12 Week Marathon Training Plan

November 15, 2022

Are you seeking a 12 week marathon training plan that will help you get better results? If so, welcome to NutritionGeeks. I am glad you have made it here. I share the training tips and strategies that helped me eventually run 2:19:35 for the marathon here. In addition, at our sister site, rundreamachieve.com. My goal is to help runners to start working smarter rather than harder. Of course, I already know you know how to work hard.

That being said, do the hardest working runners always get the results? No. Higher mileage is also not a guarantee you will run faster over the marathon distance. I am a firm believer that a longer, rather than a shorter build up will yield you better results. Yes, a 12 week marathon training plan will get you in solid shape. 3 months is a good time frame to prepare. I have found that the best time frame to prepare for a marathon is 16 to 24 weeks.

Remember, it takes about 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any intensity you are throwing at it. So, trying to rush your fitness is a great way to get discouraged. I would recommend running easy for at least 4 weeks to build your base. You can do, 4-5x100m strides twice per week during this phase of your training. Strides are short, gradual sprints that will help you to work on your turnover. In addition, help you to improve your form. Also, they are great warm-up drills prior to the start of your workouts as well.

Is 12 Weeks Enough to Train for a Marathon?

12 weeks is the absolute minimum time frame I would recommend to train for a marathon. Again, the longer your build up the better prepared you are going to be. I have created training plans that range in distance from 8 weeks to 24 weeks in length. The absolute best time frame to train for a marathon in 6 months. 24 weeks is optimal to help your body to adapt to the hard training you are placing on it.

I would also highly recommend investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 regularly. It helps to ensure that I am not running too fast on easy days. In addition, that I am not running too slow on faster workouts. Of course, you don't need to wear a heart rate monitor every day that you train. That being said, they are a great resource to help you better gauge the paces you are running at.


How Long Does it Take to Get in Shape for a Marathon?

A 12 week marathon training plan is sufficient time to get you in descent shape to race a marathon. Of course, I am a big advocate for a longer build-up. Remember, this is a marathon I am writing about and not a 5K. The marathon is a complex event. So, you want to make sure that you prepare adequately to cover 26.2 miles or 42.2 kilometers sufficiently. Too much easy running will only make you a superior long, slow distance runner.

You may have as your goal to break the sub 4 hour marathon barrier. Perhaps, you are aiming for a sub 3 hour marathon. These are highly competitive times. Can it be done in a 12 week build up. Yes but a 4 to 6-month build up will ensure you are not rushing your fitness. What has been the longest tempo run you have done in the past for your marathon build ups?

3 miles? 5 miles? I would focus on working your way toward around 10 miles (16 kilometers) or longer. Of course, you need to first adapt to a 3 mile tempo run before you can ever expect to run 10 miles at tempo effort. So, adaptation is key. Again, it takes between 3 to 4 weeks for the body to adapt to any stress load being placed on it. Be patient with yourself. The good news is that the body always adapts.

What is the Fastest Way to Shape for a Marathon?

Focus on a minimum of 16 to 24 week build up. Also, make sure to place heavier emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Again, if you are running too much mileage too aerobically you won't be prepared to race. Yes, you will be in great shape in terms of your endurance but not stamina. The overall goal here is to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

Easy running will not teach the body to do this. Our aim is to improve our lactate tolerance. Remember, the world's top runners are running between 35 to 40 percent of their weekly mileage at or below their lactic threshold. We are running between 85 to 89 percent of our max heart rate running at our anaerobic threshold. These runners make it look easy for a reason. They are simply running more of their mileage at a faster pace.

In addition, are jogging on their recovery days. So, they know how vital it is to rest between harder, anaerobic workouts. Remember, there is only so many times you can stress the body before you get diminished returns. So, a 12 week marathon training plan is the minimum starting point. 16 to 24 weeks is even better. You may want to check out our training plan options. You can click on the button below to learn more.


When Should Your Longest Run Be Before a Marathon?

I would focus on doing your longest long run between 3 to 4 weeks out from your goal marathon. So, first, build your base mileage. The reason for doing this is to ensure your muscles, tendons and ligaments are strengthened. In addition, that you minimize the likelihood you will get injured. So, be gradual at first with your build up. Also, don't be in a rush. Again, the longer your build up, the better chances of your success.

I created longer, 16 to 24-week marathon training plans for this very reason. Of course, I know there are many people who are searching for a 12 week marathon training plan too. I know many of you are working full-time or part-time jobs. So, perhaps, 3 months is all you have to get ready for your race. You can still get in descent shape with a 12 week marathon training plan.

Remember, don't run long, slow and easy every single weekend. Again, you want to improve your ability to handle goal marathon race pace longer. So, you are going to have to train at faster paces and for a longer period of time. I teach these concepts in-depth in the marathon running courses I have created.

Is it Better to Run Harder or Longer?

They both are equally important, in my opinion. You have to train at faster paces to improve your anaerobic fitness. Also, you need to run longer to build your endurance and overall strength. Remember, if you are running too short of distances, how well will you be prepared to race a marathon? I believe in doing faster, varied paced long runs when preparing for a marathon.

Below are is an example of the types of long runs I was doing prior to running 2:19:35 for the marathon…

2 mile warm-up, 5 miles@5:25 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 1 mile in 4:55, 2 miles easy, 4 miles@5:20 mile pace, 2 miles easy, 4 miles@6:00 mile pace, 1 mile cool-down (23 miles)

I used this technique to drop over 21 minutes off of my marathon PR. Furthermore, lowered my PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. So, I know that it works. You can also view the testimonials on the running courses pages to read how it has helped other runners. I also believe in a 10-day rather than a 3-week taper. I see far too many runners dropping their volume and intensity too far out from their goal race. It leaves many of them feeling tired, lethargic and wondering why they don't feel energized.

Remember, 10 days is plenty of time to fully recover from the hard training that you are doing. So, consider using this tactic and see what results you get from it.

Closing Thoughts

I hope that this post has been helpful. Also, that you can now see that a 12 week marathon training plan may be too short. Again, don't rush your fitness. It does take time, patience and effort to run a new personal best in the marathon. Make sure to subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I focus on creating at least 2 new videos there each week.

Also, to provide insight on how to perform better by doing less rather than more. I already know you know how to work hard. That being said, far too many people who work hard don't always get the results they are seeking. So, it is vital to learn how to use leverage and get better results by doing less. High mileage is no guarantee you will a new personal best over the marathon distance.

Yes, you still need to be consistent with your mileage but is running 120 miles a week needed? No. I'd rather you run 50 to 75 miles a week and achieve a new personal best in the marathon instead. Make sure to also implement mental training into your routine. So, see yourself crossing the finish line in your goal time, daily. Also, passing people, running relaxed and confident as well.


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