Training Plans for Marathon and Ironman Triathlon

By Raymond Britt

You want to do one or more of the following -- 10k, half-marathon, marathon, triathlon, Ironman Triathlon, ultramarathon, but you wonder: Can you do it? What type of training, when? Run the Numbers. You'll see. Yes, you can.                      

How: Training is shaped for seasonal goals and objectives. Different targets call for different training plans and actions. Yet overall, the principles remain the same: a high-level plan based on 4-week periodization intervals, with high intensity efforts once per month.

To illustrate, this article presents training plan detail and summaries from six actual training years, each one with different goals and objectives:

1. Marathon PR and Qualify for Kona (avg. 8.5 training hours/week)
2. Re-qualify for Kona (7.5/week)
3. Setting a Triathlon Personal Best (8.0/week)
4. Taking it Easy (5.0/ week)
5. Just for Fun (3.25/week)
6. Balanced, with Nine Races (5.75/week)

Sample Training Plan 1: Marathon PR and Qualify for Kona: This plan is for a driven year that resulted in: a marathon PR (Boston 2:54); Qualified for Kona 2003 and 2004 at Lake Placid and Wisconsin, respectively; debut in Kona.

This was a year of determined racing with the most training overall compared to the other 5 plans. Average training hours/week = about 8 1/2 hours.

Plan 1 Day by Day Detail

Plan 1 Summary
From Training Plans

Sample Training Plan 2: Re-qualify for Kona: The following year the goal was to re-qualify Kona 2004 at Wisconsin (result: 6th place AG); race well in Kona (10:55), and run solid marathons. Average training time per week = 7 1/2 hours.

Training Plan 2 Detail

Training Plan 2 Summary
From Training Plans

Sample Training Plan 3: Setting a Triathlon Personal Best. This plan was for a third consecutive aggressive season, resulting in an Ironman triathlon personal best 10:12:22 at Ironman USA Lake Placid and a third Kona finish, plus sub-3 hour marathons. Average training time per week = 8 hours.

Training Plan 3 Detail

Training Plan 3 Summary

From Training Plans

Sample Training Plan 4: Easy Does It. This plan represents a year that was designed to cut back, to take it relatively easy. Results were still pretty good: Ironman Arizona in 10:35 followed by a 3:02 Boston Marathon 8 days later. Also finished Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Wisconsin and other marathons. Eased off later in the year. Average training hours/week = less than 5 hours.

Training Plan 4 Summary
From Training Plans

Sample Training Plan 5: Just for Fun. Mainly a year off from serious competition, though still racing often, at even lower intensity than shown in training plan 4. Finished Ironman Arizona, Boston marathon and four other marathons at a pace that kept it relatively fun, not competitive. Average training time per week: 3 1/4 hours. Realistically, races often served as long training days.

Training Plan 5 Summary
From Training Plans

Sample Training Plan 6: Balanced Year, Nine Endurance Races This season represented a year that effectively combined all the previous plans, with extensive endurance racing with pretty good performance and low training time.

This season had nine endurance events: five marathons, two 50-mile ultramarathons and two Ironman triathlons. Highlights included qualifying for Boston, finishing a 50-mile ultramarathon and Ironman Wisconsin within eight days, and running 3 marathons in four weeks.

Average training time per week = 5 and 3/4 hours. More time in summer when the sun rises earlier, still not cutting into work or family time.

Training Plan 6 Detail

Training Plan 6 Summary
From Training Plans

Feel free to mail me: raymondbritt at I'm happy to answer questions. Really.

For more about planning your season, see Planning Your Training and Racing Season. Also see: Balancing the Numbers -- Getting the Most From Your Training Plans

Important Note: These actual training logs and data should be considered illustrative as you prepare your own training strategies. Your mileage will vary; make sure your plan is right for your health, conditioning and physician's advice.

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