Marathon running is a great sporting activity that, every year, brings thousands of people together – either as spectators or participants. An intermediate marathon training plan is a great starting plan for long distance runners who would like to take part in a marathon either as a personal challenge or for the gratification of saying that they have completed several marathons in their life. Here is the full lowdown of what to do and expect during the training period as well as a simple sample schedule to get you started.
How Many Miles Is A Full Marathon?
A full marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers.
How Many Times Should I Run A Week?
Understanding how much you should be running per week is such an important thing to know before embarking on your intermediate marathon training plan. The main reason behind this is that it helps you learn how to properly pace yourself. Pacing not only prevents injury and damage to your body and/or joints, but it also helps you utilize your training schedule to the fullest.
So how many times should you run a week while on an intermediate marathon training plan? Experts agree that you should run three to four days a week, preferably on alternating days. While you can push yourself to run up to 6 times a week, this cuts into your rest and cross training time which could actually lead to more harm than good (7, 6).
The Importance Of Cross Training On Your Intermediate Training Plan For Marathon
One of the most common terms seen on any race training plan is cross training with experts claiming that it helps improve on your performance and health while training. So what is cross training and how will including it in your plan help?
In running, cross training refers to activities that allow you to give your joints and running muscles (especially those in your lower body) a break, while still working on your cardio. Popular cross training activities include exercises like strength training, swimming, water jogging, Nordic walking/skiing, elliptical training, yoga and more.
The benefits of combining cross training with an intermediate marathon training plan include (10)
- Prevents burnout and boredom – Doing the same thing over and over, day in day out is a sure fire way to get bored and burn out. By alternating running days and cross-training days, you break the monotony of just running.
- Prevents joint and muscle damage – Running, while it is essentially a full body workout, relies very heavily on the muscles in your body, especially in the legs. Continuous running for days or even weeks on end without stopping puts an inordinate amount of stress and damage not only to the joints but also the muscles in your lower body. Cross training essentially allows you to give a break to your leg muscles allowing them to rest, heal, and recover for the next time you hit the track.
- Helps improve your performance – It might sound counterproductive, but taking a break from running will actually improve your running performance. In a study by the Asia-Pacific Journal of Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation and Technology journal 16 runners were divided into two groups – 1 group received sprint cycling training 12 times in 4 weeks, while the other group received no such training. At the end of the study, researchers found that the participants who combined running with sprint cycling training had significant improvements in their intermittent run performance (8).
- Improves cardiovascular fitness (8)
- It is a form of active recovery – Active recovery exercises such as yoga or Tai Chi help reduce lactic acid buildup in your muscles, eliminate toxins, keep muscles flexible, reduce soreness, and increase blood flow within the body.
- In case you get hurt while running, cross-training helps you continue preparing for your marathon, which in turn, helps you maintain your gains and cardiovascular fitness, making it that much easier to slip back into your intermediate marathon training plan without a hustle (1, 2).
Read More: Half Marathon Training 20 Week Plan: The Ultimate Beginners Guide For This Big Run
Sample Of A 20-Week Marathon Training Plan Intermediate Schedule
If you are unsure where to begin, here is a simple intermediate marathon training plan to help you get started. Feel free to interchange which days are for running, cross training, or resting – just do not scrape off the rest days. They are just as important as the running days:
|Week||Monday||Tuesday (miles)||Wednesday||Thursday (miles)||Friday||Saturday (miles)||Sunday (miles)|
|1||Rest day||2||Rest day||2||Cross Training||2||5|
|2||Rest day||2||Active rest day||3||Cross Training||3||6|
|3||Rest day||2||Rest day||3||Cross Training||3||7|
|4||Rest day||3||Active rest day||4||Cross Training||3||8|
|5||Rest day||3||Rest day||4||Cross Training||3||9|
|6||Rest day||3||Rest day||4||Cross Training||3||10|
|7||Rest day||4||Active rest day||4||Cross Training||4||11|
|8||Rest day||4||Rest day||3||Cross Training||4||12|
|9||Rest day||4||Rest day||4||Cross Training||5||6|
|10||Rest day||4||Active rest day||4||Cross Training||4||14|
|11||Rest day||4||Rest day||5||Cross Training||5||7|
|12||Rest day||4||Rest day||4||Cross Training||4||16|
|13||Rest day||4||Active rest day||5||Cross Training||5||8|
|14||Rest day||4||Rest day||4||Cross Training||4||18|
|15||Rest day||4||Active rest day||5||Cross Training||5||8|
|16||Rest day||4||Rest day||4||Cross Training||4||20|
|17||Rest day||4||Rest day||5||Cross Training||5||10|
|18||Rest day||4||Active rest day||4||Cross Training||4||20|
|19||Rest day||4||Rest day||4||Cross Training||4||8|
|20||Rest day||4||Cross Training||Rest day||Rest day||Rest day||RACE DAY|
How To Train For A Marathon From Scratch: Tips For Novice Runners
If you are looking to participate in your first ever marathon, then the intermediate marathon training plan is not the best program for you. Instead, you should look for a plan that is designed to show you how to train for running a marathon as a beginner.
The main reason behind this very important fact is that intermediate plans are made for people who have already passed the novice stage of marathon running. They’ve most probably already participated in one or two races before and are now looking to increase their training levels and speeds to hopefully beat their previous race records times.
Here are some useful tips on how to train for a marathon from scratch
How long does it take to train for a marathon? According to Runners World UK, it takes anywhere between 16 to 20 weeks to properly train for a marathon.
The Right Type Of Gear
A marathon is definitely not something easy to do and so to do it well, you need to be properly prepared and having the right gear goes a long way in helping with this. Some essential items that you will need to make sure that you are well prepped include
- Shoes – A proper running shoe should be well cushioned to prevent injury to the legs for all the different kinds of surfaces and terrain that you will be running on, breathable – to help the sweat on your feet dry out faster thus preventing blisters, and should feet well to avoid discomfort and injury to the toes or back of the leg from friction.
- Clothes – Just because it looks good on the rack – or on you – doesn’t mean that your outfit of choice is the best for running or training for a marathon. According to Medium, the best clothes for running are those made from technical fabrics – fabrics designed for a specific functional purpose e.g. running (11).
Your running clothes should be made from material such as nylon, polyester, spandex, lyocell, wool, or polypropylene. These materials are not only lightweight, but they are also very breathable which allows sweat to escape, leaving you comfortable and not sticky and gross during your run. Depending on which of the above fabrics you choose, you can also find some that are very stretchy and flexible, non-absorbent, and even water resistant.
If you can, invest in some compression garments too. These types of clothing are made to help improve circulation, blood flow, reduce lactic acid buildup, and prevent muscle soreness which in turn helps alleviate stiff, sore muscles and speed up the recovery process after training. Beware of running clothes made from cotton. Research has shown that cotton traps moisture, has a tendency to trap in sweat, and doesn’t allow the body to regulate its temperature which results in blisters (3).
Your marathon training should consist of shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, reflective jackets, running leggings, socks, and for women, a very supportive sports bra.
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In the same way that weight loss accessories make workouts more efficient and prevent injury, so do running accessories make marathon training safer and injury free. Some of these accessories include
- Wireless headphones to help you listen to songs, an audiobook, or podcast as you tackle those miles
- A foam roller for improves flexibility and self-massaging
- A waterproof armband to keep your store your phone especially if your running shorts or leggings do not have pockets
- Hydration pack running vest – Saves you the trouble of having to hold your water bottle as you train
- A GPS running watch – To keep track of your running stats
- Anti-chafing cream – especially if you have thicker thighs
- Sunscreen – Your legs muscles will be on fire by the time you are done running. There’s no need to add to the pain by being sunburnt.
Mental Health Prep
Running 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers is no joke and you need to be mentally ready for this distance or you will not complete your marathon. To make sure that you are mentally ready to train, practice mindfulness relaxation techniques before and after your run to help you feel more settled and less anxious. If you can, get a friend to run with you, not only is the company great but it also helps the distance seem less daunting.
You will need to eat more to help compensate for all the calories you are losing while running and to also give your body enough strength to keep running and cross training. It is advised that you should increase your carbohydrate intake to 60 to 70 percent of your daily calorie intake as carbs will be the primary source of fuel for your body. Protein should take 15 to 25 percent while the other percentage comes from fats.
Marathon Training Plan
An ideal weekly full marathon training plan for beginners should have three days dedicated to running (divided into short, medium and long runs), two cross-training days (biking, swimming, hiking), and two rest days.
Read More: 20-Week Marathon Training Plan For All Levels
Is A 10-Week Marathon Training Plan Intermediate Routine Enough For A Full Marathon?
No, it is not. If you only have 10 weeks to get yourself and your body ready for a 26.2 miles run, we’d say just relax, and postpone your run for the coming year. Most experts suggest that it takes between 16 and 20 weeks to adequately train for a marathon and so a 10-week training schedule is too short (4, 9). If you were to attempt such a schedule, you will most likely end up suffering from overtraining, which brings about way more problems than the thought of completing your marathon run on race day.
Is A 12-Week Marathon Training Plan Intermediate Schedule Enough Time For A Full Marathon?
No it is not. As previously stated above the most ideal time frame for anyone to train successfully for a marathon is 16 to 20 weeks of dedicated work. If you only have 12 weeks to train, we suggest that instead of a full marathon, try instead, training for a half marathon.
A point to also note is that this schedule will only work for a half marathon race only if you’re currently running under 10 miles each week. If your distance is lower than this, set your sights on running a 5k or a 10k race.
Remember that even advanced, elite runners – who are in great shape and are used to long distance running – need more than this time frame to train well. Podium Runner suggests that 12 weeks is the least timeframe an elite runner needs for a marathon – the best training plan for them is about 16 weeks (5).
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Is A Marathon Training Plan Intermediate 6 Weeks Schedule Good?
As previously shown above a 6-week marathon training plan is certainly not a good idea for anyone – be it a beginner, intermediate, or elite runner. This training plan, however, would be much better suited for a 5k race (3.1 miles/5,000 meters) instead.
The Bottom Line
If you have taken part in a marathon before and are not only looking to participate in another but to also increase your speeds from the last race then this intermediate marathon training plan is for you. Before attempting this plan, please be sure to first speak to your doctor, fix your diet, and scout the best and safest running routes and tracks. Above all else, have fun and good luck in your next race!
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. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Cross education and immobilisation: Mechanisms and implications for injury rehabilitation (2011, jsams.org)
- Effects of cross-training. Transfer of training effects on VO2max between cycling, running and swimming (1994, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Friction blisters and sock fiber composition. A double-blind study (1990, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How long does it take to train for a marathon? (n.d., asics.com)
- How Many Weeks Do You Really Need To Train For A Marathon? (2017, podiumrunner.com)
- How to Run a Faster Marathon (n.d., nytimes.com)
- Is it ok to run everyday? (2021, runnersworld.com)
- Sprint cycling training improves intermittent run performance (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- That Viral Video About Training Only 10 Weeks for Your First Marathon? Yeah, No (2017, runnersworld.com)
- Training and Competition Readiness in Triathlon (2019, mdpi.com)
- Your clothes matter: The best fabrics for a good run (2018, medium.com)