The 30 Day Marathon Training Schedule -or- Are You Crazy?

Yes, that's right, get ready for a marathon in 30 days!  That's 26.2 miles - a tough race for a good athlete.  Can you do it, or is that just plain crazy?

Maybe you signed up for a marathon and haven't had time to train.  That race date is starting to get very close and you're considering dropping out.  Is there any chance you could still complete it?


Yes, it's possible.  It's helpful if you have some sort of athletic base to get off to a running start.  If you're primarily sedentary, a super short marathon training program will be very difficult.

First a BIG WARNING, you need to figure out if your body can handle a tough test of fitness.  If you have medical problems, like heart disease, it's not a good idea to start an aggressive training schedule.  In fact, before doing something like a challenging 30 day marathon training schedule, you should talk to your doctor first and at least get a basic physical.

Now that we've got the disclaimer out of the way, and you're still reading with hope, lets get to it. We're about training basics here, and the basics tell us to focus on the core objectives. We have 30 days of training to go 26.2 miles. It won't be easy, in fact it may be one of the hardest things you'll ever do.

Fit Test Questions

We need to evaluate your level of fitness.  Answer the following questions on a scale of 0 - 3:

  • Have you done any regular running activity in the last few months? (0 = never, 1 = once a month, 2 = twice a month, 3 = once a week or more)
  • Have you done any regular physical fitness in the last few months that doesn't involve running? (i.e. biking, swimming) (0 = never, 1 = once a month, 2 = twice a month, 3 = once a week or more)
  • What type of job do you have (0 = none/sedentary/desk work, 1 = on my feet for a hour or so a day, 2 = on my feet, moving around quite a bit, 3 = strenuous, physical labor)
  • If you were to guess in a week, how many miles do you walk?  (0 = don't know/not much, 1 = 2 -5 miles, 2 = 5-10 miles, 3 = 10+ miles)
  • If you walk up 3 flights of stairs, will you be (0 = very winded, feel bad,  1 = breathing heavy, but feel ok, 2 = noticeable breathing, but could continue up more stairs, 3 = fine, barely noticed it)

Add together your scores from the five questions above.  If you scored:

  • 0 - 3 : You don't have any base of physical fitness.  Training for a marathon in 30 days is near impossible.
  • 4 - 7: You have a small base of physical fitness.  A 30 day program with a successful marathon will be very tough, but it is possible.
  • 7 - 11: You have a decent phyiscal fitness base.  Dedication to a 30 day program should get you to finish a marathon.
  • 12 - 15: You have a good base of physical fitness, not only can you finish a marathon with 30 days of training, but you might be able to finish a major part of it running.

If you're in the 3 points or lower category, don't be too distressed.  If you only have 30 days left to train for a marathon, then you should probably hold off until the next one.

Mile Speed Test

Our next step is to test your run fitness.  The objective is to go out and run one mile (1.61 kilometers).  Use GPS or mapping software like Google Maps to figure out a one mile course.  It should be something away from cars and minimal other traffic like bikes and walkers.

Do a warm up for your mile run by jogging slowly for 2-3 minutes.  You'll need a watch to time yourself. The objective is to NOT kill yourself by running as fast as you can. Run at a fast pace, breathing moderately heavy through the last half of the mile (once again, make sure you have your doctor's ok for this type of test!).  When you're finished, match your time to the following categories:

  • Less than 7 minutes - you're in very good speed shape, and you just need to focus on building some endurance
  • 7 - 8:59 minutes - well done, and you have a good level of speed fitness
  • 9 - 11 minutes - not too bad, you're in decent shape
  • 12 -15 minutes - the average for someone who has not been running much lately, there is still hope for you!
  • 15+ minutes - If you had a hard time covering a mile at this pace, you need more time than 30 days to prepare for a marathon.  Wait for the next race!

Training Category

Our next step is to figure out a training category for our 30 day schedule.  We'll do two basic categories:

Marathon Runner - If you scored 11 or more points on the Fit Test Questions and did the Mile Speed Test in less than 9 minutes, you're likely in good enough shape to not only finish a marathon but to try to run a majority (or all) of it.

Marathon Survivor - If you scored between 4-10 points on the Fit Test Questions and did the Mile Speed Test in 9 - 15 minutes, you'll be doing the marathon survivor training plan, which focuses on finishing a marathon in 6 1/2 hours or less.

If you don't fit into one of these two categories, it's best to have time to do a 20-week marathon training plan, you'll need that extra time to get ready for the tough physical challenge.

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If you're still game, let's get into developing a marathon training plan. Go to Part 2 of The 30 Day Marathon Training Schedule