Help with choosing a marathon training plan

Hi everyone

Forgive me for asking the question that I'm sure has been asked countless times before......but I tried to search for past answers and to be honest the search engine on this site is quite frankly shite.

I've got a place for an autumn marathon (it will be my first attempt at this distance) and I'm currently lost in a minefield of different training plans, and I haven't got a clue which one to pick.  A bit of background info:

I'm female, still on the right side of 30 (just!) and have been running regularly for about a year now.  I've gone from struggling to complete a flat 10k in under an hour to finishing a half marathon in 1hr 42mins. I run with a club, but I'm still very much a middle-of-the-pack runner. I run 4-5 times a week and do some cross-training on top of that (spinning, swimming, strength training). I've never run more than 14 miles before.

I just don't know which marathon training plan would be best. I'm willing to put in a lot of effort in order to make sure my first marathon is a positive experience and I'd like to try and achieve a reasonable time reflective of my other race times. But I also know that the marathon is a very different beast and not sure if I should be just concentrating on getting round.

Any advice you can offer would be much appreciated, thank you image


  • Check out the plans in the book "Advanced Marathoning" TR. 

  • stutyrstutyr ✭✭✭

    As GazOC said, Advanced Marathoning by Pfitzinger & Douglas is well worth a read, but the training plans start at 55miles per week.

    If this sounds too much for you (i.e. you are currently running less than 30 miles per week) then the book is still very useful for the information & experience contained within it, but you may want to use it to help you understand the sessions contained within easier plans rather than using their schedules.

    I just used the P&D schedule for VLM (my second marathon), and used the plans from this web site for my first marathon, and both worked for me.  The no-nonsense intermediate plan sounds like it may match your current fitness level.

    PS One tip I would give you with a marathon plan is to start it a week or two early, as its likely you'll have to miss a few runs during the plan due to illness/injury or a summer holiday etc.  It relieves all the stress of "missed" sessions, if you can just resume the plan at the right place after taking a week off so that it finishes on race day.

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    +1 for P&D - if you're already running 5 times a week you might find the plans suit you anyway. And don't be put off by the 'advanced' bit; I've just used the 55-70 plan for my first marathon and it worked brilliantly. I'd been running for a bit longer than you but only entering races for just over a year when I started the plan, and like you my longest run before it had only been about 16 miles.

  • Thanks all of you for taking the time to respond.  Currently on about 30miles per week so I'll definitely have a look at P&D.

    I'll definitely be starting the plan a couple of weeks early, that's a great bit of advice.

    Literatin - can I ask if you actually ran 55-70miles per week when you were mara training, or did you just loosely follow the 55-70 plan? I'm comfortable with 30miles per week at the moment but realistically I think I'd struggle with that type of mileage week after week.  It's great to hear it worked brilliantly for you.

    Thanks again image

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    Hi Tiny Runner, yes I did, but there is also an 'up to 55' plan which doesn't plunge straight in at 55. Some of the other spring marathon P&Ders skipped some of the shorter recovery runs if they were pushed for time and just made sure they did the key sessions.

  • That's great thanks. I've still got a couple of months to build up my base before starting mara specific training. I'll have a look at the 55-70 plan and just see how I get on.  Main aim is to get to the start line injury free so I can always drop down to the 'up to 55' plan if I struggle.

  • Yes- I've used the P&D but missed out some of the shorter runs to avoid over-doing it.

    Best thing to do between now and then is build up a good base of slow mileage, so that you can manage the start of the plan, as other wise it will be a real shock to the system. If you are comfortable up to about 16 miles at the start of the plan, it wil really help.

  • Thanks tricialitt.  I've got P&D book now (downloaded it to my kindle) and it looks great.   Lots of detail and some great advice. But a bit gutted to learn they only describe a run of up to 16 miles as a medium run!

    I run about 12-13 hilly miles most Sundays, so will work on getting that up to 16 over the next month or so. My pace worries me a bit though - I average about 10 minute miles on a long run, depending on how hilly it is and the runs are only going to get longer, so presumably my pace will decrease further. Trying not to fret too much about it yet though, as I haven't even started proper training.  Will concentrate on distance first and hopefully pace will come later.


  • I’ve sucessfully used the ASICS website for a personal training plan. You can choose how many times a week to run, leaving time for cross-training, etc.

    I’d agree with stutyr – start the plan two weeks early to allow for holidays, illness or injuries, and if you make it to the long run on schedule you can repeat two weeks (an easy and long run) before tapering.

    Good luck!

  • Hi Alan

    Thanks for the input.  I had a look at the link but I really don't think the asics site would be suitable for me.  It only allows you to run a maximum of 4 days per week and the long runs jump from 11.5 miles comfortable to 18.5 miles at pace! Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me!

    But obviously everyone is different and I'm glad to hear it worked for you.

    And thank you for the good luck wishes image

  • Take a look at the Hal Higdon plans - very straightforward, but enough there even in the novice plans to prepare for the big day. I like 'em but everyone has their own preferences..

  • literatinliteratin ✭✭✭

    Someone on the P&D thread posted this link of a man witha beard comparing various different plans. Could be helpful... 

  • booktrunkbooktrunk ✭✭✭

    Have you asked your club runners that you run with? What advice have they given you?



  • Great link literatin. Not sure why that chap has a ponytail hanging off his face but he looks happy about it. All the info looks like a good read, will have a proper look at that, thank you.

    Hi Fido2dogs. I've heard Hal Higdon mentioned a couple of times too, but from what I gather it's very much based on heart rate training? I am just too impatient to do the base work at the beginning where you have to do all of your runs slow and below a certain heart rate.  But I might come back to it in the future.

    Hi booktrunk. Anoyingly, it seems that the majority of my clubmates always seem to be 'marathon ready' and so they don't follow a plan.  They do several marathons a year and can just seem to enter a marathon 'on a whim' and just put in a few longer runs in the month leading up to it.......jammy bastards!  Luckily for me though, they are an incredibly supportive bunch.  They agree with my choice of the P&D plan and lots of them have offered to come on some of the longer runs with me (sticking to my slow pace).  But the advice I've got on this forum has been invaluable too.  I don't know if I'll have a good race on marathon day itself, but I certainly won't be going into it underprepared!

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