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Running a marathon, which is 26.2 miles, is an attainable achievement, but it requires preparation to ensure safety and maximize your results. Your training can depend on your goals and other factors, such as your age, sex, and fitness ability.

To train for a marathon, it’s helpful to create and follow a training program that involves gradually building up your mileage, strength, and endurance. Preparing for a marathon in 20 weeks, which is roughly 4.5 months, gives you plenty of time to get ready.

This article will teach you how to train for a marathon in 20 weeks whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced runner.

For the following training plans, perform the easy and long runs at a comfortable, sustainable pace. On at least one of the easy run days, do some type of hill, speed, or interval training.

You can also run at a half-marathon or marathon pace, which is slightly faster than your usual speed. Aerobic runs involve running at a pace that’s 30 to 45 seconds faster than your easy pace.

For the mileage listed, feel free to add or subtract 1 or 2 miles as needed.

This plan refers to beginners who have run before, but have never trained for long mileage. If you’re a complete runner newbie, you may need to increase your mileage even more gradually.

Week SundayMonday: Easy Run Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday: Easy Run Saturday: Long Run
1rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest35
2rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest35
3rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest36
4rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest36
5rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest47
6rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest47
7rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest49
8rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest59
9rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest511
10rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest513
11rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest513
12rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest515
13rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest517
14rest5strength trainingcross-trainingrest519
15rest5strength trainingcross-trainingrest520
16rest5strength trainingcross-trainingrest517
17rest4strength trainingcross-trainingrest514
18rest3strength trainingcross-trainingrest411
19rest2strength trainingcross-trainingrest310
20rest2strength trainingcross-trainingrest310
Week SundayMonday: Easy Run Tuesday Wednesday: Aerobic RunThursday Friday: Easy RunSaturday: Long Run
1rest5strength training or cross-training 7rest79
2rest5strength training or cross-training7rest79
3rest5strength training or cross-training7rest79
4rest5strength training or cross-training7rest79
5rest7strength training or cross-training6rest813
6rest7strength training or cross-training6rest813
7rest7strength training or cross-training6rest813
8rest7strength training or cross-training6rest514
9rest7strength training or cross-training6rest514
10rest8strength training or cross-training6rest515
11rest8strength training or cross-training6rest515
12rest8strength training or cross-training6rest515
13rest8strength training or cross-training6rest514
14rest3strength training or cross-training7rest418
15rest3strength training or cross-training7rest418
16rest4strength training or cross-training10rest413
17rest4strength training or cross-training10rest413
18rest7strength training or cross-training5rest28
19rest7strength training or cross-training4rest68
20rest2strength training or cross-training3rest46
Week SundayMonday: Easy Run Tuesday Wednesday: Aerobic RunThursday Friday: Easy RunSaturday: Long Run
1rest4strength training or cross-training76511
2rest 4strength training or cross-training76511
3rest 4strength training or cross-training76511
4rest5strength training or cross-training76812
5rest5strength training or cross-training76812
6rest5strength training or cross-training96913
7rest5strength training or cross-training96813
8rest5strength training or cross-training96514
9rest5strength training or cross-training96515
10rest5strength training or cross-training96519
11rest6strength training or cross-training96619
12rest 6strength training or cross-training96619
13rest7strength training or cross-training107719
14rest5strength training or cross-training85418
15rest6strength training or cross-training85414
16rest4strength training or cross-training124518
17rest4strength training or cross-training114418
18rest5strength training or cross-training114414
19rest4strength training or cross-training104410
20rest3strength training or cross-training7337

How you train for a marathon will have an impact on your race. In addition to increasing your speed and strength, you’ll need to improve your:

  • stamina
  • endurance
  • mental resilience

Read on to take a look at some of the top training tips to help you improve your overall performance.

Mix up your exercise routine

Add variety to your workouts by including moderate-intensity exercises such as:

  • tennis
  • hiking
  • dancing

This keeps your workout routine interesting, ensures you target different muscle groups, and prevents overuse injuries.

Build strength

Building strength helps you to run faster and with better form. Do strength building exercises such as:

  • weightlifting
  • resistance band exercises
  • bodyweight training, including lunges, squats, and plank variations

Get flexible

Increase flexibility in your body to avoid tightness, shortened muscles, and injury. Plus, you’ll be able to run with greater comfort and ease.

Along with yoga and gentle stretching, you can include some of these hip exercises that help increase strength and mobility.

Vary your runs

To become a faster, stronger runner, include different types of runs in your routine. This may include:

  • endurance runs
  • speedwork
  • tempo training
  • hill runs

Do interval workouts

To boost strength and endurance, do interval workouts such as:

Take time to relax

In addition to having rest days and allowing plenty of time for sleep, you can do relaxation techniques. This helps:

  • soothe muscular tension
  • relieve stress
  • reduce fatigue

You’ll also lower your:

  • blood pressure
  • breathing rate
  • heart rate

Examples of relaxing activities include indulging in a sauna, massage, or art session. Or you can do progressive muscle relaxation, yoga nidra, or meditation.

Keep your weight in check

If you have a healthy body weight, it’ll be easier to move your body when you run and do your workouts. Plus, you’ll have higher energy levels and feel better in general.

If you need to lose weight, take steps to do so naturally and healthfully.

Strengthen your core

A strong core helps you to maintain good form and posture. It can also prevent injury. Along with crunches, do exercises such as:

Plan out your meals to achieve the correct balance of nutrients and fluids. This allows you to properly fuel your body for your running workouts and the big race.

Stay hydrated by drinking water and sports drinks before, during, and after your runs. Other healthy drinks include:

  • herbal teas
  • coconut water
  • unsweetened fruit or vegetable juices

Avoid or cut back on drinks containing caffeine, sugar, or alcohol.

Eat plenty of carbohydrates, which help boost your energy levels and improve muscle performance. Healthy choices include:

  • fruit and yogurt smoothies
  • whole grain products
  • legumes

Opt for starchy vegetables like:

  • squash
  • beetroot
  • sweet potato

Healthy protein options help heal and repair muscle tissue while enhancing muscle growth. Options include:

  • lean, uncured meats
  • poultry
  • fish

Vegetarian options include eggs and dairy products. Vegan choices include tofu, nuts, and seeds.

While it’s important to stick with your training schedule, it’s also important to take breaks when necessary.

Taking a break early on can save you time in the long run — it’ll be easier for you to recover in the early stages. If you push yourself too hard you may end up with a deeper or long-lasting injury or illness.

Here are some signs that you may need to take a break from your running or exercise routine:

  • increased effort but your performance stays the same
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss or gain
  • chronic injuries or injuries that linger or worsen
  • low energy levels or fatigue
  • loss of motivation or enthusiasm
  • feeling moody, irritable, or agitated
  • aches and pains beyond normal soreness
  • elevated heart rate during workouts or resting
  • sleep concerns

Training for a marathon is an incredible experience, and it’s nice to have someone with professional expertise to guide you along the way.

Consider working with a fitness professional if you’re new to running or it’s your first marathon — or if you have any injuries or medical conditions that your training may affect.

A personal trainer or running coach can help to put together a running program to suit your individual needs, goals, and time frame. Plus, they’ll be there as you implement the training and can easily modify or adjust as necessary.

A professional can help you to make improvements to your running technique so you’re running with maximum speed, safety, and efficiency. They’ll be on hand to motivate you and change up your routine if it starts to feel stagnant.

As you continue to improve and develop, they’ll offer:

  • feedback
  • modifications
  • variations

Training for a marathon can be a fun and rewarding experience. Allowing for 20 weeks of training gives you enough time to prepare and even take a break if you need it.

Continually check in with your training program to determine if you need to make changes, then adjust as necessary. Rise to meet new challenges while working within your limitations — and as always, enjoy the process.