How to Choose a Training Plan for a Half or Full Marathon

You have decided to run a half or full marathon. Congratulations! Now, where do you begin? How do you prepare your body to get to the starting line healthy and ready to run, not beat down or injured? You need to find a Half or Full Marathon training plan.

Colin Twin Cities Marathon

Colin at the Twin Cities Marathon

Common pieces of a training plan include:

  • Gradual increase of mileage, with occasional down weeks
  • Weekly long runs – as a guideline, 20%-30% of your weekly mileage
  • Easy days – make up a large portion of your weekly mileage, designed to work your slow twitch muscles to increase their abilities to utilize oxygen
  • “Tempo” days – a “comfortably hard” day where you increase your pace for a period of time to build strength
  • Days off, or Cross training days – a complete day off to recover, or time spent working yourself out aerobically in a different way – on a bike, in a pool, etc.

When do I start training?

  • When training for longer races, it is good to give yourself several months before the event to gradually build up strength and stamina, so you do not get injured and gives your body ample time to gain strength and recover before the big day.

How do I go about choosing a plan?

Training plans come in all different lengths, typically around 4-5 months long.

When looking for a training plan, you should choose one that is at your level, fits your lifestyle and is trusted.

  1. At your level: It takes several weeks before a race to build strength and stamina to be able to reach the start (and finish line) healthy and ready to go. Not all training plans are designed equally, or are the right fit for everyone.
  2. Fits your lifestyle: Some training plans have you running most days of the week, others are a bit more flexible with one long run per week and a few other runs scattered throughout the week. What is realistic for you to complete?
  3. Trusted: Talk to a friend who has run a half or full marathon. What training plan did they use? How did it work for them? Check out our list of resources below.

Nate Chicago Marathon

Nate at the Chicago Marathon

A couple of things to consider:

  • Understand that no training plan will go perfectly. Focus on consistency.
  • Feel confident to adjust the plan to work for you. If your training plan tells you to run three easy miles today, but your shin is really bothering you, it is best to either cross train or take the day off. The recovery on your body is going to matter more than that three mile run (which could make things worse, or cause you to miss more days). Does your training plan tell you to do your long runs on Sundays but that does not work for you? Move it to Saturday.

Free Online Training Plan Resources

Local Training Runs

  • Prevea Training Runs: Early January through Mid May geared towards preparation for the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon
  • Pacesetters: Summer Training Runs geared towards preparation for the Community First Fox Cities Marathon or ThedaCare Half Marathon. These are weekly Saturday Morning group runs that begin at the end of May into September.


We are here to help!

Stop in any of our stores or Contact Us and we are happy to answer any questions!

Happy Training!

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