About the Novice 1 Program
This is Hal's most popular program: the Novice 1 Marathon Training Program. If you are training for your first marathon, this is the training program for you! Even if you are an experienced marathoner, you may choose this as a gentle and low-mileage approach to your favorite sport. More than a million runners have used Hal's programs with success. Novice 1 will get you to the starting line--and finish line.
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Hal on his Novice 1 Program
Here is my Novice 1 Marathon Program, the most popular of all my marathon training programs and, arguably, the most popular training program used by first marathoners anywhere. Is this your first marathon? Have you only begun to run? Novice 1 was designed with you in mind. If you have been running for a year or more and have run a number of races from 5-K to the half marathon, you might want to consider a slight nudge up to Novice 2, although many experienced runners also favor Novice 1, because of the (relatively) gentle way it prepares you to run 26 miles 385 yards.
Let me explain some of the workouts you will run during the 18 weeks of Novice 1. More detailed training instructions sent to you in daily emails are available if you sign up for the interactive version of Novice 1, available from TrainingPeaks. I also have a Novice 1 app.
Long Runs: The key to the program is the long runs on weekends, which build from 6 miles in Week 1 to 20 miles in the climactic Week 15. (After that, you taper 3 weeks to get ready for the marathon.) You can skip an occasional workout, but do not cheat on the long runs. Notice that although the weekly long runs get progressively longer, every third week is a “stepback” week, where we reduce mileage to allow you to gather strength for the next push upward.
Rest: Novice 1 marathoners rest on Mondays and rest again on Fridays. This is both to recover after the weekend long runs and to gather energy before them. Scientists suggest that it is during the rest period (the 24 to 72 hours between hard bouts of exercise) that the muscles actually regenerate and get stronger. Coaches also will tell you that you can’t run hard unless you are well rested. And it is hard running (such as the long run) that allows you to improve. The secret to success in any training program is consistency, so as long as you are consistent with your training during the full 18 weeks of the program, you can afford–and may benefit from–extra rest.
Run Slow: Normally I recommend that runners do their long runs anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds or more per mile slower than their marathon pace. The problem with offering this advice to first-time novice runners, however, is that you probably don’t know what your marathon pace is, because you’ve never run a marathon before! Don’t worry. Simply do your long runs at a comfortable pace, one that allows you to converse with your training partners. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as “too slow.” The important point is that you cover the prescribed distance; how fast you cover it doesn’t matter.
Walking: Don’t be embarrassed to take walking breaks. Walking is a perfectly acceptable strategy in trying to finish a marathon. It works during training runs too. While some coaches recommend walking 1 minute out of every 10, or walking 30 seconds then running 30 seconds before walking again, I suggest that marathon runners walk when they come to an aid station. Here’s why: you can drink more easily while walking as opposed to running, It’s a good idea to follow this strategy in training as well. Walking gives your body a chance to rest, and you’ll be able to continue running more comfortably. It’s best to walk when you want to, not when your (fatigued) body forces you too.
Cross-Training: Sundays in the Novice 1 training program are devoted to cross-training. What is cross-training? It is any form of aerobic exercise that allows you to use slightly different muscles while resting (usually) after your long run. In the Novice 1 program, we run long on Saturdays and cross-train on Sundays, although it certainly is possible to reverse that order. The best cross-training exercises are swimming, cycling or even walking. Activities requiring sudden or sideways movements are not always a good choice. You don’t need to cross-train the same each weekend. And you could even combine two or more exercises: walking and easy jogging or swimming and riding an exercise bike in a health club.
Strength Training: A frequently asked question is: “Should I add strength training to my marathon program?” If you have to ask, you probably should not. I strongly endorse strength training for maximum fitness and long life, but if you never have pumped iron before, now is probably not the time to start. Wait until after you have some bling around your neck. If you already hang out at the gym, Tuesdays and Thursdays work well for strength training–after you finish your short runs on those days.
Midweek Training: Training during the week should be done at a comparatively easy pace. As the weekend mileage builds, the weekday mileage also builds. Add up the numbers, and you’ll see that you run roughly the same mileage during the week as you do during long runs on the weekends. Midweek workouts on Wednesdays build from 3 to 10 miles. (I call these my Sorta-Long Runs.) There are similar slight advances on Tuesdays and Thursdays although they are planned as “easy” days.
Races: Normally, I don’t prescribe races–or at least too many races–for first-time marathoners. Races can get in the way, particularly if you taper before a race and need extra recovery afterwards. But some racing is convenient, because it introduces newcomers to the racing experience. I suggest you consider doing a half marathon in Week 8, a week when in the normal progression you might do 13 miles as your long run. No half marathon in your neighborhood that week? You can juggle the training schedule to match the local racing calendar. One advantage of doing a half is that afterwards, you can use one of the pace calculators available on the Internet (best is by Greg McMillan) to predict your marathon pace and finish.
|1||Rest||3 mi run||3 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||6||Cross|
|2||Rest||3 mi run||3 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||7||Cross|
|3||Rest||3 mi run||4 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||5||Cross|
|4||Rest||3 mi run||4 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||9||Cross|
|5||Rest||3 mi run||5 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||10||Cross|
|6||Rest||3 mi run||5 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||7||Cross|
|7||Rest||3 mi run||6 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||12||Cross|
|8||Rest||3 mi run||6 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||Rest||Half Marathon|
|9||Rest||3 mi run||7 mi run||4 mi run||Rest||10||Cross|
|10||Rest||3 mi run||7 mi run||4 mi run||Rest||15||Cross|
|11||Rest||4 mi run||8 mi run||4 mi run||Rest||16||Cross|
|12||Rest||4 mi run||8 mi run||5 mi run||Rest||12||Cross|
|13||Rest||4 mi run||9 mi run||5 mi run||Rest||18||Cross|
|14||Rest||5 mi run||9 mi run||5 mi run||Rest||14||Cross|
|15||Rest||5 mi run||10 mi run||5 mi run||Rest||20||Cross|
|16||Rest||5 mi run||8 mi run||4 mi run||Rest||12||Cross|
|17||Rest||4 mi run||6 mi run||3 mi run||Rest||8||Cross|
|18||Rest||3 mi run||4 mi run||2 mi run||Rest||Rest||Marathon|
|1||Rest||4.8 km run||4.8 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||9.7||Cross|
|2||Rest||4.8 km run||4.8 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||11.3||Cross|
|3||Rest||4.8 km run||6.4 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||8.1||Cross|
|4||Rest||4.8 km run||6.4 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||14.5||Cross|
|5||Rest||4.8 km run||8.1 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||16.1||Cross|
|6||Rest||4.8 km run||8.1 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||11.3||Cross|
|7||Rest||4.8 km run||9.7 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||19.3||Cross|
|8||Rest||4.8 km run||9.7 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||Rest||Half Marathon|
|9||Rest||4.8 km run||11.3 km run||6.4 km run||Rest||16.1||Cross|
|10||Rest||4.8 km run||11.3 km run||6.4 km run||Rest||24.1||Cross|
|11||Rest||6.4 km run||12.9 km run||6.4 km run||Rest||25.7||Cross|
|12||Rest||6.4 km run||12.9 km run||8.1 km run||Rest||19.3||Cross|
|13||Rest||6.4 km run||14.5 km run||8.1 km run||Rest||29.0||Cross|
|14||Rest||8.1 km run||14.5 km run||8.1 km run||Rest||22.5||Cross|
|15||Rest||8.1 km run||16.1 km run||8.1 km run||Rest||32.2||Cross|
|1||Rest||8.1 km run||12.9 km run||6.4 km run||Rest||19.3||Cross|
|17||Rest||6.4 km run||9.7 km run||4.8 km run||Rest||12.9||Cross|
|18||Rest||4.8 km run||6.4 km run||3.2 km run||Rest||Rest||Marathon|
Additional Marathon Training Programs
First Marathon Awesomeness
I was 54 when I ran my first marathon. I chose the Marine Corp Marathon because I like to run races where there are interesting sites along the way. It was a fantastic experience that I was truly able to enjoy because of my proper training with Hal Higdon’s Novice Plan! I am 61 and am training for my 2nd marathon and am planning on using the same plan! It works!
You messed up the whole website
Every training schedule is wrong. Run 2 miles to train for marathon?
Response from Hal Higdon
Hi Anita, my Novice 1 Marathon program does indeed have a 2 mile run during the taper period leading up to race-day. For beginners, it is important not to over-train.
Great plan for marathoners
I completed 2 half marathons & two 50 K ultras within 9 months of starting to run at 57 age just following the novice 1 plan. It’s a great place to start training for marathons & even if you suddenly plan a race having lesser than 16 weeks gap, you can jump in to somewhere in between the plan too based on your current status of running. Thanks for the innovative plan
In my opinion, both novice plans are too weak even to prepare for the first marathon. The plan is suitable for the off-season.
You should start with intermediate plans. If intermediate plans seem too difficult, it’s just too early to run a marathon.
First half-marathon alone during quarantine!
I’ve loved running my entire life (my best friend just found a video this weekend of me winning fastest mile in fifth grade for girls at 7:35). In 2012, my running came to a halt when I started experiencing debilitating back pain. Fast forward to 2019, with a handful of attempts at running in between only to end up with back or foot pain, and I am strong enough to run again, pain-free. In 2020, I committed to running my first half. Even though my race was cancelled because of COVID, I stuck to my training schedule (as well as an entire workout program I designed for my clients during COVID) and I ran around my neighborhood on the day of the scheduled race. I JUST missed my goal of sub 2, coming in at 2:02 for my first ever half-marathon. Between the structure and my healthy diet and stretching routines, I am happy to say I had NO injuries and NO soreness throughout my ENTIRE training and post-race. I am beyond excited to continue my training toward a marathon, and this time I hope to do it with a crowd of other runners! Thank you, Hal. I’m so happy to be back in the running game.