If you’ve decided to go from ‘couch to London marathon‘ you’re at the start of a fantastic journey and it’s certainly one you won’t forget. 

As a matter of fact… It might just change your life.

With the right training principles, mindset, and guidance, it is possible to go from being a beginner runner with minimal to no experience to running and completing the London Marathon.

In this article, we are going to walk you through our tried, tested, and proven couch to London Marathon training method, as well as everything you need to know as a beginner taking on this incredible adventure.

Let’s get started!

Understanding What Fitness Level You Are At & How To Get To Where You Need To Be 

All runners have to start somewhere…

Marathon training can start no matter your ability or background. There’s no one size fits all approach.

If you’ve never run before, 26.2 miles can look like an impossible distance—but, you’re reading this article and that’s a great place to start!

For the sake of this article, we are going to assume you are at the ‘couch’ level… Meaning, a beginner.

We are going to break down your couch to London Marathon training into achievable steps.

This will prevent you from taking on too much too soon and keep you motivated right up until you cross that finish line.

Let’s have a look at how long it’s going to take you to achieve each of the steps…

How Long Does It Take To Train For Couch To London Marathon?

If you stick to the steps, build up at the correct pace, and give yourself time to enjoy the journey without any injuries, you can go from couch to running the London Marathon in exactly 48 weeks.

Let’s break those 48 weeks up into achievable stages…

0 to 5km = 12 weeks

5 to 10km = 12 weeks

10 to 21km = 12 weeks

21 to 42km = 12 weeks

Using the training plans I share later in this post, you’ll see how the 5km,10km, and 21km are important milestones on your journey to running the London Marathon.

If you follow each of the training plans consecutively, it’ll take you just under 1 year to get marathon-ready.

This is a proven, science-based 12-month beginner London Marathon training plan that shows you not only what training to do every day, but exactly what pace that training should be done at so that you avoid injury and ensure you’re not over- or under-trained for come race day.

Click here to get access to The Couch to London Marathon Training Roadmap!

On that note, let’s have a look at what the training will look like…

What Your Couch To London Marathon Training Will Look Like

The key to going from couch to London Marathon is to build up your endurance safely and efficiently so that you avoid any running injuries along the way. The best way to do that is to follow a training program that is specific to you, your age, gender, and ability.

Training programs like the one we offer will gradually increase your mileage efficiently and safely so that you don’t have to worry about how long you need to run on which days.

The same is for the training plans that we are going to go through below…

It starts slowly but the running paces will be faster than you are used to and it will allow you to adapt without risking injury.

Program selection is key to ensuring the success of the framework and the program, if Programure please speak to one of our coaches, and let’s make sure we start on the right foot.

It is important to adhere to all the principles in this program to ensure success:

• Doing the strength training is critical to increasing resistance to injury.

• Consistency. Keep turning your blocks green and watch how you blossom over the coming weeks.

It is very important to stick to your training paces, training faster will feel good but it will work against everything we are trying to achieve.

Here at Coach Parry, we’re massive advocates of strength training. We’ve put together this free strength training plan for runners that you can do once a week, at home and with no expensive equipment needed.  You can access it by clicking here

What Your 5km Training Plan Will Look Like

The aim of this program is to prep you to run for 5km:

Training Paces:

All running: 8:00-8:30min/km (12:52-13:41 min/mile) or slower. Dont worry about pace, the idea is to walk and run, building at your own pace. 

What Your 10km Training Plan Will Look Like

Training Paces:

All running: 8:00-8:30/km (12:52-13:41 min/mile) or slower

Dont worry about pace, the idea is to walk and run, building at your own pace.

What Your 21km Training Plan Will Look Like

It is very important to note that these are average times and should be adjusted for when running up or down hills. You will be anywhere between 15-45sec/km or a mile slower going uphill (gradient dependent) and 15-30sec faster going downhill.

Training Paces:

Easy Runs: 9:00+min/km (14:29+ min/mile) or as easy as needed

Note: Just because you’re a beginner runner doesn’t mean you have to be running at this pace. You may be someone who can run at 6mins/kilometer even though you don’t have much experience. We suggest sticking to these paces up until your first time trial and then we can assess if your pacing needs adjusting after that.

What Your 42km Training Plan Will Look Like

Training Paces:

Easy Runs: 7:10/km (11:32 min/mile)

Long Runs: 7:30/km (12:04 min/mile)

Recovery Runs: 7:50/km (12:36 min/mile)

– These paces are a rough guide, run as slowly as you need to. 

– For all runs over 1hr, you need to walk 1-2min every 3-6km (2-4 miles)

Following the program is safe and ensures that you reduce your risk of injury. Let’s break your training sessions down…

Easy Training Runs

Easy training runs help you add weekly volume to your running plan. By easy we mean EASY. You should be able to hold a conversation with someone next to you and not be struggling to get a breath in at the same time. 

There will always be easy runs in the plan. Depending on level/ability more so that stage of training

Rest Days

Rest days are as important as your training days. They prevent injuries and, allow you to adapt to your training.

Runners don’t realize when they start running that they only get the benefits from the exercise they are doing when they are resting and not doing the exercise.

You only adapt and get stronger for your run training after your training when you are resting and when your body is recovering.

With our, training plans we structure your rest days to maximize recovery so that you have a guarantee that you can fit in all your training and the rest days required on the correct days.

Consistency is important… Even when it comes to rest.

Allowing yourself time to recover after your runs is what makes it possible for you to come back better adapted for your next run. Here is a Practical Guide To Running Recovery.

Strength Training

Strength training that is specific to runners is extremely important, for two main reasons. The first is for injury prevention, and the second is to improve your running performance and make you a faster and more efficient runner.

Strength training plays an integral part in the Coach Parry training philosophy and that’s why we’re including our S&C plans as part of the training program.

We know that you can get strength training anywhere, google is full of it. 

It’s not just about the plan but how you implement it. The technique is vital and we place a huge focus on technique in our strength and conditioning classes.

Read more about the importance of strength training here.

Long Runs

Long runs are a vital key to you completing the London Marathon.

The purpose of a long run is to achieve several different outcomes, the most important outcome of the long run is your base endurance or building your endurance to help you to develop your supply chains. This is your body’s ability to provide energy across the spectrum of distances.

The long run also plays an important role in improving the running economy when we are training for longer distances. 

Long runs teach us to be on our feet for a long time and they physiologically prepare us for going longer distances. We suggest that people ex[eriment with different nutrition on long runs so that they can see what works best for race day.

Let’s have a look at some achievable goals you should set for yourself…

Setting Couch To Marathon Goals (5Km, 10KM, 21KM)

The 5k to 10k, 10k to half marathon and half marathon to marathon stages should be treated as separate stages and separate goals.

You can adjust your time goals as you get further into the plans and once you see your results.

If you use our training plans we include a time trial every four weeks so that you can track your progress.

Feel free to pause between training plans as well if that’s what your body is telling you to do.

For example, if you do the ‘Couch to 5k’ training plan, you don’t immediately have to jump straight into the ‘5k to 10k’ training plan.  Just remember to maintain your fitness levels by walking, hiking, or doing other cross-training exercises.

Don’t jump from one plan to the next too quickly if you’re not feeling ready; take the time to rest, and consolidate your new running fitness, before moving forward.

Always listen to your body through this process. This becomes key because if you push through niggling pains they can become chronic injuries. That means less consistent running which is what we don’t want.

We need to set realistic goals for where we are and not where we want to be.

For example… I want to (and know I can) run a Sub3h40 marathon in time but if I train at that pace now I will be training above where I am currently and I risk injury as well as won’t be training in the correct training zones for where I am at the moment.

The Training Plans You Need To Go From Couch To London Marathon

View all of the training plans we have discussed above here!

All of these training plans include:

Daily Training Sessions

– Every training session is broken down into exactly what you need to do

– There are pacing guidelines for every run so that you know exactly how fast to run them; with videos from the coaches talking you through what is expected in the session.
– The correct amount of recovery is included to make sure you benefit from a combination of easy runs and interval training (depending on your ability) based on a polarised model of training (ie 80/20 principle).

– Know exactly when and how long your long training runs should be.

Strength Training 

– There are plans for all abilities so if you’ve never done Strength training or a master, we’ve got you covered.

– We place a huge focus on technique in these classes to help reduce your risk of injury and to ensure that you are working the correct muscles.

– Mobility and static stretching plans are also included.
– No need to go to a gym or buy expensive equipment. Everything can be done at home.

Big Picture Planning

– See how each training session fits into the overall London Marathon Training Roadmap

– Analyse your training data within the plan so that you can see how you are responding to the overall training

What you do leading up to the London Marathon will either set you up for success or failure…
Ensure your success with the Coach Parry Couch to London Marathon Training Roadmap.

Beginner Tips To Go From Couch To London Marathon

  1. Start with a good pair of running shoes. (This article will help)
  2. Stay motivated. (5 Practical Strategies To Build Mental Strength For Running)
  3. Cross-train. (Here’s how)
  4. Get more sleep. (Is Sleep Important For Runners: FACTS To Improve Your Running)
  5. Run your easy runs easy. (Why Are Easy Runs Important?)
  6. Focus on your nutrition. (Running Nutrition: 8 CRUCIAL Nutrition Tips You Need To Know
  7. Stick to the program as much as possible.
  8. Strength train to avoid injuries.
  9. Get an entry into the London Marathon (which is tougher than it seems).

Shona is the former Head of Sport Science at the High-Performance Centre, University of Pretoria. She returned from Madrid, Spain, in 2013 where she completed her MBA in Sport Management with Universidad Europea de Madrid (Real Madrid FC). Shona’s current work and interest lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) conditioning and sport science working with elite ultra-endurance athletes such as Caroline Wostmann (2015 Comrades & 2Oceans winner). Aside from football strength & conditioning, Shona’s other passion and expertise lies in endurance sport (running/triathlon) as well as Women in Sport. She has competed in 4 Half IronMan distance events and three 2Oceans Ultramarathons herself. She has also worked with other elite female athletes such as London 2012 bronze medallist in canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley.

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