marathon beginner training plan

Marathon Beginner Training Plan

You completed a half marathon before and now want to challenge yourself over the marathon distance. Here you find sub 5:00, 4:40, 4:20, and 4:00 minute time goal plans 12, 16, and 20 week versions. 

Not a beginner runner? Check out the intermediate or advanced plan.

If you want to run a faster marathon, you must improve your endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and speed. You can develop these fitness markers by adjusting the following 3 training variables: 

  1. Purposeful running workouts
  2. A balanced training week
  3. A gradual buildup

Purposeful Running Workouts for the Marathon

A faster marathon time requires you to be reasonably strong across all training zones. But marathon training prioritizes endurance and lactate threshold training more than is typical for shorter races. 

The following  12 training zones and sub-zones are part of the marathon beginner training plan:

  • Recovery run
  • Easy run / Long run
  • Moderate pace
  • Marathon pace
  • 30K pace (aerobic threshold)
  • HM pace
  • 15K pace (lactate threshold)
  • 10K pace
  • 5K pace
  • 3K pace (VO2 max)
  • 1500m pace
  • Power 

The Marathon Beginner Training Week

The 4-day running week consists of 2 key workouts and 1 long run. You can move the workout days freely (e.g. have the long run on Sunday instead of Saturday), as long as it doesn’t result in consecutive challenging workouts. 

  1. Key workout 1
  2. Easy/moderate
  3. Key workout 2
  4. Long run

The Gradual Buildup to the Marathon

The beginner marathon training plans consist of four phases: conditioning, base, support, and race-specific. The training gradually transitions from general to marathon-specific efforts. 


Throughout the 4-week conditioning phase, you will gradually increase your weekly mileage to improve your general endurance and do a few hill sprints on 2 easy runs to develop muscular power. 

  1. Easy + hill sprints
  2. Easy + hill sprints
  3. Moderate
  4. Long run
  5. –  

Base Training

During the 6-week base phase, you continue to increase your overall mileage and build your long run distance. The first key workout is a Fartlek run featuring short segments of 5K to 3K pace. The second key workout develops your high-end aerobic fitness by alternating between moderate and marathon pace.

  1. Fartlek
  2. Easy
  3. Moderate / Mar pace
  4. Long Run 

Support Training

The 6-week support phase improves your VO2 max and, more importantly, your lactate threshold by slowly increasing the number and duration of these specific intervals/segments during this training phase. 

  1. Intervals 10K/5K pace
  2. Easy
  3. Tempo 30K/HM/15K pace
  4. Extended Long Run


As the race day approaches, it’s crucial to concentrate on running at your marathon goal pace for longer periods. Another vital workout is the maintenance of a high lactate threshold. The race taper starts in the final two weeks so that you arrive on the starting line fresh and ready. 

  1. HM/10K pace
  2. Easy
  3. Marathon pace
  4. Long Run 

Personalizing the Marathon Beginner Training Plan

You can select a beginner marathon training plan from 48 different versions based on 4 criteria. You can choose from 20, 16, or 12-week training plans. If you have recently trained and participated in races, you can go with the 16 or 12-week plan. 

  • Time goal 5:00, 4:40, 4:20, or 4:00 h
  • Plan duration 12, 16, or 20 weeks 
  • Imperial or metric (miles or km)
  • TrainingPeaks or FinalSurge

Marathon Beginner Training Plans



Sub 5:00 h

17 - 31 mi per week, across 4 runs
  • Available in 12, 16, 20 weeks
  • Syncs to your Garmin
  • Email coach access

Sub 4:40 h

20 - 33 mi per week, across 4 runs
  • Available in 12, 16, 20 weeks
  • Syncs to your Garmin
  • Email coach access

Sub 4:20 h

23 - 35 mi per week, across 4 runs
  • Available in 12, 16, 20 weeks
  • Syncs to your Garmin
  • Email coach access

Sub 4:00 h

25 - 37 mi per week, across 4 runs
  • Available in 12, 16, 20 weeks
  • Syncs to your Garmin
  • Email coach access

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