The World’s Simplest Marathon Training Plan

Apr 17, 2017 | fitness

Many people who have a dream of running a marathon push it to one side because they are filled with the fear that it’s too much training, they don’t have the time, or they aren’t fit/strong enough. Well I am here to dispel that fear by showing you in the simplest way possible a training program for anyone who can currently run 10km without stopping. If you are an experienced marathoner wanting to run a PB (personal best) then this program may not be detailed enough for you. But if you are a first time marathoner, or an amateur, then this program is exactly what you need to get fit enough to complete 42.2km.

The five ingredients for a successful marathon training program

1. The 10% rule: A good friend of mine David (who leads the Kirribilli runners) once taught me the golden rule of marathon training; only increase your miles/km 10% per week. This reduces the chance of injury and allows your body the time to acclimatise to the extra running.

2. One long run every week: As soon as you start running one long run per week, your body will become so much stronger. 30km (18.6 mi) is the magic distance. Once you can run this, you can run a marathon. The more long run’s you get in leading up to the race, the stronger you will finish.

3. Stretch: I will say this once: If you don’t stretch your entire body properly and deeply, you WILL get injured. I hate stretching after a run because I am tired, hungry, hot, thirsty, so I do what one would call a pseudo stretch (aka a pathetic attempt to stretch). It certainly isn’t good enough, therefore I go to a semi-private Pilates class twice per week. Yoga is also incredible for runners. Pilates should be a reformer class focusing on flexibility. Try before you buy because some Pilates studio’s don’t put enough emphasis on stretching. If you want to cut costs, buy a yoga DVD and follow that twice per week. Whatever it takes pleeease stretch, and not just a pseudo stretch!

4. Speed sessions: Not all your training runs will be long runs, in fact you will see that short speed sessions are part of your program. They will get you running faster and strengthen all your running muscles which helps cope with the longer distances.

5.  Join a running group: This will not only improve the quality of your training but it adds an essential fun, social aspect to running. I do a long run with the Sydney Striders every Sunday, and they put on a breakfast spread afterwards. I look forward to this run as much as I look forward to my Friday night pub crawls (well almost as much!). Google ‘running groups’ in your local area and find out the fitness levels catered for. If you are Sydney based, the Sydney Striders and the Kirribilli runners are fantastic running groups. They are also great for running visitors who want to see more of Sydney on foot.

The 16 week training plan in Kilometers

Click here to view a larger, printable version of this program.


The 16 week training plan in Miles

Click here to view a larger, printable version of this program.

Training notes:

  • Shorter distances are to be trained at a faster pace. Use Mc Millans calculator to determine your pace.
  • For longer distances do not worry about your speed at first, just get through the distances at a steady pace. It is about how long you run for, not how fast.
  • Pick one short run per week to be a bit of a time trial. Record your times each week and monitor the improvements. Don’t be alarmed if they don’t improve quickly, you won’t necessarily get much faster training for a marathon, but boy will you get fitter!
  • Fit in a second stretch workout somewhere in that program. I’d be tempted to do it on your shortest distance day, that way you have Saturdays off completely.

Training tools

  • Heart rate monitor with GPS: These can be expensive (around AU$400) but I wouldn’t train without one. Apple Watch is my fav but, Garmin 405Polar GPS are good too.
  • Map my Run: If you don’t want to fork out money for a gps, use Map My Run to map your routes so you know how far each workout is. It’s not hard and doesn’t take long. Create your own profile so you can save and share your runs.
  • McMillans Calculator: This is an awesome tool where you can punch in a time you did for pretty much any distance, and it will tell you how fast you should be running for other distances. You can read more on McMillans if you want. Minutes per Kilometer are the units we use, and that is what your heart rate monitor with GPS will use too. It’s runners speak, you’ll see!
  • Beep test: Or any running fitness test really. I suggest you do one at the start of your training so you know how much you have improved. Always record your heart rate at the very end and exactly 60 seconds after you finish. Sometimes fitness shows itself in the rapid recovery time more so than the test itself.

It’s as simple as that! Follow the training program but ultimately listen to your body. Occasionally you will need to skip a workout, and that’s better than having a slow, frustrating run. If you feel you need more guidance, you can use a marathon training coach to give you a specialized program.




My favourite quick, easy pre and post workout snacks for people on the move

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