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Why ALL Runners Should Learn about Marathon Training Plans

Sure, we all know that marathon runners benefit from marathon training plan research but in the opinion of this running coach, ALL runners should learn about marathon training plans. Spending just $5 on a single marathon training plan book, 30 minutes to an hour of free time online, or hiring a running coach can revolutionize your running enjoyment and effectiveness. Here is why.

You might be a recreational runner just looking to do the occasional 5k, someone looking to PR your next half marathon, or, indeed, a runner tackling the marathon distance; you could be a lifelong runner or just starting out. Regardless of your experience or ambitions, investing your time (and potentially a bit of money) into marathon training research can do wonders for your running. 

Why All Runners Should Learn About Marathon Training Plans

Why ALL Runners Should Learn About Marathon Training Plans | Regardless of your level, running from a 5k to a half marathon to a full marathon, all runners can benefit from studying a little bit about marathon training plans. |

Do I think that every person out there should train for a marathon? That isn’t what I said. Do I think that there is a lot of misinformation out there as well? Absolutely. But we don’t have to go to medical school to know that it is probably a good idea to invest sometime in learning out to shore up our long term health. But it is a better idea to look to Mayo Clinic rather than Web MD, if you are wondering. 

You Learn that You Can Live Beyond Expectations

Before my first marathon

Before my first marathon

So many runners when they are starting out think, “There is no possible way I could ever run a marathon.” Whether or not they might actually want to run a marathon aside, many frankly don’t think that they could do it. But something that we coaches impress upon every runner is the importance of perspective in training. I spoke about this last year with respect to speedwork. Though they may vary in complexity and scope, all marathon training plans are based on the concept of adaptation–in a nutshell, all human beings have the ability to adapt to an applied stimulus if the stimulus is applied appropriately. 

In another nutshell: just about everyone has the capacity to run a marathon, if they train properly according to a carefully crafted marathon training plan. It may take some longer than others, or they may run at different speeds, use different race day strategies, but, by and large, we are all capable (don’t believe me? Read this).

Live Beyond Expectation, everyday. After the 2015 Chicago Marathon, when I finished my secon sub 3:30 Marathon in a year. Running coach and personal trainer services at!

The end of my fourth marathon

Learning about marathon training plans and thus the principles of adaptation and learning perspective can teach you that you can do great things, if you go about them in the right fashion.

The Importance of Recovery and Work Cycles

If there is one thing that marathon runners should take seriously, it is recovery (need help with optimal muscle recovery?). As trainees get further and further into marathon training plans, the loads placed on the body increase, and thus also does the necessity of dedicating oneself to recovery.  To put it very simply, marathon trainees don’t have the luxury of half-assing it. We use our whole ass, as the saying goes. 

Procompression sleeves, CW-X Compression shorts, Siggi's yogurt with sprinkles, water, my 2015 Chicago Marathon Medal.... part 2 of my marathon recovery! More at!

Recovery after a marathon

Now, you may not be running the same distances or doing the same grueling workouts as a marathoner or elite sprinter, but we all can benefit from knowing how to apply and release pressure aka work. Not only can we become greater runners and athletes (regardless of our fortes), but we also can improve our quality of life outside of running by learning about nutrition, avoiding aches and pains, and also improving the quality of the runs themselves.

Injury Prevention

Speaking of aches and pains, incorporating recovery/work cycles with supplemental strength and cross training can help us avoid injury. The vast majority of marathoners are non-elite, and many of us work desk jobs that keep us sitting on our butts all day long (here is a great stretching and toning routine for your desk!). Thus, the majority of us are dealing with weak/tight hips, inactive glutes (you know how I feel about those), and a general tightness. 

Working on our strength training!

Working on our strength training!

Just about any marathon training plan that you come across will have suggestions for supplemental exercises that don’t take a great deal of time and that will help combat these weaknesses. You might even notice less knee pain, better posture, and a better silhouette as a result! And you don’t even have to run 16 miles weekend after weekend. And furthermore, you will learn how to build distance into your runs and thus prevent overuse injuries.

Improved Overall Performance and Enjoyment

Improved confidence, greater rest, stronger body, fewer aches and pains… in my mind, that adds up the potential for improved performance and more enjoyable runs! One of the reasons that marathon training appeals to me, and I think that the marathon training plan strategies might appeal to the masses, is that many are based on concepts of easy running: the vast majority of your runs are done at a conversational pace, with percentages of your weekly miles or training done at a harder intensity. 

Hot Weather Running Outfit

Easier runs with periods of focus, in my case, means greater opportunity to enjoy the run. You don’t have to look at each run as a time to put your nose to the grind stone; instead, runs can be with others and conversational. Combine that with knowing what you are doing when you go out for your run, knowing that you should go and get your shoes fitted and wear proper clothing–> more friends and less griping about soreness!

Why ALL runners (recreational to elite) should learn about marathon training plans #runchat #marathon Click To Tweet

Knowledge is power, and I think that your running should be empowered. Want to take your training to a new level? Start with my round up of my top Marathon Training Articles and Running Posts, sign up for the Coach Suz Letter for training tips and free printables, check out my suggested books for runners, or look into my coaching services (I take on all distances and goals!) and let me educate you and point you in the right direction. 

For non-marathon runners, have you taken time to look into marathon training plans for your own education?

What is one topic that you would like to know more about with regards to running and marathon training plans?

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Have you read these gems?


  • Reply Julie

    I was hoping to run a marathon before my accident. But since I have not run more than 8 miles I feel like how was I going to run one!! But I had no plan. Well, except run!! I want to know if it really is ok to run less during the week and have long runs. Like run 3 days a week and have one long run?? I totally need to strength train!!

    January 19, 2016 at 5:41 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I typically run only 3-4 days a week including long runs, Julie! You absolutely can run less! That is actually how I coach many of my clients–particularly those with injury histories!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:46 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    Interesting that you wrote this post! I just finished up my Big Sur training plan–I based it on the plans Becky made for my last 2 marathons. Less emphasis on speed, tho. More on endurance. I’ve got some hills to tackle.

    January 19, 2016 at 5:59 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      HELL yes you do. I think that you know, as well as anyone else, that learning about various disciplines can revolutionize your training. You have gained so much knowledge from training with her!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:44 pm
  • Reply Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    I really don’t think I will EVER run a marathon, but I love reading about marathon training as it is inspiring to me. I think, if they can run a marathon than I can get my butt in to gear and run a 10km.

    January 19, 2016 at 6:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      YES YOU CAN. And make that butt even cuter in the process 😀

      January 19, 2016 at 1:45 pm
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I definitely think its important for runners to do some of their own research, learn about different ways to train, and begin to understand all the components that can be involved in training. I still find it fascinating to read about training methods, even those that I may not adhere to!

    January 19, 2016 at 6:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely agree! I have incorporated various aspects of other training plans into a single plan that works for me.

      January 19, 2016 at 1:45 pm
  • Reply Kim Hatting

    Great info and (expert) insight. I’ve done four marathons (one of which was an ultra, 6 hours of mostly non-stop action). I followed a plan for the first 26.2, and kind of modified that same plan for the others….but have never worked directly with a coach. I think that’s my next step in this running thing 😉 #staytuned You may be getting an email 😉

    January 19, 2016 at 6:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG so excited 😀

      January 19, 2016 at 1:41 pm
  • Reply Annmarie

    I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and the whole never stop learning thing!

    January 19, 2016 at 6:57 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Let’s all sing “I’ve got the power” in our heads together.

      January 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm
  • Reply Anna @ Piper's Run

    I haven’t looked into marathon training plans….I’m not ready to commit 🙂 However, I’m trying to make sure I cover my butt (no pun intended) with strength training (weights, yoga and ski/snowshoeing this winter).
    Great post! You’ve got me thinking more and more about a full 🙂

    January 19, 2016 at 6:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You don’t have to commit to the marathon to learn about it! Something that is great is that you can incorporate the aspects of it into your half training. But if you are ever ready for the full, you let me know!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm
  • Reply Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie

    Half the fun of marathon training for me is learning more about the process itself and seeing what other people do then applying that for what works for me.

    January 19, 2016 at 7:09 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I just think that it is so much fun putting the puzzle together!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm
  • Reply Meg

    I loved this post, and not just because it got me all excited for what lies ahead of me this year. I am running my first marathon in Nov, I am doing a lot of research into training for it but overall I am not running for time – just a finish.

    January 19, 2016 at 7:34 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is exactly how you should approach you first marathon–check out my post on qualitative goals! Just enjoy the process of training, learning about your body, and blowing your mind! Let me know if you would like some help!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm
  • Reply Michele @ paleorunningmomma

    I completely agree – maybe I’m biased (definitely am) but I think understanding a marathon plan helps you get how training cycles for every distance, and also the difference between training endurance and speed. Also great point about taking the mystery out of the marathon – there’s no real magic but rather a strategy to take you to those big distances.

    January 19, 2016 at 8:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, we can’t help it as coaches and marathoners! I totally agree with you on all points–even though some cough New Balance cough Jenny Simpson cough might disagree–is that with strategy and a good plan, we can ALL be athletes and do something crazy awesome.

      January 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm
  • Reply Linda @ Veganosity

    This is such a great post, Susie! I’m going to email you now so we can get together and discuss my plan. 🙂

    January 19, 2016 at 8:22 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Linda! I can’t wait!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Kimberly G

    This is really great information – thanks so so much for sharing. I have a while before I start training for my first marathon but it’s good to have a knowlege base before starting my training.

    January 19, 2016 at 8:22 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Absolutely! Think of it as your offseason training!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:34 pm
  • Reply Jen @ Pretty Little Grub

    Great thinking. I never thought I would run a marathon and here I am training for my third. I certainly wish I knew the things I know about injury prevention and recovery a lot sooner!

    January 19, 2016 at 8:42 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG I know, right! You read so much about distances, but not so much about the rest of it!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply Kat

    My mother in law ran [well, walked mostly] a marathon, which if you ever met her you would be SHOCKED! She doesn’t workout and she isn’t in shape, but she does walk every where. Of course she said it was the most painful and hardest thing she’s ever done, but she did it and she’s so proud of that. The fact that she did, makes me believe that I could too as well one day. Though I have zero desire too! haha I leave those long runs up to you 😉

    January 19, 2016 at 9:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And I bet that she learned so very much about herself and her body in the process. Good for her!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm
  • Reply GiGi Eats

    Sending this link to a few people I know who are training for marathons.
    Can always rely on you for useful info!

    January 19, 2016 at 9:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, G! And you know that I try 😀

      January 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    I’ve always thought learning about training plans is so interesting. I totally agree! Pinned too!

    January 19, 2016 at 9:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Julie!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Gretchen | Gretchruns

    I would love to learn more about picking the proper paces! This is something that I struggle with..for example if I want to run a 4 hour marathon, what should my long run pace be? What should my easy pace be? I’m sure there’s some sort of magical formula for this!

    January 19, 2016 at 9:18 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      There are several formulas! I will definitely work on putting together a post on this!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm
  • Reply Suzy

    I loved reading all the comments. It’s funny because I’ve never followed any sort of plan especially when it came down to cross training days or paces (slower days versus race pace temp runs, track work etc) until recently. I’m not sure how I feel about all of it, to be honest. Training plans can work well but if a Type A is doing it, they could run themselves into the ground. I’m more of a hippie runner in that I go by feel. If life blows, I run long if I have time or hard if I don’t. When I just need some fresh air, I’ll head out for a run without my music or watch. It all depends on SO MUCH.

    January 19, 2016 at 9:23 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It obviously comes down to the runner, but I agree that people need to take what they read with a grain of salt.

      January 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    I know I probably COULD run a marathon, but do I want to? NO. And I’m ok w that. I’ll leave those for you (once your sacrum calms down).

    January 19, 2016 at 9:28 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      And I’ll let you do all the Crossfit workouts.

      January 19, 2016 at 1:27 pm
  • Reply Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious

    Give me a new body & I will run a marathon! My minds there, but this delicate body is not into it. You will just have to get better and run them for the rest of us!

    January 19, 2016 at 10:13 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I will work on it!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:26 pm
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    Suz I know there is so much I need to learn about running in general. So many of my new clients want to pick up running this spring and keep asking me if I will be in our gyms run club. BUTTTT my crazy hips are telling me it is a bad idea. Maybe I need to read a little before totally writing it off.

    January 19, 2016 at 10:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think that you might be surprised with what you are capable of–even if you don’t become a “big time” runner, even just learning about the practice of running, like learning about the practice of yoga, might be a real eye opener for you as an athlete and as a trainer!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:25 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    I completely agree, and also would add that every runner is different, and they need to find the plan that works for them. I’ve made my own modified training plan, based on Hal Higdon’s training plans, and they its gotten me through 3 full marathons and lots of miles! 🙂

    January 19, 2016 at 10:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Oh, absolutely. I totally agree!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:23 pm
  • Reply Rae

    Well, you know how I feel about my training plan and coach.. They’re the bomb dot com! 😉

    January 19, 2016 at 10:43 am
  • Reply Heather@hungryforbalance

    Great tips Susie! Even though I am not a runner, I can appreciate this list! It is so important to not only know where you’re going, but how you’re going to get there!

    January 19, 2016 at 10:50 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you! And I think that having a basic knowledge of what others are going through is so helpful as well!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:23 pm
  • Reply Alaina @ The Simple Peach

    Great read! Training is fascinating to me and I always love reading about how others are training and different methods. I think I always want to learn more about properly pacing my runs (easy, long, speed, etc) and ways to incorporate cross training without over doing it. It’s not as hard when I’m just maintaining mileage or half marathon training, but I will need a better balance going into marathon training this fall.

    January 19, 2016 at 11:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Proper pacing makes a huge difference in how your train and how you feel during training. And what is even crazier is the number of ways that you can pace yourself!

      January 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm
  • Reply Rachel

    This post makes me miss marathon training. 🙂

    January 19, 2016 at 1:25 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Me, too, Rachel. Me, too.

      January 19, 2016 at 2:23 pm
  • Reply Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat

    I do a lot of reading just to learn different ways to train. I am still not ready to go back to the marathon yet though. I want to become stronger and improve my paces even further before I recomit to 26.2. And I just learned from PT that my lingering hamstring “issue” was rooted in weak hips/glutes SHOCKING I know. Funny thing is with some heat and stretching it is already mostly better. I was honestly scared to stretch it – the issue had been there since October and was afraid I had strained it even the slightest lean forward into a stretch was too much. Once I got the all clear though it was heat, stretch, foam roll!

    January 19, 2016 at 2:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Isn’t it amazing how crazy the body is? Such a kinetic system of attachments. Total butterfly effect! I think that it is great that you have your priorities set to work on your pace before distance is great! Just keep on working on strengthening those glutes and hips!

      January 19, 2016 at 3:56 pm
  • Reply Christine @ Two Runners Travel

    I really like reading your training posts because they’re intelligent! I often find that most runners don’t talk about the complexity of training, the different facets of it and whatnot. And I am definitely not an expert by any means so I enjoy this type of info. After my fourth marathon this fall, I decided I would use a coach if I ran another one. I think I tapped out on my ability to create my own plan based on my knowledge of my body (mostly from being a competitive swimmer) and reviewing a lot of different plans.

    January 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha, thank you, Christine! I try to have some sort of balance between info and being accessible. I think you are so incredibly astute to have realized that you had reached your training knowledge “wall,” as it were. Most people just push through, and that is how they end up hurt.

      January 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm
  • Reply Laura

    So true Suzy! Well said and definitely something to take away for everyone, no matter what your running stage or goals!

    January 19, 2016 at 3:50 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, Laura! We all have something to learn, and learning about marathons can be so enriching for all!

      January 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm
  • Reply Margaret @ youngandrungry

    I agree with this through and through! I’ve used training plans, coaching, etc., and I learn something new with each one! It’s very helpful to have guidelines with a bigger picture in mind!

    January 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely agree! There is always something more to learn, isn’t there.

      January 19, 2016 at 4:30 pm
  • Reply Sara

    I agree, knowledge is power. Some people just don’t want to do the work and research so they hire a running coach. I’m okay with that too. Once they are done with me they’ll have lots of knowledge. 🙂

    January 19, 2016 at 6:20 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Exactly. If they don’t want to do the work, they will know it via us! Plus, then we can spout knowledge and fun stuff

      January 20, 2016 at 11:03 am
  • Reply Jess @hellotofit

    I never would have thought of all of these benefits for people who aren’t training for a marathon 🙂 AWESOME points, Susie!! Esp about avoiding injury and recovery/work cycles.

    January 19, 2016 at 6:45 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      The impact is far broader than just those marathoning. It’s all about spreading the knowledge and technique!

      January 20, 2016 at 11:04 am
  • Reply Emily

    I was a little scared to look at this, because I have been so bad at doing a real training plan. I think that if I do another marathon, it would definitely help my recovery to use a well constructed plan.

    January 19, 2016 at 7:21 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Never fear! And I would agree with you–having structure within the plan (as well as flexibility) is a huge benefit

      January 20, 2016 at 11:05 am
  • Reply Beth @ Sublimely Fit

    I am a huge fan of the book Marathoning for Mortals, and found it to be hugely helpful well before I even thought about training for my first marathon. You’re absolutely right, books that cover training theory, strength, nutrition, and all of the other components of a proper training plan and cycle are so helpful at any level.

    January 19, 2016 at 9:31 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am going to have to look into that book. Thanks for recommending it!

      January 20, 2016 at 11:05 am
  • Reply Cailee

    This is awesome! I’m not a runner… but I sure do have a lot of respect for those who are! Well done girl. You know what they say, “If you fail to plan you plain to fail.” Prep is so important! Sounds like you’ve got it covered!!

    January 19, 2016 at 10:23 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I try, and I think a little knowledge, even if you aren’t a runner, can really go a long way–just so that you can apply the concepts!

      January 28, 2016 at 4:14 pm
  • Reply Debbie @ Coach Debbie Runs

    Even though my next marathon is a long ways away (as in I have no idea when, where, or if), I think of training in terms of marathon training. It’s hard to explain that, but goes along with your post. Running should be cyclical. We shouldn’t always run long, or always run fast, but, as with marathon training, it is a cycle, where certain types of runs are done at certain times of the training period.

    January 20, 2016 at 7:46 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I definitely agree–I think of just about all of my training with the lens of marathon training now! It keeps me more on track, through the week or on a larger scale!

      January 21, 2016 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Kerri Mcgrail

    Well, I definitely like to use my whole ass in everything I do- especially running. I definitely need to learn how to reign it in a bit better and take more easier days. One of my classmates has been working on convincing me to run the Green Bay Marathon this spring , so I may be coming back to the blog to brush up on your glute activation tips lol!

    January 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know I love to talk asses over here.

      January 21, 2016 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Kristen

    Love this! I’m actually going to need to look into marathon training soon, but I think I could definitely have benefitted from doing it earlier. Running is hard and it’s all about being prepared!

    January 21, 2016 at 1:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Well, I know that you may or may not be able to do the full gig with me, but I could always consult for you.

      January 21, 2016 at 11:19 am
  • Reply meredith @ Cookie ChRUNicles

    I always said I wouldn’t and couldn’t run a marathon but then I say, never say never. If other people can do it, why can’t I? I don’t know that I will but as you say, if you train properly, you can do it.

    January 23, 2016 at 5:00 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hey, there is no reason to run one if you don’t want to. But you are definitely capable of it!

      January 23, 2016 at 3:52 pm
  • Reply Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home

    The one thing I’ve learned after running 3 marathons is that training plans are not one size fits all. I followed Hal Higdon’s beginner 2 plan for my first marathon and it didn’t work for me. The miles were too much. And there wasn’t enough cross training. I think if a runner can splurge on a coach, that would be the best option.

    January 24, 2016 at 6:41 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I agree to all–that is why I am a coach–I know that the regular plans didn’t really work for me, so now I want to help others who aren’t “one size fits all!”

      January 25, 2016 at 1:14 pm
  • Reply Link Love

    […] //Why All Runners Should Learn About Marathon Training Plans – a great read, and lots of things I totally agree with! […]

    January 26, 2016 at 4:50 am
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