The Frank Horwill Marathon Plan

The English coach Frank Horwill has been coaching endurance athletes for some 45 years. His best known protégée was Tim Hutchings who finished second in the World Cross Country Championships.

The essence of his plan is:-

  1. One’s 10k time is a good predictor of marathon potential. The range is 5 x 10k time to 5 x 10k time minus 10 minutes. e.g. a 37.30 10k runner (90 sec/400) should aim for 36.30 (87/400). A typical session at the latter pace would be 6 x 1 mile in 5.50 with 45 sec rest.
  2. If we assume that improving one’s 10k time will assist in reducing marathon time, then to improve one’s 5k time should assist in improving one’s 10k time. If we assume that 2 x 5k time plus 1 minute = potential 10k time, then a session of 7 x 800m in 2.20 (70/400) with 45 sec rest should be undertaken by a 15 minute (72/400) runner.  
  3. A stepping stone to an improved 5k time is a good 3000m. Potential 5k time is 3000m time plus 5mt 30 sec. A 10 minute 3k runner (80/400) should build up to 16 x 400m in 78 sec with 45 sec rest. Whereas the marathon is 99% aerobic, the 3000m is 60%. The latter is 100% VO2 max while the marathon is 75%. Put simply, the marathon pace will feel decidedly comfortable after training at 10k,5k and 3k pace.
  4. It is necessary to experience the pace we shall be performing at in the race, thus we should also train for extended distances at that pace. e.g.  9 miles at marathon pace initially, then adding 1 mile at time until we can train for 18 miles at race pace.   
  5. The longest run should be at a pace 30 seconds slower than race pace and built up until the projected race duration is reached.

The Frank Horwill Schedule

Day 1 Build up to the projected race duration at 30 seconds per mile slower.

Day 2 35 minutes recovery run

Day 3 9 miles at race pace, building up to 18 miles

Day 4 35 minutes recovery run

Day 5 10k speed. 6 x 1 mile at slightly faster than 10k time with 45 sec recovery.

Day 6 Rest

Day 7 5k speed. 7 x 800m at slightly faster than 5k time with 45 sec recovery.

Day 8 35 minutes recovery run

Day 9 3k speed. 16 x 400 at slightly faster than 3k time with 45 sec recovery

Day 10 35 minutes recovery run

Day 11 Run 6.5 miles at half marathon pace and build up to doing this for 10 miles

Day 12 Rest

Day 13 As Day 1 etc