Your Week-by-Week Boston Marathon Training Guide

Marathon coach Dan Fitzgerald has your next 20 weeks planned.


Running photo via Gao

Sauntering down the Esplanade every day from now until April 17 isn’t going to cut it. Training for a marathon is a science, and doing well takes meticulous planning.

Marathon coach Dan Fitzgerald recommends that beginners start training 20 weeks before the big day—which is to say, right about now. Our guide begins on December 5, but pick it up whenever you can if you get a late start.

Below, you’ll find Fitzgerald’s four phases of marathon training. To print it out, make notes, and play around, download this Marathon Training guide he tailored specially to Boston readers, complete with week-by-week calendars to guide your workouts.

Phase One: Weeks 1-5

The goal: Get up and running.

The name of the game here is building a strong foundation, getting comfortable with running in general and with moving at different paces. You’ll also incorporate cross-training and core work, routines that will serve you throughout the training plan. You’ll cover roughly 14 miles in your first week, and build up to 21 miles by week three.

Phase Two: Weeks 6-10

The goal: Hit your stride.

Here, you’ll build upon the foundation you laid for yourself in phase one. You’ll eliminate some days off, add distance, and begin running at your marathon goal pace. You’ll complete 27 miles during week nine, when you introduce your first long-ish run: a 13- or 14-miler.

Phase Three: Weeks 11-15

The goal: Reach cruising speed.

You’ll build up your endurance and distance running during phase three. Your long run will creep up from 14 miles to 18, and you’ll hit new highs in terms of weekly mileage. Hill workouts also make their first brutal appearance. Consider it your first taste of Heartbreak.

Phase Four: Weeks 16-20

The goal: Coast toward the finish line.

After hitting an all-time mileage high in week 16—you’ll run 35 miles in all, including a 20- or 22-mile jaunt—you’ll dial it way back to prepare for race day. This reduction in workload is called tapering, and many runners consider it vital to a successful marathon performance. By now, your body is ready for what it’s about to do.

Want more? You can sign up for Fitzgerald’s in-person coaching services through HHRC, and/or join the Heartbreakers for group runs.