come from you. When you feel like quitting (and you will), you’re going to need some good reasons to keep going.

Choosing your first marathon

The familiarity of a course, experience, scenery, climate and the number of participants can all affect your performance. If you haven’t raced before, try a shorter race first before settling on a marathon. This will give you valuable race experience, and help you decide what kind of marathon might suit you. It’s a good idea to check the entry requirements for the event beforehand. There may be age restrictions, and you may have to provide times from another race. You don’t want to miss the registration deadline either.

Healthy to run

Being fit and being healthy are not the same thing. If you have certain signs and symptoms, you should seek medical clearance before upping your training load. These include a history of chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, unexplained dizziness, a heart murmur or high blood pressure. A family history of heart disease is also a risk factor that may warrant a stress test under lab conditions before you test yourself on the open road.

Beginning training

If you can run 10km, you can run a marathon. This 20-week training program is suitable for someone who has been running for at least six months, and whose major goal is finishing a full marathon.

You should be able to fit this program into a moderately busy lifestyle. If you do have to miss a training session, cut back on easy runs or do shorter sessions but make sure you keep in the long runs and rest on your rest days. Don’t worry about your times or comparing yourself with anyone else. Crossing that finish line is an enormous achievement in itself.

Training plan for your first marathon

This program assumes the marathon is on a Sunday, but adjust it accordingly if it’s on a different day.

Key - and tips

REST: Don’t underestimate the importance of rest days

EZ: Easy running at a relaxed pace.

XT: An activity other than running, such as swimming or cycling.

T: Tempo runs are comfortably hard, so you’re pushing a bit harder than usual but not so much that you can’t finish the run.

H: Hills are runs on undulating terrain.

NS: Negative splits are runs where you run the second half of your workout slightly faster than the first half.

MP: Marathon pace is slightly faster than your LSD runs

LSD: Long, slow distance runs are the most important part of your training.

 

Week

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thu

Fri

Sat

Sun

1

REST

EZ 8km

30 min XT

EZ 6km

EZ 9km

REST

LSD 10km

2

REST

EZ 8km

30 min XT

EZ 7km

EZ 9km

REST

LSD 13km

3

REST

EZ 8km

40 min XT

EZ 8km

EZ 9km

REST

LSD 15km

4

REST

EZ 9km

40 min XT

EZ 9km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 18km

5

REST

EZ 8km

45 min XT

EZ 10km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 14km

6

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

T 8km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 19km

7

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

T&H 8km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 21km

8

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

NS 8km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 17km

9

REST

EZ 11km

50 min XT

T 9km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 22km

10

REST

EZ 9km

50 min XT

NS 9km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 26km

11

REST

EZ 11km

50 min XT

T&H 9km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 29km

12

REST

EZ 11km

50 min XT

NS 10km

EZ 11km

REST

LSD 23km

13

REST

EZ 11km

50 min XT

T&H 10km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 30km

14

REST

EZ 11km

50 min XT

T 10km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 34km

15

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

EZ&H 11km

EZ 9km

REST

LSD 38km

16

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

T 5km,

EZ 10km

REST

LSD 33km

17

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

MP 9km

EZ 11km

REST

LSD 25km

18

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

MP 11km

EZ 8km

REST

LSD 19km

19

REST

EZ 9km

45 min XT

MP 9km

EZ 5km

REST

LSD 13km

20

REST

EZ 6km

REST

MP 25min

REST

MP 25 min

Race day!

 

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