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3 Day a week Marathon Training Plan

May 13, 2015 | Marathon Majors, Running | 25 comments

Running Berlin Marathon

I love running and I actually really like marathon training- the routine, structure and of course, ticking off each workout. However, a lot of training plans call for 5-6 runs a week which I hate. I know my body doesn’t respond well to running so much, plus I get bored. I love trying out different classes and workouts, even throughout the marathon build up.

I’ve discovered that running 3 (max 4) times a week works best for me, however there aren’t a lot of plans out there that allow this.

I was really lucky to have a friend write my training plan last year and I think I’ve bribed him into helping me out for Chicago too! I’ve had a number of emails recently from readers looking for training plans for October marathons, so I thought I’d put my training plan from Berlin in one place- feel free to use the plan and adjust your workouts to your pace.

Alternatively, I’ll be posting my Chicago workouts on the blog and on social media for those that have marathons on/after 11th October if you want to follow along!

One plan that I would recommend for a 3 runs a week plan is Run Faster, Run Less beginner plan (although I don’t love how prescriptive the crosstraining is!) If you opt for the more advanced training plans from Run Faster, Run Less, they have you running 20 miles about 5 times during training which I definitely couldn’t do!

I’ll be starting my Chicago training properly in July, but for the next 2 months I’ll be gradually building up my mileage and hopefully increasing my pace! I feel like my legs (and lungs) have forgotten what it’s like to run properly!

Running the Berlin Marathon

Sub 4 Hour 3 Runs a Week Marathon Training Plan

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4 and 5

Week 6 

Week 7

Week 8 

Week 9 

Week 10 

Annoyingly I seemed to have stopped doing weekly write ups at this point- but I completed the following (found by going through the last 9 months of whatsapps from my coach!)


Week 11

7 miles at 8.00

20 miles at 8.50

5 mile easy jog

Week 12

Yasso 800s x 10

Pyramid workout – 400, 800, 1200, 1600, 1200, 800, 400

17 miles

Running the Berlin Marathon

Week 13

1 mile warm up, 5 miles at 8, 1 mile cool down

Yasso 800s X 12

15 miles at 8.30 


Week 14

1 mile warm up, 5 miles at 7.50, 1 mile cool down

9 miles at 8.25

12 miles at 8.45

Week 15

6 x 400m repeats

1 mile warm up, 5 miles at 7.50, 1 mile cool down

10 miles

Week 16

6 miles easy

3 mile gentle jog

Race Day! 

Berlin Marathon medal


Are you training for an Autumn marathon? If so, which one?

Feel free to leave any questions about the plan/Chicago training etc in the comments below or email me at


  1. pippa

    It’s nice to hear I’m not the only one who can’t cope with more than 3 running days a week…! I play team sports in the winter which makes running training hard to fit in any more than 3 sessions and I seem to get injured easily too! I
    Seeing all the training plans for ‘intermediates’ at 4+ days a week always makes me feel like I could never be a proper runner despite improving my race times steadily!
    I’ve not had a trainer do a training plan or anything but I’ve read a lot and managed to tweak most plans by removing the easy runs or non targeted sessions so just leaving two technique or speed sessions in the week and a long run at the weekend. I’ve not done a marathon (yet) but this worked well for the half marathons last year and definitely worked well for my 10k times! Good luck with your training!

    • charlotte

      I just love doing other things too much! My ‘trainer’ is actually just my friend who is a better runner than me. I pay him in burgers and beer 🙂

  2. Jenny

    I followed the Run Less, Run Faster plan for Paris this year – I loved the training and finished in 3:57, a 30 minute improvement on my previous (and first) marathon! I’m running Berlin in September and had hoped to follow the plan again, but like you say the advanced plans suggest 4+ runs weekly. I really want to push myself this time (dreaming of a BQ!), but I know I would struggle with anything more than 3 x weekly plus cross training! Trying to work out whether it will be enough…!

    • charlotte

      So glad to hear it worked for you!! Feel free to use the workouts I posted from my Berlin training but just adjust the speed for the workouts. That plan got me a 3.49 which was a 11 minute improvement from my Paris marathon!

  3. Kelli

    I used run less run faster for Richmond marathon in 2013. Now I mostly do triathlons and the run training for that is quite similar to the RLRF program, expect for some short runs right after a bike workout on the cross training days.

  4. Tom

    A good and interesting post. I hope you don’t mind if I add some thoughts.

    I like Run Less, Run Faster and have used it in conjunction with cross-training as prep for ultras before now but on reflection, my main issue with it is how quickly the distance builds up for the long runs. I think you have to be at a pretty good level of fitness before even starting the program as even on, the beginner plan, you hit a long run of 11-12 miles within a few weeks of starting (which ends up being over 50% of your weekly mileage in one run).

    But I think if you’ve got the fitness and are happy regularly running 8/9 miles when you start, then it’s a good plan, as long as you keep up the endurance cross training too. One thing I think it might be worth noting though is what the purpose of each of the 3 runs are (interval, tempo, long) because the plans success depends very much on understanding that (and how to calculate what pace to tackle them at.)

    Good luck for Chicago

    • charlotte

      Not at all, I do completely agree. I would say it’s a beginner marathon plan but not a beginner running plan. For complete beginners, I love Hal Higdon’s novice plan that’s 30 weeks!

  5. MissCatherine

    Hi Charlie I am running Chicago too (we were tweeting each other) and your post has me so excited to start training. I am like you and want to start ‘pre-training’ over the next few weeks and then i am doing a 16 week training plan from mid-June. I have heard about Run Less Run Faster before (reading Ashley’s blog) and have purchased the book to read up on it. A max of 4 runs a week is all i can manage during training and then fitting in x training too like yoga and spin. Good luck with your training- i cant wait to read about it all 🙂 I have previously paid a coach to draft me a training plan but i might go it alone this time!

    I have a few races planned over the training period including a 5 miler at the end of June, 10 miler at the beginning of August and a half marathon at the beginning of September. Have you booked your accommodation and travel yet? I am thinking of travelling out Thursday and then returning on Tuesday and i have a provisional hotel booked (so freaking expensive marathon weekend – way more costly than NYC!) Good luck with everything

    • charlotte

      Hi Catherine! Thanks and good luck with your training too. I love using races for training runs, I just signed up to run a half as part of a 20 miler! I’m booking my flights today – already booked hotel with my parents who are coming over too! AM flying via NYC as it’s so much cheaper!

      • Christina Eason

        Ooh which half are u doing? Think it’s harder to find buildup races for autumn maras as opposed to Spring ones. I’m doing Chicago too!

        • charlotte

          Amazing! I’m doing the Ealing half marathon in Sept, and hoping to do the new West London 10K too!

          • Christina Eason

            Ah cool – will u race or pace? I did ealing a few yrs ago, it’s a good 1. I’m doing Bacchus mara as a long run…..treating the last few miles as strict wine miles of course!

        • charlotte

          I’ll be pacing it, however if I run a marathon pace or even slower then I should get a massive PB anyway!

  6. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes

    I have been using Run Less Run Faster for my last 2 marathons and love it. I do change a few things though, I definitely don’t have time for 5-6 20 mile runs. I cut it down to 3 and it’s been doable. I may switch it up again for my fall marathon, maybe 2 20 mile and 1 22 mile run. Still working on it though. My body doesn’t like more than 3, 4 runs max either!

    • charlotte

      That’s good to know. I love doing a 22 miler in training, makes me feel far more confident for 26! Am def going to include that this summer! Which fall marathon are you doing?

  7. Brittany C

    I have run 7 half marathons and plan to run my first full marathon (Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.) in October). Right now I am running 3 times a week and I know I don’t want to run more than 4 times/week, so this is great!

    • charlotte

      Wow amazing, I would love to run the MCM! Looks so gorgeous, good luck with your training!!

  8. Kaci @ Running the Next Step

    Thanks for sharing! I’ll definitely check into Run Less Run Faster. I’m not doing marathons (maybe someday) but even most training plans for half marathons require more running days than I like. I’m with you-I can’t give up my other classes and workouts!

    • charlotte

      I;m pretty sure the book includes half marathon programmes too!

  9. Ash Diamond

    Wahoo!! You’re a running rock star! I am so excited to start my next round of training for a late Summer goal race. I have my eye on a 10 miler which could be a great warm-up to mid- Fall half marathon!

  10. Lauren

    Thanks for sharing. I feel like I do better with less running too. I’m not sure what training plan I’ll follow because I’m running Chicago too! I need to take shave some minutes off my time so I’ll see. Thanks for sharing! I’ll be following along with your training as well!

    • charliedwatson

      Good luck with your training!! I’ve got quite a few minutes to shave off too 🙂 what are you going for?

  11. Smitha @ Running with SD Mom

    I am so glad I found your blog and that I can still get my marathon training done with only 3 runs a week. I don’t mind 4 days but more than that? I feel like I am asking for injury!

    • charlotte

      I’m the same!! What marathon are you training for?

  12. misswheezy

    Thanks for sharing Charlie 🙂 I definitely think that running 3x week for whatever race you’re training for is a good idea, as it leaves you time to fit in strength training, yoga and rest – all of which I believe are essential to a successful race. Now I just need to put my own advice into practise 😉 Can’t wait to hear about your training for Chicago- so exciting! x



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