I am often asked what free training programs I recommend for the marathon distance. Most runners I meet use a modified Hal Hidgon plan to get them to the finish line. While his programs will certainly help you finish, I do not love them. I personally have never used them and do not ever plan on doing so.

If you have run a marathon before or are looking for something more, but still can not afford to purchase a plan, hire a coach[virtual or in person], or just do not want to spend allot of money, there are other options.

Bart Yasso:
My Life On The Run, Bart Yasso’s book about his running adventures, includes training programs from the 5K up to the marathon distance for newbies as well as seasoned and what he considers hard-core marathoners. The year I first qualified for Boston, taking 24 minutes off my marathon PR of 3:59, I used a modified Bart Yasso program I had found in an issue of Runner’s World.

In his book he has the typical 7 day cycle for training but also includes what he calls the perfect 10. A program that allows your body to recover and rest more by adding 3 more days to each *weekly* cycle. While I have no personally done the perfect 10 program because at this point in my life it does not work for my schedule, I do plan on trying it in the future[more specifically when I am 10+ years older when I will need to allow my aging body more recovery time].

The book retails for $24.95 and is definitely worth the small investment for the training plans as well as the stories!

Run Faster:
For those of you who have fallen in love with the sport of running and are interested in learning what makes you faster and how to get there. I recommend the training programs included in Run Faster From The 5K To The Marathon: How To Be Your Best Own Coach by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald.

One of the quotes that stuck out to me in this book and is one of my main defenses against moving away from the Hal Higdon programs is this “You never know if there’s a better way of doing things if you keep doing things the way you’ve always done them.” Enough said.

If you consider yourself a running geek then I would spend the $14.99 this book costs and test out one of the training plans.

I literally can not say enough great things about the whole book. I agree with their philosophies on adaptive running, putting your training plan in pencil[meaning you don’t know until hours before a workout if that indeed is the workout you will be doing that day], and that each training program needs to be changed/adapted for each individual runner. Meaning that the one size fits all training program you found online is probably not the best option for you, unless your only goal is to get to the finish line.

Thoughts? Questions?


  1. Amber (Girl with the red hair) says:

    I have mostly modified Hal Higdon's programs because they are easy to follow but for my next marathon training cycle I might try something different. I'm really intrigued by the Run Faster concept, especially since I've found that too high of mileage is bad for my injury-prone body!

  2. I am in the process of training for my first half marathon and found that the training plan I was using just didn't work for me. I kept hitting the wall at the 3 mile mark on my long runs. I eventually reworked my plan and have been able to push it back to about 5.5 miles. I really like the idea of the Run Faster concept and will definitely be checking it out for my next half marathon.

  3. Hey Dorothy ! I was wondering your thoughts on the hill work included in the run faster book. Do you think it's ok for a runner who has used higdon intermediate plans to try a run faster plan, or would it be better to get more experience with more mileage and speed/hill work first? Thanks!

  4. SupermomE12 says:

    I bought the "Run Faster" book after you recommended it and I devoured it! I loved it and agreed with much of what they said. Love Bart too. :)

  5. Thank you – very helpful! I have Bart Yasso's book and I LOVE it, but I did not pay much attention to the training plans after I read it the first time. I will have to go back and look at them and maybe try one the next time I need a schedule to train for a race.

  6. Thanks for this, I found it very helpful. Just curious, why don't you like Hal Higdon plans? I've used them to train for my 1/2 marathons and I'd like to one day run a full but I just want to know what it is that you don't like about them.

  7. I love Bart Yasso's My Life on the Run. It is my all time favorite running book and I've read 'em all. :) I was planning on following one of his plans for the Chicago Marathon but it was a little more challenging than I think I was ready for. So, next time…

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  1. […] Matt Fitzgerald. I also read Hal Higdon’s Marathon book. I had read about Run Faster through Mile Post‘s blog. She highly recommended it for runners who love the sport of running and want to […]

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