18 Week Marathon Training Plan Tips

Are you wondering if a 18 week marathon training plan is the best plan of action to get a new personal best? If so, welcome to Run Dream Achieve. I am glad you have made it here. Yes, 18 weeks is a great time frame to prepare for a marathon. That being said, 20 to 24 weeks is optimal. I always preach a longer build up for the visitors that come here rather than a shorter one. Of course, I do have training plans here that range from 8 to 24 weeks in length.

I know runners have demanding schedules. Few are able to train full-time like a professional athlete. So, we all have differing time frames preparing for our races. That being said, I highly recommend focusing on a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks for your events. The reason for this is you won’t be in a rush. The body takes between 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress loading being placed on it. So, a 18 week marathon training plan can yield significant results. I have found the best time frame is 16 to 24 weeks.

I ran my PR of 2:19:35 off of a 24 week build up and my second fastest time of 2:26:42 off of a 20-week build up. Thus one of the major reasons I created both 20 and 24-week training plans here at RunDreamAchieve for runners. Again, longer is better especially as it pertains to the marathon distance.

Is 18 Weeks Enough Time to Train for a Marathon?

Of course. That being said, if you really want to earn a significant new personal best consider a 20 to 24-week build up. Again, you will be providing yourself adequate time to get in the best possible shape. I would also recommend training for a minimum of 4 weeks building easy, aerobic base mileage. My advice is to focus on that first before you start a 16, 20 or 24 week build up. The reason is you will strengthen the muscles, ligaments and joints.

Also, you will lessen the likelihood that you will get an injury. Again, great fitness cannot be rushed. Thus, an 18 week marathon training plan is good but a 20 to 24-week training plan is event better. I also advise investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245. It helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zones so I am not over training. It is far better to be under trained than to risk over training and get stale. So, using a heart rate monitor can help combat that to help you yield the greatest results possible.

How Many Weeks Do I Need to Train for a Marathon?

My recommendation is to prepare for a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks for your marathon. So, an 18 week marathon training plan falls within those perimeters. I have hand crafted training plans here that range from 8 to 24 weeks in length. So, you have a lot of options here to help set yourself up for success. The marathon takes time to truly prepare for adequately.

I ran my fastest marathon times off of 20 to 24 week build ups. Of course, other runners can still yield terrific results off of training plans as low as 8 weeks. Again, it just comes down to your schedule and how determined you truly are for success. I have done all I can here to create products and services to help athletes break barriers and many are.

Can You Prepare for a Marathon in 3 Months?

Yes. In fact, I have had many runners invest in my 12-week training plans and earn new personal bests. Again, it comes down to how focused you are and how you set up your training. A common mistake runners make it is running too much mileage too aerobically. Pace sustainment is a major problem for most runners. So, we want to train properly to improve the body’s lactate tolerance. The only way to do this is to run at faster paces more often.

The world’s top runners are running between 25 to 40% of their weekly mileage at or below their anaerobic threshold. We run between 85 to 89% of our max heart rate while running at this intensity. So, they make it look easy for a reason.

In addition, are able to sustain their race pace for longer periods of time. Also, are able to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Easy running is important but won’t produce this physiological effect. I teach this concept in-depth in my running courses. 3 months is a good build-up time frame for your marathon but optimal is 16 to 24 weeks is you want to really do it right.

How Do I Run a Marathon in 5 Months?

20 weeks is one of the most popular and successful time frames to prepare for your marathon. My advise is to start running your long runs at faster paces. I improved from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 using this tactic. I also implemented this strategy into my training plans and running course. In addition, have seen numerous RunDreamAchieve athletes setting new personal bests.

The idea is to train at varied paces during your long runs. So, don’t run long, slow and easy every single weekend. You will only be a superior easy, long and slow runner if you do. Again, we want to teach the body to improve its ability to clear lactic acid more efficiently. Below are some examples of faster, varied paced long runs I was doing prior to breaking the 2:20 marathon barrier.

  • 2 mile jog, 7 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 6 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 2 mile jog (24 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:30 mile pace, 3 miles easy, 1 mile in 5:00, 3 miles@5:55 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 1 mile jog cool-down (22 miles)

Remember, always follow a faster long run with an easy, jog long run the following weekend. Adaptation is essential. So, you have to allot sufficient time in order for your body to recover.

Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past preparing for your marathons? 5 miles? 7 miles? My advice is to work to lengthen that temp out to around 10 (16 kilometers) to 12 miles (20 kilometers) in length. Again, we have to train for longer periods of time at a higher percentage of our maximum heart rate. The only way to improve your lactate tolerance is running at faster paces for longer periods of time.

You also need to ensure that you are jogging on recovery days. So, don’t worry about what pace per mile or pace per kilometer you are running at on easy days. You need to take it easy and relax on recovery days. Remember, the faster workouts are going to test you both mentally as well as physically. How often do you mentally rehearse for your races? Mental training is a major component of running success.

So, start visualizing yourself crossing the finish line with your goal marathon time on the clock. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes daily to do this. The best time for mental training is when you first get up in the morning or go to bed at night. So, see yourself passing people, running relaxed and calm and achieving your goal. I would recommend making this a part of your daily routine starting now.

JOG on Recover Days

There is only so many times you can push the body hard before you get diminished returns. So, your recovery is essential. I see far too many runners still running too fast on their easy days. I trained with sub 2:10 marathoners from Kenya who would jog at 9 to 10 minute mile pace on their easy days. Remember, these are athletes that can sustain sub-5-minute mile pace for 26.2 miles. Success leaves clues, duplicate what the best do and you have a higher likelihood of getting similar results.

Focus on drinking more during your long runs as well. You may get away with not drinking in a 5K but not a marathon. My advise is to start dropping water bottles out every 3 miles or 5 kilometers on your long run route. The goal here is to practice ingesting fluid and calories during your long runs. Also, to ensure you practice how it feels to do this in training so you ingest enough in the race. Again, don’t try to run a marathon at goal pace drinking the equivalent of 2 or 3 dixie cups of fluid. The body needs more that that in a race of this distance.

Closing Thoughts

I’d love to keep in touch with you and hear about your upcoming personal bests. My hope is that the resources you will find here at RunDreamAchieve will help you do that. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. My goal is to create at least 2 new videos there weekly to help set you up for success.

Make sure you are also lengthening the distance of your long runs. Remember, you also want build you endurance for this race. 18 to 23 miles is optimal distance for your long runs. Also, continue to develop your speed. I advise doing at least 1, vo2 max workout per week.

We run between 95 to 105% of our max heart rate at this effort. The faster you train the more fast twitch muscle fibers you recruit. Easy running does not produce this physiological effect, fast running does. Examples of vo2 max workouts are hill training, road or track intervals and fartlek workouts. So, 1 vo2 max workout, 1 tempo run and 1 long run each week. How you do those long runs will dictate your overall success.

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