Are you seeking a legitimate 4 month marathon training plan? If so, you have arrived at the right website. We have numerous marathon training plans here from 8 to 16 weeks in length. Of course, I always recommend to my visitors to devote at least 16 weeks training for your marathon. Yes, you can still prepare properly with an 8 to 12 weeks build up. I already know many of you are working full-time jobs. In addition, balancing other responsibilities like school and family.
So, do the best you can with what you have. Yes, I have been there too. I once put up to 142 miles a week working a full-time job and while attending graduate school. No, you don’t have to be running that high of mileage. In fact, I have my personal best time of 2:19:35 when I was running 80 to 90 miles per week. Higher mileage is no a guarantee you are going to run a fast marathon time.
Remember, quality training is what counts most, not the volume of mileage you are putting in. Would you rather run 40 miles a week and set a new PR or 100 miles a week and miss it by 10 minutes? So, the key is to work smarter, not harder. My goal with this post is to share with your some strategies I used to break the sub-2:20 marathon barrier.
Is 16 Weeks Long Enough to Train for a Marathon?
Yes, a 4 month marathon training plan is sufficient time to adequately prepare. I have numerous running courses here at rundreamachieve.com which also end with a 16 week marathon training plan. I wouldn’t recommend training more than 20 weeks for a marathon though. Of course, everyone is different. That being said, 4 months is plenty of time to prepare properly to run your best marathon.
Can you still train and prepare well for a marathon in 8 to 12 weeks? Yes, it can still be done. Remember, it is all about how you set up your training that counts. So, you always want to be thinking about how to use leverage. How can I get the best possible results with the least amount of work output. What you don’t want to do is spent too much of your weekly volume run at too slow of paces.
The goal is to improve your body’s lactate tolerance. You can only do this by running at paces that are significantly faster than your goal marathon race pace.
16 Week Marathon Running Plan Tips
Focus on running your long runs faster
I used this strategy to lower my marathon personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. The problem I was making is I running my long runs too slow. Remember, I was a marathoner who at the time could only hold 6:14 per mile for 26.2 miles. How did I eventually hold 5:19 per mile pace? Faster, varied paced long runs. No, I didn’t run fast every weekend nor did I do the entire long run at a faster pace.
Remember, the key to running a great marathon is adapting to the training you are doing. Again, we want to teach the body to become sufficient at clearing lactic acid faster than it is building up. You won’t do this strictly by running long and slow. Pace sustainment is key and you want to be more effective than your competition. So, start alternating a faster, varied paced long run followed the next weekend by an easy, relaxed long run. Below is an example of how I would set my own long runs up bi-weekly.
- 2 mile warm-up, 10 miles@10 seconds slower than goal marathon race pace (5:19) or 5:29 mile pace for the workout, 2 mile easy, 3 miles@goal marathon race pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 2 mile jog cool-down
- 1 mile jog warm-up, 17 miles easy@150BPM, 3 mile easy
Again, always make sure to alternate your long run efforts. So, don’t run long and slow every weekend.
Longer Tempo Runs
Runners make the mistake of doing their tempo runs too slow during a 4 month marathon training plan too. Remember, you are training to race 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers. What will a 4 mile tempo run do? Yes, of course, you will still get a nice physiological boost from doing a 4-mile tempo run. Don’t get me wrong. That being said, you want to train at your anaerobic threshold or tempo effort for longer periods of time. It takes the body about 3 to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress load you are placing on it.
So, you have to be patient when it comes to training properly for the marathon. My 4 month marathon training plan products focus on 4 specific areas when it comes to training.
- Base Phase
- Introductory speed phase
- Speed Development phase
- Taper phase
Below is an example of how I would set the athlete up training for their marathons. Tempo runs would be conducted around 88 to 92 percent of the athletes’ maximum heart rate.
- 3-4 mile tempo run at +/-10 seconds slower than goal marathon race pace (4 weeks)
- 6-8 mile tempo run at +/- 5-10 seconds faster than goal marathon race pace (4 weeks)
- 8-10 mile tempo run at goal marathon race pace (4 weeks)
- 10-12 mile tempo run at 15 seconds faster than goal marathon race pace (1 week)
- 12-14 mile tempo run at goal marathon race pace (1 week)
- 4 mile tempo@half-marathon race pace (1 week)
Longer Long Runs
Our 4 month marathon training plan philosophy is also built on running longer too. Again, you don’t want to run fast and hard every single weekend. The key is to adapt to the stresses you are placing on the body. Remember, you want to get the highest return on your time investment. So, you also have to focus on recovery too. How long has your long run been in the past? Are you having problems sustaining your goal race pace for the marathon?
Well, if your longest long run has been 12 miles therein lies one of the issues that is causing the problem. So, spend more time on your feet. You will build your endurance and confidence by running longer. I knew when I had done consistent long runs over 20 miles in length, I was going to be dangerous.
Focus on Strides
A 4 month marathon training plan should also incorporate strides into it. I suggest doing 5-6x100m strides twice per week before, during or after your easy runs. Strides will help you work on your form and acceleration. In addition, they won’t build up any significant lactic acid. So, you can do these faster sprints on top of your training regiment.
Remember, you don’t want to do your strides all out. Focus on gradually increasing the speed of your strides to where you are all out only about the last 20 meters. Strides are a great way to work on your knee left, acceleration and staying relaxed at sub-maximal efforts. I highly recommend checking the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel where I routinely talk about this.
Can I Run a Half Marathon in 16 Weeks?
Yes, 16 weeks is the sweet spot for training optimally for both the half-marathon as well as marathon distances. Again, don’t get so caught up with how many miles or kilometers you are running per week. The better question is what percentage of my weekly volume am I training at, near or far below my goal marathon race pace?
The best middle to long distance runners run around 40 percent of their weekly volume at high, anaerobic efforts. So, they make it look easy for a reason. It isn’t just because they are Kenyan, Ethiopian or European. There are plenty of world-class runners who get beat by other runners less talented then they are. Again, working smarter, not harder is the key.
Vo2 Max Workouts
You should do 1, vo2 max workout per week. Examples of Vo2max workouts are repeats 200s, miles, 1000’s and 600s on the track among others. Remember, the key is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. The more of these you can recruit the more economical (efficient) you are going to race. Also, the easier your goal marathon race pace is going to feel.
So, the key is to get your goal marathon race pace to feel like a tempo run rather than a sprint. Yes, Vo2max workouts hurt. We can only spend a few seconds to minutes at this intensity. That being said, these types of workouts will yield massive results over the 16-week marathon build up. Are you ready to take your racing and training to the next level.? Check out our 16 week marathon training plan options here at rundreamachieve. I also teach running courses geared to help you break the 5 hour marathon, sub 4 and sub 3 hour marathons as well as the sub 2 hour and 30 minute marathon barrier.