A marathon, sometimes referred to as a “full marathon” to distinguish it from a “half marathon,” is 26.2 miles. As a race, the marathon is a challenging distance that requires time and commitment to train for. It can also be a rewarding accomplishment that may push you past your comfort zone and change what you thought you were capable of.
There are many marathon training plans available for all ability and experience levels. Our plan can be used by first-timers and experienced marathoners alike, although we recommend you have some running experience before you dive in.
Our plan has your long run on Saturdays, but you can do your long run any day of the week that works best for you, as long as you're consistent. Long runs are the key to marathon success; they build the physical and mental stamina to cover the miles on race day.
Your midweek runs should be done at a pace that feels easy to you (a pace at which you can carry on a conversation). Easy runs burn calories and build mileage but should not put cardio stress on the body.
Rest days mean rest. Recovery time is vital to increasing your strength and stamina.
Cross-training can be any low-impact, non-running activity (weight training, swimming, cycling, walking, etc.). If you need an extra rest day, use your cross-training day to recover.
Run the mileage at your pace for each day leading up to the race.
|Week(s) until race||Mon.||Tues.||Wed.||Thurs.||Fri.||Sat.||Sun.||Total weekly mileage|
||cross-training||6 miles||3 miles
|1||rest||3||rest||3||rest||26.2 - RACE DAY
This training plan was created by Kevin Leathers, National Coach for the St. Jude Heroes® program.
Commit to the long haul. Completing a marathon is a goal that takes time, and rushing the process increases your chances of injury (and just plain discouragement). Stick to the plan of building up your mileage slowly. Set aside the time you need for your long runs each week, and also give yourself plenty of rest time afterward to recover.
Train with a friend or group. Having someone to train with and hold you accountable can give you added motivation to make it out the door on the days you’re tempted to skip your run. It can help, too, to have a training partner or group surrounding you if you’re having a difficult run or if you run into trouble. Running long distances may require you to run at different times of the day or in different parts of town than you’re used to. Friends can help you stay both safe and motivated as the miles add up.
Fuel properly. What you eat the day before or the day of a run can have a big impact on how you feel. Experiment with portion size and the timing of when you eat to figure out what works best for you, and stick to nutritious foods — your body will thank you.
Listen to your body. Bad runs happen to everyone. But when every run is a bad run, it’s probably time to rest. As important as your long runs are, your overall health is even more important, and since everyone’s training journey is a little different, only you can know if something feels “off.” There’s a strength that comes from pushing through, and there’s a strength that can only come as the body rests and repairs. Remember that a nagging problem is often an indication that it’s time to take a step back.
Enjoy the process. As exciting as race day is, it’ll go by in the blink of an eye compared to the time you spend preparing for it. Appreciate the strength of your body and the determination of your mind as you transform yourself in marathoner. You’ve got this!
Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BQ)
Register for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, and support St. Jude
Use your marathon race to benefit children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Your participation can help ensure no family pays for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.