Ah, the call of the marathon! If you’ve been enticed into running your first marathon, you’ve got a long road ahead of you. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time, and many, many miles. If you’ve never been much of a runner, you’ll want to start with at least a couple shorter races: 5Ks, 10Ks, or even a half-marathon before training for a marathon.
Training is based on building up your base mileage, increasing your long runs, doing some speedwork and giving your body adequate rest and recovery. Most marathon training programs range from 12 to 20 weeks. They start with as little as 20 miles per week and build up to over 40 miles as the program progresses. The most important part of training is sticking with it and consistently building up your mileage. For a good training plan, check out this program for absolute novices from Hal Higdon.
Once you have a training plan you need a marathon to run! If you aren’t sure if you prefer a huge urban race or a small backcountry one, try running a few smaller races first to get a feel for what you like. During your training, especially your long runs, practice different hydration and fuel plans to see what works best for you. Stick with your program, and you’ll by race day you’ll be more than ready!