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20-Week Marathon Training Plan For All Levels

20 week walking marathon training plan

For those who are looking to run a marathon in 20 weeks, this is the perfect plan for you. The plan has been designed by people with experience and success in running marathons. The following training schedule will provide you with a well-rounded program that will prepare you for your goal of running 26.2 miles on race day. This guide provides tips and tricks from seasoned runners and coaches to help make sure you feel motivated and engaged every step of the way. Get ready to take it one mile at a time because here comes your 20-Week Marathon Training Plan!

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20-Week Marathon Training Plan For Beginners

A 20-week beginner marathon training plan is special for a few reasons. First, everyone’s first marathon needs to be carefully planned out because it will determine if running marathons is something that you like and would like to do again. Secondly, the plan’s periodization period is usually longer. This means that it includes periods of higher mileage to help adjust your body for the demands of running 26 miles. 

The 20 weeks may seem like an extensive amount of time but remember that each week builds upon the last one. It all starts with mental preparation, dedication, and commitment to keep pushing forward even when it gets tough. Consistency will play a key role in completing your first marathon.

The following plan was specifically created for those who are ready to tackle their first marathon! It’s not too aggressive; but has enough structure, guidance, and intensity to make sure you finish your first 26.2-mile race feeling accomplished! 

Week 1-5: Start Slow

In your first training week as a beginner, you may feel like you are running too slow. You might be tempted to increase your pace or omit rest days for fear of getting behind. However, the most important thing that any beginner runner needs is patience and consistency. So, take it easy this week; get used to running several times each week, and get familiar with training by heart rate rather than trying to chase speed goals.

Here’s an ideal training schedule for the first five weeks:

  • Monday: Run 40 minutes
  • Tuesday: Cross-train 40 minutes 
  • Wednesday: Rest day
  • Thursday: Run 40 minutes
  • Friday: Cross-train 40 minutes
  • Saturday: Rest day
  • Sunday: Walk 30 minutes

Read More: Training Plan For Half Marathon: The Ultimate Guide To Pre-Race Preparation

Week 6-10: Challenge Yourself

While the first five weeks were all about building up mileage so your body could adjust to running 26+ miles, these next five weeks will involve working on becoming more efficient at marathon pace while maintaining a high level of aerobic fitness. By adding some intensity to workouts (threshold runs), you’ll start developing the specific energy systems that are needed for running a marathon pace (5). You’ll want to challenge yourself during these workouts – especially on the faster-paced treadmill runs!

Here’s an ideal training schedule for weeks 6 to 10:

  • Monday: Run 45 minutes
  • Tuesday: Cross-train 45 minutes
  • Wednesday: Rest day
  • Thursday: Run 45 minutes or Treadmill at marathon pace (mph) + 2-minute threshold intervals (mph)
  • Friday: Cross-train 45 minutes
  • Saturday: Rest day
  • Sunday: Walk 30 minutes
intermediate 20 week training plan marathon
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Week 11-15: Build Up Your Endurance 

This is where your patience and consistency will pay off as you continue to adjust to being a runner. During this five week phase, you’ll notice that your runs start to feel a little bit easier. You may find yourself flying up hills that used to be challenging and running the flats without becoming winded. This is because your body is getting used to covering long distances at a good pace while still being able to maintain a comfortable aerobic level of intensity.

Here’s an ideal training schedule for weeks 11 to 15:

  • Monday: Run 50 minutes 
  • Tuesday: Cross-train 50 minutes 
  • Wednesday: Rest day
  • Thursday: Run 50 minutes or Treadmill at marathon pace (mph) + 3-minute threshold intervals (mph)
  • Friday: Cross-train 50 minutes 
  • Saturday: Rest day 
  • Sunday: Run 50 minutes
20 week marathon training plan intermediate
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Week 15-20: Put It All Together To Finish Strong

This will be your final week of training before tapering for your marathon. During these last five weeks, you’ll notice that the workouts get a little harder and more intense, so it’s important to commit yourself to working out each day! This is where you test how far you have come from being a non-runner to being able to run 26.2 miles. Keep pushing yourself, even on very long runs, because it will help ensure that you are ready for race day! 

Here’s an ideal training schedule for weeks 15 to 20:

  • Monday: Run 50 minutes 
  • Tuesday: Cross-train 50 minutes 
  • Wednesday: Rest Day 
  • Thursday: Run 50 minutes or Treadmill at marathon pace (mph) + 1-mile threshold intervals (mph)
  • Friday: Cross-train 50 minutes 
  • Saturday: Rest day 
  • Sunday: Run 60 minutes or a long run of 20 miles

The schedule provided is simply an example of what to expect if you follow this training plan. There may be some days where you need to take an extra rest day or two due to unforeseen circumstances. You may also want to run more miles on some days if you are feeling good. Listen to your body and adjust the plan accordingly.

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See also  Cardiovascular Endurance Exercises To Do At Home
20 week marathon training plan for beginners
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20-Week Intermediate Marathon Training Plan

This plan also targets intermediate runners or those who have done multiple marathons before. This schedule builds on the base you’ve established in the beginner 20-week marathon training program. With this plan, you’ll continue building endurance while improving your speed for an amazing marathon experience.

How Is The Intermediate Training Plan Different From The Beginner Plan?

As an intermediate marathon runner, you have a few advantages: You’ve been running for a few months and know what it takes to get through long runs and speed workouts. However, you may still be feeling some aches and pains, not knowing how to properly fuel your body or recover from each workout. This plan will challenge you while also helping you avoid injuries, so you can remain on track towards achieving your marathon goals.

Make these changes to the beginner plan to suit your level:

  • Instead of two rest days and one active rest day, reduce your rest days to one and add a second cross-training day. 
  • Reduce your threshold intervals from 30 seconds to 20 seconds.
  • Add two workouts at fixed speeds instead of one workout at a fixed speed and the other at tempo.
  • Just like the beginner, the intermediate runner must be careful not to overtrain. If you feel like the plan is too much after your first week, then simply cut back on some of your runs and use that time for rest.
20 week beginner marathon training plan
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20-Week Advanced Marathon Training Plan

This one is for those who are ready to take their speed, stride length, and race times to the next level. If you are an advanced runner or someone who typically enjoys running races of shorter distances (i.e., 5 Ks), this plan will prepare you for both short-distance track races as well as the endurance required in marathon events! 

How Is The Advanced Training Plan Different from the Beginner Plan?

As an advanced marathon runner, you may have some road miles under your belt already. However, you may still be experiencing aches and pains on the longer runs or maybe even struggle to get through speed workouts. This plan is designed for marathon veterans with at least one (1) previous race under their belts, who are looking to take their endurance & speed to the next level.

Here’s what you can expect from this training schedule:

  • There are no more than two rest days per week.
  • Do two threshold intervals (or 3 x 1-mile tempos) per workout instead of one.
  • A weekly long run that gets longer as the week progresses (16 miles in week 16; 20+ in week 17; 22+ in week 18; 24+ in week 19; 26+ in the final week).
20 week beginner marathon training plan
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Just like the beginner plan, be careful if you’re feeling pain or tired after your first week of training. This is normal to experience some aches and pains as you work your way back up to running 20+ miles (especially during long runs) (1). If it’s preventing you from enjoying your run, then spend more time on cross-training until things feel better. The last thing you want is an injury!

This group needs to include speed work in their training plan, but not too much. You should run no more than four-track sessions per week with one threshold workout and two VO2 max workouts.

You’ll also notice that the advanced marathon plan includes three critical workouts: VO2 max intervals, lactate clearance intervals, and negative splits. These workouts are so tough that they need to be scheduled on days where your body can recover fully, which is why these sessions are programmed into mid-week runs rather than taking place after track or sessions.

Here’s an example of how the advanced training plan works:

  • Monday – Rest Day (cross-training optional) 
  • Tuesday – VO2 Max Intervals / 2 Mile Tempo + 400m Strides 
  • Wednesday – Rest Day (cross-training optional) 
  • Thursday – Lactate Clearance Intervals / 1 Mile Tempo Run + 10 x 100m Strides 
  • Friday – Rest Day (active recovery at an easy pace)
  • Saturday – Negative Splits Long Runs + 20 x 100m Strides 
  • Sunday – Rest Day or Active Recovery Pace (optional) 

The above schedule is just one example of how to structure workouts into your week. The key here is that Tuesday’s workout must be after a rest day, then followed by a second rest day on Wednesday. 

The advanced marathon plan also includes a long run on the weekend, one that starts at an easy pace and gradually gets faster as it progresses and requires negative splits. To complete this final long run, start at an easy pace for the first half before finishing strong during the second half of your workout.

Read More: 10K Training Schedules: The Dos And Don’ts Of Getting In Shape For A Marathon

20 week marathon training plan
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Tips For Getting The Most Out Of Your 20-Week Marathon Training Plan

Having a training plan is one thing, but seeing it through until race day is another. 

Here are a few tips to get you through the 20 weeks:

Have An Intrinsic Source Of Motivation

When you’re training throughout half of a year with a 20-week marathon training plan, it can be difficult to stay motivated. When it’s cold, wet, or you can’t simply be bothered to go for a run, it can feel like your motivation is low.

More often than not, people who successfully follow through with their plans are intrinsically motivated. They do it because they want to see improvement and because running makes them happy (5).

One way many runners find motivation is by setting themselves sub-goals along the way to improvement. This may start with getting out of breath less easily during your first runs, then progressing onto being able to run longer without stopping, so you know you’re improving week on week.

You could also set yourself other small goals that help improve your stamina and ability, which will give you that purposeful feeling that should keep you going through a 20-week marathon training plan.

Have A Support System 

Having a support system is crucial when you are training for something so big (7). This can be anything from your family, friends, or one friend who loves running as much as you do to keep each other on track with meeting up after work to go for a run together. 

If you don’t have anyone in your life that understands why you want to train for a marathon, find new like-minded individuals online. There are plenty of forums and groups on social media where people chat about their love of running, which cannot only get you inspired but also motivate you enough to get out the door after work once again!

20 week marathon training plan
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Don’t Be Afraid Of Cross-Training

Cross-training is the term used for using a different type of exercise to improve your aerobic capacity, strength, and running economy (5). Doing this in a 20-week marathon training plan is a great way of increasing these aspects while avoiding injury or overuse pains that may come from doing too much on the road.

Examples of cross-training include swimming, cycling, and even kayaking, which you can do at least a day per week to help give your body time to recover and strengthen without having such an impact on your legs.

In addition to running on a treadmill, it can be good to do some weight lifting or muscle toning exercises to help build strength so that your runs are less punishing (6). Don’t just focus on cardio exercises such as cycling or swimming – go for cross-training activities that combine both cardiovascular exercises and strengthening, which can help improve performance on marathon day.

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See also  Half Marathon Training 20 Week Plan: The Ultimate Beginners Guide For This Big Run

Eat Right For Training Success

A balanced diet is a key to keeping you going through a 20-week marathon training plan. 

Take the time to research what nutrients will give your body the energy it needs without adding weight or bloat that feels uncomfortable. Doing so can help you with long runs, improving speed, and feeling energized for your workouts.

Here are some nutrition tips to help you put together the right meal plan:

  • Start Your Days With A Good Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and can be key to setting you up for success in your training. Aim for a mix of carbs and protein. This will keep you feeling full until lunch, meaning it’s less likely that you’ll snack on something less healthy like sugary cereals or pastries when hunger pangs strike unexpectedly.

  • Refuel After Your Workout 

It’s also important to refuel after your workout. Ensure your meals contain high-quality carbohydrates such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which will replenish glycogen levels in your body, helping with recovery time (3). 

  • Keep Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water while training is simple but helps tremendously, especially in the summer months. Make sure you are drinking enough water before, during, and after your workout so that your muscles don’t feel fatigued.

20 week marathon training plan
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  • Choose Whole Carbs Instead Of Avoiding Them Altogether 

Whole grains are key to providing you with the carbs that your body needs, especially when training for a marathon. These are complex carbs that help provide long-lasting energy instead of being broken down into sugar too rapidly, which can cause fatigue and lack of concentration later in the day (3).

  • Eat Protein To Build Muscle And Help Recover
See also  Does Running Build Muscle? The Truth About Anaerobic Exercise And Bodybuilding

Protein is as important as carbohydrates as it helps the body recover and rebuild muscle tissue after exercise, so try to include protein in every meal (4). 

Choose lean protein whenever possible. This includes things like avocados, nuts, seeds, chicken, or fish, which will provide you with plenty of protein while also keeping your hunger satisfied for longer periods. 

  • Eat Good Fats

Good fats include avocado oil or olive oil, along with healthy sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as chia seeds, salmon, and walnuts. These types of fat help reduce pain after workouts, getting you back out there sooner (2).

Prioritize Your Sleep

In addition to nutrition, take all opportunities to get enough sleep so you have energy for training every day in a 20-week marathon training plan. Having a solid eight hours means that your body has enough time for recovery and repairs, which makes you feel fresh again after a hard workout (5).

Know What To Do If You Get Injured

Injuries from overuse of certain areas such as the knees or hips can stop runners in their tracks, sometimes for weeks on end, depending on how they are treated. If you have to take time off due to an injury, don’t neglect at-home exercises that will help to strengthen your way back toward the road. 

You can also try using a foam roller or tennis ball for self-massage, which may feel uncomfortable but works wonders when it comes to improving mobility if muscles are stiff from inactivity after an injury.

While it’s hard not to get excited about marathon day, sometimes long-distance running takes its toll on bodies and even ends up withdrawing from races that were once eagerly anticipated. Make sure you focus on cross-training rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket if you want to avoid injuries and make this coming race day one you will remember forever. 

The Bottom Line 

Having a 20-week marathon training plan will help you prioritize your workout time and make sure you’re getting the most out of it to prepare for the big day. Try controlling your weekly mileage, increasing training intensity, or focusing on speedwork, depending on what type of racer you are!

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Aches and Pains from Training, or Do You Have A Running Injury? (n.d., oip.com)
  2. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed muscle onset soreness (2014, nih.gov)
  3. Complex carbohydrates (2020, medlineplus.gov)
  4. Effects of protein supplements to muscle damage, soreness and recovery of muscle function and physical performance: a systematic review (2014, pubmed.gov)
  5. How to Train for a Marathon (2014, ahajournals.org)
  6. Increasing Lean Mass and Strength: A Comparison of High-Frequency Strength Training to Lower Frequency Strength Training (2016, nih.gov)
  7. Marathon Preparation (2020, clevelandclinic.org)
ZindzyGracia

Zindzy is a freelance writer who specializes in creating web content in the health & wellness niche. The articles she writes focus on providing factual information – but never at the expense of providing an entertaining read.
Her interest in health & wellness was sparked by her motherhood journey. She realized just how much damage misinformation could cause, especially when it is targeted at new moms who are keen on postpartum weight loss.
So for years, she has worked hard to demystify the seemingly complex concepts of health & wellness. Eventually, she made one startling discovery that she wishes to share with all – there is no short cut. Consistency and hard work are the keys to a healthy mind and body.
But, writing is not all she does. Being a mother to an energetic toddler means her free time is spent exploring the outdoors, arms laden with cotton candy and toys. Through the daily intrigues of work and play, she continues to discover and share more ways to keep fit and stay healthy!

I. Grebeniuk

Hey there! I'm a European Champion in synchronized swimming who holds a Bachelor degree in Physical Education. I have experience in working with Olympic level athletes, produced National Champions, State Champions and helped athletes secure their spots on the National teams.
I don't just want to work with professional athletes. I strongly believe that my purpose is to help anybody I work with to achieve their fitness goals and become their best self.

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