2019 Training Plan

Download the 2019 Virgin Money London Marathon training plan below.

About the Training Plan

Running a marathon is a tough physical, emotional and psychological challenge, but getting yourself to the Start Line prepared, confident, healthy, motivated and ready is perhaps an even bigger challenge than the race itself.

If you get your training right, Race Day will offer a chance to test yourself, challenge your boundaries, redefine what you’re capable of – possibly transform your life and the lives of others – and have an incredible day while you’re at it. 

Train to Gain

That’s why training really does matter; it prepares you in every way for what is to come. With the right training, your body and mind will learn to control your effort so you can go the distance. You’ll get to know your body better and learn what makes you run well, what hurts, what doesn’t, when to push on and when to hold back. 

A training schedule will also equip you with an arsenal of mind-set tricks and techniques to keep you moving, even when you seriously want to stop, sit down and cry (and yes, you probably will). Tough training runs will force you to deal with inevitable peaks and troughs, feeling rough then bouncing back, with the result that you’ll be ready to nail 26.2 miles when it matters. 

Let’s start with something really simple. Right now, your feelings of competence and confidence to tackle 26.2 miles are probably not sky high but don’t worry; this is totally normal. You probably feel excited about the marathon journey that lies ahead, as well as a little apprehensive. 

Firm Foundations

By starting your marathon journey right, you’ll lay the foundations on which to build over the next few months and develop your mental confidence and physical competence to crack the marathon. It just takes time. 

There are a variety of things to consider as you begin your marathon journey. Start by being flexible. It won’t always go right. It’s how you choose to respond to the difficult and testing times during your training that will see you make it to the Start Line. You will experience pressure points and problems (injury, low motivation, family or work emergencies) that you’ll need to work through, adapt to and roll with. Blips, bumps and bruises are common, but resist the temptation to blow them out of proportion. 

Be kind to yourself, and don’t worry about what other people are doing for their marathon training. This is your plan; your way. You might be tempted to scroll through your social media and with one flick of your thumb dent your marathon confidence as you see pictures of seemingly effortless glory miles when yours feel like treading on treacle. Remember, social media rarely tells the whole story. Be confident in yourself and your personal journey.

Consistency is Key

Build routine and consistency first. There are no hard and fast rules about how long to run for, it’s down to personal circumstances, motivation, fitness levels and goals. 

However, consistency is the most important thing you should aim for between now and Race Day. One week of running won’t make you a marathon runner; many consistent weeks put together will. It takes time for your fitness levels to improve so don’t expect miracles overnight.  

Take Your Time

Layer it up. Doing too much, too hard, too soon, more often than not ends in injury, frustration and disappointment. Think of your training as a layering process. You need to build up the time you are able to run over many weeks and months. 

In doing so, you are building a strong body and mind that’ll be more than capable of completing 26.2 miles. Be gentle and progress slowly at first – this is especially important if you’re a beginner or new marathon runner. Always start from a healthy and robust foundation.

Patience Pays Off

Becoming a successful marathon runner (whether that means first time or fast time) requires a mixture of patience and persistence. You will experience highs and lows in your journey. When you start your marathon plan, set yourself small targets each time you run and don’t be daunted by the challenge that lies ahead. The more you do, the easier it gets and, with time, the more achievable your marathon finish becomes. 

Progression means gradually and appropriately increasing the duration, intensity and frequency of your training runs to optimise long-term performance and allow gradual overload and adaptation. Appropriate progression when you’re training for a marathon takes time, patience, discipline and planning. Good progression is balanced, seamless and smooth.

If you’re new to running, take your time to get started. Be patient. If you haven’t done any exercise for a while, spend the first few weeks of your new regime regularly walking and building up the time you spend on your feet until you feel confident and competent enough to break into short periods of jogging with regular walk breaks. 

Pre-season Goal

If you’re a total non-exerciser, follow the ‘new to running’ training plan online, so you’re ready to hit the roads running when you start the 16-week training plan. Your goal in marathon pre-season is to do enough running to feel more like a runner but not so much that you’re broken and demotivated before your training kicks into gear.

In the long run

The marathon is essentially a very long run and so perhaps the most important aspect of your training preparation is to teach yourself to cover more miles on foot. Long runs build the stamina and endurance you need to cover the marathon distance. They develop efficient running, help your breathing feel easier, make your heart stronger, help your body use its fuel for running and help you get used to being out for a long time and so reduce muscle soreness, aches and pains. 

Long runs also give you the chance to practise your Race Day hydration and fuelling strategies, your pacing and vitally they teach you how to develop strong mind-set strategies that work for you. Come Race Day you’ll be able to draw on these to pull, power and fight your way around the course. 

Long means different things to different people. For a first-time marathoner with no running background, your long runs will be starting from scratch, whereas a regular runner may already be able to string together more distance. Either way, you should gradually build up the time/distance you are able to run over many weeks, which will train your body to cope with the marathon distance and give you the confidence that you can achieve your goal.

Time on your feet

At first, focus on increasing the time on your feet rather than worrying about the distance you cover. Long, slow runs are usually done at controlled and manageable pace (perhaps 45 to 60 seconds slower per mile than target marathon pace). When you’re completing a long run, it is the fatigue of the duration that you are training your body to handle – what feels controlled and ‘easy’ at the start of the run will become harder to maintain as the run progresses.