Marathon Training Plans - really???

I'm considering my 1st marathon and thought I had better get a training plan downloaded.  So having reviewed many on various sites, Ijust don't know how its possible to build to 15, jump to 18, then run a half, then do 20miles and hey ho I'm ready for 26?

I can't get my head around this - I've never followed a plan for any of my 10km or halfs, but have worked gradually up to distance to achive it.  I'm just not confident that I could run a marathon with only that mileage in my legs?

I suppose my question is - do the plans really prepare you for 26miles?  and Do I really need to follow one, or is my own method of gentle ticking away and building up going to work for me at this distance too??

Any advice would be gratefully received





  • That would leave you underprepared for a marathon.

    Its not much of a jump from 15 to 18 though - and 18 to 20 is even less.

    I'm happier running a few more 20's though - 5 or so and maybe with a 22 miler in there.

    You'd get round on a 20 miler as the max, but its better to train harder and race easier.

    And almost no plan will have you running the full distance in training - it takes too much out of you. So you run the long runs (at a slower than race pace - dont make that mistake) on legs that are tired from the weeks training. Probably means that your long runs will take you almost the same time as a raced marathon. 

    A plan is a good idea, but one that you believe in, and suits your commitment level.

  • Heather - Cougie speaks sense.

    The very first marathon I attempted, I did my own thing and DNFd (did not finish on the results; not nice).  I've run 6 since using the RW schedules.   Many here prefer other schedules but the key thing is that training works provided you use a sensible plan that is tried and tested.

    Good luck.

  • Yes, you can do it withou running anything over 20 miles in training.... I ran no more than 32 miles a week, trained for 18 weeks (was already running halves) and adding 2 x spin classes and 2x strength classes. I would have run more, but I had plantar faciitis in both feet, so less time on my feet was where I had to compromise. I did the MK marathon, in atrocious weather, didn't stop once, and was only 10 mins outside my dream time - which was pretty good considering the course ended up half mile long due to re-routing for flooding. It was a hellish 26 miles in places as was so wet and cold and so many floods on pathways meant lots of picking your way through the mud instead - and I must admit I found the last 6 miles a totally different story from the first 20 miles.

    What would I have done differently? Well, had I not had the foot issues I would have run at least once a week more, adding at least another 6 miles to weekly milage. I wouldn't have done more than one 20 miler but might have done several 17/18 milers instead of 1.

    The schedules are good as you can see what you've achieved and it makes sure you get your lower milage every 4 wekes as a mini recovery. If I can do it, anyone can... its just consistent training for a good few months, and that'll get you though.

  • Well, you could probably force yourself round 26 miles with little or no training as well. It just takes a lot longer, there will be much more shuffling than running, and you'll be in pain and limping for at least a week afterwards. I know cause I've done it. I'm definitely NOT recommending it btw, just telling you so you don't get too hung up on which training plan to follow and/or worry halfway through it that you picked the wrong one. Almost any basic sensible training plan will improve your fitness and stamina to the point where you will be physically able to run a marathon. 

    Gentle ticking away and building up would probably work too, and if that's what makes you feel confident you'd finish, no reason for you not to do it that way. But the training plans are more efficient - designed to get you up to marathon distance without running hundreds of needless miles.

    The trick is being prepared mentally as well. If you worry you won't be able to finish, chances are you'll be right. When you run 20 in training, hopefully you'll get to the end and think to yourself "Hell yeah, so my legs hurt and I'm tired, but I could keep going for another 6 if I had to!"

  • Thanks for all your replies, each has given me confidence that I can make my training work for me, I think I will use the plans as a rough guide and see how it goes.

    Thanks again


  • mowzermowzer ✭✭✭

    Heather - nip over to Shades thread under the Training section. She has a couple of tried and tested plans. Lots of good advice and support too. Which marathon are you thinking of doing?


  • There are so many different plans out there that it can be quite daunting trying to pick one. They'll all work, but not necessarily for everybody, so it's as much finding one that fits with your ideas and your lifestyle as anything else. You have to be happy with it and think it's achievable before you start else you're already in the wrong mindset for it.

    The thing to remember however is that they are just a guide, and with experience you'll realise what works for you and what doesn't. So don't be afraid to change them, but at the same time don't short-change yourself as there really aren't too many shortcuts to running a successful marathon.

    One thing that has worked for me is to slowly build up your long runs in preparation for the marathon schedule. For the last couple of spring campaigns I've basically started to slowly lengthen my Sunday long runs in the late autumn to the point that when I get to week 1 of the schedule I'm actually ready to do my first 20. The schedule then adds more weekly mileage by increasing the midweek work rather than the long run, and doing this lets me fit in 5 or 6 20 mile Sunday runs along with the cross country season and a few road races as well. Like I said though, this won't necessarily work for everybody.

  • I don't see a problem jumping from 15-18, or from 18-20. However I think those runs would leave you well under-prepared, especially if you are not just aiming to complete, but to keep a decent pace going.

    Ron Hill reckoned that your 5 longest runs in marathon prep had to add up to at least 100 miles. He should know what he was talking about, and I reckon it sounds pretty solid to me.

  • I want to do my first marathon (in october) ideally in sub 4. Being realistic I would e happy with sub 4.20. Where can I find a sub four training plan?
  • A google search on "sub 4 hour marathon training plan" seemd to come up with quite a few suggestions, including one from good old RW.

  • When preparing for my first marathon, I found some marathon training schedules bonkers - especially the 'just get round' ones - there was no where near enough long runs / weekly mileage. I basically ended up with about 5 different schedules and made my own based on a sort of average of all them. My 5 longest runs were 16, 17, 18, 19 and 21 - I would definitely recommend doing more than that though. Maybe at least 2 or 3 runs over 20 miles but no more than say 22 miles.

    I usually only run 3 times a week and found Shades training plan really useful as there was one for that with an 'option' of a 4th run. If I were to train for a marathon again though, I definitely try and do 4 runs per week averaging well into the 30's for mileage per week, and as I said before, at least a couple of over 20 mile runs.

  • Thank u very helpfulimage
  • Helen to run a sub 4 first you need to run a half in about 1.45 to 1.50.

    If you can do that then the sub4 is a good goal.

    If you're not near those times then a sub4 marathon plan probably won't work.

    Good luck !
  • Hi,

    I used the book "The non runners marathon trainer" to run my first marathon this year. It helps with the mental preparation as much as the physical. The longest run that I did was 18 miles (and only one of them due to injury). I finished the marathon and enjoyed every minute of it. It took me 5:10 including 20 mins spent queuing for the portaloos on the way round ! Even better I could still walk and manage stairs the next day image

    One thing they stress in the book is that for your first marathon your goal should simply be to complete it, having a time goal at this stage when you don't know how your body will cope with the training is quote possible setting yourself up for disappointment and taking the shine off of one of the greatest achievements in your life image

    I have kept a blog about my training and running here

    Good luck !
  • Not run a marathon though I have run half-marathons.  Surely the best preparation for any distance is to gradually build up to that distance using the "10% rule", i.e. don't increase your mileage by more than 10% each week.  For 10k and half-marathon, I train up to a little bit more than the distance as I know I will go faster in the race than in training so will need the extra mileage in reserve so to speak.  Not sure if that's the right approach for a full marathon though.  Don't forget to taper down in the last few weeks as well.  For 10k and half-marathons, I usually taper down in the last week or two.  For a full marathon, I would have thought a slightly longer tapering period would be best.

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