A 20 week marathon training plan is a popular choices for beginner and intermediate runners. These training schedules provide ample time to create a solid running base before really diving into substantial long runs or speed workouts.
Following a 20 week marathon training schedule will provide just about any runner enough time to train for the distance, assuming they are already able to run 3-5 miles prior to beginning. These training plans are a great way to gain the confidence and fitness needed to conquer 26.2 miles.
How many weeks should a marathon training plan be?
Marathon training plans range anywhere from 8 – 24 weeks in length. Some competitive runners with consistently high mileage can train for a marathon in as little as 6 – 8 weeks, although most advanced runners still require 12 – 16 weeks of training.
The most popular length for beginners is a 16 – 20 week marathon training plan.
Who is the 20 week marathon training plan for?
This 20 week marathon training plan is perfect for beginners running their first race or intermediate runners coming off a low-mileage training season. Anyone fitting into the following descriptions would find success with this marathon training schedule.
- New runners who have worked up to 3 mile runs
- Non-runners who are active and physically fit
- Runners returning from a long break
- Runners who have never run more than 3-5 miles
- Runners hoping to ease into the higher mileage
- Runners looking for a longer period of structured training
20 Week Marathon Training Plan: Overview
Here is an overview of what you’ll find in this 20 Week Marathon Training Schedule.
- Runs per week: 4 runs each week (3 weekday runs plus 1 weekend long run)
- Peak long run: 20 miles
- Rest days: 1 complete rest day per week – no structured physical activity
- Strength training: 1 dedicated strength training day each week (with a sample strength workout)
- Cross training: 1 dedicated cross training day each week (your choice of cross training activity – it could also be used as an active recovery day if more is needed besides the rest day)
- Speed workouts: 1 speed workout each week (mix of tempo runs, intervals, hills and race pace – the workouts are broken down and outlined each week in the training plan)
The key to a successful marathon training plan lies not only in the length of time and mileage, but also in the types of workouts and runs. Checkout the many different runs and workouts you’ll find in this 20 week marathon plan.
20 Week Marathon Training Plan: Workouts
- Easy run: 1-2 runs per week fall into this category. These runs are slow and easy, completed 60 – 90 seconds slower per mile than goal marathon pace.
- Recovery run: Optional recovery run each week if needed after the long run. These runs are the slowest, completed 90 – 120 seconds slower per mile than goal marathon pace.
- Long run: 1 long run per week, starting at 5 miles and peaking at 20 miles. These long runs are completed at an easy pace, with the occasional race pace miles thrown in near the end of training.
- Tempo run: One style of speed workout that appears in this 20 week marathon plan. These runs are completed at a consistent pace of about 30 – 60 seconds faster per mile than goal marathon pace.
- Intervals: Another style of speed workout that appears in this plan. Intervals range from 400s to 800s and are broken down in detailed workouts. Interval runs usually involve a warm up and cool down, with a period of intervals in the middle (each interval is followed by a short rest/recovery interval). Each interval is to be completed at a pace that is 60 – 120 seconds faster than goal marathon pace.
- Hill workouts: The final style of speed workout that appears in this plan. Hill workouts involve running up a short hill at a hard effort, and then running back down for recovery.
20 Week Marathon Training Plan: Pace Chart
A marathon pace chart can be incredibly helpful when trying to determine a goal for race day. These pace charts help identify the pace per mile it will require for various different marathon finish times.
Prior to beginning the 20 Week Marathon Training Plan, you’ll want to use this pace chart to set a goal for your race. Make note of what your race pace will need to be, and use that to guide you as you calculate paces for each of the runs and workouts.
For example, if your goal marathon finish time is 4 hours and 30 minutes, you will need to run an average pace of 10:17 or faster per mile. Using this, you can calculate your easy run pace of 11:17 – 11:47 (60 – 90 seconds slower), tempo pace of 9:17 – 9:47 (30 – 60 seconds faster), and interval pace of 8:17 – 9:17 (60 – 120 seconds faster).
7 Tips for a 20 Week Marathon Training Schedule
The first step to marathon success is following a training schedule consistently and accurately. This 20 Week Marathon Training Plan, when followed consistently, will help ensure that you have the physical fitness required for completing 26.2 miles.
However, running a marathon requires so much more than simply following a training plan. You’ll need a fueling plan, mental strength, recovery strategies and more. Here are some tips to optimize your training for ultimate success.
If you do one thing after downloading this 20 Week Marathon Training Plan, let it be this: stay consistent. Consistency is the best thing runners can do to set themselves up for success on race day.
Follow the training plan. Designate time each day to complete your training runs and workouts. Don’t skip rest days, and do your best to follow each guided workout. Listen to your body and adjust if necessary for illness or injury, but don’t make excuses.
Running a marathon is different than shorter races such as the 5k, 10k and even half marathon. A marathon requires fueling and calorie intake on the run – there is no way to avoid it.
Every runner is different when it comes to fueling. Some prefer gels while others stick to whole foods. Some sip sports drinks and others eat energy gels. The key to finding what works for you is experimentation and practice during training.
Start experimenting early on in your long runs with different types of fuel. Once you find one that works well for your stomach, stick with it and practice fueling at the same intervals you will on race day.
Plan a trial run
A great way to gain confidence and smooth out any issues prior to race day is to plan a trial run. Try one of your long runs, such as a 16 or 18 miler, to practice for race day.
Wear the outfit you plan to wear for the race, use the same gear and fuel with the same foods and liquids. Testing out all of your gear and fuel ahead of time will allow you to adjust for any unexpected issues that come up.
Study race logistics
Every single race is different. Some courses are an out-and-back, others take you on a loop. Many courses have aid stations every few miles, while others only have one or two throughout the entire race. Some races are very populated while others are very small.
Most races have an expo with packet pickup the day before, but some only offer mailing or day-of options. Many races require busing or separate transportation to the start. Some larger races start in waves, with different start times depending on your estimated finish time.
All of these and more are things to consider, research and plan for prior to race day. Setting yourself up for success on race day involves knowing what to expect, having a plan in place well in advance, and minimizing nerves as much as possible.
When following a 20 week marathon training schedule, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of simply completing the runs and workouts and moving on. However, by doing so, you’d be skipping a significant portion of the training: recovery.
The first thing to do is to prioritize your rest days. Take them seriously and ignore any temptations to add in a run or workout that you might have missed or skimped on earlier in training. The second thing you’ll want to do is come up with a post-run recovery routine. This might involve stretching, foam rolling, ice baths or anything else.
Marathon training takes a significant toll on your body – especially for 20 weeks. In order to stay healthy, strong and avoid injury, you’ll need to make time for recovery.
Listen to your body
20 weeks is a long period of time – a period in which a number of unexpected ailments might arise. If you find yourself feeling particularly worn down, sick, tired, or in pain, don’t just ignore it. While it’s important to stay consistent, doing so to a point of running through injury or illness will only be detrimental.
If your body is sending you signals that something is off – listen to it. Adjust your training when it is needed to accommodate extra rest or recovery. Taking a few days off or a few weeks with lower mileage is significantly better than running through something that might eventually result in a missed race day.
Believe in yourself
A marathon is no easy task. Staring at a 20 week marathon training plan looks incredibly daunting – especially when you’re staring at mileage that feels impossible in the current moment.
Throughout marathon training, it’s important to believe in yourself. Don’t get too caught up in the “how in the world am I going to run THAT?!” aspect, and instead, focus on the present. Trust the process and believe in your body.
If you’re ready to run a marathon, downloading this 20 Week Marathon Training Plan is the first step! Get the plan, adjust it to your own specific time goals and schedule, and get started. Set yourself up for success today!
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