The Couch To Marathon Program For Beginner Runners

Planning to run your first marathon, but you’re actually a complete beginner with ZERO running experience?

Then you have come to the right place.

Here’s the truth.

Marathon training as a complete beginner is a completely life-changing experience—one that you have to be willing to pay the price, though.

In today’s article, I’ll share with you a comprehensive couch to a marathon training plan that will outline the exact (and proper) progression you should follow when building to the marathon.

By the end of the article, you’ll learn more about:

  • How far is the marathon?
  • What is the couch to a half marathon training plan?
  • How long does it take to go from couch to marathon?
  • How should you train for a marathon as a complete beginner?
  • When should you start tapering
  • Racing tips
  • And so much more.

Sounds exciting?

Let’s lace up and dig in.

How Far is the Marathon?

Let’s start at the beginning and actually explain how long a marathon distance is.

In essence, a marathon is a race distance of 26.2 miles, or 42.5 kilometers (if you’re using the metric system like most people outside of the U.S.).

How long Does it Take To Go From Couch To Marathon?

The answer really depends on the individual, but standard marathon training plans are 16 to 20 weeks longs.

Here’s the thing, though.

Standard marathon training plans work for people who already have experience with running, as they already have a bunch of 5Ks, 10Ks, even half marathons under their belts.

If I had to guess, you’re a complete beginner.

My plan today spans roughly six months –or more than 25 weeks—of consistent training.

You can go from the sofa to the finish line of a marathon in roughly six months—as long as you’re healthy.

During this time, you’ll usually run three to four times a week, increasing your weekly volume as you get closer to race day.

But wait, what do I actually mean by healthy?

The Pre-Requisite

Before you jump into the couch to a marathon training plan, there are a few conditions you should fulfill first.

For starters, give this couch to marathon plan a go only if you have some existing fitness, either from endurance training, such as cycling or swimming, or simply being a gym rat.

Ideally, you should already be able to run non-stop for at least five to ten minutes.

Sure, you don’t have to be a runner, but having experience logging the miles—even for a short time—can help.

The Walk /Run – From Week 1 to week 7

During the first few weeks, you’ll be doing a set of walk/run sessions to get used to running non-stop for a relatively long period.

For example, the very first session consists of one minute run, a one-minute walk, repeated ten times.

It should take you roughly 30 minutes to finish the whole session—including the warm-up and cool-down.

As the weeks go by, you’ll spend more time running and less and less walking until you can jog straight for 30 to 40 minutes without much trouble.

From there, you’ll be following the 10 percent rule until you reach a drastic weekly mileage.

Fit woman running and walking in beautiful city park. Young girl jogging in bright woods outdoors, summer nature. Endurance concept with working out fitness and exercising in inspirational green woods landscape.

Progress The Slow Way

Training for a marathon shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, especially when you’re just starting out.

The key is to start slow and progress gradually.

How?

By following the 10 percent rule.

This is a common rule in the running world—one that’s used by running coaches and experts around the globe.

The rule is simple: you should not increase your total weekly mileage by a maximum of 10 percent from one week to the next.

Following this slow progression is safe and ensures that you reduce your risk of injury from upping your mileage too fast and/or too soon.

Easy Training Runs

Easy training runs vary in length from three miles to 6 miles and help you add weekly volume to your running plan.

As for speed, shoot for a sustainable and comfortable pace, especially during your first few runs—when you have just graduated the walk/run method.

All in all, allow your body to lock in a pace you can keep up for 30 minutes and follow that.

Long Runs

Long runs are the bread and butter of endurance training—especially marathon training.

These sessions consist of long, steady-state runs usually performed on the weekend.

The goal is simple—help you build your endurance base.

As for pace, stick to an easy and conversational pace.

You should be able to keep a conversation with a running buddy with no problems.

Said otherwise, if you cannot recite the pledge of allegiance without huffing and puffing, you’re going too fast.

Don’t Overdo it

Keep in mind that you’re training for a marathon as a complete beginner, and on a tight window—speed should be the last thing on your mind for now.

Push your body too much too soon, and you’ll be setting yourself up for injury and overtraining.

Train conservatively—and always leave something in the tank before you end your workout.

Cross-Training

Marathon training isn’t just about the miles—your cross-training workouts also matters.

On the non-running days, perform low-intensity, low-impact training to help improve your conditioning and overall strength without putting extra stress on your legs.

This is what’s known as cross-training.

All in all, I recommend strength training, cycling, swimming, yoga, and Pilates.

All of these help you build endurance and strength without adding extra stress to your running legs.

The Couch To Marathon Training Plan

If you stay consistent with your training, it might take you no more than six months to be in marathon shape.

The early training weeks focus on preparing you to be able to run 5K distance, then you move up the ladder from there to 10K, then half marathon—and finally transition to marathon-ready shape.

If you feel that making the jump to the couch to a marathon training plan is too much of an askance, then feel free to check out my other beginner’s plans:

  • The couch to 5K plan
  • The couch to 10K plan
  • The couch to a half marathon plan.

Week – 1

  • Monday – Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday – Run one minute. Walk one minute. Repeat 10 times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run two minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat 10 times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run three minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat 10 times
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 2

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run three minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat 10 times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run five minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat five times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run five minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat six times
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 3

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run seven minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat three times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run seven minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat three times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run eight minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat three times
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 4

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run eight minutes. Walk one minute. Repeat three times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 10 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat three times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 10 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat three times
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 5

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 15 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat two times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 20 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat two times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 15 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat two times
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 6

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 20 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat two times
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 20 minutes. Walk two minutes. Repeat two times
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 7

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 25 minutes.
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 8 and 9

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 40 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week -10

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 20 minutes.
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 11 & 12

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 40 minutes.
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 50 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 13 & 14

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 40 minutes.
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 30 minutes.
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 60 minutes.
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 15

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday – Run 50 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 45 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday – Run 40 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week- 16 & 17

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday- Run 60 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday- Run 40 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday- Run 80 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 18 & 19

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday – Run 60 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 80 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday- Run 90 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 20

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday- Run 90 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 60 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday- Run 100 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 21

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday – Run 60 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 60 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday – Run 120 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 22 & 23

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday – Run 90 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 60 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 120 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 24

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 90 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday– Run 90 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday– Run 120 minutes
  • Sunday – Rest

Week – 25

  • Monday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Tuesday– Run 120 minutes
  • Wednesday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Thursday – Run 60 minutes
  • Friday– Rest or Cross-Train
  • Saturday – Run A Marathon
  • Sunday – Rest