Choosing Your First Marathon Training Plan
If you are one of the lucky runners who is taking part in the 50th edition of the TCS New York City Marathon... Congratulations! If this is your first marathon, you are probably anxiously looking for a training plan. Don't panic, we are here to help! Here are some tips and useful resources to help you go through the many training plans available online.
Before looking at each plan, here are some tips:
Try to plan at least 3 workouts per week. Two short runs during the weekdays and one long run on the weekend should be the baseline of your training plan.
Progressively increase the mileage/time of your runs and decrease it when you reach the peak week, which is generally two weeks before race day.
You don’t have to train at your “race pace”: most of your workouts will be performed at a slower pace, not at your maximum effort, and it is ok! You will train at your race pace during your speed workouts (such as intervals).
Don’t train more than necessary. Rest days are as important as workout days. Take a rest day after your long runs and avoid training more than two days in a row.
One day of cross-training per week (a cardio workout such as biking, swimming, elliptical, deep water running, …) is recommended. It helps your general fitness without overstressing your legs.
Strength training (lifting weights) and resistance training (using the resistance of your own body weight) help you to get stronger (and run better!). Pilates and yoga are perfect activities for runners and great for everybody in general.
Start stretching and foam rolling regularly (you will thank us later!).
If it’s hard for you to stay motivated, find a running buddy (it’s more fun!).
And most importantly, always listen to your body and check in with your doctor if there are any underlying conditions that prevent you from running a marathon.
NYRR Free Training Guide (16 weeks, starting July 19, free)
NYRR offers a number of free training plans on its website. If this is your first marathon, we suggest the Beginner guide. It’s a 16-week plan which includes four runs per week plus one “Flex Day” in which you can choose between a short run at an easy pace, a cross-training activity, or rest. You can find more details on each type of run on the NYYR guide. This plans are based on distance, you will have a specific mileage goal for each week.
Garmin Self-Guided Plans (16 weeks, starting July 19, free with a Garmin Watch)
If you have already spent money on a Garmin watch you will be happy to know that you have access to free training plans from your Garmin Connect. If you log in from your browser you can find the different options under “Training” and then “Training Plans”. The Self-Guided Plans are available for all Garmin devices. There are two beginner plans, one based on the heart rate zones and one based on the pace. Both plans are based on running by time.
You can start the plan even if you have less than 16 weeks before the race day (just select “Finish Time” and choose your race date). Once you choose, all the workouts will be automatically uploaded to your Garmin calendar (browser and App). Here is an example of one week of training:
Strava (12 weeks, starting Aug 2, free if you have Strava Summit)
Strava’s premium version (Strava Summit) provides access to free training plans created by McMillan Running. Simply go to “Training” and “Training Plans”. The plan is based on how many times you are going to run a week, and it indicates a goal time instead of the miles to run. The plan doesn't differentiate between beginner and advanced level so probably it is not the best choice for true beginners. The plan is based on time, not distance.
Nike Run Club (18 weeks, starting July 5, free)
This free training plan designed by Nike might be ideal for more experienced runners but it is a useful reference guide to understand different types of running workouts and can be used as a running glossary in general. It’s an 18-week plan with 5 workouts per week.
Runner’s World (16 weeks, starting July 18, $9.99)
Runner’s World offers different plans for beginners to experienced runners who want to run a sub-3-hour marathon. If this your first marathon we would suggest starting with the plan for beginners. Some cross-training and strength training sessions are recommended throughout the plan.
RUNtrix Full Marathon Plan (12 to 16 weeks, $79)
RUNtrix is a Strava compatible personalized training plan that will adapt to your fitness level as you log your progress.
When you create an account you have access to some educational material on nutrition, running and strengthening. Consult the FAQ for more information.
NYRR Coaching Lab by Runcoach (12 to 20 weeks, $115 or $99 for NYRR members)
NYRR Coaching Lab by Runcoach is an app that provides you with a personalized training plan, access to NYRR coaches for insider training tips about the TCS New York City Marathon, and a dedicated coach for one-on-one guidance to help you cross the finish line. When you join the NYRR Coaching Lab team, you will be supported by a community of runners all working toward the same goal. The great advantage is that the plan is based on your fitness level. You select the number of workouts per week, your most recent race results, your current mileage, and average pace and it will create your own training plan (mileage per week, pace, and goal time for the race). The plan will adjust itself as soon as you upload your first workouts. A plus: Runcoach is Garmin, Runkeeper, Strava, Apple Watch, and Fitbit compatible, you can easily upload your runs to keep track of your progress. Have a look at the FAQ for additional information.