16 Week Marathon Training Schedules to Improve Your Fitness

Whether you’ve just decided to take the challenge and participate in your first Marathon, or just want to smash your personal best time, a training schedule tailored to your fitness level is the best place to start.

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As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
(for more quotes to get your motivation flowing, check out some of our favorites)

Unfortunately not all of us can afford a personal trainer or running coach and also enjoy the freedom to train around our lifestyle commitments. Fortunately, free marathon training schedules are available.

Here at RunnersGoal we recommend the 16 Week Marathon Training Schedules prepared by the organizers of the New York City Marathon.

These training schedules are great as they are flexible and can be adjusted for other marathon terrains. So if you’re preparing for a Trail run with a high elevation change, you just need to make your hill and interval training sessions extra hard.

The schedules have been tailored to Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced fitness levels, and we’ve listed them below.

Before You Start the 16 Week Marathon Training Schedule

Running a marathon is definitely not an easy task, and these training programs are designed to help you reach the finish line.

However, the training programs do require a minimum level of starting fitness.

The Beginner program isn’t quite a couch potato’s guide to marathons, as it assumes that you can run 3 miles comfortably. If you’re not quite at that level yet, the tips in this article can assist you in building up your running stamina.

The New York City Marathon programs increase in intensity by gradually incorporating more frequent training sessions, meaning you have less rest days.

It’s also important to stretch before and after a training run to prevent injury, especially when moving up in intensity. Check out some of our recommended stretches here.

If you do have an injury whilst completing these training programs, have a read of our guide on when it’s ok to run through the pain. Some injuries can be minor and accommodated with some time off or massage, but other more serious pains can (and should) put a stop to your training schedule.

Guide to the Marathon Training Schedules:

  • ​Flex Day: The best day of the week to replace your run with a cross-training session or a day off
  • Regular Run (Reg Run): A run performed at a comfortable, not too hard pace
  • Hills Run (Hills): Choose a running course with a variety of inclines and declines. Start with a 20-50ft change in elevation to begin with, increasing to 100's of feet towards the end of the schedule as your fitness allows.
  • As You Feel (AYF): For these runs, leave your watch and cares behind. Run for the fun of it, not because you’re training. Run as fast or as slow as you like
  • Fartlek: Swedish term for “speed play”. Fartlek workouts involve running at different speeds for varying periods – good preparation for shifting gears in a race
  • Intervals: Running short (usually between 200 and 1600 m), fast repeats with jogging recovery in between. Interval training builds speed and endurance
  • Tempo Run (Tempo): A training run (usually 20 to 30 mins) at a pace slightly slower than 10K race pace
  • Long Run: The most important workout of the week for distance runners. Long runs build both strength and confidence
  • Off: Don’t run, don’t swim, don’t get on your bike. Rest and Recover!

16 Week Marathon Training Schedules

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

1

3 miles
Flex Day

3 miles
Reg Run

Off

3 miles
Reg Run

Off

Off

6 miles
Long Run

2

3 miles
Flex Day

3 miles
Fartlek

Off

4 miles
Reg Run

Off

3 miles
AYF

8 miles
Long Run

3

3 miles
Flex Day

4 miles
Tempo

Off

5 miles
Reg Run

Off

4 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

4

3 miles
Flex Day

4 miles
Intervals

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

4 miles
AYF

12 miles
Long Run

5

3 miles
Flex Day

5 miles
Hills

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

6

3 miles
Flex Day

5 miles
Tempo

Off

5 miles
Reg Run

Off

Off

14 miles
Long Run

7

3 miles
Flex Day

5 miles
Intervals

Off

5 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

8

3 miles
Flex Day

4 miles
Hills

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

16 miles
Long Run

9

3 miles
Flex Day

6 miles
Tempo

Off

5 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

10

3 miles
Flex Day

5 miles
Intervals

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

4 miles
AYF

18 miles
Long Run

11

3 miles
Flex Day

5 miles
Hills

Off

8 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

12

3 miles
Flex Day

8 miles
Tempo

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

Off

20 miles
Long Run

13

3 miles
Flex Day

4 miles
Intervals

Off

8 miles
Reg Run

Off

5 miles
AYF

10 miles
Long Run

14

3 miles
Flex Day

4 miles
Tempo

Off

6 miles
Reg Run

Off

4 miles
AYF

12 miles
Long Run

15

3 miles
Flex Day

3 miles
Tempo

Off

5 miles
Reg Run

Off

4 miles
AYF

7 miles
Long Run

16

3 miles
Flex Day

3 miles
Reg Run

Off

3 miles
Reg Run

Off

2 miles
AYF

26.2 miles
Long Run

Whether training for a marathon or actually running the race, it’s important to stay well hydrated and maintain adequate levels of nutrition so make sure to read through some of our nutrition guides to keep your body operating at peak performance.

As always, we’d love to hear your comments if this guide has helped you!

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