February 23, 2018

A Six-Month Marathon Training Plan to get from 5K to 26.2 Miles

For a few years now, I've been asked why I don't write a marathon training plan--I have the other distances covered--1 mile, 5K, 10K, and half-marathon. Why not a marathon?

Honestly, when I training for the Chicago Marathon using Hansons Marathon Method, I thought the plan was pretty flawless. I trained per the schedule, and I had an AMAZING race--I never hit the infamous wall, and my legs felt fantastic the entire time. I was running just "for fun" that day, but because I had trained as if to run a 3:55, I believe I could have run a sub-4:00 marathon if that had been my goal. I really believe in the Hansons Marathon Method.

And that is why I haven't written a marathon training plan. I always direct people to Hansons.

However, I understand that not everyone has hours to run every day. There were two months in a row that I ran over 200 miles while training! For someone who has a family and a full-time job, I just don't see Hansons being a plan that would fit into his or her life very easily. Also, not everybody wants to run six days a week.

So, while I still think that Hansons is a fantastic plan if you are a dedicated runner that has the time it takes to fit in all of that running, I think there should definitely be other options for those of us that can't or don't want to follow that plan. Which is why I finally wrote a plan that I believe will be worthwhile.

This isn't necessarily a plan for "beginners", because there is a fair amount of speed work involved (a true beginner should work on building up a solid base of easy running before adding in speed work).  However, runners who are familiar with using training plans and have been running for a while could certainly do well with this plan, even if the most they've run is a 5K.

My goal for this plan was to keep it regular-runner friendly (people who have families and/or full time jobs or otherwise busy lives), but to also contain the necessary work it takes to run a good race. (This plan is five days a week, and the weekday runs are under 60 minutes.)

It's a six-month plan so that it doesn't have to be so fast-paced to prepare one to run a marathon. Life happens--we get sick for a week, we go on vacation, etc. I've written in a "step back" week every third week throughout the plan and, if necessary, that can be used to help out in those circumstances.

I also wanted it to be fun. I've included a variety of different workouts--in addition to the token (although necessary) easy runs, I've scheduled short sprint intervals, longer intervals, tempo runs, tempo interval runs, race pace runs, and a touch of light speed work thrown into some long runs to keep the double digit miles from getting boring.

You all know I'm a fan of the 80/20 running method (check out Matt Fitzgerald's book, 80/20 Running). So, I've actually done all the math for you in this plan! Believe me, I spent more time doing that than I did losing 125 pounds. It's super important to do your easy runs at a very easy pace--then feel free to let loose on the speed work ;)

So, if you can run a 5K, you can run a marathon... in six months. I wish I could say that I was going to sign up for a marathon and test out this plan... but I'll leave that to you, hahaha. I am not in the mental place to train for a marathon right now (or probably ever). If you do use the plan, though, I welcome your feedback.

If something in the plan isn't clear, please feel free to ask. Best wishes on your training!

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF of the Runs for Cookies Marathon Training Plan

While you're at it, check out some other posts that may be helpful while you train:

The Importance of the Easy Run (A *must* read!)
My Favorite Running Things
50 Tips for Running
All About Fueling During Runs
Tips for Running (and training for!) Your First Marathon
First Marathon: A guest post by my sister
Final Thoughts on Hansons Marathon Method


  1. Thank you!! This looks great. I've run several half marathons, am doing a Ragnar in two weeks, and I want to do a full marathon next year. Most training plans scare me, as like you mentioned, I'm a working mom with not a lot of time. But you make this one sound very doable and I appreciate that!! So thank you for taking the time to plan this out and post it.

  2. I always heard great things about Hansons so I tried it for my 3rd marathon. I am the oddball as it left me burnt out and injured not to mention my worst marathon time (although the weather wasn't ideal that day). My 45yo body did not like running 6 days a week. Definitely time consuming especially if you are a slowish runner like me. Your plan is much more doable with 2 rest days a week.

  3. I find out Wednesday if I got into the NYC Marathon! Perfect timing. 🤩. I’m doing run eat repeats 1/2 training right now (Yosemite NP Half is in May). I liked it because it’s so beginner geared! No matter how long I have run I always feel like a beginner. 🙈


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