marathon-training-plan

Running a half marathon with next to no training is one of the most physically painful mistakes I’ve ever made.

The 2019 Brighton Half Marathon was my first race event and getting round the entire course was a serious struggle.

A couple of weeks after the race — once my limp had subsided, my knees worked again, and the memory of vomiting all the way home had faded — I somehow convinced myself I’d had a fantastic time. This naturally led me to sign up to run the Brighton 2020 Marathon.

Brighton Marathon Training Plan Beginner Coe Alix.png

Brighton Half Marathon, 2019

Fortunately my friend Jason — a seasoned competitive runner and all-round wonderful human — agreed to run by my side; not only through the training but also the actual marathon.

I decided to take my training a lot more seriously this time around and reached out to another runner friend for advice. He suggested the Runner’s World First-Timers Marathon Schedule as a good template to use.

The Runner’s World training plan is spread over 16 weeks. I wanted to give myself more time to train because I knew I would be taking a month out for metoidioplasty surgery recovery. So I put together a 24-week (six-month) training plan that you can check out below.

In addition to scheduled runs, I also wanted to make sure I included full-body strength training, as well as lower-body workouts.

COVID-19 Update

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Brighton Marathon was initially postponed, and then took place as a virtual event. This meant that all runners downloaded an app, and then had to complete the distance on their own, using the app to track their distance. 

This also meant that Jason and I decided to run separately. He completed his run in Kent, and I did mine along the seafront in Brighton.

We dedicated our marathon efforts to raising money for Allsorts, an LGBTQ+ Youth Project, and made around £2,000!

alix coe marathon training plan

6-Month Training Plan for Marathon Runners

The following training plan is the routine I decided to stick to and if you’re training for your first marathon then I hope you’ll find it helpful too!

This is a very basic plan that aims to help you complete the marathon without a goal time, so complete the scheduled runs at a comfortable pace.

Note: This plan will only be suitable for you if you can already comfortably run a 5k. If you can’t then see the advice at the bottom of the post for working up to that.

If you’re looking with additional help with your health, fitness, or nutrition, then reach out to me for a chat about online coaching.

Also, you’ll see every Tuesday I have an ‘active rest day’. For me, this meant doing some walking and playing a friendly hour-long game of basketball in the evening. But for you, this could be anything, as long as you’re moving around a moderate amount and also doing some stretching.

Obviously feel free to mix the days up to best fit your schedule!

Week 1

Monday: Run – 5km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Run – 5km

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Run – 7km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 17km

Week 2

Monday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 6km

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Saturday: Run – 8km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 14km

Week 3

Monday: Run – 6km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Run – 7km

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Run – 8km

Total km: 21km

Week 4

Monday: Rest Day

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 6km

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Run – 6km

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Run – 10km

Total km: 22km

Week 5

Monday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 6km

Thursday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Friday: Run – 6km

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 10km

Total km: 22km

Week 6

Monday: Run – 6km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 6km

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 12km

Total km: 24km

Week 7

Monday: Run – 6km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Run – 7km

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Run – 12km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 25km

Week 8

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Run – 10km

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Run – 10km

Total km: 27km

Week 9

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 9km

Thursday: Strength Training – Full Body

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run – 12km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 28km

Week 10

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 9km

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Run – 14km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 30km

Week 11

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Friday: Run – 9km

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 15km

Total km: 31km

Week 12

Monday: Run – 6km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 10km

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Strength Training – Full Body

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 15km

Total km: 31km

Week 13

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 10km

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Saturday: Run – 16km

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 33km

Week 14

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 10km

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Run – 18km

Sunday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Total km: 35km

Week 15

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Run – 10km

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Sunday: Run – 18km

Total km: 35km

Week 16

Monday: Run – 7km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Run – 15km

Friday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 18km

Total km: 40km

Week 17

Monday: Run – 9km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Thursday: Run – 13km

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Run – 20km

Total km: 42km

Week 18

Monday: Run – 9km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Full Body

Thursday: Run – 16km

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 20km

Total km: 45km

Week 19

Monday: Run – 10km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Thursday: Run – 15km

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Sunday: Run – 25km

Total km: 50km

Week 20

Monday: Run – 10km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Run – 15km

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday: Run – 30km

Total km: 55km

Week 21

Monday: Run – 12km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Run – 15km

Friday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Run – 33km

Total km: 60km

Week 22

Monday: Run – 8km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Friday: Run – 17km

Saturday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Sunday: Run – 35km

Total km: 60km

Week 23

Monday: Run – 10km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Run – 18km

Thursday: Strength Training – Upper Body

Friday: Run – 20km

Saturday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Sunday: Rest Day

Total km: 48km

Week 24

For the final week of training before the marathon, I’m dropping the distance right down.

Monday: Run – 5km

Tuesday: Active Rest Day

Wednesday: Strength Training – Lower Body

Thursday: Run – 10km

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: Rest Day

Sunday – RACE DAY!!!

If you’ve made it this far then good luck on your run and huge congratulations for making it through this six-month training plan!

Nutrition for Marathon Runners

If you’re preparing to begin this six month marathon training plan, then it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition.

Nutrition for marathon runners is crucial for optimising performance, recovery, and overall health. A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients, but careful attention must be paid to ensure you meet your energy, protein, and nutrient needs.

Here are some key nutrition considerations for marathon runners:

1. Carbohydrates:

  • Carbohydrates are the primary energy source for endurance activities like marathon running. Include whole grains (e.g., quinoa, oats, brown rice), starchy vegetables, and legumes in your meals to ensure you have enough glycogen stores for your runs.

2. Protein:

  • Vegan sources of protein include beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and plant-based protein powders. Aim for a sufficient protein intake to support muscle repair and growth, typically around 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

3. Healthy Fats:

  • Include sources of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil to support overall health and provide a source of long-lasting energy during your runs.

4. Hydration:

  • Proper hydration is essential. Drink water regularly and consider sports drinks or electrolyte replacements for longer runs. Aim to stay well-hydrated before, during, and after your marathon.

5. Micronutrients:

  • Pay attention to key nutrients often found in animal products:
    • Vitamin B12: Vegan runners should consider B12 supplements or fortified foods.
    • Iron: Plant-based sources of iron (e.g., lentils, spinach) can be less readily absorbed, so consume iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources for better absorption.
    • Calcium: Fortified plant milks, tofu, and leafy greens can provide calcium.
    • Vitamin D: Consider a vitamin D supplement, as it’s challenging to get enough from food alone, especially in regions with limited sun exposure.

6. Pre-race Meal:

  • Consume a balanced meal 3-4 hours before the race. It should be rich in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fiber to prevent digestive issues.

7. During the Race:

  • Consider fueling with energy gels, chews, or easily digestible foods. Make sure they are vegan-friendly and practice with them during training.

8. Post-race Recovery:

  • After the race, consume a balanced meal that includes carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and protein for muscle repair. Also, rehydrate and consider foods rich in antioxidants to aid in recovery.

9. Meal Planning:

  • Plan your meals to ensure you get a wide variety of nutrients. Consider consulting with a registered dietitian who specializes in vegan nutrition to create a personalized meal plan.

10. Supplements:

  • Depending on your dietary choices and individual needs, consider supplements for nutrients like B12, iron, and vitamin D, as deficiencies can be more common in vegans.

Remember that individual needs can vary, so it’s a good idea to work with a registered dietitian who can tailor a nutrition plan to your specific requirements, including your training volume and goals. They can help you optimize your diet for peak performance and recovery as a vegan marathon runner.

The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Completing a Marathon

Have you ever wanted to run a marathon? Here I’ll discuss the amazing psychological and physical benefits of completing one.

Running a marathon can be an incredibly rewarding experience, both physically and mentally. From improved physical fitness to increased confidence and self-esteem, there are numerous benefits to completing a marathon that make it worth the considerable effort required.

Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence

Training for and completing a marathon is no small feat. Finishing the race is sure to give you a huge boost in confidence, pride and self-esteem.

Knowing that you can push your body to the physical limits required, maintain focus and stay motivated through the rigorous training process demonstrates to yourself the strength of your character and capacity for success.

Improved Emotional Well-Being

Research has uncovered that participating in endurance and long-distance running can result in improved emotional well-being and better overall mental health. This is likely to stem from a combination of increased self-esteem, increased resilience, reduced stress and being able to actively move past physical pain barriers.

On the other hand, individuals who don’t participate in regular exercise can be more prone to anxiety and depression.

Deeper Sleep and Increased Energy Levels

Completing a marathon can help your physical health by improving your sleep and energy levels. Not only does the challenge of getting up early to train for a marathon encourage good sleep habits, but during endurance sports, the body produces more endorphins and serotonin.

That’s why after a good run, you may feel tired yet energised at the same time. Furthermore, exercise such as running has long-term effects on promoting deeper sleep throughout the night, which is essential for overall physical fitness and well-being.

Strengthened Heart Health Through Increased Blood Flow

Following a training program to complete a full marathon also helps strengthen your heart health. Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow during the run, helping to flush out toxins and impurities from the body.

Regular running strengthens your heart muscles, improving its profile for overall better health and reducing the risk of cardiac problems in the future.

Enhanced Stress Resilience Through Endorphin Release

Endorphins, referred to as the ‘happy hormones’, get released during a run and they can help tackle stress levels.

Studies have shown that regular training can increase your resilience to stress and support mental cognition. This means that you may be better equipped to handle stressful situations in daily life when running is part of your routine.

Marathon Running FAQs

What about a sub-4 hours marathon training plan?

If you’re prepared to put in a solid six months of marathon training, and you’re physically fit with good stamina, then you could possibly complete the race in less than four hours.

However, if this is your first marathon, then why not take it easy and enjoy the process. The last thing you want is to get injured and drop out of the event entirely. Also, if you try to go too fast, too soon, you may find you run out of energy and can’t complete the race.

Can you go from couch to marathon in six months?

Absolutely yes you can! However, this will naturally depend on any physical limitations you have, as well as how much time and effort you are going to put in.

If you plan to run a marathon, but you’ve never been a runner before, then it’s wise to build up to a 5k first. Joining Parkrun events, or downloading the C25K app, is a great place to start.

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