Quantitative Analysis of 92 12-Week Sub-elite Marathon Training Plans

Melanie Knopp, Daniel Appelhans, Martin Schönfelder, Stephen Seiler, Henning Wackerhage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: A typical training plan is a mix of many training sessions with different intensities and durations to achieve a specific goal, like running a marathon in a certain time. Scientific publications provide little specific information to aid in writing a comprehensive training plan. This review aims to systematically and quantitatively analyse the last 12 weeks before a marathon as recommended in 92 sub-elite training plans. Methods: We retrieved 92 marathon training plans and linked their running training sessions to five intensity zones. Subsequently, each training plan was grouped based on the total running volume in peak week into high (> 90 km/week), middle (65–90 km/week), and low (< 65 km/week) training volume plan categories. Results: In the final 12 weeks before a race, recommended weekly running volume averaged 108 km, 59 km, and 43 km for high, middle, and low distance marathon training plans. The intensity distribution of these plans followed a pyramidal training structure with 15–67–10–5–3%, 14–63–18–2–3%, and 12–67–17–2–2% in zones 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, for high, middle, and low volume training plans, respectively. Conclusions: By quantitatively analysing 92 recommended marathon training plans, we can specify typical recommendations for the last 12 weeks before a marathon race. Whilst this approach has obvious limitations such as no evidence for the effectiveness of the training plans investigated, it is arguably a useful strategy to narrow the gap between science and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number50
JournalSports Medicine - Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Endurance
  • Marathon
  • Recreational athletes
  • Running
  • Training guidelines


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