Knowing how to train for a marathon is essential if completing the 26.2 mile race is an item on your bucket list. Preparing to reach your goal of finishing a marathon requires more than running long distances every day. Expert running coaches have got it down to a science, creating week-by-week marathon training plans that increase your chances of crossing the finish line.
You can find a marathon training plan in marathon apps and training websites. The number of miles you are currently running each week will help you determine which plan is right for you. A training plan usually begin 12 to 20 weeks before the planned race date. If you want to run a race in September, you may begin in April or May.
A Good Place to Start
Rock 'n' Roll Marathon App - iOS and Android
If you haven't chosen a race, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon app for iPhone and Android phones can get you started. Choose a Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in one of 24 cities around the U.S., a race in Portugal, or in Ireland.
Once you choose a race, there is a wealth of information to help you prepare. For each race there is a map and turn-by-turn directions of the course, expo details, and where and when to check in. The app includes tips on training without injury, nutrition, and choosing the right running shoes.
Training plans can be purchased in the app for $25 for purchase. The 18 or 24-week training plans include daily reminder emails and tips. These training plans are provided by the Training Peaks website (see below).
Easy-to-Follow Marathon Training Apps
There is no shortage of marathon training apps to teach you how to train for a marathon. Before purchasing an app, be sure to read the reviews. Many apps have limited features. Some apps cost $5 to $10 and charge more for the actual training plan.
If you have never trained before, you may just want to know how many miles you need to run without becoming bogged down with heart rates zones, cadence, time splits and more. Here are a couple of basic marathon training apps to get you started.
WalkJogRun - for iPhones, (Android app is coming soon)
This app cost $4.99 but the training plans are free. Choose from a list of beginner, intermediate or advanced Marathon training plans. Or choose other race distances. Clear explanations help you determine the best plan for your fitness level.
Each day is assigned an "iRate scale" number corresponding to a level of effort. If you aren't using a heart rate monitor, you will measure effort by how hard you are breathing and whether you can speak full sentences, a word or not at all. The iRate scale is clearly explained by tapping the info icon.
A great feature of this app is that it uses GPS to find routes close to you that fit into your training plan.
Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Novice 1 - iOS
Because this is a specific training plan for novice marathoners, you don't pick a plan. Instead, you enter a start date and it tells you the date to when you will be ready to finish a race. Or, enter a race date and it will tell you when to start. Each day there is a friendly explanation of how far and how hard to run, along with helpful tips.
A cool feature of Hal's app is that you can create a specific marathon training playlist. Instead of simply choosing one of your iTunes playlists, add songs directly to the app. A total running time is displayed. Add more songs to cover your longer training times.
During your run, you'll receive coaching and inspiration from Hal. Workouts can be synced with the Training Peaks website.
Training Peaks Online Marathon Training
Training Peaks is the go-to website for individuals (and coaches) who are training for an event. While it is free to sign up for an account, training plans start at $25 and can run as much as $160 for a plan that includes online help from a coach. To schedule future workouts in your profile, you must have a Training Peaks Premium account that runs $19.99 per month or $112 per year.
Training peaks is at the heart of many training apps and can connect to over 90 devices. When you sync your workouts from compatible training apps, the information shows up in your account on the Training Peaks website where you can view and analyze your workout statistics.
For the experienced marathon runner, this website has it all. However, looking at the wealth of information can be intimidating to the novice who doesn't have a coach to explain terms like "TSS/IF," or "Time in Power Zones." Those who want help can search a map for nearby trainers that use Training Peaks. Many local trainers include the Training Peaks premium membership in the price of training.
Tech for training is not limited to marathon apps. Many running apps offer marathon training workouts. The Polar heart rate monitor has the option of selecting training plans that are downloaded to your watch/receiver.