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After the popularity of my post on free CrossFit training programmes, and with Spring Marathon training season fast approaching, I thought I’d do some of the legwork of finding completely FREE marathon training plans for you! Some are plans I’ve tried before, the others are ones I’ve researched but not necessarily chosen to follow for one reason or another.
When you’re choosing a marathon training plan you should be looking for one that challenges you, but is also realistic for your current ability, your available time and your motivation! For example, if you only run twice per week now and you really can’t see yourself committing to much more, then there’s absolutely no point picking a plan that has you lacing up 5-6 times per week. You’re just going to become demotivated with each session you miss!
Luckily, there are plenty of plans out there to choose from. And I’ve collated some of the best and most tried, tested and trusted ones right here for you. So here we go…
The Event Plan
Of course, each marathon event typically shares a plan for you to follow. Some of these will be very basic plans for beginners, others will be more well known and perhaps time oriented. Here are the ones Virgin Money London Marathon have on their website this year, devised by none other than Marathon Talk host and ex-steeplechase runner, Martin Yelling. Martin is the former training partner of Paula Radcliffe, so he has pretty good authority on what it takes to run a good distance race.
You can’t talk about training plans without mentioning Runner’s World! The popular magazine offers training plans from the “get round” plan for complete beginners all the way up to more advanced plans for specific time goals. The formats are varied on their website, with the list format being a complete pain in the ass, but the more tabular plans are easy to copy and paste into a spreadsheet, if you like that kind of thing… my friends will know I like a good Excel file!
Nike Run Club
They might not be around as a physical club in the UK anymore, but Nike Run Club’s website is still very much available. If you want a plan with a slick PDF and plenty of style, this is the one for you! It involves three hard sessions: 2 x speed (rotating between track, tempo, hills, fartlek and progressive runs) and 1 x endurance session, plus some recovery workouts, which may include some lighter miles.
At the opposite end of the scale and just as throwback as it sounds, we have Cool Running… their website is so incredibly 90s, but the plans are detailed and well laid out (in table form – YES). With four different schedules to choose from (beginner through to competitive), your goal should be covered. Be warned though… these are the only plans I’ve seen that actually have you running the full marathon distance before race day and, for the more advanced plans, beyond marathon distance. I have to admit, the no-bullshit approach makes complete sense – for every other race distance you would run up to, or beyond, the target mileage in training, so why not for marathons?!
FIRST (via Runner’s World)
A plan for the time poor provided by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST), who came up with a “train less, run faster” approach. The FIRST plan cuts running days down to just three key sessions – run HARD – with cross training of your choice interspersed. This is probably the volume of running I will aim to follow as it’s more realistic for my lifestyle, and it means I can keep up CrossFit and not burn out. The paces for each run are typically faster than similar sessions in other plans, so make sure you still prioritise recovery just as highly as you would had you been running for 5-6 days.
Hal Higdon is probably one of the most well known names in the marathon game. Hal is a long term contributor to Runner’s World and has a number of books to his name, including “Marathon“* (obvs) and “Run Fast“* and with a PB marathon time of 2:21:55 he certainly knows what he’s talking about! His website offers a large number of plans (including an alternative 3-day-week plan to the FIRST one) with the option of buying into the full training package on Training Peaks. But if you scroll to the bottom of each plan’s page, the basic plan is free for you to follow unguided. Hal’s plans are also much longer than the traditional 12-16 week plan, so if you’re super keen to get started (like I know a lot of people are!) then you having nothing to wait for.
So there we are – 6 sites for you to find your perfect marathon training plan! I hope they’ve been useful for you, and please let me know if you do choose one of these plans for your marathon training by commenting below or dropping me a comment/message on social media. I’ll be tracking my own marathon training on my Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and right here on this blog, so make sure you keep up to date!
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links (marked with an *). If you purchase one of the books linked I will earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay! All other content linked is completely free and not commission earning!