6 Month Marathon Training Plan | Pro Tips to PR

Are you searching for a different 6 month marathon training plan? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have made it here. I understand how tough and complex this distance can be. So, I hope that the running tips I share in this post will be helpful to you. I hold a personal best of 2:19:35 for the marathon. So, am aware of the tactics you need to follow in order to run fast.

I firmly believe that a 20 to 24 week marathon training plan is legitimate time to run a new PR. One of the main reasons is you are not going to be in a rush. Remember, it takes a minimum of 4 weeks for the body to adapt to the stresses you are placing on it. So, fast fitness is not going to occur. You have to be patient and consistent within your build up.

A 6 month marathon training plan should focus on improving the athlete’s lactate tolerance. So, you want to train to get that goal marathon race pace to feel easier on you. Easy running is still important. That being said, easy running is not going to teach you to sustain race pace longer. Faster running will.

6 Month Marathon Training Plan Sub 4 Hours

Are you seeking to run under the sub 4 hour marathon? If so, I created a course called the Sub 4 Hour Marathon Pace Mastery course you may be interested. In addition, have training plans and online coaching here as well. I know there are a lot of runners out there seeking to run that 3:59.59 time. Again, you have to train in such a way to get 9:09 per mile or 5:41 per kilometer to feel easier.

I would first focus on spending 4 to 8 weeks running easy, aerobic mileage. The focus during the base-building base is to strengthen the musculature of the body. Remember, harder, anaerobic training will test you both mentally and physically. So, to run a fast marathon you have to pay attention to all of the fundamentals.

Army ACFT
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

A lot of runners focus all of their attention to physical training. The problem is they neglect or rarely ever pay attention to mental training. My top recommendation is to start implementing this into your next 6 month marathon training build-up. I was able to lower my marathon from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35 using this tactic. I would spend 10 to 15 minutes daily for months visualizing myself succeeding. Also, getting across the finish line in what was at that time my goal time, sub 2:22:00.

Is 6 Months Enough Time to Train for a Half Marathon?

6 months is sufficient time to adequately prepare for the half-marathon and marathon distances. In fact, the majority of my career I have done 20 to 24 week marathon training build ups. So, focusing on a 24 week marathon training plan will help set you up for success. I would start focusing on adding in strides twice per week. Strides are too short to build up any lactic acid.

So, you can do these types of acceleration drills on top of your other weekly training workouts. Also, they will help you to focus on your form and are great for warm-up drills. In addition, will increase your heart rate and get you ready for the faster workout you are about to do. Remember, always focus on staying as relaxed as you can. You can do this whether running easy or fast. More importantly, focusing on relaxation will running faster will make you a better runner.

The very best middle to long distance runners always look relaxed. Why? They have practiced running at considerably faster paces over their chosen event.

Training for a Marathon in 6 Months

Training for a marathon in 6 months rather than 8 to 12 weeks will give you the highest chances for success. Again, fitness cannot be rushed. So, it is critical to follow a training plan that will gradually increase intensity and mileage. You don’t want to be in a rush. A lot of runners get too up-tight and try to start hitting their goal paces far too soon. The result is it leaves them fatigued and frustrated.

I created the running courses and training plans here at RunDreamAchieve to help athletes. I want you to learn and follow the strategies that helped me to eventually break the 2:20 marathon barrier. Of course, our goal race times may vary but the tactics can work for anyone.

Below I will be sharing some of the key tips I want you thinking about in the coming months. Are you interested in monthly coaching? If so, I also have private coaching for very serious athletes who want to work with me one-on-one.

Can I Train for a Marathon in 6 Months?

Absolutely. As mentioned above, you won’t be rushing to get into great shape. 24 weeks is sufficient time to prepare. In fact, I think following a 6 month marathon training plan is your best bet for true success. One of the major mistakes marathoners make is running too many of their miles or kilometers too slow. Remember, quality over quantity.

So, you could be running 100 miles a week and still miss your time goal. Runners do it all of the time. The goal here is to improve your lactate tolerance. In addition, to maintain pace longer than your competitors. The world’s top runners run between 35 to 40% of their weekly mileage at very high intensities. Of course, they make it look easy for a reason. The problem is most runners think its because they are Kenyan or Ethiopian.

I have run elite Kenyans and they hurt just as badly as we do. The way I was able to outrun was to train as they trained. In addition, I jogged on easy days. The training plans and courses that I teach focus on this. Remember, there is only so many times you can stress the body anaerobically. You will begin to see diminished returns unless you allot sufficient recovery time. So, run easy on those recovery days. The hard workouts planned within our courses and training plans will test you to the limit.

How Do I Prepare for a Marathon in 6 Months?

Focus on 8 Weeks of Aerobic Mileage First

The focus early on should be increasing foundational mileage. It should be doing tempo runs, fartlek workouts or long runs. Focus only doing strides and building your endurance. Remember, this is a 6 month marathon training plan we are talking about here. So, there is no rush. The last 16 weeks of your training should be focused on building strength and stamina.

I didn’t run 2:19:35 without first running easy, aerobic mileage. In addition, the training you will be conducting is exactly the types of workouts I was doing prior to breaking 2:20. Of course, your goal may be to break a 4 hour marathon or run under 2 hours and 50 minutes. Our goal race paces may differ but perhaps you can get similar results that I got using my tactics?

Spending Longer Durations at Your Anaerobic Threshold

Anaerobic threshold is running at or around 85 to 88 percent of max heart rate. Yes, you have to first focus on base building before working at this particular effort. That being said, workouts like this will help you sustain your goal marathon race pace longer. No, they are most certainly not comfortable to do. So, focus first on running 2 to 3 miles at tempo effort before moving to longer.

I certainly know how frustrating it is when you want to go further but simply aren’t in the shape to do it. Again, be patient. The body always adapts and will if you give it ample time to do so. A 6 month marathon training plan is definitely the right time frame to make this happen. I always recommend my athletes to focus on a minimum of 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks to train for one.

The training plans and running courses focus on gradual increase in duration of tempo runs. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past? 5 miles? 6? Well, if your tempo runs have been too short in the past that could be a reason you don’t have as much strength as you’d like.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a Marathon if You are Out of Shape?

Do you want to average or great? Greatness would seek out a longer build up. The reason is greatness is going to take much longer to achieve than an average marathon time. So, a 6 month marathon training plan is your best bet if you truly want to do this right. Of course, there are runners out there setting personal bests on 12 to 16 weeks as well. So, it just depends on the athlete and their particular schedules. 1 day off per week is also built into the training plans here as well.

I am fine with taking an additional day of rest if you need to. That being said, training adaptation takes time. Remember, running a fast marathon is not a simple or easy process. You will have days you doubt you can survive the training. It is normal to feel this way. You should always listen to the cues your body is telling you. So, if you need to take an additional day of rest then do so. Of course, an alternative is to swap a hard day with an additional day of easy recover running. Attack the workout the following day.

The vast majority of runners around the world don’t have the luxury of training full-time. Let’s face it, most people are working full-time or part-time jobs. In addition, balancing other responsibilities like school and take care of their families. So, you have to do the best you can with the time frame that works best for you. Remember, I have training plans here that range from 8 to 24 weeks in length.

Focus on Faster Long Runs

Remember, don’t try to start doing these types of long runs until you have first build your base mileage first. The long run is the hardest workout that I do. In fact, I used this strategy to lower my marathon personal best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. How did I go from holding 6:14 mile pace to 5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles? I stopped running my long runs slow every single weekend.

Yes, running easy is essential to recovery and get fit enough to race a marathon. That being said, to handle race pace over a race distance of this length you have to get outside of your comfort zone. Below are some examples of the types of long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon. Remember, always alternate a harder long run one weekend followed the next with an easy, relaxed long run.

  • 2 mile jog, 5 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 4 miles@5:35 mile pace, 1 mile jog, 2 miles@5:20 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 4:55, 1 mile jog (20 miles)
  • 1 mile jog, 10 miles@5:40 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 3 miles@5:30 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 2 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 mile jog, 1 mile in 5:00, 1 mile jog (23 miles)

Speed Development

Speed training is critical if you want to run a faster marathon. Yes, the marathon is a highly aerobic event. That being said, the faster you train the easier your goal marathon race pace is going to feel. I trained well below sub 5 minute pace in training prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon. In fact, many times in training I was running under 4 minute mile pace for some of my intervals.

Of course, these were 200m to 400m in length. Of course, I was not doing repeat miles under 4 minutes. That being said, all of this all helped me to get to a point where I was eventually able to hold 5:19 per mile for 26.2 miles. The same goes for you. Training once per week at your vo2 max is key. Vo2 max is your body’s maximum oxygen uptake. You are running so fast that you can’t clear lactic acid faster than it is building up. Naturally, we have to stop and take breaks ranging from a few seconds to a few minutes.

The goal is to start your next interval once your heart rate gets back down to around 120 beats per minute. Examples of the types of vo2 max workouts you may see in your 6 month marathon training plan are the following….

  • Fartlek intervals i.e. 3x5minutes hard/3 minute easy or variations thereof
  • Hill repetitions ranging in length from 50 to 300 meters (walking or jogging on way down for recovery)
  • Road or track intervals i.e. 3x5K, 16x400m, 6x1mile, 3x2mile, 10x200m, 20x100m etc.
  • Strides (sprinkled in twice per week during easy days)

Mental Rehearsal

Mental training is commonly overlooked with most athletes. I highly recommend you start implementing this strategy into your marathon build up. Your training block is 6 months in length. So, take 10 to 15 minutes daily and start seeing yourself performing at high levels. The best time to do this is when you first get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night.

The subconscious mind, cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination

Billy Mills, Olympic Gold Medalist, 10000m

So, whatever that goal time you are aiming for is see yourself crossing the finish line with it on the clock. Also, see yourself running relaxed, confident and in control. It is much better to rehearse yourself passing people rather than getting passed.

Billy Mills, the last American to win the gold medal in the 10,000m event talked about how powerful the subconscious mind is. Our brain is already hard wired to focus on negativity. It is very important to focus on positive information leading into your goal marathon. Remember, focus on the areas of your preparation that you can control.

Focus on What Your Competition Is Not

  • Get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night, if possible
  • Focus on carbo loading the week of, not the night before your goal marathon
  • Invest in a heart rate monitor. I recommend and use the Garmin 245. Heart rate monitors will ensure that you don’t overtrain and keep you at the correct heart rate zone while training.
  • Improve your hydration practices. Drop water bottles out every 3 miles during your long run course. Learn to drink rather than just sip in your next marathon and you will run much faster
  • Weather bad? Guess what, everyone else will have to run in it. How you handle your thoughts and composure will dictate your success in this event. Stay in control, relaxed and confident.
  • Invest in your personal development. There are courses, coaching and training plans to help set you up for success. In addition, to help bypass mistakes of other athletes.
  • Slow down on easy days. Don’t get hyped up about what pace you are running on easy days. It is the harder, anaerobic workouts that will count the most. You have to ensure your body adapts so take it easy on those recovery days.

Closing Thoughts

I hope these 6 month marathon training plan tips have been helpful to you. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. My aim is to create at least 2 new videos there each week to help professionals such as yourself make the next big step in your racing. You are more than welcome to visit the about page if you would like to know more about my racing background.

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