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Preparing to Run a Full Marathon: 18-Week Training Plan

Preparing to Run a Marathon: 18-Week Training Plan

, by FLOW Admin, 6 min reading time

Running a full marathon is a remarkable achievement that requires perseverance, discipline, and a well-structured training plan. Whether you're a experienced runner looking to take on a new challenge or a beginner aiming for an ambitious goal, this guide will provide you with a comprehensive training plan to help you cross the finish line.

Understanding the Marathon

A full marathon is a long-distance race of 26.2 miles (42.195 kilometers). It demands not only physical endurance but also mental resilience. Proper preparation is crucial to ensure you can complete the race safely and enjoyably.

Tips for Success

  • Consider a gait analysis and invest in a good pair of running shoes that suit your running style and body mechanics.
  • Consider using a running watch to track your progress and stay on pace.
  • On particularly busy or poor weather days, using a walking pad or treadmill can help maintain your routine and ensure consistent progress.

The Training Plan

Weeks 1-4: Building a Base

Objective: Establish a running routine and gradually increase your mileage.

Week 1-2: Run 4 times per week. Start with 3-4 mile runs at an easy pace. Include one long run of 5 miles, ideally on weekends when you have more time and can fully recuperate.

Weeks 3-4: Increase your long run to 6-7 miles. Include one day of cross-training (cycling, swimming) and one day of rest.

Weeks 5-8: Increasing Mileage

Objective: Gradually increase your mileage and incorporate strength training.

Weeks 5-6: Run 4-5 times per week. Midweek runs should be 4-6 miles. Long run increases to 8-10 miles. Strength training 2 times per week.

Weeks 7-8: Midweek runs of 5-7 miles. Long run increases to 12-14 miles. Include one day of cross-training and one day of rest.

Weeks 9-12: Building Endurance

Objective: Continue to build endurance with longer runs and consistent weekly mileage.

Weeks 9-10: Run 5 times per week. Midweek runs of 6-8 miles. Long run increases to 16-18 miles. Include hill training or speed work once a week.

Weeks 11-12: Midweek runs of 6-10 miles. Long run reaches 20 miles. Continue strength training and cross-training.

Weeks 13-16: Peak Training

Objective: Reach peak mileage and intensity before tapering.

Weeks 13-14: Run 5 times per week. Midweek runs of 8-10 miles. Long run reaches 22 miles. Focus on maintaining pace and endurance.

Week 15: Midweek runs of 8-12 miles. Long run of 20 miles. Start to reduce intensity slightly.

Week 16: Begin tapering by reducing mileage by 20-30%. Long run of 12-14 miles. Focus on recovery and maintaining fitness.

Week 17-18: Tapering

Objective: Allow your body to recover and prepare for race day.

Week 17: Reduce mileage by 50%. Short, easy runs of 3-6 miles. One long run of 8-10 miles.

Week 18: Continue to reduce mileage. Focus on short, easy runs. Rest and hydrate well before race day.

Pre- and Post-Event Tips

Pre-Event Tips

  • Nutrition: In the days leading up to the marathon, focus on carbohydrate-rich foods to maximise your glycogen stores. On the morning of the marathon, have a light breakfast that includes easily digestible carbs and avoid high-fiber foods to prevent digestive issues during the race.
  • Hydration: Stay well-hydrated in the days leading up to the event. Drink plenty of water and consider including electrolyte-rich beverages to maintain your body's balance of salts and minerals.

Post-Event Tips

  • Cool Down: After crossing the finish line, take a few minutes to walk and gradually cool down. This helps your heart rate and blood flow return to normal.
  • Stretching: Perform gentle stretches focusing on the major muscle groups used during the run, such as your hamstrings, quads, calves, and hip flexors.
  • Refuel: Within 30 minutes of finishing, consume a mix of protein and carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and aid muscle recovery.
  • Hydration: Rehydrate with water and consider an electrolyte drink to replace lost salts and minerals.
  • Rest: Allow your body time to recover by taking a few days off from running. Gentle activities like walking, yoga, or light stretching can aid recovery without adding strain.
  • Massage and Foam Rolling: Consider getting a post-race massage to alleviate muscle soreness and promote blood flow. Foam rolling can also help reduce muscle tightness and improve recovery.


Training for a full marathon is a significant commitment that requires time, effort, and dedication. By following this comprehensive 18-week plan, you'll build the endurance, strength, and mental toughness needed to cross the finish line. Remember, consistency is key, and taking care of your body through proper nutrition, rest, and recovery will ensure you stay on track.


What should I do if I miss a training session?

If you miss a workout, don't stress. Instead, adjust your schedule to fit in the missed session if possible. If it's a long run or an important workout, try to reschedule it within the same week. However, avoid doubling up on sessions or pushing yourself too hard to catch up, as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. The key is to stay consistent and not let a missed session derail your entire plan.

How can I prevent injuries during marathon training?

Preventing injuries during marathon training involves several strategies. First, ensure you have the proper running shoes that suit your gait and foot type. Incorporate a mix of running surfaces and avoid too much running on hard surfaces like concrete. Strength training is crucial to build muscle strength and support joints, especially focusing on the core, hips, and legs. Don't neglect warm-ups and cool-downs; dynamic stretches before running and static stretches afterward can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Listen to your body and take rest days seriously to allow for adequate recovery.

What mental strategies can help during long runs and the marathon itself?

Mental strategies play a vital role in successfully completing long runs and the marathon. Visualisation is a powerful tool; imagine yourself crossing the finish line and how you'll feel throughout the race. Break the run into smaller segments or milestones to make the distance feel more manageable. Develop positive self-talk and mantras to keep yourself motivated during tough moments. Practicing mindfulness and staying present can help you manage discomfort and stay focused. Training your mind along with your body is essential for endurance events.

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