20 Week Marathon & Grand Canyon Rim2Rim Training Plan

If you have signed up to complete a marathon, or the Run2Revive Grand Canyon Rim2Rim, you had better be prepared! You want to enjoy the journey, feel good about your accomplishment and confident that you will go the distance. Training for a marathon requires dedication and commitment but when it comes to race day, you'll be happy that you have put in the miles during training. 

We've included our guide to running the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim below. It's very similar to training for a marathon so this plan will work for you if you've entered a 26.2 mile race. 

The 20 Week Plan

Our plan assumes that you already have a solid base and can comfortably run 5 miles. If you are not quite there, take some time to build up slowly over several months until you feel comfortable with running 5 miles. We have split up our 20 weeks into 4 sections:

  1. Focus on Form: During the first 4 weeks your goal should be to enjoy the running. Notice your stride, pay attention to your body, make sure you are increasing your weekly mileage at a steady rate. Our plan will keep your weekly milage increasing at about 10% each week. Increasing too fast is likely to result in injury. 
  2. Build Strength: During week 9, you'll be running a half marathon. In order to avoid injury and perform well, we encourage you to spend some time in the gym. Light weight and high reps are optimal for runners. Don't squat so much that you can't walk the next day! When you are in the gym, focus on your core, legs, and hips. 
  3. Build Endurance: In the second half of your training, we will really ramp up the long runs. We also intentionally include some back-to-back long runs so that you can get familiar with running on tired legs. Our training plan assumes you have more time on the weekends and, as such, we have scheduled the long runs for Saturday and Sunday. If your schedule is different, feel free to change up the days. 
  4. Taper: Week 16 will have you running your longest distance before race day. You'll take on a 20 mile run to prove to yourself that you can go the distance. After that, you'll taper for 3-4 weeks, leading up to the event. We want to make sure that you don't pick up an injury right before the big event and your body has plenty of time to recover. You'll be feeling fresh and ready to go when you show up at the starting line! 

Download the Run2Revive Training Plan

Click here or on the table below to download the plan

Breaking Down Workout Types

We have you scheduled to run 4 times a week. If you are feeling good, you can throw in an extra day of running, and if your worried about a potential injury, make sure you listen to your body, ease off the mileage and try some cross-training instead (more on that below). Ideally, the 4 runs each week should all be different workouts. We suggest breaking down the 4 weekly runs as follows:

  1. Tuesday: Speed work
    The goal of your speed runs is to increase your aerobic capacity and make your short runs feel a little easier. You should always start off slow to make sure you are properly warmed up. Run a mile at a steady pace before picking up the pace and cool down with a steady pace at the end. Feel free to mix in some interval training, tempo runs, track, and treadmill. You want to feel like you are out-of-breathe at the end of this workout.  For interval training, try running 1/2 mile at a hard pace, then slow down or walk for 5 minutes. Repeat until you have completed the distance. For tempo runs, pick up the pace to 7/10 or 8/10 effort - a challenging but sustainable pace. Rather than changing every 1/2 mile or mile, continue with the faster pace for the duration of your run. Your goal with the tempo run is to find your fastest sustainable aerobic pace. 
  2. Thursday: Hills and inclines
    This is particularly important for those taking on our Grand Canyon Rim2Rim run. As with the speed work, make sure you warm up first. Running hills will help you build your aerobic capacity, improve the efficiency of your stride, and build leg strength. Keep in mind that training for downhill running is as important as the uphill. You might not feel as out-of-breath and your heart rate might not spike as high but your legs will certainly notice. When running downhill, increase your cadence by shortening your stride. You might be tempted to just open up that stride and fly down but you'll do more damage by doing so. If you live in an area where hills are hard to come by, hit the treadmill for your Thursday workout. 
  3. Saturday: Longest run
    Saturday is when you really build up the miles and this is the most important part of your training plan. You should be running at conversational pace. Check in with your breathing to make sure you are not pushing yourself too far.
  4. Sunday: Running on tired legs
    This is where you'll familiarize yourself with what it feels like in the final stretch of a race or long run. You want to be able to simulate how your body is going to feel. Your body is likely going to feel fatigue and your energy levels low from the depletion in glycogen. Get some electrolites in you and hit the road! Keep it at a steady, conversation pace. 

Notes on Cross-Training

Cross training is scheduled to help prevent injury, keep your workouts fresh, and give you a break from pounding the pavement. They are an essential part of the plan and while there is no substitute for getting miles under your belt, cross-training should not be skipped. Ideally, you will take on low impact sports such as swimming or cycling but it's also an ideal time to hit the gym. Make sure you spend time stretching, building your core, legs and hips. 

The Importance of Rest

The most important aspect to avoid injury or over-training and burning out is adequate rest. In our training plan, we have allowed for 2 rest days for most of the training weeks. If you feel particularly good and don't feel the need to rest twice a week, try adding an extra cross-training day. It's important that you schedule a rest day at least once a week to prevent physical or mental burnout. 

Scaling Back

On the training plan above, you'll notice that every 5th week, we scale back the mileage to allow for more recovery and propel you towards longer mileage in the weeks that follow. Continuously increasing your mileage week-after-week can lead to over-training or demotivation. Having an "easy" week to look forward to will break down the 20 weeks and make it feel more manageable. You will also feel fresh and eager to take on the next level after a week where you have scaled back the mileage. 

Stretching & Flexibility

Stretching and foam rolling after your run can go a long way towards preventing injury and making sure you are ready to take on your next scheduled run. It is important that you are disciplined about stretching and you don't consistently neglect this due to lack of time. Make time to stretch. Stretch your hips, IT band, calves, hamstrings, and quads at a minimum. Hold your stretches for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times for each stretch.