Marathon Training Plan 18 Weeks Long

Are you seeking a marathon training plan 18 weeks long? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I have always told the athletes I mentor and coach here that a longer build up is always better than a shorter one. One of the biggest reasons is that you are not rushing your fitness. It takes a minimum of 3 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load being placed on it.

So, it is extremely difficult to get into superior shape in a matter of 4 to 8 weeks for a marathon. Remember, this is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers, not a 5k or 10k. So, more is required out of the athlete. Although I don’t have a marathon training plan 18 weeks long available here, I do have 8 to 24 week long plans. So, I have schedules that are 8, 12, 16, 20 and 24 weeks long.

18 weeks is most certainly a good time frame to train for a marathon. The training plans I have created focus on quality training over quantity. You still be running high mileage and never run a new personal best for the marathon. Runners who run too much of their mileage too aerobically will only build endurance. Remember, our goal is to sustain goal race pace longer than our competition.

Can I Train for a Marathon in 18 Weeks?

Absolutely, 4 and half months is a good time frame to train properly for a marathon. That being said, you definitely have to focus on both speed work as well as recovery. The real benefits of the hard training you are doing today will be seen several weeks from now. Again, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load being placed on it. So, 18 weeks is sufficient time for the body to adapt and for you to start seeing significant gains in your fitness.

Be wary of your paces during training. It is very easy to under and over train. I highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 myself regularly. It helps me to stay in the correct heart rate zones and not run too fast or too slow during the week. Easy running is running around 65 percent of your maximum heart rate. Anaerobic threshold (tempo runs) should be spent at or around 85 to 89 percent of your max heart rate.

Speed training or your vo2 max workouts should be run at or around 95 to 100 percent of your max heart rate. One way to get an estimate of what your max heart rate is, is to subtract your age from 220. The minimum time frame I would train for a marathon is 16 weeks. That being said, 20 to 24 weeks is the optimal time frame I would recommend. I created training plans in this time frame for this very reason.

Is 4 Months Long Enough to Train for a Marathon?

Yes, 16 weeks is a good starting point for your marathon build up. 4 months is plenty of time for most runners to get significant results from their training. Remember, a marathon training plan 18 weeks long should focus on quality training rather than just volume. I think you need to be running at least 30 miles a week in order to see results in your training.

More advanced runners should be running between 50 to 80 miles a week to get new personal bests. Again, if your mileage is run too aerobically, too often, you’ll only be a great long, slow distance runner. I know you more than likely have a time goal in mind.

Perhaps your goal is to run under a 4 hour marathon or even to break the 3 hour marathon barrier. I have created running courses for runners seeking to break both of these time barrier. In addition, created a running course for runners seeking to break the 2:30 marathon barrier as well.

Can You Run 20 Miles a Week Before a Marathon?

I wouldn’t run 20 miles the week of your marathon. That being said, 20 miles a week training for a marathon consistently, will build general fitness for sure. Again, great marathon success comes from consistent work over a long period of time. It took me 15 years of training to run a marathon in 2:19:35. I also trained for a decade after running this time and could only put up a 2:26:42. So, it is very difficult to duplicate a “flow” effort.

I have flow in parenthesis because it is a performance where everything comes together. So, it certainly takes time and proper training in order to get this event right. Proper pacing is also vital for you to set a new personal best over the marathon distance. I always advise my athletes to focus on running a negative split. So, aim on running the second half of your marathon faster than you run the first half.

You should also always be working on your hydration. Remember, this is 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers, not a 5 or 10K. So, the body is going to demand fluid and calories throughout this race. A marathon training plan 18 weeks long should also remind the athlete the importance of long runs. You should drop water bottles out every 3 miles or 5 kilometers along your long run route. The best marathoners drink during their races, they do not sip.

Faster Long Runs

I also advise you to start running your long runs at faster paces. Of course, I don’t mean you need to be running fast every single weekend. That being said, one weekend’s long run should be spent running at faster, varied paces. The following week’s long run should be run at easy, aerobic paces. Again, recovery and adaptation is the only way you are going to get a new personal best in this distance.

So, you have to train smart and know when to back off. The 8 to 24 week training plans available here have this style of long runs already build into them. Below is an example of the type of varied paced, long run I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon. Of course, this is just to give you can idea of how you may want to start setting up your faster long runs.

  • 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 easy cool-down (24 miles)

I would always run the following week’s long run at or around 8 to 9-minute mile pace. It was not unusual for me to need between 2 and even up to 3 days of easy, aerobic running after runs like this. In fact, the long run was the hardest workout that I did. That being said, I credit this style of long run in helping me lower my PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35.

Longer Tempo Runs

Athletes that want to drop significant time off of their current marathon personal best need to do longer tempo runs. Sure, a 3 to 4-mile tempo run will still yield a nice physiological boost. That being said, the distance is still too short. Remember, our aim is to get goal marathon race pace to feel easier. More importantly, get to a point where you can sustain goal race pace from start to the finish line of your race.

So, a tempo run between 8 to 12 miles in length is optimal. Yes, it will take you some time to get fit enough to do this. So, be patient with your fitness. The good news is that the body will always adapt. Again, a train up of between 16 and preferably 20 to 24 weeks in length will yield the greatest results. We run our tempo runs at or around 85 to 89% of our maximum heart rate.

So, the longer you train at this intensity the better equipped you are going to be at racing this distance. Again, make sure that you are jogging during your easy days to ensure adaptation is taking place. I see far too many runner still worried about pace on their easy days. Relax and allow time for your body to recover. The result of doing so is you will set a new personal best.

Focus on Your Speed Development

Yes, speed matters even with the marathon distance. We want to get your goal marathon race pace to feel easier. The faster you train the more fast twitch muscle fibers you will recruit. The more of these we can recruit the more effective and efficient we will race. Again, easy running will build your endurance but speed will help make that goal pace to feel more sustainable.

So, do at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. We run between 95 to 100 percent of our max heart rate running at this intensity. It is most certainly not fun. That being said, your body will adapt to the hard training in due time. Examples of vo2 max workouts are hill repetitions, road and track intervals and fartlek workouts.

Closing Thoughts

Also, make sure to start implementing mental visualization into your training routine. The world’s top runners always focus on both mental as well as physical preparation. Remember, if you are only training physically you are only doing 50 percent of the work. The vast majority of runners do not pay much attention to mental training. You have to train the mind as you train the body.

Your goals have to start in your head first. So, start spending at least 10 minutes per day seeing yourself getting across that finish line with your goal time on the clock. Also, passing people and running strong. You can do this when you first get up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I focus on making new training and racing videos there each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level.

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