With a distance of 42.195 kilometers, marathon running is highly demanding.

Too demanding to successfully cover this distance without targeted training. Accordingly, several months of targeted training are essential for a "successful marathon".

But how long should you actually train? This depends on the one hand on the objective, on the other hand also on the previous performance.

For the period of the specific marathon training a duration of 12 - 16 weeks has proven itself. This means that the specific marathon training starts about 3 to 4 months before the marathon. However, this does not mean that you should do nothing beforehand.

Lay the groundwork for marathon training!

By the time you start systematic training for the marathon (i.e. 12 - 16 weeks before the marathon date), you should already have set a clear goal for the marathon. A clear goal does not only mean "finishing the marathon", but also having a target time. Even if you are not an ambitious runner and have had little running experience, we recommend that you focus your marathon goal on a time. Whether that is 4:30 hours or 6 hours depends on your current performance potential.

Before specific marathon training: Determine your performance potential!

You can either have your performance potential determined by an experienced coach or by using certain formulas based on your best performances from sub-distances (5 kilometers, 10 kilometers or half marathon). With this, you can determine your current performance potential within one minute.

Another method developed by HDsports is the performance potential table. Using this you can alsocalculate your performance potential over other distances based on a best time.

The specific training for the marathon

After you have determined your current performance potential 12 - 16 weeks before the marathon by means of a performance diagnosis by a coach or the methods listed above, you now start with the targeted training for the marathon.

The classic training plans, as we offer them here at HDsports, go over a period of 12 weeks. That means you start your marathon training 12 weeks before the marathon race. These 12 weeks should be enough for hobby runners to reach their marathon goal. Even top runners usually train specifically for the marathon over a period of about 3 months.

Which actually answers the main question of the article: the "specific" training for the marathon starts 12 weeks before the race. That means you need to train for a marathon for 12 weeks. However, as mentioned earlier, that doesn't mean you should do nothing beforehand. The better you are trained before, the higher are the chances to reach your goal.

How does marathon training work?

The most important training sessions for the marathon

In our marathon training plans, all training units are precisely defined for the entire 12 weeks. However, we would like to give you a brief overview of the structure of a marathon training plan. Because the structure is anything but complex and easy to understand even for beginners

A week of marathon training usually includes the following units:

  • 1 long endurance run (longjog) 25 - 40 kilometers or a maximum of 3 hours
  • 1 tempo unit and/or interval training. For hobby runners, one intensive tempo unit per week is sufficient. Top runners usually complete two more intensive units per week.
  • Basic runs of up to 20 km: number depends on performance level.
  • Strength training / stability training: 1 - 2 times per week, ideally after basic runs (but not the long jog) or tempo units.

The classic schedule for top runners would be something like:

  • Monday: Basics (max. 20 km)
  • Tuesday: interval training
  • Wednesday: Basics (max. 20 km)
  • Thursday: Long endurance run
  • Friday: Basics (max. 20 km)
  • Saturday: Driving game / change of pace
  • Sunday: Basics (approx. 20 km)

In addition regular strength training

Enclosed also an excerpt from the training of Eliud Kipchoge, who was the first person in the world to run the marathon in under 2 hours: This is how Eliud Kipchoge trains

The classic schedule for a hobby runner with a target time of under 5 hours for the marathon:

  • Monday: Rest day
  • Tuesday: Basics (10 km)
  • Wednesday: Rest day
  • Thursday: Basics (up to 10 km)
  • Friday: interval training (6 x 2 km slightly faster than half marathon pace)
  • Saturday: Strength training (or on Friday after the intervals)
  • Sunday: Long endurance run (18 km GA1 + 5 km GA2 + 4 km at marathon pace)

3 - 4 running sessions per week

Zum E-Book Trainingspläne für Läufer und Läuferinnen

Important note: After 3 weeks, a recovery week with reduced volume and intensity has proven to be effective. So in the marathon training plan, weeks 4 and 8 would be regenerative. In the 12th week, i.e. the week that concludes with the marathon competition, there is a drastic reduction in training volume and intensity anyway. Also in the 11th week, the volume is already brought down. The last long endurance run ideally takes place exactly 2 weeks before the marathon competition.

Marathon training duration: The most important facts

  • 12 weeks before the marathon the specific marathon training starts
  • 12 weeks before the marathon, the goal for the marathon must be set
  • Goal setting based on performance diagnostics by the trainer or on best times from the sub-distances

More about running:


Mittwoch, 30. August 2023 22:03
When you decide to run one. The build up in the 6-12 months before most marathon plans begin is at least as important as the as the 12-16 week plans many runners follow. Endurance training is cumulative, so thinking ahead even as much as two years before one's first marathon is not unreasonable.
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Mittwoch, 30. August 2023 20:08
It depends on what your current training and athletic history are, as well as how effective and wide-ranging your training is when you're not training "for" a marathon. To be effective, training has to be based more on where you are now than where you want to go. It also depends on your overall racing schedule (are you racing just marathon after marathon all year?), and whether you have more to gain from long-term progress or more to gain from sharpening fitness for a specific event. Lots of considerations. For most of my clients, the specific phase is 4-6 weeks.
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