The Rookie Marathon Training Plan

A marathon training plan designed for first-time marathoners who seldom run or race beyond 6 miles

June 3, 2011
two women running outside
Photolibrary

On Sunday, November 6, about 45,000 runners will stampede through the five boroughs of the Big Apple in the 2011 ING New York City Marathon. With more than 2 million spectators expected on the course and 315 million worldwide TV viewers, marathon fever is in full force. It's just enough to make you want to lace up your shoes and sign up for a race in 2012. Whether you set your sights on New York City, or decide to participate in one of the dozens of other 26.2-milers from coast to coast (it's a good idea to have a back-up choice—more than 100,000 people apply for New York's 45,000 spots every year), the plan here will help you conquer your first marathon.

This easy-to-follow 16-week training plan by Dan Finanger, manager of wellness coaching at OptumHealth, who has helped thousands of marathoners meet their goals, will help you gear up for the big day and cross the finish line strong. The instructions for each type of run are listed below, followed by a week-by-week schedule detailed on the next page.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Quality Days

Mix and match from the following menu of workouts—or be creative and make up your own. The effort level should be moderately hard—no sprinting—and go easier in the first three and last three weeks of your plan. Always sandwich workouts with a warmup and cooldown. (Try this  strength-training warmup plan that does double duty.)

Fartlek: Pick up the pace for segments of 30 seconds to four minutes, interspersed with easy-paced segments of similar duration. Go by time or run them between trees, street signs, or other landmarks during your run.

Discover 8 spectacular waterfront races.

Kenyan Outbacks: These are like tempo runs—a few miles at a challenging pace—but with the second half much faster than the first. Example: Run an out-and-back route with the "out" in 20 minutes and the "back" in 17 minutes. (Bonus: Get the ultimate guide to help you run your butt off.)

Track ladders: Do a track workout up and down the distance ladder. Early in the buildup the ladder range can be 200 to 800 meters; later on it can rise to 800 to 1600 meters. Example: Run 200, 400, 800, 400, and 200. Include an equal amount of slow jogging to recover between each faster repeat. (Search: Tips to run faster)

Yasso 800s: In the early weeks of the schedule, run six 800-meter repeats with 400-meter recovery jogs. Increase the number to 10 during peak training. (More: Running drills that will get your heart pounding)

Hill repeats: Focus on form, not speed. In the early weeks, run four to six times up a moderate hill of 100 to 200 meters at an easy effort. Walk or jog down. In the middle of the training plan, simply do some tempo and long runs on hilly routes. Late in the buildup, run three to eight hill repeats of 100 to 400 meters at a medium to hard effort.

Best hydration tips for runners

Wk Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Total
1 XT 0-30 min Easy 3-4 miles
Easy 2-3 miles Easy 3-4 miles
Rest Easy 4-5 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
14-19 miles
2 XT 0-30 min Easy 3-4 miles Easy 2-3 miles
Easy 3-4 miles 
Rest
Easy 5-6 miles Easy 2-3 miles
15-20 miles
3 XT 0-30 min Quality 4-5 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
Tempo 3-4 mile Rest
Easy 6-7 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
17-22 miles
4 XT 0-45 min Quality 4-5 miles Easy 3-4 miles
Tempo 4-5 miles
Rest
Easy 7-8 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
20-25 miles
5 XT 0-45 min Quality 5-6 miles Easy 3-4 miles 
Tempo 4-5 miles
Rest
Easy 8-9 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
22-25 miles
6 XT 0-45 min Quality 5-6 miles Easy 3-4 miles 
Tempo 5-6 miles
Rest
Easy 10-11 miles
Easy 2-3 miles
25-30 miles
7 XT 0-60 min Quality 6-7 miles 
Easy 3-4 miles 
Tempo 5-6 miles Rest
Easy 11-12 miles
Easy 3-4 miles
28-33 miles
8 XT 0-60 min Quality 7-8 miles
Easy 3-4 miles 
Tempo 6-7 miles
Rest
Easy 13-14 miles
Easy 3-4 miles 
32-37 miles
9 XT 0-60 min Quality 7-8 miles 
Easy 4-5 miles 
Tempo 6-7 miles   Rest
Easy 10-11 miles
Easy 3-4 miles 
30-35 miles
10 XT 0-90 min Quality 7-8 miles 
Easy 4-5 miles
Tempo 7-8 miles Rest
Easy 15-16 miles
Easy 2-3 miles 
35-40 miles
11 XT 0-90 min Quality 6-7 miles  
Easy 4-5 miles
Tempo 6-7 miles Rest
Easy 17-18 miles
Easy 2-3 miles 
35-40 miles
12 XT 0-90 min Quality 7-8 miles  Easy 4-5 miles
Tempo 7-8 miles
Rest
Easy 14-15 miles
Easy 3-4 miles  35-40 miles
13 XT 0-90 min Quality 7-8 miles  
Easy 3-4 miles
Tempo 6-7 miles
Rest
Easy 20 miles
Easy 2-3 miles  
38-42 miles
14 XT 0-60 min Quality 6-7 miles  
Easy 3-4 miles
Tempo 5-6 miles
Rest
Easy 14-15 miles
Rest
28-32 miles
15 XT 0-45 min Quality 5-6 miles Easy 3-4 miles
Tempo 4-5 miles Rest
Easy 10-11 miles
Rest
22-26 miles
16 XT 0-30 min Easy 4 miles
Easy 3 miles
Easy 2 miles
Rest
Rest
Marathon
35 miles

Get more tips to build your endurance and speed. Sign up for a Fitbie newsletter.