Essential Tips for Marathon Training Using a Training Schedule

If you’ve decided to run a half or full marathon we applaud you. Prepping your mind and body to run the 13.1 miles in a half marathon or 26.2 miles in a full marathon is no easy task, which makes sense considering that only .5 percent of the U.S. population have run a marathon. And though that percentage is small, the popularity of running these races is growing as many runners see the half or full marathon as the obvious progression to their race repertoire.

Although virtually any runner can complete a marathon, it is a huge time commitment and requires a great amount of determination as well as physical, mental and emotional strength. That’s why, no matter the length of the race, it’s important to follow a training schedule to track your progress leading up to the event. Even the most experienced runners use a training schedule for each race to ensure they’re able to complete the race, reduce the risk of injury, and ultimately have a good experience.

In this article we will provide links to half and full marathon training schedules that you can use to get started right away, no matter your current experience level. We’ll discuss the essential features that a training schedule should include to help you best track your progress. And we’ll also provide a detailed explanation of the components that make up a training schedule.

Training Takes Time - Start Now With One of Our Marathon Training Plans

Marathon training plan schedule for all levels

Once you’ve picked a race, you should find a training schedule to begin preparing for the event. Although a runner who possesses a good level of fitness may be able to complete a race with very little training, it is not optimal to reduce the risk of injury.

To determine which training schedule will fit your needs, find one that suits your overall fitness, running experience, and race goals. Also, consider that the more time you allow for your training plan, the less rigorous your weekly running schedule will be and the more time you will allow to pace yourself and let your body rest throughout.

Kate French, Technical Customer Support Specialist at Smartsheet, has run multiple half, full, and ultra marathons throughout her running career, and has provided her training schedules for you to use. Of course these schedules are only a suggestion of how you can prepare, so feel free to make adjustments to fit your needs. The provided half marathon training schedules span over 12 weeks, while the full marathon schedules are 18 weeks. You may also decide to adjust the length of these schedules if you feel the mileage increase is too severe or if you have more time until your race.

Note: In order to use the half and full marathon templates, you must sign up for a free, 30-day trial of Smartsheet. There's no credit card required; all you need to do is provide your name and email address.

Half Marathon Training Schedule Templates

Beginner This schedule is intended for anyone who has decided to run a half marathon for the first time. At this point, you should already have a base fitness level with the ability to run 30 minutes, three to four times a week. Additionally, having participated in a 5k, 10k or 12k race prior to this point would be helpful to have experience with racing. Typically, as a first-time half marathoner, you will not be working toward a time or speed goal, but rather should have the goal of simply finishing the race.

Get the Half Marathon Beginner Training Schedule template

Intermediate If you are a runner who is looking to improve your half marathon race performance, this is likely a schedule for you. You should be able to run 30-60 minutes per day, five to seven days a week, and have participated in a few 5k and 10k races. This schedule will focus less on simply crossing the finish line, and more on achieving personal time and speed goals.

Get the Half Marathon Intermediate Training Schedule template

Advanced This training schedule is intended for experienced runners. You should be able to run 30-60 minutes per day, five to seven days a week, and have some knowledge of speed training. Additionally, you will have participated in multiple 5k, 10k, half marathons and full marathons, and are looking to improve your performance.

Get the Half Marathon Advanced Training Schedule template

Walking Participating in a half marathon is not reserved only for runners, walkers can participate, too. If you would like to walk a half marathon, use this training schedule to prepare for race day. Prior to beginning this training, you should be able to walk 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week. No previous race experience is necessary, but it wouldn’t hurt to walk a few 5k or 10k races leading up. Also, a reasonably fit person should be able to walk a half marathon in approximately four hours. So understand the time commitment involved in training to walk a half marathon.

Get the Half Marathon Walking Training Schedule template

Marathon Training Schedule Templates

Beginner Although this training schedule is labeled as beginner, the beginner runner preparing to run a marathon should have approximately a year’s worth of running experience. Additionally, you should be comfortable running distances of three to six miles and should be training five to six days a week. Your experience should also include participating in the occasional 5k and half marathons. Similar to the half marathon training schedule, this plan is to help you finish the race and does not focus on speed or time.

Get the Marathon Beginner Training Schedule template

Intermediate Similar to the intermediate half marathon training program, this training schedule is focused on improving your performance more than simply crossing the finish line. If you chose this schedule, you are likely able to run longer distances and want to increase your speed. Within your first training week, you will run 10 miles, so you should be comfortable running six to eight miles and be training five to six days a week. This training schedule also switches out cross-training during the week for another long run that you will run at marathon pace.

Get the Marathon IntermediateTraining Schedule template

Advanced This training schedule is a fairly difficult training plan. Like the other levels, you will progress in distance, but your first week starts out with a 10-mile long run, and you will peak at running three 20-mile long runs. Additionally, this workout will consist of a combination of hill runs, tempo runs, and interval training throughout the schedule. With the right mindset, anyone is capable of using this training schedule; however, if this is your first marathon, you should likely start with the beginner training schedule with a goal of simply finishing.

Get the Marathon Advanced Training Schedule template

6 Key Features a Training Schedule Needs to Help You Stay on Track

There are many training schedules out there, and realistically they are all quite similar. It’s important to find a schedule that will not only layout a plan for you but will also help you track your progress along the way. We’ve compiled a list of key features your training schedule should include to help ensure you complete the appropriate amount of training and make it across the finish line.

1. Stay on Track With Daily Reminders: When you’re in the middle of training for a marathon, it is easy to forget which workout you are on. Be sure your training schedule has the ability to send you daily reminders that include the workout details. Daily reminders are helpful to not only know which training day it is, but also to keep the training as top of mind and help you stay in the right mindset.

2. Organize Training Details With Hierarchy: Most training schedules are formatted very similarly - a simple table with weeks, days, activities and distances listed. Although this layout is common, it can seem cluttered and a bit clunky when trying to determine the activity for a specific day. Use a training schedule that allows you to use hierarchy to organize the details. With a layout that includes hierarchy, you can open specific weeks to quickly identify daily trainings and minimize other weeks that are complete or upcoming.

3. Keep Up With Distance Goals Using a Conversion Calculator: Many races are measured in kilometers like 5k, 10k and 12k races, but the training schedules are often in miles. Ensure your training schedule solution has a distance conversion calculator to quickly determine how many miles you need to run to hit specific distance goals.





4. Increase Accountability By Sharing Your Schedule: Deciding to train for a marathon is a huge undertaking and inevitably there will be days that you just do not want to train. Having the support of your friends and family is important to keep you on track. Finding a group of friends to train with can not only be fun, but may also help to keep you motivated. Additionally, by telling people of your goal to run a marathon, you are less likely to quit altogether because you now have people who will provide a bit of clear pressure and hold you accountable to achieve your goal. Find a training schedule tool that enables you to share your plan with others to increase transparency and keep track of each other's’ progress.

5. Access Your Schedule Anywhere, Anytime: Although you have decided to take on the challenge of running a marathon, you likely also have a regular life that includes a job, family, kids and more, meaning you need to be creative when fitting in your weekly runs. Perhaps you have to go for a run during your lunch hour, or run around the track while your kids are at soccer practice. That being said, the ability to access your training schedule anywhere and at anytime is important to help you keep up with your training goals.

6. Use Dashboards and Reporting to Track Overall Progress: As you advance through your preparation, you will likely make significant accomplishments in the distances you complete or times you run. Use a training schedule solution that allows you to roll up important details like run, distance or time goals, and compare them to the actual amounts you’ve completed. Additionally, with certain tools, you can set up reports to automatically be sent to you and your accountability team to keep you motivated and aware of your progress.

Elements of a Training Schedule Defined

Pre-training: Prior to beginning your marathon training schedule, you should be at a certain fitness level. This may require that you do some pre-training before beginning your schedule. To be safe, it’s best if you have had at least three to six months of running, four times per week, though having a year’s worth of experience would be even better. Additionally, you should be able to comfortably run three to six miles straight, and at the minimum have participated in multiple 5k races.

Warm-up: If you are a beginner runner, you may not need to incorporate an extensive warm-up into your training schedule. With a goal of simply finishing the race, you will spend the first couple miles warming up. However, if you’re an intermediate runner, you should look for a training schedule that incorporates a warm-up prior to training runs and the actual race. This warm-up is important if your goal is to hit a specific time because your body and muscles must be warm before the race. Typically a warm-up should include one to two miles jogged, then five to ten minutes of stretching and finished with some easy strides.

Pace: Your training level and race goals will help determine your pace during training runs. If you’re a beginner, it doesn’t matter how fast you complete your weekly runs. Find a comfortable pace and stick to it. One way to determine if you are running at a good pace is if you have a running partner -- you should be able to hold a conversation while running. If you are unable to do this, you are running too fast. Another way is by measuring your heart rate. A target heart rate for training runs should be 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. Conversely, if you’re an intermediate or advanced runner, some of your training runs will be at the pace you would like to actually run the marathon. However, be sure to listen to your body to not over-exert yourself during training runs, which could increase the risk of injury.

Rest: Rest is just as important for your race-day training as actually running. As you increase the distance, your body will need a period of recovery before and after your long runs. This will allow muscles to rejuvenate and reduce the risk of injury. Plan to do your long runs on either Saturday or Sunday so that you may incorporate a resting day before and after within your training schedule. Also, keep in mind that if your muscles are feeling overworked, don’t hesitate to incorporate an additional day of rest as needed. Realistically, it won’t throw off your training schedule and would be better than risking injury.

Distance: A good training schedule will progressively build up the distance you run on each of your training runs. Don’t feel that these need to be an exact distance, though you will want to keep them pretty close. Determine an area that you would like to train on and either measure the distance by driving it or riding your bike. You could even talk to other runners to learn the distance of certain courses or map it with Google maps.



Long Runs: The purpose of having a training schedule is to gradually increase the distance you run on a weekly basis. Over the training period, the goal will be to increase to nearly the full race distance approximately two weeks prior to race day. If you taper the last week, you will be ready for race day and your adrenaline during the race will carry you over the finish line. Plan to do your long runs on the same day every week. It doesn’t really matter which day it is, just as long as you are consistent.

Cross-train: Throughout your weekly training schedule, it would be good to include a cross-training element. Some cross-training options include bicycling, swimming, walking, cross-country skiing and more. What type of cross-training you select depends on your personal preference but should not be too strenuous. Certain sports like basketball or soccer that include sideways motions or sudden stops and movements may not be the best as they could increase the risk of injury.

Walking: Including walking into your weekly training routine is a great way to supplement your workout on cross-training or rest days. Additionally, feel free to walk during your long-run workouts any time you feel tired or need a change in gears. Also, some training schedules include a walk-run component where training runs and even the marathon itself are broken down into part-running, part-walking at specified ratios.

Stretch: When training to run a marathon, it is important that you include a regular stretching routine. When in motion, muscles are warm and they loosen up. However, when the workout is over, muscles tighten up which could lead to injury. Make sure that your training schedule includes a mix of dynamic and static stretching, especially after you finish your run.

Strength: In addition to incorporating stretching, you should include at least two days that you incorporate strength training. The strength training could include push ups, pull ups, or using free weights or machines at a gym. Runners will benefit more from doing many repetitions with light weights rather than lifting heavy amounts of weight.

Speedwork: As an intermediate or advanced runner, you may have the goal to increase the speed that you complete your half or full marathon and achieve a personal best time. To do this, you will need to incorporate speedwork into your training schedule. Speedwork training includes a mix of interval training and tempo runs. For interval training, you should incorporate fast repeats separated by jogging or walking.

Racing: When training for a half or full marathon, many runners like to participate in 5k, 10k, or 12k races throughout their training period. This is not necessary for your training, but adds a bit of variety and experience to your training schedule. You can use these races as a way to test your fitness level, and determine your current pace and the amount of time it will take to complete your marathon.

Tempo Runs: Meant for the intermediate or advanced runners’ training schedules, a tempo run is a continuous run with a gradual build-up near the middle to approximately 10k race pace. The build-up is meant to be gradual, starting out with a slower pace and hitting the peak pace around ⅔ through the workout. Hold that peak pace for approximately a minute and then gradually return down to the slower pace. Tempo runs do not have to be a specific amount of time or distance, and can be changed to fit your training goals.

Hills: For more experienced runners, you may decide to include hill training into your preparation for a marathon. Running hills are good to build leg strength and speed. Look for hills that are 200 to 400 meters in length, and then jog or walk an equal distance between hills and repeat. You can incorporate hill workouts throughout your training schedule and even use them to replace tempo or interval runs.

Boston Marathon: The Boston Marathon is one of the longest-running marathons in the states. It is also one of the most demanding. Because the course includes multiple severe elevation changes, it is important to prepare for the strain that this distance race will put on your body. 6This marathon is intended for experienced runners who have participated in multiple half and full marathons. Use a training schedule that is specifically developed for the Boston Marathon to help you prepare both physically and mentally to accomplish this difficult race.

Dopey Challenge: The Dopey Challenge is a unique race that spans over four days and is part of the annual Walt Disney World Marathon. The challenge consists of running a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday. This race is not for the faint of heart and is intended for experienced runners only, which means you have ran multiple half and full marathons, as well as multiple 5k and 10k races.

Choosing the Best Training Schedule

Preparing for and running a marathon is a huge commitment, and having a training schedule is important to help you stay on track. Be sure to choose a training schedule that clearly lists your daily distance and goals. Also, find one that you can access from anywhere and share with your family and friends to keep you accountable. With the right training schedule and these helpful features, you will be well on track to successfully crossing the finish line on your next marathon.

See firsthand how helpful a marathon training schedule template can be in Smartsheet.

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