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.
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!
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.