This is how you run your best marathon

You’ve run a marathon, and now you have the endurance bug and you want to improve your finish time! If this is your case, you’ve come to the right place. Here is a 20 Week Training Plan for how to run your best marathon.

The Faster Marathon Training Schedule is designed for those that have run at least one marathon, have a current running base of at least 20 total miles per week with a long run of at least 6 miles, and who want to build on their fitness and improve their time.

It’s also geared to those who have been regularly running at least four times per week for 4-6 miles. If you’re running less, no worries, simply invest in a few more weeks of training to build your running time up to that level so you’re ready to tackle the demands of this program. Keep reading for marathon training tips and tricks for running a personal best in your next race!

This program is twenty weeks in duration to allow your body time to adapt to the demands of building your mileage up to run the marathon distance. The duration of the plan also allows for life’s detours along the way (vacation, illness, work…).

Download the plan

When you download the 20 Week Best Marathon Training Plan, you’ll find a gradually progressing 20-week plan that includes four runs per week, two cross-training days, and one rest day.

The Zones

There are three training zones (yellow, orange and red). The training zones specify the intensity for each workout so you can strategically build stamina, endurance and speed.

runners-high-zone-chart

Warm ups

Before every workout you should walk for about three minutes. Start with an easy pace and work up to a brisk one that is close to running. This will increase breathing rate, heart rate and circulation to the working muscles gradually.

Cool downs

Cool down after every workout with a three to five minute walk. Start at a brisk pace and walk more slowly toward the end. This will aid in flushing the muscles of metabolic waste and gradually bring you back to a resting state.

Long Runs

The longer runs on the weekends gradually build to twenty miles to prepare you race the marathon distance. You’ll notice that most of the long runs should be in the easy, yellow zone of effort. This is to build endurance, teach your body to burn fat as a fuel source and assure optimal recovery. You may be tempted to run hard on these days, but recovery is important! If you run these workouts too fast or hard it will delay your recovery and affect the quality of your next workout. Over time this will decrease your running performance.

Race Simulation Runs

There are a few “race simulation runs” scattered in the long run plan. Think of these as dress rehearsals for your race: they teach you how to pace yourself to a faster marathon finish. These workouts are eight miles in distance, and should be run in all three zones. Run the first four miles in the yellow zone, run the next three in the orange zone and finish the final mile in the red zone. The key is to start easy, pick it up, and then finish strong.

Easy Runs

The shorter, easy yellow zone runs bridge the gap between your long runs, build your aerobic fitness and aid in allowing your body to recover from the demands of the faster and longer runs. If you’re having a tough week, feel free to drop the short, easy run on Friday and run three runs that week instead.

 

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Speed Workouts

The speed runs are shorter in time, but pack a punch with red zone running intervals. You’ll improve your speed with these fun runs and the time will fly by!

Speed Workout 1:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Repeat 8 times:
    • Run 1 minute at your Red Zone Effort.
    • Follow with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.
  • Run 5 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Cool down walking for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Speed Workout 2:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Repeat 6 times:
    • Run 2 minute at your Red Zone Effort.
    • Follow with 3 minutes of very easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.
  • Run 5 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Cool down walking for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Speed and Hill Workout:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Repeat 5 times:
    • Fast 1 minute: Run one minute in your Red Zone Effort (just outside your comfort zone).
    • Slow 2 minutes: Follow with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.
    • Hill 1 minute: Increase the treadmill incline to 3-4% and run at your Red Zone Effort Zone
    • Slow and flat 2 minutes: Lower incline to 0% and run 2 minutes at a very easy jogging effort to catch your breath.
  • Cool down running easy at 0% incline for 5 minutes and walk for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Tempo Runs

These are a favorite among runners because they’re done at an effort that feels good and empowering. It’s somewhere between and easy and hard running effort, and can be quite the cathartic experience when you’re finished.

Tempo Workout 1:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Repeat 5 times:
    • Run 5 minutes at the top of your Orange Zone Effort.
    • Follow with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.
  • Run 5 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Cool down walking for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Tempo Workout 2:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Repeat 2 times:
    • Run 10 minutes at the top of your Orange Zone Effort.
    • Follow with 2 minutes of very easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.
  • Run 5 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Cool down walking for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Tempo Workout 3:

  • Warm up walking for 3 minutes, starting easy and build to a brisk pace by the end.
  • Run 10 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Run 25 minutes at the top of your Orange Zone Effort.
  • Run 5 minutes in your easy yellow zone effort.
  • Cool down walking for 3 minutes, starting at a brisk pace and slowing by the end.

Cross-training

Mix up your program on the cross-training days and include lower impact activities like cycling, elliptical, yoga, and strength training. For example, workout on the elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes at an orange zone effort and follow it with a strength routine. Strength and flexibility are your best friends on this journey. If you include them twice a week they will help keep you running happy and injury free.

 

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Rest Days

These are your days off from training and rigorous activity. They help with passive recovery from your demanding and progressive training plan. They are just as important as the workouts.

Finally, listen to your body and let it be your guide. It will tell you when you’re too tired to train and when you’re ready to push harder. Week by week, you’ll improve and get ready to blast your marathon finish time. Good luck!

Coach Jenny Hadfield is a published author, writer, coach, public speaker and endurance athlete. To find out more, visit our Meet Our Writers page or visit Coach Jenny’s website.



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