This 12 week marathon training program, while somewhat compressed, will still provide you with the essentials of safe mileage build up along with an adequate taper period.
Not unlike training for the event itself, training for a marathon properly takes time and patience. Conventional wisdom based on the experiences of the running masses has clearly demonstrated that it’s difficult to adequately prepare to run a good marathon performance in much less time than a 16 week period. In fact, if you plan on preparing for an important marathon such as trying to qualify for Boston, I highly recommend following an 18 week program that is preceded by a good amount of base building.
This is not to say that a compressed program or that running multiple marathons with minimal breaks in between is not a possibility, but runners who commence a training program with little to no recovery time need to recognize a couple of realities.
The first reality is that marathon performance will very likely be less than optimal. 12 weeks is adequate but not an ideal amount of time for proper training, recovery and adaptation to take place for the marathon distance.
The second reality is that the compressed training period may increase the risk for injury. This second point though really depends on the running history of each individual runner. Specifically, what kind of frequency and mileage took place in the weeks or months prior to starting a 12 week marathon training program with some structure?
For example, if you’re just coming off of the couch after a long lay-off from running, it’s a bit risky to jump right into a 28 mile week that ends with a 12 mile run. If however, you’ve been running a least a couple of times a week with the odd run of up to around 10 miles the risk is much more acceptable.
With that disclaimer, based on the number of requests that I’ve received for a 12 week marathon training program, there are obviously many newer runners out there who find themselves committed to a marathon goal 12 weeks (or less) away. So, here is a compressed marathon training program that adheres to the same smart training principals that longer programs do. It provides a rather quick but safe long run and mileage build up along with a full 3 week marathon taper period.