More Marathon Training Tips:
Weeks 5-8 of a 20 Week Plan


Dan Lyne mid-stride


In my last post, I discussed what you should be doing during your first month of a 20 week marathon training plan. After you get a doctor’s clearance to complete a rigorous 20 week training plan, your focus over the first four weeks should be:

  1. Ensure you are outfitted with proper running gear and get in the habit of working out 5-6 days per week.
  2. Practice proper nutrition and hydration for peak performance and recovery
  3. Complete 2 conditioning workouts per week to build strong, injury resistant muscles and tendons
  4. Stretch warm muscles to speed recovery by increasing blood flow to the muscles
  5. Learn how to run slow so you can vary the speed of your workouts
  6. Get plenty of sleep (7-8+ hours/night)

An example of the first 4 weeks of 20 week plan could look like the following schedule.
Example training plan for weeks 1-4
 For clarification, following are some program definitions:

Conditioning: The goal with conditioning is to help build strength. You can look up hundreds of different conditioning workouts for runners. I recommend such body weight exercises as push-ups, mountain climbers, planks, burpees and pull-ups. I provide details of an excellent 15 minute strength workout on my blog.

Cross Training: Completed at a moderate to vigorous pace on machines or swimming. Cross Training gives your body a rest from the pounding of running, but you give yourself an aerobic workout. The elliptical, stationary bike, rowing machine, swimming or stair-master are all good cross training workouts. Ensure you keep a vigorous pace while completing conditioning exercises. Keep your body moving and get into a good sweat.

Fartlek: This workout is a speed workout alternative to being on the track. These runs can be on trails, bike paths or even on city streets (be careful). Start with easy 10 minute warm-up, then pick up pace to 5k or 10k pace for 100 to 200 yd "bursts." Slow to your basic (regular easy run) pace until recovered and then repeat with another 100-200 yd burst. Continue for 3-4 miles. Finish the run with 10 minute cool down and stretching. An alternative is to increase the length of the bursts to 1/4 or 1/2 miles.

Tempo: These runs are the “backbone” of 1/2 or full marathon training program. They include 20-60 minutes of faster (10k, 1/2 or full/race marathon) paced running in the middle of the workout. Don't run the entire workout at tempo pace. Start with a 1-2 mile warm-up, then run at the assigned tempo pace and finish with 1-2 mile cool down. Just like your speed workouts, ensure you thoroughly stretch after tempo runs.

Over the next 4 weeks our goal is to slowly increase our weekly mileage, continue to build strength with conditioning exercises, and continue to build speed on the track, hills and fartlek. A typical training schedule for weeks 5-8 would resemble the following plan.
Example training plan for weeks 5-8

What's Next?

Stay tuned for additional marathon training tips. In my next post I’ll cover specific conditioning workouts and strategies for how to run and get the most out of your hill workouts. I will also share 5 recovery secrets that will help you stay injury free and get you through what many people feel is the hardest part of marathon training when the mileage really starts to increase during weeks 9-12.


Dan Lyne

Author Bio: Dan Lyne is a long distance runner from Camas, WA. With over 36 years of running experience, he specializes in coaching long distance runners and helping them achieve their half and full marathon goals through his website,


Disclaimer: The content in this article is based on the author’s personal experience and thorough personal studies. The information provided here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist. All forms of exercise pose some inherent risks. The author advises readers to take full responsibility for their safety and know their limits. There is no guarantee that you will experience the same results & benefits as presented and you accept the risk that the results can differ by individual.