Post Marathon Training : Intermediate

About the Intermediate Program

Recovery after the marathon should begin almost the minute you exit the finish chute. This 5-week post-marathon training program for Intermediate runners is designed to help you heal your wounds and recover as rapidly as possible so you can move on to new goals.

Interactive program available on

At a glance


Author: Hal Higdon

Length: 5 Weeks

Typical Week: 1 Day Off, 5 Run, 1 X-Train

Longest Workout: 90 minutes

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  • Recover from your last marathon with daily tips from Hal in your inbox
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  • Access charts and graphs to understand training load
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Hal on his Intermediate Program

Monday: In Zero Week, just passed, I recommended that you do very little running. But I did clear you to run for an hour on Sunday with friends to rehash your marathon experience(s). If you followed that advice, you may feel fatigued from what might have seemed like a low-mileage run a month ago. But you’re now in post-marathon mode. Make today an easy day, a very easy day. Monday was always a day of cross-training during your marathon buildup, so it is the same during the post-marathon period. Spend a half hour biking, swimming, walking or doing whatever non-running activity you did before. During the following four weeks, I’m going to tell you how to build back to a steady state of training.

Tuesday: As was the case during the 18-week marathon training program, Tuesday is a day when we do an easy workout. No particular set pace; just go out and run. How about a three-miler today?

Wednesday: Today’s the day we introduce you to repeats. After an easy warm-up of about a mile, run 3 x mile at the pace you ran the marathon, walking or jogging 3-5 minutes between each repeat. Finish with a mile cooldown. Here’s how to do the workout: After your warm-up, run a mile at marathon pace, walk or jog 3-5 minutes, run another mile same pace, walk or jog, then finish with a final repeat, cooling down afterwards by jogging or walking your final mile. Marathon pace isn’t that fast; you can do it. That gives you a total of about 5 miles for the workout.

Thursday: Three miles of gentle jogging–barely enough to work up a sweat. Are you paying attention to your diet? No need to focus totally on carbo-loading, but the diet that worked best for you going into the marathon also works best for you coming out. You need to replenish the glycogen you burned while running 26 miles 385 yards. Studies show that some runners take as much as two to three weeks before they’ve fully replenished their muscles. So remember the staples: pasta, rice, potatoes, cereals, fruits. You may need to also pay attention to calories, since your mileage remains relatively low compared to what it was three weeks before the marathon. So don’t overeat unless your weight has dropped too far below your best training weight.

Friday: Are you caught up with your rest? Before the marathon I told you to make certain that you went into the race well rested. Running 26 miles 385 yards also can serve as an energy drain. Particularly the first several days after the marathon, you may feel you need several hours more of sleep a night. And you do! But you may remain sleep-deprived for longer than several days, maybe even several weeks. So don’t schedule any all-night Friday parties yet. You have two moderately difficult workouts scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday: As with the repeats I asked you to run on Wednesday, this is a new workout for Intermediate runners: the tempo run. Tempo runs are usually refreshing, plus they’re an excellent way to improve your anaerobic threshold, which translates into faster race times. In a 30-minute workout, run the first 10 minutes at an easy pace, then during the middle 10 minutes gradually accelerate to marathon pace, then spend the final 10 minutes cooling down. Tempo runs do not need to be hard. At peak speed, you’ll only be running as fast for maybe a mile or so the pace you ran 26 miles in the marathon.

Sunday: A run of 45 to 75 minutes. Piece of cake, you say. After all, only a month ago, you banged out a 20-miler. But in your post-marathon mode, a long run of only an hour or so can still tax you. So don’t pay that much attention to your watch except for when to start and finish. I don’t care how far you run. I don’t care how fast you run. I don’t even care whether or not you run the entire 45 to 75 minutes! Walk if you feel like doing it. It’s your call as to how many minutes you want to run today. Your body will tell you. Don’t be afraid to flip-flop this day with the day before. Sunday is normally the long run day for Intermediate runners–but remember, it’s perfectly all right to run long on Saturday and do your tempo run on Sunday. It’s the overall pattern of your training that is most important, not what you do on any one specific day.

TIP OF THE WEEK: In many respects, the base period (when you run easy without worrying about pace or distance) is an extension of the rest period. Usually within a week after finishing a marathon, muscle soreness will almost completely disappear and you can begin running comfortably again. But you need time to stabilize your training. Don’t rush immediately into all-out training for your next goal. If you do, you’re liable to crash some weeks or months later.

Got the pattern? Continue to train gradually for the remaining three weeks of Post Marathon Training. If you want more directions, consider signing up for my interactive version of Post Marathon Training, the Intermediate edition. Click here!

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Zero Rest Rest Rest 2 m jog Cross 3 m run 60 min run
1 Cross 30 min 3 m run 3 x mile (mar pace) 3 m run Rest 30 min tempo 45-75 min run
2 Cross 30-40 min 4 m run 3 x mile (10-K pace) 4 m run Rest 35 min tempo 60-90 min run
3 Cross 30-50 min 5 m run 3 x mile (5-K pace) 5 m run Rest 40 min tempo 90 min run
4 Cross 30-60 min 5 m run 30 min tempo 3 m run Rest Rest Race

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