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The Best Marathon Training Plans for Your Spring Marathon

Oct 3, 2021 | Featured, Running, Running Advice | 4 comments

The countdown until the big Spring Marathons is on…

115 days until the London Marathon.

102 days until Boston.

101 days until Brighton Marathon.

94 days until Manchester Marathon.

A lot of the London Marathon training plans start this week, 16 weeks out from the big race. Maybe you’ve already started prepping for your spring race, or have made the decision to finally fulfil a New Year’s Resolution to run 26.2 so have just signed up? I know that training is on a lot of people’s minds as we enter 2019, so I’ve rounded up the best marathon training plans to help you reach the finish line of the marathon, whatever your goals!

Some things to consider when picking a marathon training plan;

  • Don’t overcommit to running more days/miles than you can fit into your life AND recover from. Some plans are 3 days a week, some are over 100 miles per week. Look at your schedule, figure out what you can commit to and what would be realistic for your experience, pace, and life.
  • Plans should be flexible, work, family, friends, illness can get in the way. You should be able to move things around, miss a run or two over the 16 weeks, and not be too stressed (or behind).
  • Try to include some strength and stretching into your routine, make sure to factor that in when looking at plans.

Hal Higdon 

I used the Novice Supreme for my first marathon and it was perfect. I was nowhere near a runner when I signed up for the  London Marathon in 2012, so this was a great, simple plan for me. I think his Novice plans are brilliant for first-time marathoners, without too much jargon or too many runs. You can also up the ante with his Intermediate or Advanced plans.

3 Runs a Week 

I followed this 3 Runs a Week marathon training plan for the Berlin Marathon a couple of years ago, and until last February it was my Marathon PB of 3.49.

Running the Berlin Marathon

Run Less, Run Faster

For those without a lot of time, or who tend to get injured with high mileage training plans, this workout might  Each workout, including your cross training, is very structured. You run 3 days a week and cross train 3 days a week. In my opinion it’s probably not the best for your first marathon unless you’re a seasoned half-marathoner.

Nike+ Running Plans 

I wish they had something like Project Moonshot (Nike’s New York Marathon build up plan in the US) but this free training plan is informative with all of the sessions explained in a mini glossary, a pace chart, an 18 week build up with info around what you’re doing and why.

Runner’s World SmartCoach 

Creating a plan that’s tailored to you using the Runner’s World SmartCoach, you can select the number of weeks you have to train, your training effort, your weekly mileage etc and boom – a plan made for you! I haven’t actually used one of these plans but know plenty of people that have and who loved them.

My Asics

You can have fun with this online tool, messing around with how many days you want to run, your pace level and when your marathon date is to create a plan that works for you. I actually prefer this plan to the SmartCoach because of it’s simplicity and flexibility.

London Marathon Plans 

Written by ex GB athlete, Martin Yelling has written a beginner, intermediate and advanced training plan specifically for London marathon runners. They are done based on time rather than distance, so great for those without a lot of run tech.

The Hansen Method

Almost the opposite of the ‘Run less, Run faster’ philosophy, this programme gets you to run more often (up to 6 days a week) with lots of easy, shorter distance runs. The long mileage caps out at 16 miles, so good for those with less weekend free time for 20 mile slogs. Interestingly I’ve had a LOT of 16 milers in my training plan for Phoenix, which has made the distance feel like less of a big deal, however I’m not sure how I would feel having only run 16 miles in preparation for 26 miles.

Heart Rate Training

The Maffetone Method or Low Heart Rate Training utilises the idea that we should be working in the ideal maximum heart rate zone during our aerobic training, a number we can work out by subtracting our age from 180 (there are some adjustments to this that you can read about here) For a lot of people this will mean slowing their runs down considerably, which might not work for some people but could be perfect for those coming back from injury, dealing with any chronic conditions etc. My friend Amanda wrote a much more in depth review of this training method – check out her blog here.

Rogue Running Training Group

I love the Rogue Running podcasts, their no BS approach to running and training. I often listen to it on my long runs or when I’m lacking motivation. They have a group podcast training group, 1:1 plans, and for those who live in Austin they have in person group training. I would totally join their group if I lived in Texas!

RW London Marathon Pacers

Personalised Plans 

Having a coach write a plan that suits YOU is one of my biggest recommendations if you want to make major leaps in your running and have big marathon goals (if you can afford it, prices vary wildly it seems!). Finding the right coach for you, that understands your hopes and dreams, but also the reality of your training life and current fitness. I like having someone to hold me accountable, to adjust workouts based on performance and schedules, and to be in it with me!

I feel I have to say this as it has been on my mind for a while, but just because someone runs a fast marathon, does not make them a good running coach.  Look for someone with qualifications, experience and knowledge, ask them about the training methods, their thoughts and above all the personalisation of their plans. One approach does not fit all runners, and any coach work their salt respects that, and your time availability and goals.

This blog sharing the Pros and Cons of working with an online coach and shared some of my top coaching recommendations in this post.  

What training plans have you followed in the past? Or are you planning on following this year? 


  1. Ari Scott

    Thanks for this post. I ran my first marathon last fall (NYC) after following the New York Road Runners virtual training program. I liked the variety in runs, and they have coaches who were on hand to answer whatever questions popped up. The program also had a facebook group where many runners would post about their runs and ask questions and offer advice. My only wish is that there had been more training at marathon pace. For my spring marathon (New Jersey), I’m following the training plan of my running club, which is customizable based on my paces. So we’ll see how that goes!

  2. Cari

    I used a modified Hal Higdon for my first Halfs and will likely use that if I do a full. I say modified as it’s a mix of his & Runkeeper’s, which I used to lower, slightly, the number of days as I can’t do more than two consecutive days, generally.
    Will look into the ones you mentioned

  3. owensteersblog

    A fantastic post that I’m sure many will benefit from! Keep up the awesome work Charlie! x

    • charlotte

      Thank you!


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