My New York City Marathon Training Plan

Happy Monday and Happy 16 Weeks Until the New York City Marathon!

Today officially kicks off New York City Marathon training for me. I like a 16-week plan because it’s not too long, but it still allows room for a little flexibility. I haven’t run a marathon in almost two years (I ran NYC in 2014, then took a break from the 26.2-mile distance last year), and I think maybe that’s a good thing. My body doesn’t quite remember the pain the marathon can inflict, and I’m excited to increase my mileage and feel that post-long run excitement, exhaustion, pride, and hunger.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
Post-long run scene. Everyone was sleepy. I was wearing a towel.

Since this was once a running blog, I’m thinking about doing weekly training recaps here. I’ve never done these, but I think it’ll be nice to reflect on my progress each week, and I enjoy reading other peoples’ recaps. So if you’re into that, cool! If not, I’ll probably post them on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, so go ahead and proceed directly to Fridays With Ellie.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
Ice cream date with my best girl! And Brian was there, too.

I won’t make a more specific race plan or time goal until much later in the training game, but I do already know that I want to go sub-3:50. My marathon PR is from 2012, when I ran the Manchester City Marathon in 3:51:20. I’d like to break that — and then some — and I think I can do it. I want to do it. So right now, my goal is 3:49:59, but hopefully with a few months of training, I can either be more ambitious or more realistic or somewhere in between.

This will be my sixth marathon, and I’m in a place where I feel comfortable with my knowledge of running and training, but also want a rough guide and something to keep me accountable and in line. So I’m using New York Road Runners’ Virtual Trainer as a template, but I plan to tweak it a little. My weekly schedule will look something like this…

Monday: Rest or yoga

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
Handstand practice thwarted by a certain four-legged friend.

Tuesday: Track Tuesday! Interval work on the track or the Bridle Path. Friends make you faster!

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
The Track Tuesday crew!

Wednesday: Easy run or November Project

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
Row, row, row your boat. Or something. I don’t remember.

Thursday: Tempo Thursday! I haven’t done a tempo run in, oh, years? I need to get comfortable doing longer speed workouts (as opposed to just doing 400m repeats on the track), and this will be my scary, time-to-get-uncomfortable day. I’ll also probably work some hills in on these days. (So one week I’ll do a tempo, the next week a hill workout.)

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
We call ourselves “accountaHILLabuddies.” Because we keep each other accountable…when it comes to running hills.

Friday: Bike, yoga, spin, or rest — whatever cross-training method I’m feeling, or a pre-long run rest day. This also gives me a play day to try new classes or keep riding my bike, which I’ve been pretty into lately.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
After a 72-mile ride with Brian. My legs were tired, my back was sunburned, certain other parts were feeling very broken.

Saturday: Long run

Sunday: Bike, spin, yoga, or rest

I want to get to the gym to lift and do core stuff twice per week — probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays, since those are already hard workout days, and then I can truly recover on my easier days.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan

Beyond the training plan and the time goal, I have a few other goals for marathon training this year.

1. Mix up my long runs.

My friend Emily has a rule during training: No two long run routes are the same. In the past, I’ve done almost all of my long runs rounding loops of Central Park. And I don’t hate that, because I love the park and all of its familiar faces every weekend. But now that I’m in a new area, I want to explore it more by foot. So instead of always running south along the water and back (as I’ve been doing), I want to explore the Long Path up in the Palisades, I want to run up and over the George Washington Bridge and into Manhattan, and I want to incorporate workouts and fast finishes into my long runs. I’m a creature of habit, but I want to keep my weekend adventures exciting.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
This is Emily. I am always chasing her.

2. Stay strong!

Well, get strong first. Then stay strong. The only injuries or minor aches and pains I’ve ever had have been the result of overuse or muscle imbalances and weaknesses. (Dead Butt Syndrome is no joke.) Squats, push-ups, planks, and all that jazz.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
“Guys, if I do this, does it look like I’m planking on the water?!” “No.”

3. Be smart.

If something hurts, rest. A 16-week plan means I have time to work through aches and pains, and I can take extra days off as needed. Easy enough, right?

4. Eat better.

Effective immediately! I was doing well, and then this weekend hit and now I can’t remember the last time I ate a vegetable. Again, easy enough. I don’t want to feel bloated and wishing I’d focused more on my diet come race morning.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
If you’re in NYC, proceed immediately to Gotan and get the tuna salad.

5. Let it hurt. 

Not like injury hurt. But let the workouts hurt a little. That’s how you get harder, better, faster, stronger.

6. Run with friends more often. 

RSVP below.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan
Fast friends = faster race times. It’s math. And science.

As for the watch…

I’ve loved running and racing without a GPS watch this year, and I think it would be silly to abandon a strategy that seems to be working well. But I also need to keep track of my weekend mileage on long runs, and running my Strava app for three hours straight will drain my phone battery and use up my entire data plan in just one day. So I might bring back my watch for long runs and some workouts. I’m still sort of undecided. I don’t want to get too attached to it.

My New York City Marathon Training Plan

OK, New York City Marathon! Let’s do this!

ANYONE ELSE ENTERING MARATHON TRAINING MODE? First marathon? Fifteenth marathon? First New York City Marathon? Share share!



45 Responses

  1. Good luck with your training!! Love that you are building in flexibility around your cross training and rest days.

  2. Long time runner and reader here! Can you write sometime about Hokas and maybe what your role with them involves? My beloved Brooks model was discontinued, so I’m on the hunt for new favorites. I see people proclaiming their love for Hokas, so I would love to know more about why people love them so much.

    Thanks, and good luck with training!!

  3. Training for my first marathon (marine corps)! Scared and excited!!

    I live on the west side on Manhattan but my bf lives near-ish to you in Union City (we joke and call it Hoboken Adjacent). Trying to do some of my long runs across the river to mix it up.

    Hope to see you running along the water on Saturday mornings!! So jealous of your pool for after long run dips.

  4. I’m week 7 into Chicago training… Which I think will be my 7th marathon. It’s going well except for all the times it is not.

    I recommend doing some Ellie assisted push-ups and planks. The kisses help with the pain and add an extra level of instability! And might be safer than handstand… I speak from experience!!

  5. Hi Ali! I found your blog about a month ago and read a lot of your old posts. You’re my favorite blog now. I have an autoimmune disease too (rheumatoid arthritis) and am struggling to train with my new diagnosis and physical limitations. I was signed up for both Wineglass marathon and the NYC marathon before sll this happened and I’m not willing to admit defeat. I’ve been trying to get ino the NYC through the lottery for years, so it’s bad timing that this was the year I finally got accepted. All this is to say, I find you to be an inspiration. I look forward to reading about your training as I struggle to execute mine. Also, your pup is insanely adorable 🙂

  6. I’m gearing up to run my first full marathon this Fall. I’ll be running the Detroit International marathon. I’m so excited and a wee bit terrified! I’ve done lots of half marathons. I’m confident in my 13 mile capabilities but 26 is ‘nother ball game. I’m thankful I recently found your blog so I can follow along and stay inspired and excited!

  7. This is perfect! I’m training for my first HALF marathon….and it’s also 16 weeks out! (I’m running two halves on back to back weekends.) I will love seeing your weekly recaps – I hope it will motivate me to stay on track. Right now my weekdays have been full of dance rehearsals as I get ready for a performance next week, but after that I should be able to spread out the rest of my physical activity throughout the week – which I think will work better than take three classes over the weekend AND run.

  8. Hi Ali! I just started reading your blog after typing “Best Running Blogs for Women” into Google during an incredibly boring moment of my summer break from medical school and I am SO GLAD I did! I started training for the Richmond Marathon (in Richmond, VA on 11/12/16) about a month and a half ago and it will be my first marathon. I’m pretty stoked. Seriously… every time I go on a run I picture myself running the real race and get super excited. I’ve run two half marathons in the past and some other longer races and generally run pretty often so I would love to run the race in 4:00 or less but who knows if that is a realistic goal or not haha. Anyways, just wanted to say I love your blog and I would love to see weekly training recaps for you marathon training. Thank you!

  9. Sounds like a solid, sensible, mixed-up and interesting training plan. Quite similar to mine (Dublin City Marathon end October) although this will be my second-ever marathon and you are the pro (and quite a bit faster … nearly an hour!). Still, I’m loving your ideas about running with friends, incorporating strength and temp runs. Your blog is great and your dog is adorable. Thanks for all the inspiration!

  10. I have done several halves and was so stoked after completing my 6th half this January I was thrilled and ready to sign up for my first full in January 2017 Houston. Unfortunately, as you know, things don’t always go according to plan (thank you, Crohn’s!). I will be deferring to 2018 or moving to the half, at this point TBD. My GI Doctor died unexpectedly in April and his partner “Mr. New Doctor” is trying to rearrange my whole life and Crohn’s plan in progress, (that I might add was currently working decently and had kept me out of the hospital for almost 4 years) therefore damaging my success and milestones. I can’t wait to read about your progress and race recap! I’ll be living through you vicariously, even though I could never catch you on a race route. 🙂 Good Luck, Ali!

  11. I know what you mean about not wanting to get addicted to the watch but wanting to track distance and such. My compromise is to either wear my watch on my inner wrist so that it’s really hard to look at, or when I wear a water pack, I attach it to that on my back. Then I can review my distance and pace after the run, but those stats don’t dictate how I run during the workout. Happy training!

  12. Good luck!
    You might try other apps if Strava doesn’t work for you… I used MapMyRun through an entire marathon training cycle and I didn’t have any problems with data usage (GPS doesn’t use data, and you can tell it not to update your progress to Facebook). Battery wasn’t an issue either. After two to four hours of continuous MapMyRun tracking and audiobook play, I might be somewhat on the low side, but I never once ran out.

  13. I’d love to read your training recaps! I always find them interesting to read. There are so many different approaches to marathon training. And I’m totally with you… friends DO make you faster!

    I love the idea for mixing up your long runs. I have joined a marathon clinic this training cycle and it has been so nice having different routes – and having someone else make them up for you!

    I’ve also been trying to embrace the hurt, especially during tempo runs, oh the dreaded tempo runs.

    1. Oh gosh, can you make up my running routes for me?! I would love that. Sounds like you’ve got a solid crew in place. Love it!

  14. I love this plan–it’s fun to see how other people incorporate strength training and yoga! I’m in week 7 of training for Chicago after running NYC as my first marathon last year. Good luck! Can’t wait to follow along!!

  15. Me me meeeeee! I’ll be running NYC for the FIRST time in November & can’t be more excited about it!

    1. YAY!!! There’s nothing like your first New York City Marathon. It’s so, so special. Cannot wait for you to experience it!

  16. Today is day one of marathon training for me, too! I’m running CHICAGO (what in the world?! so exciting) as my second full marathon. My first, if you remember, was completely, totally, 100% inspired by you (although I probably haven’t commented since two years ago when I told you that, so I forgive you if you forgot). My RSVP to long run together is YES… TBD how that will work out with your living in NYC and my living in CO…. details….. Happy running!

    1. Happy Training Day! And I LOVE that you are hooked! So now you start running from Colorado and I’ll start running from the east coast, and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle? Then we can be best friends. In like, Kansas or something.

  17. yay! Happy marathon training! I will be running my 5th marathon in January- I am doing the Dopey challenge at Disney! after my last marathon i needed a mental running break and this is the perfect way to re-enter the marathon game again!

      1. YOU ARE BOTH CRAZY! I don’t know how people survive that challenge. I’d be roadkill by the end of the first day. Go girls!

  18. Sounds like a solid plan. I’d love to RSVP for the “runs with friends”… sadly, I am on the other side of the country. Virtual run? 🙂

    I am in the midst of half marathon training… well, it’s in two weeks *cue the freak-out*

  19. I just started half marathon training and am putting together a similar plan! Good luck and hope this is your healthiest training cycle yet!

  20. I just ran my first marathon in April, which was totally awesome, but I’m so not ready to tackle another marathon this year. But I am super happy to have just started training for a fall half marathon — the perfect balance between training and fun, I think. 🙂 Good luck with everything!

  21. I wrote weekly training update blog posts for my Ottawa Marathon training this spring and I loved it! Don’t know how many other people did, but it’s definitely nice to have that record to see the progress and who I shared my runs with. I’m moving to London mid-September so let’s do a (short) run together before I leave!

  22. I did NYC in 2014! And am doing it again this year! And want to break 3:50! It’s marathon #5 and I want to BQ for marathon #6, so figure sub 3:50 is a good first step/assessment of where I’m at.

    And am using NYRR Virtual trainer, with a million modifications. So basically we are training twins and I am excited to follow your training.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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