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All runners no matter their skill level have at least one common goal when it comes to racing: To cross the finish line.
Sometimes just signing up feels like the hardest part. But once you’ve accomplished that goal, then the real hard work must begin in order to cross said finish line.
Here’s a little secret: Anyone can train for a marathon. Running coach John Henwood says, “It’s about doing the work. This includes body maintenance of cross-training and stretching to stay injury free.”
Training for a marathon typically takes 12 to 20 weeks of regimented work. But if you have a solid base, your body can handle a more abbreviated 8 week marathon training plan.
“The base is the mileage in a training plan. It’s building the muscles strength and endurance. The marathon distance is all about strength and endurance. We only do speed work to increase lung capacity and improve running economy, which will then improve your marathon running pace and long run pace,” says Henwood. Beginner runners will likely need more than 8 weeks to prepare for their first marathon as they have not yet built up a strong enough base fitness.
An 8 Week Marathon Training Plan
|1||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||8 x 90 sec hill with jog back down for recovery between each set||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||4.5 miles||18 miles|
|2||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||3 x 1.25 miles (10K pace) with 3 min jog to recovery between each set||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||4 miles total
Including 8 x 100m strides with jog back recovery between each
|3||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||8 x 400m (85-90% max effort) with 2:30 min jog to recovery between each set||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||4.5 miles||20 miles|
|4||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||4.5 miles||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||5 x 800m (85% max effort) with 2:30 min jog to recovery between each set||15 miles|
|5||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||5 min @ 10K pace, 2 minute jogs x 5||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||4 miles||21 miles|
|6||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||4.5 miles||4 miles +
|10 miles||Off||4 miles total including 8 x 100m strides with a jog back to recovery between each set||16 miles|
|7||40 min CROSS- TRAINING||3 min “on” (10K pace), 2 minutes “off” (recovery pace) x 6||40 min CROSS TRAINING||6 miles||OFF||4 x 5 min @ 5K pace with 2:30 min recovery between each set||12 miles|
|8||STRENGTH TRAINING||4.5 miles EASY||6 miles EASY||4 miles EASY||OFF||3 miles
Follow along with this downloadable version of the 8 week marathon training plan.
More Marathon Training Tips
Training for a marathon in 8 weeks–or any amount of time–takes more than just running, strength training, and cross-training. You also need to master your nutrition, recovery, and the skill of listening to your body’s needs.
It’s important to practice with the fuel you plan to use on race day during you training runs. “You should be hydrating every 5K for fluid,” says Henwood. He adds that carbohydrates every 45 to 60 minutes of running is also important.
Make sure you stick to the program and keep consistent. “This will help you prevent injuries and have more energy in your longer runs and speed work runs. Your body adapts to the routine pretty well,” says Henwood. He also recommends new runners to do one to two speed-work sessions per week and to add two long-distance runs per week into their routine.
And it’s extremely important to add in a warm-up and cool-down during every workout to prevent injuries. Henwood suggests warming up with dynamic stretches, such as leg swings, which are ideal for a run with a light jog. After each workout do your static stretching.
Take advantage of recovery days to prevent overtraining. At the end of the 8 weeks of marathon training you’ll be ready to show up to the start line healthy and fit, ready to see it to the finish.