A Marathon Training Program For Real People With Busy Schedules

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Articles, Fitness


If you are a runner with a goal to run your first marathon or run a PR marathon then you no doubt been exposed to your share of marathon training program advice.  If your years of training and researching about how to train for and run a marathon or how to improve your marathon PR have resulted in frustration, self-doubt, and confusion, then read on.  The next few minutes will provide you with what you’ve been looking for, especially if you’re looking for a marathon training program for real people with jobs, families and busy lives.

Training for a marathon does take a lot of time, commitment, and determination. The most typical marathon training program out there usually involves at least six days per week of training. This type of program takes up a lot of time and makes it difficult to balance with your work life, family, social time, etc.   However, that many days per week or running is not necessary and only leads to burnout and injury.  The good news is this:

Four quality runs per week over a fourteen to sixteen week period is an appropriate and efficient program that will get you successfully to the finish line.

The Golden Rule of Surviving Marathon Training: Less is More.

Training and running more will not lead to better results.  If anything, it will lead to a break down of the muscles and the mind.  Simply stated, this is too much running and the exact reason why runners who run so many days/miles per week  in a heavy marathon training program experience common injuries such as shin splints, IT Band syndrome, tendinitis, knee pain, etc.

To get better and be better, rest days are just as important as running day, and a 4 day training week is an ideal way to achieve perfect marathon training program balance.

What Does a 4 Day Training Week for Marathon Look Like?

A marathon training program that can produce fantastic results for busy runners includes four days per week of quality running.  Each run has a different focus and varies with pace, distance, and effort level.  A combination of these run workouts is an excellent balance of challenging the body to prepare for running a 26.2 mile event.  Furthermore, the built in rest days allow muscle recovery and injury prevention.

An example of the 4 day training week:

-Mon: Active Recovery

-Tues: Speed workout (i.e. 3-4x 1-mile repeats at tempo with 2:1 work:rest ratio)

-Wed: Easy Run (i.e. 5-10 miles aerobic)

-Thurs: Active Recovery

-Fri: Intervals or Hill workout (5-10x steep 1-2 minute hill repeats with walk or jog down)

-Sat: Active Recovery

-Sun: Long Run (10 – 20miles that include race pace intervals and fast finishes)

Your longest long run should be 20 miles and you would do a training build-up to this distance over the course of sixteen weeks.  Three weeks before the marathon race will be a taper, during which you gradually reduce mileage.

Each active recovery day can include core, yoga and other recovery protocols.

In addition, you should also include strength training exercises in a 4 day per week plan.  Running a marathon exacts a great toll on a runner’s body.  Strengthening the core and legs will help you better deal with the mileage you will run over the next several months.  You don’t need expensive equipment or a gym membership to build a stronger body.  Body weight exercises are all you need.

In fact, most elite runners do a majority of their strength training in this manner.  When you started doing strength based body weight exercises, you won’t believe how much stronger you’ll and how much your running will improve.  You can simply do a six exercise set, twice a week, and would be amazed by the results of adding this into your marathon training program.  It’s simple, but it works.

Summary: Why Should You Use a 4 Day Program?

A 4 day per week running schedule is optimal for a majority of “I-Have-A-Real-Life-Thank-You-Very-Much” runners.  You can get all the mileage you need as a beginning to mid-level runner in 4 days.  Adding more days, or more mileage will help you improve, but also introduces a higher likelihood of injury.

Marathon training will be challenging, but should be fun and enjoyable. Following a marathon training program that does not overdo it on the running should help make the experience a pleasant one.  Remember, you can successfully train for and finish a marathon.  Believe in yourself and believe in the training program.  Once you begin to believe, then you will realize your goal. Finishing a marathon is an accomplishment that less than 1% of people in the world can say they have achieved. You are about to be one of them!

Whether your want to break your PR, or are a first time marathoner, you can learn more about Ben’s 4 day a week marathon training program at the website: http://www.marathondominator.com .

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11 thoughts on “A Marathon Training Program For Real People With Busy Schedules

  1. Grant Jarvis says:

    The marathon dominator program does not seem to be available anymore. How can I purchase this program? Do you have a different marathon program available for purchase?

  2. Mike Soso says:

    Ben, any chance this program is still available?

  3. Kristófer says:

    This was very helpful i just decided to race the Reykjavik marathon next month with only 35 days to go and no prior competition experience :)

  4. Maximilian says:

    Thank you for this. I have just started a 16-week build-up to my first full marathon (Loch Ness) and have been fretting about all these detailed plans. I will be unavoidably able to do only minimal running for weeks 6 and 7, but this plan looks as though it should be pretty easy to pick the pace up again afterwards? I have run two half-marathons, and average about 15-20 miles running a week, but I know I’m prone to “overdo-ing” it sometimes and my calves don’t like it, so this plan seems full yet suitably disciplined for me; I’ll let you know, and thanks again.

  5. jennymdoss says:

    Do you have a training plan for half marathons that you have written or recommend?

      1. jennymdoss says:

        Thank you.  

  6. Robert says:

    I have been the epitomy of slacker this summer and am just now starting my marathon training for the Marine Corps Marathon in October at the same time that I move from Texas to Colorado. I fear that I made training for this impossibly difficult and set myself up for failure at this race.

    1. Train hard and its possible!

  7. Katty Napoli says:

    Thank you for this article, I just signed up for my first matathon (Richmond, Nov 14) and have been stressing out trying to find a training schedule that will work for me. I am a nurse and work 3 12 hr days per week, my schedule is not fixed and the days I work are diffrent every week so I need to be able to mold my training schedule around my work schedule. I do have one question, I am currently running up to 13.6 miles on a distance run but all programs I have seen (including this one) start with a much shorter long run, should I cut miles and then work my way back or build from where I am? Thanks!!

    1. Katty, my book Beyond Training goes into great detail on training for endurance athletes while maintaining a happy and healthy life. You should check it out. Included with the book are training plans. Check it out here: https://greenfieldfitnesssystems.com/product/beyo…

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