Marathon Training Plan 12 Weeks or 16 weeks? What is the Best?
Marathon training plans can vary from 12 weeks up to 30 weeks. However, most people often follow a program between 18-22 weeks.
Why you may ask? Generally, an 18-week training plan for the marathon will give you enough time to build up your long run and allow adequate recovery time between periodization phases.
However, the length of the training plan will largely rely on the coach’s training philosophy. In this article, we look at why you should stay away from a 12 week or 16-week marathon training plan if you are a beginner.
Marathon Training Plan 12 Weeks – Not For Beginners
If you are a beginner and training for your first marathon, should you purchase a marathon training plan that is 12 weeks long? While it may seem possible, most people find that 12 weeks is not long enough to adequately prepare.
Beginners following a marathon plan of this length often end up rushing through the training plan because of missed training days and lack of recovery. The missed days and lack of recovery are largely related to the rapid increase in training load.
Also, the shorter the training plan is, the shorter the base phase period will be. Increasing the training load too quickly for the beginner runner. Often leaving them burnt out, or in the worst case, injured.
However, for the more experienced runner, a 12-week training plan can work if the runner has some consistent training before starting the program. That means being able to run 20km in training and having at least 3-4 consistent runs per week. Having this background helps them to complete each phase of the 12-week plan without overloading the body. It also means they can sometimes shorten the based period of a 12 plan and focus more on intensity in the later stages of the program.
Marathon Training Plan 16 Weeks – What You Should know?
A marathon training plan that lasts 16 weeks or longer is more likely to help you succeed. Whether it be finishing the marathon for the first time or setting a new personal best. Why? Because following a 16-week plan allows you to complete a minimum of 4 blocks of training. That means for most people training for the 42k distance, it will give them 12 weeks of quality training paired with 4 weeks of recovery built into the plan.
This gives the beginner runner ample time to improve their aerobic fitness (long run). It also allows ample time to implement a short phase of tempo running or speed work to improve their marathon race pace.
However, every coach has a different philosophy, and most coaches will agree that the long run needs to be built up to around 20-22 miles or longer. So knowing this, building up to running 20-22 miles in training within 12 weeks is highly unlikely for the beginner.
Alternatively, if you are following a longer plan that is 18 to 20 weeks in duration, you should expect to see the long-run increase to 26-28 miles.
We do recommend being careful when following a program that is longer than 22 weeks if you are an experienced runner. Doing so may cause fatigue, burnout, and injuries from the long buildup.
Of course, everyone is different and each person will need to make a decision based on how their body handles the training.
But for most beginners running their first marathon, the extra time can work wonders. It will give them ample time when starting from scratch to build up the volume of running and the distance of the long run. So the longer the plan is, the more comfortable the progression can be when training for 42 kilometers.
How Long to Train for a Marathon?
Ultimately the ideal time frame to get you in shape to run a marathon depends on the mileage you have been running, experience, age, and recovery. Also, life and training balance also plays a large role too.
If you are over 40 years of age be aware that you will naturally need more time to recover than someone younger. That also means you will need more time when building up the longest run of the plan.
If you are a complete beginner and aiming to get off the couch and complete your first marathon. We recommend giving yourself 10-12 months to safely prepare for the event.
Beginner Marathon Training Plans
At SportCoaching we have a range of running training plans for all types of events. If you are looking at running your first marathon and have some running behind you check out our 18-week beginner marathon training plan. Alternatively, if you are a more experienced runner, we also have an Intermediate and Elite plan that ranges from 16-18 weeks long.
Each training plan is customized to each individual. That means the training is based on your lifestyle, fitness, goals, and event. Giving you the safest and best build-up you can hope for.
For more information check out our running coaching page.