BQ 5:20:00 Marathon Training Plan Level 1 (Novice)
Plan Length: 16 Weeks
Are you looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon? This marathon training plan is designed for you using McMillan’s go to marathon formula. All goal pace workouts are already set for you at your BQ time so you can just hop right into training. Throughout this plan I have inserted coach’s notes that are specific to help you qualify for Boston which include fueling, shoes, course suggestions, and much more. Let me help you accomplish your goal of qualifying for Boston.
-Length: 10-16 weeks
-Runs per week: 3
-Key/Hard Workouts per week: 1
-Cross-training days per week: 1-2
-Garmin Structured Workout Compatible
-McMillan Calculator paces integrated into all workouts
Weekly mileage = 20-30 miles per week (30-50 kilometers per week)*
*based on an average training pace of 12:00 min/mi (7:30 min/km)
NOTE: Each run includes a range of duration/distance and pace so actual mileage may vary.
-Tried and true, scientifically-based and proven marathon workout sequence
-Goal pace predictor workouts to dial in your goal pace
-Progressive long runs to increase your endurance
-Stamina-boosting marathon specialty workouts
-Predictor workouts to determine your best pace for race day
-Gradual pace advancement through the training plan to keep you optimally challenged
-Workout swapping – flexibility to move runs around based on your life schedule
-Built-in injury prevention and strength training routines to perform in sync with your running workouts
-Form drills to improve your speed and efficiency
-Be able to run 15 minutes on your regular runs and at least 30 minutes on your long runs.
Need more weeks? Try these plans!
-Base Training Plan: adds up to 8 weeks (Recommended)
-Hill Module: adds up to 6 weeks (opt.)
-Speed Module: adds up to 6 weeks (opt.)
-Marathon Training Plan: 10-16 weeks (see above description)
Starting Week of Training
This first week of training should look very "doable" (or even quite easy) for you. It represents the starting training load for this plan and is the starting point from which we'll build toward the peak training load. Week 1 should NOT be a big jump from your current training load.
Recovery. On some days of each week, I'll provide recovery days and will give you the choice of what you do. Choose what you like but always remember that these recovery days are designed to help you rest up for the upcoming training.
Here's the plan: We're going to gradually yet steadily build the specific fitness you need to accomplish your goal. I'll have you run a variety of types of race-specific workouts and several goal pace workouts and I'll even have you do some of my tried and true race-prep fast finish long runs. The end result is that you'll be ready physically and mentally to tackle the race.
Your McMillan training plan doesn't just give you your run training but I'm also including my "Prehab" training - non-running training designed to build an injury-resistant body. A few days per week, I'll provide a link to the program I want you to do. I'll walk you through the routine and over time, I'll advance the challenge so you get stronger and stronger.
Join McMillan Run Team
Add McMillan coaching to your training plan! For less than a 5K cost, you get coaching access, nutrition plans and injury-proofing exercises, all in one easy-to-use app. Try it for free for 14 days! https://www.mcmillanrunning.com/run-team-trial-2/
20-30 minute Easy Run
To build fitness safely, you can use your breathing as your guide to how fast you should be running. On easy runs, you should never get out of breath and should be able to carry on a conversation with a training partner. If you get out of your breath, then you are running too fast.
"Life" can often get in the way of your training but I encourage you to prioritize your workouts. Most of us find that if we get in our exercise, everything else in life is better so be disciplined to get in your workouts.
I want you to start your prehab training with the Strength in Stride program. This prehab program is designed to flow with your training plan. You'll start with a stability phase then move to the strength phase and finally to the power phase. You'll love how this program dovetails with your run training. Perform the Strength in Stride Phase 1 - Stability Program A routine. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/stabilitya
Boston Qualifying Training Plan Note
This plan is designed to help you not just hit your BQ time but to secure that you will be under your BQ time. Workouts are set at your BQ time and as you make your way through the plan the paces will build to being slightly under your BQ time to ensure you will reach your goal.
Preventing injury is a more efficient process than rehabing an injury. That's why I'm including my "prehab" routines in this program. Just follow them and you'll be on your way to a stronger, more supple runner's body.
The Strength in Stride program includes the 3 phases (Stability, Strength and Power) and each phase has two programs so I'll let you know whether to perform program A or B.
30-40 minute Easy Run
Right now, Thursday's are for easy running but these will change to hard workout days where you will build a lot of fitness.
These first couple of weeks we will be getting you prepared for race pace workouts and fast finish long runs at goal pace. We will be performing progression runs, cruise intervals, and speed workouts. These runs will prepare you for when those goal pace miles come.
Perform the Strength in Stride Phase 1 - Stability Program B routine. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/stabilityb
We prescribe most runs by time. You can simply convert this to miles using your pace but make sure you get in the duration we want.
You may be a little sore from yesterday's core session but that just shows that you need to work on your core. Across this plan, you'll be amazed at how quickly you get better at each exercise.
30-40 minute Easy Run
"Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." Van Gogh
Prehab isn't just core and strength training. It also includes working on your form. Part of your McMillan training plan includes my Running form drills. Just click this link to watch and learn the form drills that I'd like you to do at least once per week (though you can feel free to add these any day you that you like). Running form drills. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/drills.
45-55 minute Easy Run
Build endurance and leg resistance to fatigue.
Time on your feet is more important than pace in a long, steady run. Run easy and run long. Here is a video I made to help understand the Long Run: https://run.mcmillanrunning.com/how-to-long-runs/
I find that the key to prehab is routine. I'm going to ask you to perform some prehab a few days per week and if you can commit to doing it across this plan, I know you'll continue to do it as you move to your next training plan.
Peak Week of Training
This peak week of training is representative of the peak training load for this plan. Across the plan, you'll build from the starting training load (shown above) to this peak training load. These workouts may look challenging but we'll build to them gradually yet progressively across your plan.
As you get into the race-specific training phase, it's all about hard days hard, easy days easy. Recover so you can attack the key sessions
50-70 minute Easy Run
I always get a bigger mental boost when I get out the door on the blah days. So, relish these days as they provide a bigger mental reward.
Perform the Strength in Stride Phase 3 - Power Program A routine. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/powera
Don't forget running form. Runners are often amazed at how pace improves w/ less effort when they focus on form. Very helpful when fatigued.
Work on good form in your key/fast running workouts. Form often breaks down as you get tired so as fatigue sets in, focus on form.
12 mile Medium Long Run with Marathon Pace Workout: 1-2 mile Warm-Up + 8 miles (13 km) at Goal Marathon Pace + 1-2 mile Cool-Down
Build Endurance + Pace Control.
Coach Note: This is your last goal pace workout that is not part of a long run. Have you figured out your nutrition for race day? What are you eating the night before, the morning of, and during your race?
Why you can stop worrying about bad workouts and how to start learning from them instead https://run.mcmillanrunning.com/the-benefits-of-bad-workouts/
Perform the Strength in Stride Phase 3 - Power Program B routine. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/powerb
Slight dips in motivation or missed runs may happen across a training plan. Just get back on the horse & resume your plan. All is not lost.
30-40 minute Easy Run
Sometimes just getting out the door for your run is the greatest victory.
Perform the McMillan Running Form Drills. https://log.finalsurge.com/mcmillan/prehab/drills
16-18 mile (29-32 km) Long Run
Build endurance and leg resistance to fatigue.
Race tip: Often, breakthrough races come when you get out of your own way. Release the reins so you can be your best you.
Other Versions of Your Plan
Other Levels of Your Plan
Run Plan vs Run Team
The Run Plan option includes your training plan, integrated McMillan paces, prehab routines and Coach Greg's instructions for each and every run. Run Plan is a one time fee for your plan.
To get the most from your training, upgrade to the McMillan Run Team. Run Team membership not only includes your Run Plan but also gives you direct access to Coach Greg for coaching advice. You also receive entry into Coach Greg's private online training team with exclusive content plus interaction with other McMillan athletes. Runners love having a detailed training plan, a world-class coach by their side and teammates cheering them on as they chase their goals. Run Team is the best value for goal-oriented athletes looking for a peak performance. Run Team is a subscription billed monthly. Cancel anytime.
Training Plans FAQs
Q: What all comes with your training plans?
A: McMillan Training Plans include my complete training system:
- You get my scientifically-based, proven training plan. Your plan will gradually, yet progressively build you toward your goal.
- Your optimal McMillan Running Calculator training paces are integrated directly into your plan. You know the exact pace range for each and every run. And, your paces will automatically advance every few weeks so you continue to be optimally challenged as your fitness improves.
- Each and every day includes my notes on the purpose of the run and how to execute each workout. I'll also pass along my insights and some motivation as you move through your plan.
- I'm going to keep you healthy by including my recommended prehab programs (ex. core, strength, form, mobility). I'll tell you exactly what to do week in and week out so you stay healthy and build a strong, supple runner's body.
- You can access your training plan in several cool ways. You can log in to our system and get your plan in multiple calendar views – monthly, weekly, etc. (You can also upload your training from your GPS or Strava to our system.) I can also email your workouts to you so you'll know every day what your run is. And, I can even text your workouts to you as well. Your plan can also be synched with your electronic calendar.
The end result is that you have my full training system at the ready to help you achieve your goals.
Q: Are my McMillan Calculator paces integrated in your plans?
A: Yes! A key to McMillan athlete success is training optimally and that means knowing the exact pace range for each and every run. In your plan, your McMillan Running Calculator paces are integrated. And because your fitness will be advancing across the plan, I'm going to progress your training paces every few weeks as well. This guarantees that you are always training in the proper zone for maximal benefits. And if you run a race and need to update your training paces, you can do that easily by inserting your new information into the McMillan Running Calculator.
Q: How will I access my plan?
A: After signing up, you'll receive an email with a link to access your plan. You simply click that link to get all your preferences set up and access your plan. I'll also send you a quick walk-through video to show you all the features of your plan and help you get everything set up. And as always, if you run into issues, I'm here to help.
Q: Can I upload my run data to the plan?
A: Yes! With our system, you can sync your GPS (e.g., Garmin) and/or Strava account and your run data will automatically be uploaded to the system. This will allow you to accurately track your training, log your equipment and numerous other logging/tracking features to help you monitor your planned and actual training.
Q: Can you help me decode your training plan naming system?
A: In a nutshell, the training plans are labeled based on your goal, your runner level and your runner type. The goal is either a race distance and goal time or a non-race plan like building your base, improving your speed, etc. The level is 1 (new runner), up to 4 (advanced runner) and the runner type is Combo Runner (most runners), Speedster or Endurance Monster.
A plan with the name Half-Marathon Training Plan Level 3 Combo Runner would be for a goal of a half-marathon (and your goal time is integrated), for an intermediate runner (Level 3) and the Combo Runner version of the plan. I've found that this easy-to-follow system allows me to accurately get you into the right program for you and your goals.
Q: How do I know what my "Runner Level" is?
A: To guide you to the correct training plan, I've created four runner "levels."
- Level 1 – you are new to running. You've never run before (or it's been a long, long time) and/or you haven't finished a race.
- Level 2 – You've been focused on finishing races and now you want to finish faster. You run 3-5 days per week (averaging at least 30 minutes per run) and can do 1 specialty or "hard" workout each week. Long runs of 45-60 minutes are common.
- Level 3 – You are an intermediate runner. You have some experience with performance training plans and specialty workouts (like long runs, tempo runs, speed workouts, etc.). You run 4-6 days per week (averaging at least 30-45 minutes each run with longer runs of 60-75 minutes) and can do 1-2 specialty/hard workouts each week.
- Level 4 – You are an advanced runner and a seasoned trainer/racer who runs 4-7 days per week (averaging 50-60 minutes per run) and usually does 1-2 "hard" workouts per week plus a long run of at least 90 minutes.
- Level 5 – You're a high volume, experienced trainer/racer who runs 5-7 days per week for around 60-80 minutes per run and at least 120 minutes for your long run. Level 5 plans often include 2 hard workouts per week plus a long run.
Choosing your level comes down to how many days per week you run, how many minutes per run is easily doable for you and the number of hard workouts you often do per week. Run 6 days per week (with 2 hard workouts and average around an hour per run)? You are probably a Level 4 runner. Run 3 days per week, mostly just easy running averaging around 30 minutes, and sometimes do more intense runs as you get ready for a race? You are probably a Level 2 runner.
As always, let me know if you need help deciding your runner level.
Q: How do I know what my "Runner Type" is?
A: You can read my full article here but in a nutshell, I find there are three types of runners: Combo Runners, Endurance Monsters and Speedsters.
The vast majority of runners are Combo Runners. Combo Runners are fairly equal in ability in short distances and long distances. (When they put their times into the McMillan Running Calculator, their race times are pretty close to matching the predictions from the shorter races to the longer races – depending on experience at all distances of course.)
Some runners, however, are more endurance-oriented. I call them Endurance Monsters. These runners really struggle with short races and fast, speed-oriented workouts. But, they excel in the longer races and longer training runs and workouts. When they put their times in the McMillan Running Calculator, their long distance races far exceed what they can run in short distance races.
On the other end of the spectrum, some runners are more speed-oriented. As you would expect, these "Speedsters" do really well in the short races but struggle with longer races (and the types of workouts/long runs that go with the training for those races).
Because of these nuances in runner type, I created versions of certain plans where I tweak the training plan to better match the runner type.
Again, the vast majority of runners are Combo Runners and if you are unsure of your type, choose a Combo Runner plan. However, if you are a Speedster or Endurance Monster, you'll love the way I've built these plans to cater to your unique strengths and help you overcome your weaknesses.
Q: Can you explain your training philosophy?
Q: What if I need to move a run?
A: No problem. With our system, you simply select the run in your calendar and click "Move" and you can drag the run to a different day. The system is really flexible so you can easily make your training fit into your life, especially when life throws you curve balls.
Q: What do the "Pre-requisites" mean?
A: Before starting a training plan, you need to be prepared for the training load in Week #1. Otherwise, the training may be too much (or too little) and you won't be training optimally. I've listed the pre-requisites for each plan and as long as you've been running at the pre-requisite level, you can safely and easily transition to your new McMillan Training Plan.
Q: Can I get my workouts emailed to me?
A: Yes! Each day, I'll email you your workouts for that day and the next day. This gives you a nice reminder and easy access to your workout for that day. As always, you can change your settings if you don't want to receive emails with your workouts.
Q: What about texting my workouts to me?
A: Yes! Just like with emails, you can set up your plan so you receive a daily text with that day and the next day's workouts. Makes it super simple to know exactly what your run is.
Q: Can I sync my plan with my electronic calendar?
A: Yes! With the click of a button, you can sync your training plan into your iCal, Google Calendar and Outlook. My goal was to have a system that offered many, many different ways for you to get your workouts since every runner is different in how they need their training plan.
Q: What does "Prehab" mean?
A: Prehab is what I call the non-running training that keeps you healthy and builds a strong, supple runner's body. With your plan, I include the prehab programs I want you to follow. From core to strength to form to mobility, I'll tell you exactly what to do so you can stay injury free. You'll be amazed at how much benefit you get from a few prehab sessions.
Q: What if I don't want the prehab or I already follow my own routine? Can I get the plan for an un-coupled price?
A: No. The prehab plans are included with each training plan and can't be separated out. I believe strongly in the value of prehab and whether or not the runner uses them or their own, I want each training plan to have the prehab programs that I prescribe to my personal coaching athletes.
Q: Do I need to be a pro runner to use the plan?
A: No. While I've coached lots of pros, these plans are the ones I've used with each and every level of runner. A hallmark of my coaching has been working with all levels of runners from charity marathon groups with new runners to lots of everyday runners shooting for PRs to the pros. I'm not a one-size-fits-all coach so I created a program that is optimal for you and you'll find each program easy to follow and easy to fit within your life schedule.
Q: Can I change my runner level or runner type once I've started? What if I start and realize it's too difficult for me to follow?
A: No problem. Just contact us and we'll help you get onto the best program for you.
Q: What happens after I finish my plan?
A: Once you buy a plan, it's yours forever. You can re-use it at any time and because our system logs your training, you can even look back at your log from the last time you completed the plan to compare your workouts.
Q: What if something happens mid-training and I need to stop the plan? Can I save it for later?
A: Yes! You have full control and can re-start your plan at any time.
Q: Do I get to keep my plan when I finish it?
A: Yes! Once you buy a plan, it is always there for you and you can even go back and review the previous time you used it to see your results (by uploading your GPS and/or recording your training results).
Q: I need help picking my plan. Can we chat?
A: Of course! I'm here to help so just email me if you have questions and/or want to set up a time to chat about which training plan(s) are right for you.
Q: Do you include races within the plans?
A: Yes. Where appropriate, I add my suggestions on races and where they best fit into your plan. Of course, you can always move workouts around if a race in your area falls on a different weekend.
Q: Can you explain the non-race plans?
A: For runners who don't have a race in the near future, I created several non-race plans to build fitness before starting a race-specific plan. You can choose plans to build or maintain your base of running. I've also included plans to help you improve a specific aspect of fitness like hill running, speed or stamina. All my plans are built to stack together like legos so you can build a full year (or more!) of optimal training.
For example, let's say you have just returned for a short lay off. I'd suggest you choose a "Build my base" plan to regain your fitness. After you're back in the groove of running, you might select a hill module as preparation for a half-marathon plan to get you ready for your half-marathon in the coming months. By stacking the plans together (8 weeks of Base + 6 weeks of Hills + 12 weeks of half-marathon), you've safely and optimally built your training for over 6 months.
Q: What if I need more weeks?
A: No problem. Within each training plan recommendation, I include the training plan(s) that I suggest you use before your target plan. For example, my half-marathon plans are 16 weeks long but if your race is 22 weeks away then I will suggest you add a 6-week hill module or 8-week base training plan and begin with one of those before switching to your half-marathon plan. The plans are designed to dovetail or stack together perfectly. You'll see the suggested plans to use to add more weeks at the bottom of the plan preview page and then once you add your target plan to the cart, you'll see the other plans that you can easily add to your order.
Q: What if my race is in fewer weeks than the plan?
A: Within reason, you can jump into a plan after it has started. However, you must use common sense. For example, if you are training for a marathon (using my 16-week marathon plan) but your marathon is four weeks away and you've done no training, then this is not a good way to train. However, if you have been training and doing some long runs and you want to jump into the 16-week plan with 13 weeks to go, then that is no problem. Again, just use common sense.