The only 12-week plan you need for marathon season (part 1)

The only 12-week plan you need for marathon season (part 1)


The only 12-week plan you need for marathon season (part 1)


Running season is looming over the next few months, with time ticking away for many of you to start your preparations for races and marathons. One thing that many do is bite off more than they can chew, stepping into races full on without proper training or preparation.

As such, having an effective season of training and racing does involve some foresight and a well-designed plan to help you achieve your running goals. If you go too far too fast, you risk the potential of injuries and respiratory problems; so having a conditioning program that challenges your energy systems is vital.

We know that mapping out a full 12-week plan can be daunting, so we’ve taken the liberty to help you through this process. The guide below is for training for a full marathon. If you’re planning for an ultramarathon (anything more than 50km in distance), then you should schedule yourself a 16 to 24 week training cycle.

Within each training cycle, you should plan three general phases: base phase, where you build your endurance and prepare for harder workouts; race phase, where you get used to running at your goal race pace; and taper phase, which is a period of running at a reduced distance just before your race but with enough intensity for race day.

Here’s the first of the three stages, the base phase:  

1 Rest 2.5km run 2.5km run Rest 5km run 5km run 1hr cross-training
2 Rest 2.5km run 2.5km run Rest 5km run 5km run 1hr cross-training
3 Rest 5km run 6km run Rest 5km run 10km run 1hr cross-training
4 Rest 5km run 6km run Rest 6km run 15km run 1hr cross-training

Above is what the average base phase of a 12-week plan should look like, but as each individual’s level of fitness may vary, be flexible and adjust the schedule to work according to your needs.  

As the first stage involves you preparing yourself for longer runs, start off at a comfortable pace so that you can complete the entire distance without getting strained. And if you do need to walk during your runs, go ahead or persevere but drop to a jog.

The idea of this guide is to have your most time intensive runs on the weekends and to allocate one day for exercise that helps you with your recovery (Sundays are best for this); we suggest cross-training exercises such as cycling, swimming, or circuit training.

As for the rest days, they help with muscle regeneration and prevent injury. So, make sure you utilise them to the fullest and don’t replace them with runs.

If you’re planning on buying new shoes or run gear, this phase would be the best time to do so, just so you don’t end up doing anything out of the ordinary on race day. Plus, you want to break in your shoes so that they’re comfortable enough on the day.

But most of all, don’t be afraid to have some fun; running doesn’t have to be all that mundane. Vary your routes, enjoy your surroundings and don’t make training a chore.

Click here to read part 2 of the 12-week plan.

Click here to read part 3 of the 12-week plan.