RW's Basic Marathon Schedules

No-nonsense, tried-and-tested 16-week marathon schedules, from beginners to advanced

Posted: 7 May 2002

The ‘Get You Round’ schedule

A beginner’s programme, mixing some walking with running, over 4-5 days a week.

The idea here is to get you fit enough to make it round the course, regardless of speed, so there’ll be very little fast work. You need to build up endurance and the schedule will help you to cut down on body weight.

The first thing is simply to get used to running regularly. Pace isn’t important, in fact it’s a good idea to go out with the slowest group of friends or clubmates can find.

The only serious training is the long weekend ‘ramble’. Walk briskly most of the way and put in the occasional trot. You shouldn’t get too sweaty or short of breath, but you’ll be spending long enough on your feet to build up your endurance.

You may find that, after the initial burst of enthusiasm, regular training starts to get tedious, and you may be tempted to miss a day or two. Try to resist this, because the schedules rely very much on continuity. If you’re forced to miss most of a week for some reason, don’t proceed to the next week, but repeat the one you should have done. It may mean you have to miss half or all of the two-week module in Weeks 13/14, but at least you’ll have built up to the ‘plateau of fitness’ in the right way.

The Intermediate Schedule / The Advanced Schedule

Intermediate: For runners aiming for 3:30-4:30, with training over 5-6 days, and from 32 to 48 miles a week.
Advanced: For runners aiming for sub-3:30, with training over 6-7 days, and from 44 to 60 miles a week.

These schedules contains a mixture of repetition running, hill sessions and pace runs, for improving running speed, plus long runs for endurance. For advanced runners, the highest weekly mileage reaches a plateau of 55-60 miles a week, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do more than that. We’ve based our plans on one session a day, but you could easily add 15-20 miles a week by putting in an extra daily session of three or four miles before breakfast or lunch. However, it is training hard and training long that counts – the rest makes little difference.

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Discuss this article

I ran my first marathon (London) this year and finished reasonably
comfortably in 3.40. I'm considering doing the Lochaber marathon on
27th April 2003 as an attempt to do 3.30, and then the Marathon de la
Liberte in France (just as a holiday thing, no time goal involved) in mid-
June. Is this realistic, or am I not allowing enough recovery time in
between? I'm a bit worried I might be biting off more than I can chew!


Posted: 20/11/2002 at 18:03

As long as you have trained well for the first event and you take time to recover afterwards you should be ok. Remember - for every mile raced you need one day of recovery. Recovery can be total rest, or an easy run or a swim/bikeride/walk or similar - but no speedwork or anything that puts your heartrate skyhigh.
Good luck for it.

Posted: 20/11/2002 at 19:42

Allow plenty of recovery time.
I once did 3 in 11 weeks, setting PB's along the way, but paid dearly for it later in the year.
Posted: 20/11/2002 at 20:29

It's not recommended but I did my first and second within 9 weeks of each other this year. I think it can be done, but bear in mind any injury prone areas or things you know your body reacts to.
I wasn't running as fast as you but after my first I ran 10/20/30/40 miles per week to recover and rebuild the distance. Only did 2 long runs in between - 1 @ 16 miles and 1@ 22 3 weeks before the second. I actually had a bad experience second time around but that was due to the heat (27 degrees) and not lack of recovery I'm pretty certain.
I did then take it really easy for a month before doing an 8hr fell event and had no problems physically.
I would say though, that mentally I lost the desire to 'train' after the second marathon. I felt I didn't want any pressure or schedule and did lots of shorter runs without timing/using HRM etc. I was a good 6-7 weeks until I felt inspired to train again as opposed to just run.

Best of luck to you.
Posted: 20/11/2002 at 21:47

Most of the articles I've read have suggested that 6 weeks between attempts should be enough recovery time. I think that this basically refers to having two 'full on' races, so I would imagine that as the second one is for fun (if doing a marathon can be described as fun!) it would be okay.

A runner died at this year's Berlin marathon, as he had pushed himself really hard in a marathon some three weeks previously and was doing so again. The race doctor basically reiterated a recovery time of 6 weeks. It should be said though that the runner did infact have a very stressful job which may not have helped matters.

Good luck though Babs and let us all know how you get on
Posted: 21/11/2002 at 09:35

Thanks for your good advice everyone. I'll start building up my mileage now and
see how it goes. The good thing about these two marathons is that they're both
pretty low-key, so I don't have to commit myself months in advance and can just
enter on the day if I want to. If I'm wrecked after Lochaber, I'll ditch the idea of
doing the French one (and just have the holiday!)


Posted: 22/11/2002 at 10:17

All depends on the individual. I only started running two years ago (age 44). I did one marathon last year and eight this year. All around the 3.15 mark but gradually improving. I find a marathon every third week followed by two half marathons in between ideal. That way I only have to do about one training run per week and take the other days as rest days. Unconventional and I've maybe been lucky with injuries but it's a lot more fun than endless 15 mile runs on your own. I have done two marathons in eight days but found that hard going taking 3.50 for the second
Posted: 22/11/2002 at 11:11


Your real name isn't Steve Austin by any chance?
Posted: 22/11/2002 at 11:25

No,but I've felt like I could do with at least one replacement bit. It's just a progression from doing half marathons instead of your long weekly run . I'm aiming to try a couple of ultras next year and as far as I can understand the training regimes reccomend 25-30 miles as a long run every week. It seems like sense to make that a marathon (races and travel time permitting) Forest Gump didn't seem to have a problem
Posted: 22/11/2002 at 11:46

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one who caught the bug. I've done two marathons before but after taking 11 yrs out I did the Flora this year, found it hard and said straight afterwards that I would never do another again, After a days rest still hobbling about I decided I would do another 4 within the next year. The Potteries, New York, Disney and flora again or whatever it will be called next year. Marathon running is really one of a kind. You can give it up but you'll always return. People ask why? I don't know I tell them. It may be something to do with the people you meet on the run. I would like to say how amazing the flora was this year and what a fantastic job all the helpers did. Something alot of people forget about during the pain staking miles. Babs, what I would say is when I was a school between the age of 15 - 18 I did a marathon every morning waking at 4am and returning at 0715hrs. I thought noone knew until my house master told me to stop getting up so early. Do what ever feels right for your body. It will always tell you. I was only injured once during this period. Eat right, train right, and feel good about what you do.
Posted: 29/04/2003 at 17:44

I followed this superb plan religiously and even added some additional speed sessions and hills throughout..At times I totally hated the schedule but for the most part I simply trusted in it...I have just completed my first Mara in 3.39.Enough said.

Posted: 30/10/2013 at 13:09

10.5 years, that's a massive recovery period between posts.
Posted: 30/10/2013 at 13:22

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