First Time Marathon (FTM) Program

* The 2023 Program has reached capacity & is closed.

The First Time Marathon (FTM) Program is a structured, coached, group-oriented program for people training to run their first marathon (26.2 miles).  Although our name includes the words “First Time”, our program is also applicable to people who are training for their second, third, fourth, or even fortieth (or more) marathons.  This program began in 1995 and has helped thousands of runners complete their first marathon.

The program’s philosophy is simple.  We believe that any healthy adult can complete a marathon if: 1) they have the desire; and 2) they train properly by following the program. Our program should provide participants with the physiological and mental toughness necessary to go 26.2 miles.  We also firmly believe that training for a marathon should be FUN, and the marathon itself should be an enjoyable experience (although not an easy task).  By following our training program, it should be possible to run the marathon in relative comfort, without hitting “the wall.”  You do not have to be a fast runner to participate in our program or complete a marathon.

The program gradually builds up your average weekly miles from a minimum of about 15 miles a week to about 40+ miles a week just before the goal race. We want you to average at least 35-45 miles per week running for three months before the marathon to be in the proper shape. If you complete the workouts on a regular basis, follow the monthly schedule, run the average weekly miles prescribed, and do all the scheduled long runs – you will be able to finish a marathon by the end of the program. Over the last 20 years, FTM has had virtually a 100% completion rate for those who finished the program.

This is not a “walk-run” program. We run our workouts (except for water stops), and our program participants run the entire marathon. There are no fundraising or charity components to the program.

Prerequisites: This program is open to any healthy adult. We train runners at all ability levels.  That said, we do not think a marathon should be the first race for a beginning runner. The marathon is a difficult athletic event, so to ensure that participants are properly prepared prior to enrolling in the program, we have the following criteria: 1) be averaging at least 12-15 miles per week for at least 4 weeks; 2) be running about 3 times per week; 3) most importantly, be able to run six miles at one time without stopping.

Given the physical stress associated with training for a marathon, if you have not run a marathon it is strongly recommended that you consult your physician prior to entering this program. There is no speed requirement, but we cannot guarantee that a coach will be available for those who run slower than a 13:00 pace per mile.

Structure:  Prior to the first workout, participants will be placed in pace groups with others of similar ability, based on recent 10K times and other criteria. We’ll need a CURRENT 10K race time to properly place you in a pace group. Your race time and race effort will help us to determine your pace group – the harder the effort the better, but not at the risk of injury.  Ideally, a race time within the past 3 months would be most accurate for pace group assignments, but if you do not have a recent race time to submit, we will do our best to work with the information you provide during registration.  Alternatively, you might consider running a personal 10K time trial at a relatively hard effort on your own.

Groups will meet on Sunday mornings for long runs, which will take place in various locations in Montgomery County along the Rock Creek Trail such as Ken-Gar Palisades Park in Kensington, Lake Needwood in Rockville, Candy Cane Park in Chevy Chase and the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda.  Wednesday evening speedwork will take place at a local, high school track.

Participants are expected to run 1 to 4 other times during the week on your own in order to meeting the weekly mileage goals.  You can easily stick to the schedule by running 3 days per week at the beginning and 4 days per week as the mileage totals ramp up.  We will provide you with a training schedule for the full program, which outlines weekly mileage goals and group workouts.

All participants are encouraged to carry enough water and nutrition with them to last the entire duration of the long run.  Water fountains are normally located along our running routes, but may not be operational at all times.  Please plan accordingly.

Cost: Online registration is $120.  All participants will receive a program premium.  Race entry for the Marine Corp Marathon (or any other goal race) is not included in registration.

Program Dates: May 7, 2023 – October 29, 2023

Target Race:Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC, on October 29, 2023.  Additional target races may include other fall marathons such as Chicago, New York, Baltimore, Steamtown, Philadelphia, or Richmond.


Date/Time: Thursday, April 27, 2023 at 7:00 PM

Location: Orientation for the 2023 Program has passed. If you missed the orientation, a full recording can be found here.

Program Staff:

Head Coach/Director: Conroy Zien and Sarah Day

Conroy has completed over 30 marathons and is an RRCA-Certified coach who began his running career in the FTM Program.  He has been an MCRRC member since 2007 and has been directing FTM since 2012.

Sarah is an RRCA-Certified coach and has been running for over 20 years.  She first joined MCRRC in 2001, joined FTM in 2015, and has been a pace group coach in FTM since 2017.  Sarah has completed over 10 marathons, including multiple Boston Marathons.

Support Staff: All coaches and pace leaders have a tremendous amount of knowledge and marathon experience.   Each has trained for their first marathons with FTM and are dedicated and committed to successfully getting you through the training season and to the starting line of your marathon.

Program Registration

Registration is Closed

Please Note

A CURRENT MCRRC MEMBERSHIP is REQUIRED to participate in this program. Please note that membership is NOT included in your program registration. PRIOR TO JOINING this program, you must become a member. If you are unsure if you have a CURRENT MCRRC Membership, please contact for assistance. Otherwise, please click here to become a valued member.

Communication Methods
We will use a private, online group to facilitate communications. Everyone will be required to join this group to participate in the program. Instructions on how to join this group will be provided by the Program Director.

The program director reserves the right in his sole discretion to refuse admission to the program or dismiss any individual from the program whom the program director believes is unsuited for running the specified distance or is unable to meet the demands of the training schedule, or is disruptive to other program participants. Those individuals will be denied entry into the program or dismissed from the program as appropriate. The program director also reserves the right to limit the number of participants in the overall program or in individual pace groups. MCRRC has a No Refund policy. Program registration fees cannot be refunded due to injury, schedule conflict or any other reason.