Marathon beginner running guide

This training guide will get you running a marathon in 18 weeks, one step at a time.

If you are aiming to complete your first marathon event, this training program is for you.

Everyone is an individual and your base level of fitness may vary. For those who already have been doing some running, this general program should give you all the endurance you will need to reach your marathon goal.

If you are new to running and find some of these early runs a little challenging, consider completing the half marathon ‘I can do this’ training guide first to give yourself a base to build into the marathon training.

This 18-week training guide is just that, a guide, so feel free to be a little flexible to make it work for you.

Remember this is an 18-week program and you don’t need to go too hard, too soon – that is what demotivates people or causes injury. Build your way into it.

Download your marathon 18-week training guide as a pdf

Training days explained

Long runs: The key to the guide is the long run on weekends, which builds from 10km in week 1 to 32km in week 15. The long runs are really the ones you can’t miss. Every third week you will drop back in distance to allow you to push forward again the following week.

Run slow: Do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that would allow you to converse with a training partner, at least during the beginning of the run. If you finish the long run at a pace significantly slower than your early pace, you need to start much slower. It’s better to run too slow during these long runs, than too fast, the purpose is to cover the prescribed distance.

Walking breaks: It is okay to walk during the marathon, in particular your first marathon. You can walk during training runs too. In a race the best time to walk is entering a drinks station, that way you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running.

Cross-training: Sundays in the training guide are for cross-training. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or walking. You don’t have to cross-train the same each weekend and you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and cycling or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a gym. Cross-training on Sunday will help you recover after your Saturday long runs.

Midweek training: Sessions during the week should be done at an easy pace.

Half marathon: The guide recommends completing a half marathon event for race experience. You’ll become accustomed to the start line wait, how much fluid to drink and the feeling of running amongst hundreds or thousands of other entrants.

Rest: Days designated to rest are very important. Muscles actually regenerate and get stronger during rest and rest helps prevent injury. The key to this guide is consistency – if you are feeling particularly tired at any stage, take an extra rest day and get your energy back to keep going.

Download the full guide here.

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