24 Week Marathon Training Plan | Pro Tips to PR

Are you seeking a legitimate 24 week marathon training plan? If so, I hope this post and this site will be a resource to help you earn your next personal best. I believe it is very important not to be in a rush when it comes to your preparation. A major reason runners get frustrated is they are trying to rush the fitness process. Great fitness takes time to produce. So, it won’t happen in a matter of a few weeks but several months.

I highly recommend training for a minimum of 16 and preferably 24 weeks for the marathon distance. It takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it. So, I created 24 week marathon training plan options here at RunDreamAchieve. My intention is to help runners use leverage, not just working harder. There are plenty of runners working hard who still don’t get new personal bests.

So, you have to train smarter. Run less mileage but focus more on quality and you will get quality results. I ran up to 142 miles in one week training for the marathon. I ran 2:19:35 on 85 to 90 miles a week. In fact, other runners have run faster than I have on less mileage. A longer build up is better. Can you still get legitimate results on 8 to 12 weeks? Of course. That being said, if you want to take your running to the next level, think longer.

Can You Train for a Marathon in 24 Weeks?

24 weeks to train for a marathon is optimal in my opinion. In fact, you have the best chance of success because you won’t be in a rush. You can focus on the first 8 weeks building mainly aerobic mileage. Yes, I am sure you will get excited and want to start focusing on speed development. That being said, if you have a long-term vision, you’ll focus on the latter weeks for these variables.

3 hour marathon pace
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

I focus on this strategy in RunDreamAchieve 24 week marathon training plan options. Strides are sprinkled throughout our training plans. There is a reason for this. Strides, although short and don’t build up significant lactic acid, matters. Strides are short, 50 to 100 meter long acceleration drills. You shouldn’t do these all out but will help you develop your leg speed, over time. In fact, you will have done many miles or kilometers at near sprint speeds over a 6 month marathon training plan.

24 Week Marathon Training Plan Intermediate

My focus with the 24-week marathon training plan options is to help runner succeed. You can be a total beginner, intermediate or an advanced-level runner. The good thing is I created training plans for athletes seeking to break the 6 hour marathon to the sub 2:20 marathon barrier. Of course, there are no guarantees. I can’t guarantee that you will run these times.

What I can guarantee you is that they were constructed following the types of training I did. Remember, it took me from 1992 to 2007 to run a marathon under 2 hour and 20 minutes. Fast times require immense dedication. How often do you focus on mental training? The majority of runners focus only physical training? Why not do what the world’s best do and start implementing mental rehearsal into your preparation. So, spend 10 to 15 minutes daily during your 24 week marathon training.

My goal here is to help runners bypass the mistakes that other runners make. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos there each week to help professionals such as yourself get to the next level in your training and racing.

How Long Does it Take an Intermediate Runner to Train for a Marathon?

I think runners can get some legitimate results on 8 to 12 weeks. Of course, everyone has varying schedules. There are not many runners who have the luxury of being able to train full-time. In fact, most runners are working full-time or part-time jobs, in school and balancing family responsibilities. So, runners have to make do with what they have. Yes, you can still get a new personal best off of a 2 to 3 month build up.

That being said, a 4 to 6 month build up will set you up for success the best. The reason is you can focus on 8 weeks of easy aerobic mileage first. In addition, continue to work on building on strides and building your endurance. We then start focusing on specific marathon training, speed development and lastly, the taper phase. I am a big believer in doing a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper. A major issue many runner face is dropping mileage and intensity too far out from their goal marathon.

10 days is plenty of time for the body to rest, recover and heal. I have set personal bests from the 5K to the marathon using this strategy. Also, the 8 to 24 week marathon training plan options available are built around this philosophy. I had one runner who invested in my Sub 3 Hour Marathon Pro course go from a 3:46 marathon PR to a 2:58.

Is Running 3 Times a Week Enough for Marathon Training

Running 3 times a week can get legitimate results if that is all the more you can train. Again, there are many people who only have enough time to run 3 times a week. The best runners are not running 3 times a week unless they are extremely talented. Marathon training requires a lot of work. Of course, you can still run a decent marathon time off of 3 times a week.

I am firm believer in quality rather than quantity. So, if all you have is 3 days a week to train then do the best you can with the time that you have. I would focus on an easy run (for recovery), tempo run and a long run during your weekly training. Yes, training for a marathon on only 3 days a week of training will be tough. Again, the more days you train and the longer you train the better prepared you are going to be for this event.

Of course, if your goal is to enjoy the marathon and do this for fun than 3 days a week of training is sufficient. In fact, 3 days a week is more than enough. That being said, if your goal is to run a sub 4 hour marathon then much more is going to be required out of you. Are there are runners who have broken 4 hours on 3 days a week? I am sure there has been but I bet those athletes are razor sharp in how they set up their training. A sub 4 hour marathon is an extremely tough time. A lot of runners wish to run such a time.

Is 40 Miles a Week Enough for Marathon Training?

Yes. In fact, the majority of the weeks in our 24 week marathon training plan options hover around here. The highest week is 80 miles. Remember, the focus is quality training over volume. High mileage is not a guarantee that you are going to run a fast marathon time. A well-designed, thought out and not rushed training build-up will set you up for success.

Again, always focus on training smarter rather than harder. There are runners running 40 miles a week getting better results than those running 100 miles a week. I tried running over 140 miles a week. The result is that it left me tired and frustrated. I set my personal best of 2:19:35 for the marathon off of 85 to 90 miles week. In fact, many of my miles per week hovered in the 70s.

So, is 40 miles a week enough for marathon training? Yes. Remember, it just depends on the athlete’s objective. Is your goal to break a sub 2 30 marathon? 40 miles a week may not be enough. Is your goal to run your first marathon or run a new personal best? If so, 40 miles a week may be sufficient in order to do both. Hope that makes sense.

Is Running 50 Miles a Week Too Much?

No, not for the 5K all the way to the marathon distance. Of course, if you were running 120 miles a week for a 5K I would question why? You don’t need that high of mileage for even the marathon. There are runners set massive personal bests on half that amount. Again, it is about quality training rather than volume. It is about working smarter, not harder.

There are plenty of hard working athletes still missing their goals. So, it is essential to train using leverage. What are the best workouts that will get me the best results? How much mileage is needed will depend on you. The resources that are available here will help speed up your progress. Are you seeking an online running coach? I do work privately with some very serious and dedicated runners.

There are other runners who come here who would rather invest in one of my courses or training plans. I created these resources to help runners get to the next level in their training and racing.

Do Pro Runners Run Everyday?

Yes, most do. I have run 6 and mostly 7 days a week throughout my career. I would not have been able to achieve the times that I did running 2 to 3 days a week. Yes, there are a few select, highly talented runners around the world who can run a sub 2:20 marathon on 3 days a week. That being said, the majority of runners cannot run times like this (or faster) on a few days a week.

There is nothing easy about making it to the professional level. It took me from 1992 to 2007 to run a 2:19:35 marathon. Let’s face it. 2:19 is good but it won’t win the Boston Marathon. In fact, the world record for the marathon (2:01:38) is almost 18 minutes faster than I ever ran. Eliud Kipchoge runs 7 days a week as do most other professional level athletes.

It is very difficult to run 80 to 100 miles a week on 3 to 4 days a week. Again, it all comes down to the individual goal of the athlete. Your goal may not be to go to the professional level. Perhaps you are training for your first marathon. So, running 20 miles a week or less is sufficient. There are runners who run marathons for fun, not necessarily for time.

How to Run a Faster Marathon Time

Focus on a longer aerobic base build up

Why is a 24 week marathon training plan the most optimal time frame to train for this event? You are not in a rush. 6 months is plenty of time to train adequately for this distance. The marathon is not like a 5K. So, it takes longer to get into superior shape. I would focus on aerobic running the first 8 weeks. In addition, consider investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and highly recommend it.

Hear rate monitor training will ensure you don’t overtrain. There are many runners still running far too fast on their easy days. In addition, running too slow on their planned faster workouts. What I love about heart rate monitor training is that you focus on running at the correct heart rate zone. As fitness improves, pace does as well. The paces you are running per mile or kilometer will come. So, focus on your heart rate and don’t worry about what pace per mile or kilometer you are running.

Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run you have done training for your marathons in the past? 5 miles? 7? Yes, you can still get gains from tempo runs of this length. That being said, this is the marathon so you need to think bigger and longer. I would recommend focusing on extending toward 9 to 12 miles. In fact, the majority of my training plans and courses focus on this mindset.

The longer you train at the anaerobic threshold, the better. We run around 85 to 88% of our maximum heart rate running at AT effort. Tempo runs and speed training help us to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more fast twitch muscle fibers you can recruit the more economical (efficient) you are going to perform. Easy, relaxed running does not produce this physiological effect. Faster running does

So, be patient with this. You have to start at adapting 2 to 3 mile tempo runs first before you can expect to do 9 to 12 milers. Again, it takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on the body.

Develop Your Leg Speed

The majority of runners do at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. Vo2 max is the body’s maximum oxygen uptake. It is running so fast you simply can’t clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. So, we need to take short breaks in between our intervals. You should focus on starting your next interval once your heart rate gets back to 120 beats per minute.

We are running between 95 to 100 percent of our maximum heart rate at vo2 max. Yes, this type of training is extremely painful. There is a reason for that, high lactic acid build up. The benefit here is that you training at such high speeds your overall marathon goal race pace will get easier. Again, the end goal is to sustain race pace longer than our competition.

Focus on Relaxation

The world’s best middle to long distance runners always focus on this. Remember, the less mental and physical tension the more of that energy can be placed toward the effort itself. So, focus on staying relaxed in training. The first muscles that usually tense up is facial muscles and shoulders. You can consciously tell yourself to stay focused and calm when running at faster speeds.

It is not uncommon to tense up even while running at slower speeds too. We can always focus on staying calm. Look at the best middle to long distance runners. How do they look? They are always in control, relaxed and confident.

Faster Long Runs

A major mistake runners make is running long and slow every single weekend. How did I improve from a 2:43:36 PR to a 2:19:35 time? How does one go from holding 6:14 per mile to a 5:19 per mile pace for 26.2 miles? We are talking about a massive improvement here. How? Faster long runs. No, it wasn’t easy and it took several years. The real improvement started to come when I got beyond running easy every single weekend.

So, you need to start varying the paces of your long runs. The training plans and running courses that I created here are focused on this. Below are some examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35. The reason I am sharing this is I want you to see how long runs should be constructed. Of course, these are just some examples and are not set in stone.

  • 2 mile jog, 5 miles@5:35 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 3 miles@6:00 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 4 miles@6:30 mile pace (21 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 2 miles@5:25 mile pace, 1 mile jog, 5 miles@5:45 mile pace, 2 mile easy (23 miles)

Closing Thoughts

Yes, investing in a 24 week marathon training plan is a wise move. One, you are training at the most optimal time frame. You are allowing sufficient time to build your easy, aerobic foundational mileage. So, your tendons, ligaments and muscles will be best prepared to handle the faster training you are planning.

Again, training for 8 to 12 weeks is still sufficient time frame for most runners. It is the runners who are going after a Boston marathon qualifying standard or an Olympic Trials standard that will have to do more. Feel free to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my background and training philosophy. Keep me posted on your training and racing progress. You can also contact me at nathanpennington [at] protonmail [dot] com if you have any questions.

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