20-Week Marathon Training Plan for ‘Comeback’ Runners

© Warrengoldswain | Dreamstime

Are you an experienced runner who has taken some time off from the marathon, but are ready to come back to 26.2? Here’s a plan that might be perfect to get you back in form:

How long is it? Up to 20 weeks (reduce if your base is strong)

How many days per week do I run? 4-5

How many miles each week? Peak week is 43 miles

What’s my longest long run? 20 miles

Will there be speedwork? Yes

What’s my race plan/goal? To run faster

You’ll rest or cross-train on Mondays and Thursdays. Your Wednesday or Saturday run can be dropped every 3 to 4 weeks if you need more rest and recovery time.

Week Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Saturday Sunday
1 6 miles 3 miles 6 miles 3 miles 8 miles
2 6 miles 3 miles 7 miles 3 miles 9 miles
3 7 miles 3 miles 7 miles 3 miles 10 miles
4 6 miles 3 miles 6 miles 3 miles 12 miles
5 6 miles & 4×800 4 miles 6 miles 3 miles 10 miles
6 7 miles & 5 tempo 3 miles 6 miles 3 miles 12 miles
7 7 miles & 3×1600 4 miles 7 miles 3 miles 14 miles
8 7 miles & 6×800 4 miles 7 miles 2 miles 12 miles (or 10K race)
9 6 miles 4 miles 6 miles 4 miles 16 miles
10 7 miles & 5 tempo 4 miles 6 miles 3 miles 18 miles
11 8 miles & 8×800 3 miles 7 miles 3 miles 20 miles
12 7 miles & 3×1600 5 miles 8 miles (5 at MP) 3 miles 15 miles
13 6 miles 5 miles 6 miles 2 miles 18 miles (or half marathon)
14 6 miles & 4 tempo 4 miles 6 miles 3 miles 20 miles
15 7 miles & 5×1200 6 miles 7 miles 4 miles 18 miles
16 9 miles & 10×800 5 miles 8 miles (5 at MP) 4 miles 15 miles
17 6 miles 5 miles 8 miles 3 miles 20 miles
18 7 miles & 5 tempo 5 miles 6 miles 3 miles 16 miles
19 7 miles & 3×1600 4 miles 5 miles 3 miles 10 miles
20 4 miles 5 miles (2 at MP) 3 miles 2 miles Race Day!

 

Here are five adages to live by as you train:

Proceed like a beginner

Especially in the beginning, build to speed and distance like you are just starting. This will stave off injury and frustration.

Adjust goals often

Really pay attention to your effort. After building your base back, revise your goals to be faster or slower depending on how you feel. Keep adjusting as necessary.

Evolve

What worked before may not work now. A 22 miler might give you the confidence you need on race day. Or you might need an extra rest day. Know thyself.

Tune up

Use shorter races to give yourself a gauge of fitness throughout the cycle. These can be great indicators of what to expect for your goal race.

Recover smart

If you fear the slow process of another comeback, recover with a reverse taper. Take up to a week off with complete rest if needed depending on race effort. Ease back into walking or easy running for another week or two before adding on miles.

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on StravaInstagram and her blog.

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