So you want to run (another) marathon. You’ve come to the right place. Developed by running coach Michelle Portalatin, C.S.C.S. with inputs from Rebeka Stowe, C.S.C.S. and Nike+ Run Club coach, this 12-week training plan is designed for intermediate runners who have already run their first marathon and who have been consistently keeping up 25-mile weeks.
Here, a breakdown of the various components that make up your 12-week marathon training plan (see below for the printable schedule), plus tips on how to determine your pacing.
What to Include In Your 12-Week Marathon Training Plan
Active Recovery/Rest Days
The day after your long run is all about rest and recovery. Yoga is great for runners because it counteracts the pounding, tightening, and shortening of muscles that happen while running. It’s also great for targeting muscles that you need to be stretched, like the hips and the hamstrings. (See: 11 Yoga Poses Every Runner Needs to Know) As an added bonus, yoga can help with your posture and keep your chest opened up so you can breathe better (aka more oxygen to your muscles and improved efficiency.)
Yoga not for you? Use this day to go for a walk or take a rest day. Just be sure you’re incorporating stretching and some solid self-care into your 12-week marathon training plan one way or another to prevent overtraining or injury.
Strength Training Days
Hitting the weight room is crucial for runners to boost performance, prevent injury, and keep you strong when you feel like you can’t lift your legs at mile 25. Experts recommend moves like squats and deadlifts that are great for firing up your hamstrings and glutes (important since runners tend to be quad-dominant) and using free weights to activate your core muscles and challenge your balance, which can help prevent injury. (BTW, runners need balance and stability training too.)
The point of cross-training is to build up muscles that you wouldn’t normally use in running and increase your aerobic capacity to make you faster and more efficient. Some research has shown that doing HIIT training with minimal rest on a bike may be one effective way to do that, but if cycling isn’t for you, you can also try swimming, rowing, the stair-climber, or another activity that you enjoy. (
Note: While day 6 of the 12-week marathon training plan indicates cross-training (30-45 minutes of aerobic exercise that isn't running), you can opt for a rest day instead.
Hill, Speed, and Tempo Runs
This 12-week marathon training plan incorporates fartlek, hills, tempo, and interval runs to improve your endurance. “Hills are a great place to begin training, as they support the development of leg strength and benefit biomechanics by encouraging the use of the posterior chain,” explains Stowe. “Often, hills lead us to a more ideal ground contact time and increased cadence.” Starting the first three to four weeks of training with hills is great because of the developed strength and focus on effort versus pace, she adds. (Wait, what’s the average marathon time?)
How to Determine Your Pace
The easiest way to figure out your pacing for the tempo runs (which are crucial for training your body to sustain speed over any race distance) is to use a recent race performance or a one- or two-mile time trial result as a starting place, explains Stowe. A great resource is the VDot02 Calculator, which does the work for you to determine equivalent performance times and helps you determine upcoming performance goals. You can then begin thinking in terms of ‘current pace vs. goal pace’ or utilize the training paces they prescribe you for 10K pace, 5K pace, and interval/mile pace to support your 12-week marathon training plan. The app will also give you an ‘easy’ pace that will allow you to still hold a conversation, comfortably. (And seriously, don’t be afraid to go EASY on easy days, says Stowe.)