How To Prepare For A Marathon In 4 Weeks

If you’ve only now signed up for a marathon that’s 4 weeks away, we’re going to assume that you’ve already been training for the race day for months but only managed to register now.

This is because the other alternative, that you only have 4 weeks to prepare for a marathon from scratch, is simply not possible. In this case, we suggest you postpone your participation for an additional 3 months at least.

The reason for this is that most runners take a minimum of 16 to 20 weeks to be physically and mentally prepared to handle running a marathon. The exact training period varies according to the runner’s skill level, fitness level, and training volume.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the distance you want to run in a race, the longer the training time you’ll need to be ready. A marathon is quite a long distance -26.2 miles to be precise-, which is why it isn’t healthy nor possible for a runner to prepare for it in only 30 days, even for those who are intermediate or advanced.

In today’s guide on how to prepare for a marathon in 4 weeks, we discuss what you should do during the final month of your marathon training program to help you start the race in good form and output an impressive performance.

How To Prepare For A Marathon In 4 Weeks? Is There Enough Time to Prepare?

As a runner, this is the first question you should ask yourself before signing up for a race. You need to assess whether or not the time left before the race is enough to fully prepare for it.

While it’s true that the exact duration of training that a runner needs to be ready for a marathon differs among runners according to several factors (such as skill level, training volume, physical fitness, and endurance capacity), it typically takes most runners at least 4 to 5 months to prepare for a marathon.

As such, if you’re thinking of partaking in a marathon with only 4 weeks to go, we’re telling you now: that isn’t nearly enough time.

If you’re a beginner runner with no previous training, 4 weeks won’t help you much in finishing a marathon. You may be able to cover a few miles, but don’t expect to run the whole 26.2 miles of a marathon in average time.

Even if you’re an intermediate or advanced runner, the result will be pretty much the same. Sure, 4 weeks of marathon training may help you run a bit further, but finishing the race in average time is a far stretch.

 The following reasons are why:

  • Running a marathon is a brutal physical activity that heavily impacts our bodies. It requires months of preparation to have your muscles in a condition that can carry you across such a long distance in decent time without sustaining any serious injuries.
  • Running a marathon requires planning and strategizing. It takes several weeks to get the pacing and breathing techniques right.
  • Running a marathon is also exhausting for the mind. A lot of mental training goes into building a strong-enough mindset that helps you push yourself to keep running when you feel like quitting.

All of the above is just to reach the finish line, we’re not even talking about making average or above-average time.

So, what can you do in 4 weeks? Well, since no runner can fit 4 to 5 months’ worth of marathon training in 1 month, your best choice is to begin training for another marathon that’s scheduled at least 16 weeks away.

This is despite your skill level. Marathon training in 4 weeks from scratch isn’t only virtually impossible, it’s a bad idea because you’re very likely to get injured if you decide to do it anyway.

That said, if you already have a marathon training schedule in action, what you can do in 4 weeks is see it through.

What You Should Know About Marathon Training

Whether you’re a beginner, an intermediate, or an advanced runner, here are a few things you should keep in mind when training for a marathon:

  • A marathon training program often features techniques to help increase the running distance while decreasing the walking distance each week.
  • A marathon training program enables you to run the marathon taking the least number of walk breaks as possible. The goal is to keep these breaks at a minimum but not eliminate them completely as they can be vital during a marathon, more specifically when you pass through water stops.
  • A marathon training plan doesn’t require you to go for long runs every day or run on particular days.
  • A marathon training plan prevents you from going on long/difficult runs too many days in a row.

On the days in between, you can either take a rest day or engage in a cross-training workout such as boxing, lifting weights, yoga, swimming, using the elliptical, dancing, or biking.

  • A marathon training program will probably also include strength training a couple of times a week, which is great for improving endurance and reducing risks of injury.

How To Prepare For A Marathon In 4 Weeks

Here’s what you need to do 4 weeks before your marathon:



When it comes to training, here’s what you need to do:

  • Schedule the last long-distance run 2 or 3 weeks before the race day.
  • Include short walk breaks during runs to simulate the points at which you’ll need to slow down to use a water stop or manage your heart rate over slopes.
  • The 4 to 3 weeks just before your marathon should include runs at decreased mileage, a practice referred to as tapering.

Tapering allows your muscles the time to restore and rebuild before the race day. The last thing you want to do is start a marathon with strained muscles.

  • Continue to include shorter runs or walks for half an hour or one hour every day or every other day throughout the last month.

Remember, the goal in these last few weeks is to stay active and flexible without subjecting your body to harsh training. To help put things into perspective, the last 4 weeks of a marathon training plan should go something like the following:

Fourth-to-last week

  • Day#1: cross-train or rest
  • Day#2: run 6 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#3: run 5 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#4: run 6 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#5: cross-train or rest
  • Day#6: run 5 miles at race pace
  • Day#7: 20-mile long run

Third-to-last week

  • Day#1: cross-train or rest
  • Day#2: run 5 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#3: run 6 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#4: run 5 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#5: cross-train or rest
  • Day#6: run 4 miles at race pace
  • Day#7: 12-mile long run

Second-to-last week

  • Day#1: cross-train or rest
  • Day#2: run 4 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#3: run 5 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#4: run 4 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#5: cross-train or rest
  • Day#6: run 3 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#7: 8-mile long run

Last week

  • Day#1: cross-train or rest
  • Day#2: run 3 miles easy
  • Day#3: run 4 miles easy
  • Day#4: cross-train or rest
  • Day#5: cross-train or rest
  • Day#6: run 2 miles at an easy pace
  • Day#7: race day!


Optimum Diet for Runners

During the last 4 weeks before your race, you need to:

  • Stick to a balanced diet that contains lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains.
  • Modify your caloric intake in line with the reduced training load of the last few weeks.
  • Instead of 2 or 3 large meals per day, eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • Avoid too much carbo-loading, junk food, pre-packaged foods, and sweets.
  • Eliminate alcoholic drinks and high-caffeine energy beverages from your diet, especially in the last several days to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid unfamiliar foods 4 weeks before a marathon since there isn’t enough time to implement dramatic diet changes.
  • Stay away from foods that give you gas or loose stools.


Sleep is an integral part of a marathon training plan, even more so in the 4 weeks leading up to it. The body restores its energy and revitalizes its muscles during sleep, so here’s what you should do:

  • You should clear your schedule of late-night plans to get more nights of good sleep.
  • Avoid alcoholic drinks, caffeinated beverages, and spicy foods for better sleep quality.
  • Avoid eating within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Try to add one more hour of sleep every night during the last 4 weeks.
  • Avoid bright screens before bed.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and cool.
  • Be in bed 20 or 30 minutes before the time you want to be asleep.
  • Consider practicing meditation for 15 minutes before bedtime to de-stress.

Tips to Step Up Your Marathon Training

The following are tips to help you make the most out of your marathon training program:

  • Invest in high-quality running shoes. Not only can a good running shoe support your goal pace, but it can also reduce fatigue, keep your feet comfy, and prevent injury.
  • Consider hiring a running coach for the race. With their experience, a running coach can help you with training techniques and create a personalized training program.
  • Keep track of your progress using apps and tools like “Nike Run Club” and “Runkeeper”.

What is a Good Marathon Time?

Marathon time:How To Prepare For A Marathon In 4 Weeks

A marathon finish time is considered “good” if it falls within the global average range or above it.

According to Runners World, the world average marathon finish time is approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes. Now let’s take a look at the average marathon times for male and female runners:

  • According to Runners World, the average marathon time for a male runner was 3 hours and 48 minutes in 1986. It jumped to 4 hours and 15 minutes in 2001, then 4 hours and 22 minutes later.
  • The average marathon finish time for women runners in 2001 was 4 hours and 56 minutes.

If your marathon finishing time is shorter than the scores above, it means you’re an above-average runner and you should be proud!.

What is the Best Marathon Time?

The best marathon time is the marathon world record time.

For male runners, it’s 2 hours, 1 minute, and 39 seconds. For female runners, it’s 2 hours, 14 minutes, and 4 seconds.

What is a Good Marathon Pace?

The pace refers to the time taken by a runner to cover a certain distance, measured in minutes per mile.

A marathon runner needs a proper goal pace to be able to maintain a constant speed throughout the marathon distance. You can set your goal pace after deciding on your goal time.

Much like a marathon finish time, a “good” marathon pace is one that falls within the average. So, let’s take a look at the average marathon paces for male and female runners:

  • The average marathon pace for a male runner between 20 and 30 years according to skill level is:
    • Beginner: 11:21 minutes per mile
    • Novice: 09:33 minutes per mile
    • Intermediate: 08:15 minutes per mile
    • Advanced: 07:16 minutes per mile
  • The average marathon pace for a female runner between 20 and 30 years according to skill level is
    • Beginner: 12:45 minutes per mile
    • Novice: 11:03 minutes per mile
    • Intermediate: 09:33 minutes per mile
    • Advanced:08:25 minutes per mile

Last Thoughts On How To Prepare For A Marathon In 4 Weeks

There you have it, a guide on how to prepare for a marathon in 4 weeks, assuming that you’ve been already training for the race day for months and you want to know what the final month should look like.

This is because marathon training in 4 weeks from scratch is neither possible nor a good idea; it takes most runners at least 4 months to get ready. If you decide to do it anyway, there’s a high chance you’ll collapse during the race or end up sustaining an injury.