MARATHON TRAINING PLANS: 
Beginner and intermediate schedules and motivation

 
 
 

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 plans can be used by first-timers and experienced marathoners alike, although we recommend you have some running experience before you dive in.

Use our plans to get to the finish line, and keep our expert tips in mind as you train.

 
 
 

Marathon training schedules: 16 WEEKS

 
 
St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend participant
 

Overview

Our plans have 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. They also provide the opportunity to practice hydration, nutrition, pacing, focus and form. Practice your race-day hydration by carrying a water bottle or by leaving fluids along your planned route, and test energy gels and performance drinks to see how your stomach reacts.

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. Staying healthy through your weekly long run is the most important part of your training.

Try to find a park or trail for some of your miles. Every mile you can run off of the pavement saves some wear and tear on joints and muscles.

 
 

Run the mileage at your pace for each day leading up to the race.

  1. You should begin this program with at least six weeks of consistent base-building of 20 miles per week.

    Week(s) until race Mon.  Tues.  Wed.  Thurs.  Fri.  Sat.  Sun. Total weekly mileage
    16 rest 4 2 5 cross-training
    6 3 20
    15 rest
    4
    2 5 cross-training 8 3 22
    14 rest 4 2 5 cross-training 9 3 23
    13 rest 4 2 5 cross-training 10 3 24
    12 rest 5 3 6 cross-training 5K race 6 23
    11 rest 5 3 6 cross-training 12 4 30
    10 rest 5 3 6 cross-training 14 4 32
    9 rest 5 3 6 cross-training 16 4 34
    8 rest 5 4
    7 cross-training 5K/10K race 6 28
    7 rest 5 4 8 cross-training 18 5 40
    6 rest 5 4 9 cross-training 20 4 42
    5 rest 5 4 10 cross-training 12 5 36
    4 rest 4 4 8 cross-training 20 4 40
    3 rest 3 3 6 cross-training 13 3 28
    2 rest 3 2 4
    cross-training 8 3 20
    1 rest 3 rest 3 rest 26.2 - RACE DAY
    2 34

    Download This Training Plan

  2. You should begin this program with at least six weeks of consistent base-building of 25+ miles per week.

    MP = marathon pace = your goal marathon pace per mile. This will get your body used to running that pace on race day.

    T = tempo run = pace should be 30 - 45 seconds faster than your marathon pace. Running at this pace will make your marathon pace feel easier. 
    Example: 4 x 1 mile T = After 2 easy warm-up miles, run 1 mile at tempo pace, jog easy for 2 minutes, then run another mile at tempo pace. End the run with 2 easy cool-down miles. This run will total 6 miles. 

    Week(s) until race Mon.  Tues.  Wed.  Thurs.  Fri.  Sat.  Sun. Total weekly mileage
    16 rest 6 with 2 MP 3 4 cross-training
    6 3 22
    15 rest
    6 with 2 MP 3 5 cross-training 8 3 25
    14 rest 6 with 2 MP 3 6 cross-training 9 3 27
    13 rest 6 with 2 MP 3 7 cross-training 10 3 29
    12 rest 4 x 1 mile T 4 8 cross-training 5K race 6 29
    11 rest 4 x 1 mile T 4 5 cross-training 12 4 33
    10 rest 6 with 2 T 4 7 cross-training 14 4 35
    9 rest 6 with 3 T 4 8 cross-training 16 4 38
    8 rest 6 MP 4
    10 cross-training 5K/10K race 6 32
    7 rest 4 x 1 mile T 4 6 cross-training 18 5 41
    6 rest 4 x 1 mile T 4 8 cross-training 20 4 44
    5 rest 8 MP 4 10 cross-training 14 5 41
    4 rest 6 with 3 T 3 12 cross-training 22 4 47
    3 rest 10 MP 3 6 cross-training 15 3 37
    2 rest 3 T + 3 MP 3 4
    cross-training 8 3 24
    1 rest 4 with 2 MP 3 3 rest 26.2 - RACE DAY
    2 38
 

MARATHON MOTIVATION 

 
 

1

 

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.

 
 

2

 

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.

 
 

3

 

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.

 
 

4

 

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.

 
 

5

 

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!

 
 
Boston qualifier
 

Qualify for the Boston Marathon (BQ)

The Boston Marathon is one of the most presigious marathons in the world; you must meet a qualifying time for your age group in order to apply to run. The St. Jude Memphis Marathon® is an official qualifying race for the Boston Marathon. See current Boston Marathon qualifying times.

 
 

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. 

 
St. Jude Thaddaeus campus statue