BYU Today

Ask an Expert: How to Train for a Marathon


Ed Eyestone

BYU track and field coach Ed Eyestone

Run as fast as you can. BYU track and field coach Edward D. Eyestone (BS ’85) is still ahead of you. After running for BYU in the early ’80s, the 10-time All-American and four-time national champion competed professionally for 15 years, making the U.S. Olympic team in 1988 and in 1992. Eyestone has been a columnist for Runner’s World and was a long-distance running analyst for NBC at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. If you’ve considered training for a marathon, Coach Eyestone is behind you.

Q: If you’ve never been a runner, how do you start?

A: Conservatively. If you’re a couch potato, start by jogging for 30 seconds, then walking for 30 seconds, and then gradually building until you can get to 20 minutes or more of sustained jogging. I like to focus on time spent running and walking more than distance traveled. An average exerciser needs to exercise three to four times a week.

Q: How do you prevent discouragement?

A: You have to be patient when starting out because it’s hard and it’s work. Stop and take a break when needed. Be realistic with your expectations, and be consistent. Consistency allows us to achieve goals. Over time you’ll be able to run 20 minutes and then further, and ultimately you could run a full marathon.

Q: How do you train for a marathon?

A: Increase the volume of running. The most successful elites run over 100 miles a week, but your goal of running a marathon can be achieved by running 30 miles a week as long as you have one long run each week to help your body get used to being on its feet for two and a half hours or more without stopping. Doing long intervals, fartleks (intermittent sprints), and tempo running (running at a steady, challenging pace for a sustained period of time) also make attempting a marathon, half marathon, or 10K more successful.

Q: How does it feel to finish a marathon?

A: Some say it’s almost spiritual. No matter how fast or slow you go, you’ve set a goal, worked hard, sacrificed. It’s not unlikely to see tears at the finish line of a marathon, but much more often they are tears of joy rather than tears of pain.


RUN A MARATHON IN 18 WEEKS
Follow track and field coach Ed Eyestone’s marathon-training schedule for beginners.

Note: Tempos are intervals during your normal run. In the tempo intervals, you should run at a steady, challenging pace for a sustained amount of time. If the schedule reads, for example, “Tempo, 4 x 5 minutes, 4 miles,” that means that in the course of a four-mile run, you should do four separate, 5-minute tempo sets at an increased, sustainable pace—a pace that is hard but doable. Then after each 5-minute set, you can jog at a recovery pace as long as necessary, until the next tempo run.

Novice Marathon Calendar
Sun. Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Total Miles
REST Easy 3 miles Tempo
5 x 4 min
4 miles
REST Easy 4 miles REST Long run
6 miles
Week 116
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
4 x 5 min
4 miles
REST Easy 4 miles REST Long run
6 miles
Week 218
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
4 x 5 min
4 miles
REST Easy 4 miles REST Long run
8 miles
Week 320
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
3 x 7 min
5 miles
REST Easy 4 miles REST Long run
8 miles
Week 422
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
3 x 7 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
10 miles
Week 524
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
2 x 10 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
10 miles
Week 624
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
3 x 7 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
12 miles
Week 726
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
1 x 12 min
1 x 8 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
12 miles
Week 826
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
1 x 14 min
1 x 6 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
14 miles
Week 928
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
1 x 16 min
1 x 4 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
14 miles
Week 1028
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
1 x 18 min
1 x 2 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
16 miles
Week 1130
REST Easy 5 miles Tempo
1 x 20 min
5 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
17 miles
Week 1232
REST Easy 5 miles Tempo
1 x 20 min
6 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
18 miles
Week 1334
REST Easy 5 miles Tempo
1 x 20 min
6 miles
REST Easy 6 miles REST Long run
19 miles
Week 1436
REST Easy 6 miles Tempo
1 x 20 min
6 miles
REST Easy 6 miles REST Long run
20 miles
Week 1538
REST Easy 5 miles Tempo
1 x 20 min
6 miles
REST Easy 5 miles REST Long run
12 miles
Week 1628
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
1 x 15 min
5 miles
REST Easy 6 miles REST Long run
7 miles
Week 1720
REST Easy 4 miles Tempo
2 x 5 min
4 miles
REST Easy 3 miles 10 min jog
Easy 1
Race Week 18