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Beginner's Training plan Structure 18-24 Weeks Out From Event

Ok so you have 18 to 24 weeks before your next race you are a beginner, you have some running experience. What is the optimal structure for an effective training plan?

I am often asked by beginner runners how long their training plan should be for a half or full marathon. Of course, the answer is it depends on your current level of fitness, running experience, age and ability. The less running experience and the longer the event, the better it is for you to prepare over a longer period. However, our busy lives just don’t allow for this, so a dedicated period of 12-16 weeks (3 months) is usually enough to enable you to complete the event. If you want to get a new PB or be a little more competitive then a longer training plan is recommended.

All training plans follow a similar broad structure, and the most effective plans are the ones based on proven, progressive and structured plans the balance (optimise) the training effect, so that your build base running endurance, speed, strength whilst minimising injury or over training. Here's a general outline for 18 - 24 week training plan for beginner runners:

This structured plan will suit you if you have close to no running experience or you are a beginner runner who can easily run 15-20 minutes 3 times per week and up to 40mins on a longer run.


Phase 1: Base Building (6-8 Weeks)

  • Goal: Establish a foundation of endurance.
  • Focus: Building mileage at an easy pace.
  • Key workouts: Long runs gradually increasing in distance, and time on your feet usually starting from around 40mins and building up to 90mins.
  • Weekly mileage: Gradually increasing from your current fitness level, typically starting around 15k per week and increasing by 10-15% each week.
  • Cross-training: Incorporate activities like swimming, cycling, or strength training to build overall fitness and prevent overuse injuries.
  • Build in good pre-habilitation habits that help prepare the body to run and recover afterwards


Phase 2: Strength and Speed Development (4-6 Weeks)

  • Goal: Improve endurance, strength, and speed.
  • Focus: Introduce speed workouts and hill training to build leg strength and improve aerobic capacity.
  • Key workouts: Tempo runs, interval training (such as repeats or fartleks), hill repeats.
  • Long runs: Continue to increase distance, but some weeks may include cutback weeks to allow for recovery.
  • Weekly mileage: May plateau or slightly increase, depending on how your body is responding to the increased intensity.
  • Cross-training: Maintain cross-training activities for overall fitness and injury prevention.
  • Build on the pre-habilitation exercises with good warm up and cool down routines.


Phase 3: Peak Training (6 - 8 Weeks)

  • Goal: Peak fitness and sharpening race-specific skills.
  • Focus: Fine-tuning goal race pace, increasing intensity.
  • Key workouts: Race pace runs, longer intervals at goal race pace, longer tempo runs.
  • Long runs: Include several long runs usually below race distance.
  • Weekly mileage: May reach the highest point in the training plan, but still incorporating cutback weeks for recovery.
  • Use the longer runs to practise your hydration and nutrition strategies. Equally important is to run on surfaces similar to the event course and wear and use the gear as you plan to on race day.
  • Use visualisation techniques to prepare yourself mentally for the event.


Phase 4: Taper and Race (2 Weeks)

  • Goal: Rest, recover, peak and mentally prepare for the race.
  • Focus: Maintain fitness while allowing the body to fully recover from training.
  • Key activities: Shorter, easier runs to maintain fitness without inducing fatigue.
  • Taper to peak: Gradually decrease mileage and intensity leading up to the race, with the final week being very light. Typically, taper weeks reduce overall training load by around 30%.
  • Rest: Prioritise rest, hydration, and nutrition to ensure you're in optimal condition on race day.
  • Race day: Execute your race plan based on your training and enjoy the experience!


Remember, this is a general guideline, and individual plans may vary based on factors like current fitness level, running experience, and personal goals. It's essential to listen to your body, adjust as needed.

If you have any questions – do not hesitate to ask us.

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