4-Month Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

Use our 4-month marathon training plan to get in tip-top shape and condition for your marathon race in 16 weeks or less.

man running

Eyeing a marathon that’s 16 weeks away? We can show you how to train for a marathon in 4 months or less—though, more time is always better when it comes to improving your pace and reducing your risk of injury. Our 4-month marathon training plan has all the scheduling, tips, and know-how you need to succeed.

Many long-distance runners have the ultimate goal of running a marathon for the first time. While it’s certainly a major accomplishment, being able to train for a marathon doesn’t have to take forever.

No matter what, our marathon training program can have you ready, confident, and excited to reach the finish line on race day. 16 weeks might not “feel” like a lot of time, but if you use it wisely with the coaching experts in our training program, you’ll be there faster (and stronger) than you think!

4-Month Marathon Training Plan

Whether you’ve trained for a half marathon before or not, you can still do a full marathon first. Our program is based on strength work, specific training runs, weekly long runs, cross-training, nutrition, and correct form and posture.

Each day of the week will have a specific focus throughout the training plan. The workouts will change some over time as you progress towards race day. For example, some weeks you will lower your training volume a little bit to help you recover from intense periods of training, and you’ll go through a “tapering” period to help your body feel rested before you hit the starting line.

Keep in mind, though, no matter where you are as a runner today, you can be ready in just four months! Here’s what you’d expect in a general week:

Mondays: Core Work and Restoration Training

On Mondays, it’s all about focusing on new movements with increasingly challenging volume and core workout sets. We’ll focus on improving your running posture and being able to hold it for longer periods of time–so you can expend more energy by running as efficiently as possible.

We’ll also pay special attention to your breathing mechanics, so you can get the most out of each breath when it counts. This workout should take about 45 minutes.

Want to know more about core work and how it can help your running? Check out this 10-minute core video from TRE Coach Holly:

Tuesdays: Posture, Breathing, and Pulling Drills

This workout for marathoners will focus on three different drills that we introduced in all our training programs. You’ll start with a quick warm up featuring belly breaths and a 10-minute run where you connect your breathing with your running cadence.

The main drills you’ll focus on next are the leg swing, pulling, and running as tall and relaxed as possible. The total workout of running plus drills will take about 20-40+ minutes.

Want to learn more about breathing tips for running and racing that will help you train for a marathon? Try this video from Coach Nate:

Wednesdays: Strength and Cross-Training

Wednesdays come packed full of strength training that will foster more stable hips and shoulders–and how it translates into better running form. It also includes cross-training that will make you stronger and give your legs a break from all the pounding, as anyone who is training for their first marathon experiences.

The workout takes about 45 minutes and includes a warm up consisting of three 10 rounds of seconds of jogging in place, followed by three rounds of 10 seconds of butt kicks, with 10 seconds of rest in between. You’ll also do three rounds of lateral lunge and hip circles, and two rounds of opposite arm circles.

man doing a tuck jump

The main workout will look something like this each week:

  • Three rounds of walking lunges and forwards bear crawl
  • Three rounds of inchworms and backwards bear crawl
  • Three rounds of single-leg burpees and 10 step-ups per leg
  • Three rounds of 10 shoulder touch push-ups and 10 box jumps

You’ll finish up with ten minutes of quad rolling and thoracic spine stretching and call it a day!

Thursdays: Hill Intervals

man doing a hill workout

Get ready to hit the hills for speedwork and strength on Thursdays. Why are they so important? Hills build running strength, improve form and technique when you train for a marathon.

They also help us increase our running cadence for powerful, efficient running. Ankle, hip, and shoulder mobility improve with hill running, too! Here’s what a typical hill workout may look like:

  • A warm up with 10 belly breaths to prepare for an intense workout
  • A slow 10-minute jog to get your muscles warmed up, focusing on running tall and light
  • One round of 10 sprawls, 10 squats, 10 hip circles per leg, 10 elbow touches per side, and 10 leg swings–you should be good and warmed up!
  • Depending on where you are in the 16-week training plan, you’ll run 5-10 60-90 second hills. Find about a five percent incline, or use an indoor treadmill. Jog down the hill for about one to two minutes of rest between each hill. End with a 10-minute cool down jog and light stretching. This workout should take about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what week you’re on. Now, let’s check out this video on three hill running tips for stronger running:

Fridays: Rest Day, Nutrition, and Mobility

You’ve packed a lot of work into four days so far this week. On Fridays, we’ll focus on rest, nutrition, and becoming more mobile. The goal is to provide a mental and physical break to recover–and prepare to stay with your training plan. While working hard is important, it’s just as important to give your body the chance to recover, rest, and reduce the risk of injury.

Rest, but also focus on working/stretching out those tight areas. For example, use a foam roller on those tight calves and quads!

As far as proper nutrition goes for running recovery, check out this video from the awesome distance runner, Dathan Ritzenhein:

Saturdays: The Distance Run

Like most runners training for an important race, you probably fall into one of two categories when it comes to longer distances–you love it…or it’s your least favorite. If you love speed work such as tempo runs, you probably fall into the latter category.

two women running together

However, it’s a critical part of your marathon training! It teaches you how to pace, how to get used to the distance of a long race, and how to handle your nutrition needs on a longer run. Here’s what a typical long run workout may look like, depending on your training week and your current weekly mileage:

  • Start with 10 minutes of light jogging where you focus on your breathing
  • Do one round of leg swings, lunges, hip circles, and inchworm push-ups
  • On your first week, run five to seven miles at an easy, conversational pace. In later weeks, you’ll build up to about 20 miles to get you ready for the big day.
  • Remember, this run is about distance, not pace. You should be easily able to talk during this run, not gasping for breath!

Sundays: Fun Run and Cross Training Day

This is your day to have fun with your running and remember why you fell in love with the sport in the first place. After all, all of your marathon training schedule doesn’t have to be serious business.

So today, it’s up to you. If that means a game of soccer with friends, riding a bike, or playing tennis with a buddy, go for it. There’s only one rule–have fun!

Injury Prevention Tips for 16-Week Marathon Training Plans

The biggest obstacle you'll have to overcome with any 16-week marathon training plan is injury. Trying to smoosh in a big amount of training always increases your risk of injury, but there are steps you can take to mitigate this risk:

1. Choose the Right Footwear

Selecting the appropriate running shoes is crucial for injury prevention. The right shoes provide the necessary support and accommodate your specific foot type and running style, reducing the risk of common injuries. A visit to a specialty running store for professional gait analysis is highly recommended to ensure the best shoe choice.

2. Listen to Your Body

Attentiveness to your body's signals is key in preventing injuries. If you experience any unusual pain, fatigue, or discomfort, it's a sign to ease up. Ignoring these signs can lead to more serious injuries, so rest and seek medical advice if needed.

3. Incorporate Rest Days

Rest days are essential in any training plan. They allow your body to recover and repair, reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Make sure to schedule rest days, especially following long runs or intense workouts, to facilitate muscle recovery and maintain overall health.

4. Gradual Progression

A gradual increase in training intensity and mileage is critical to avoid overtraining and injury. Increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10% helps your body adapt safely to the increased physical demands of marathon training.

5. Strength Training and Core Work

Strength and core exercises are vital for a well-rounded training regimen. Strengthening your core and leg muscles improves your running form and efficiency, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of injuries.

6. Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Always start your runs with a proper warm-up and end with a cool-down. A warm-up prepares your muscles and joints for the run, while cool-down stretches aid in recovery and flexibility, reducing post-run muscle stiffness.

7. Hydration and Nutrition

Nutrition and hydration play a significant role in injury prevention. Maintaining a balanced diet and ensuring adequate hydration, especially on long runs, are crucial for your body's health and resilience during training.

8. Cross-Training

Incorporating low-impact activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga can greatly benefit your marathon training. Cross-training enhances overall fitness while giving your primary running muscles a necessary break, aiding in injury prevention.

16-Week Marathon Training Plan Adjustments

There's little-to-no chance your 16-week marathon training plan will all go according to your expectations. Injuries will pop up, bad weather will ruin your runs, and travel plans will blow up your schedule. Here's how to make adjustments and adaptations to keep your preparation fresh and as close to the plan as possible:

Adaptations for Weather

Hot Weather Training:

  1. Hydrate Well: Start hydrating the day before your run. Drink plenty of water and consider electrolyte supplements to prevent dehydration.
  2. Run Early or Late: Schedule your runs for early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler.
  3. Wear Light Clothing: Choose light-colored, moisture-wicking fabrics to help keep you cool.
  4. Use Sunscreen: Protect your skin with a high-SPF sunscreen, and consider wearing a hat and sunglasses.
  5. Slow Down: Adjust your pace to avoid overheating. Listen to your body and take walking breaks if needed.
  6. Stay in the Shade: Whenever possible, run on shaded routes to avoid direct sun exposure.

Cold Weather Training:

  1. Layer Up: Dress in layers that you can easily remove as you warm up. Opt for moisture-wicking base layers and insulated outer layers.
  2. Warm Up Properly: Spend extra time warming up indoors to get your muscles ready for the cold.
  3. Protect Extremities: Wear gloves, a hat, and warm socks to keep your extremities warm.
  4. Be Visible: Shorter daylight hours mean you might be running in low light conditions. Wear reflective gear and use lights.
  5. Adjust for Wind Chill: Be mindful of the wind chill factor, and dress accordingly. Running into the wind at the start can help you finish with the wind at your back.

Rainy Weather Training:

  1. Wear a Hat: A hat with a brim will help keep rain out of your eyes.
  2. Choose the Right Gear: Opt for a lightweight, waterproof jacket and avoid cotton clothing that can become heavy when wet.
  3. Protect Your Feet: Consider wearing moisture-wicking socks to prevent blisters and use waterproof shoes if possible.
  4. Adjust Your Route: Avoid trails or paths that might become slippery or muddy. Stick to safer surfaces like roads or sidewalks.
  5. Stay Safe: Be cautious of reduced visibility for both yourself and drivers. Wear bright, reflective gear.

Adapting for Different Terrains

Trail Running:

  1. Invest in Trail Shoes: Trail running shoes offer better grip and protection for uneven surfaces.
  2. Strengthen Your Ankles: Incorporate exercises that build ankle strength and stability to prevent injuries on rough terrain.
  3. Adjust Your Pace: Expect a slower pace on trails due to elevation changes and obstacles.
  4. Stay Alert: Keep an eye on the trail ahead to avoid tripping over roots, rocks, or other obstacles.
  5. Use a Hydration Pack: For longer trail runs, a hydration pack can be more convenient than carrying a water bottle.

Road Running:

  1. Wear the Right Shoes: Choose shoes designed for road running that provide cushioning and support for hard surfaces.
  2. Mind the Traffic: Always run against traffic and be aware of your surroundings. Use sidewalks where available.
  3. Vary Your Route: To prevent boredom and repetitive strain injuries, vary your running routes regularly.
  4. Stay Visible: Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially if running in low-light conditions.
  5. Use Pedestrian Crossings: Be cautious at intersections and use pedestrian crossings to stay safe.

Treadmill Running:

  1. Set an Incline: Set the treadmill at a 1-2% incline to better simulate outdoor running conditions.
  2. Mix It Up: Use the treadmill’s features to vary your workout with intervals, hills, and speed changes.
  3. Stay Entertained: To avoid boredom, listen to music, watch TV, or use treadmill-specific workout apps.
  4. Check Your Form: Pay attention to your running form, as it can be easy to develop bad habits on a treadmill.
  5. Stay Cool: Ensure good ventilation and hydrate well, as indoor environments can sometimes feel stuffy.

Start Your 4-Month Marathon Training Plan

Ok, so now you know about the structure of TRE’s marathon training plan and that you can be ready in just four months, aren’t you ready to lace up your running shoes and train for a marathon?

Sign up for our marathon training program today for day-by-day workout guides, expert advice, videos, training tips, and more!