The Marathon Training Beginner: From Walking to Running

Welcome! If you're reading this page you most likely want to become a marathon training beginner. At some point you made a decision to run a marathon; or at least you're contemplating the decision to run a marathon.


The best way to start a running program is to walk. It sounds cliché, walk before you run. But that's what you have to do if you're a marathon training beginner. You need to prepare your legs to run by walking. Then you can transition to running. Remember this is a SLOW process.

Start your walking plan with 2 weeks of walking. Walk 20 minutes a day for the first week. Walk 30 minutes a day for the next week. You are now ready for your transition to running. See the following chart for a 10 week plan that will get any marathon training beginner running continuously for 30 minutes.

1 5 min.  1 min. 5
2 5 min.  2 min. 4
3 3 min. 2 min. 6
4 3 min. 3 min. 5
5 2 min. 5 min. 4
6 2 min. 8 min.  3
7 1 min.  9 min. 3
8 1 min.  11 min.  3
9 30 sec 16 min. 2
10 0 min. 30 min. 1

Start your marathon training beginner workouts with walking the amount of time shown, then transition into a slow jog. As your walking time gets shorter and shorter, you may want to warm up with an additional 5 minutes of brisk walking before you begin. The "Repeat" column shows the number of times to repeat the run/walk cycle.

Do your run/walk workouts 3 days a week, with at least a day of easy walking for 20 minutes or a day of rest between each.

If you feel overtired or have excessive muscle or joint pain at any point, take a break for a week and do some easy walking instead. Review the Running Injuries and Injury Prevention pages to help identify potential injuries and take any corrective actions needed. Once you're ready, step back one week and start again. Remember you're a marathon training beginner, not an elite athlete. At least not yet. So GO SLOW.

During week 10 you will be at the point where you can run for 30 minutes without stopping. After week 10 you should continue to run 30 minutes per day for 3 to 4 days per week. Remember to keep at least one day of rest or easy walking for 20 minutes between running days.

Don't get too hung up on mileage. You're not going to improve to marathon distance overnight. GO SLOWLY to avoid injury. Just focus on keeping your feet moving for 30 minutes or more per workout. Also, make sure that you have read the Marathon Training Tips page for some practical advice on mileage build up, the best running surfaces, mental preparation, and the importance of rest.

After several weeks at 30 minutes, increase your time by 5 minutes, to 35 minutes. Stay at 35 until you feel that you can continue to 40. Again if you start to feel overtired, or are experiencing excessive muscle or joint pain, take a week off and go back to walking. Then start back up again slowly.

You'll know you're ready for the full blown Beginner's Marathon Training Plan when you've increased your running time to 45 minutes per workout. Once you've achieved this goal, CONGRATULATIONS. You're no longer wishfully thinking about training for a marathon. You're a marathon training beginner.

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