I've been reading your question as well as the other comments, and I think you must have a pretty good idea by now: all good advices have been given.
As I can say I'm pretty experienced (finished 34 marathons, fastest one in 2:50), please allow me to tell you following: running a decent marathon will be a combination of many items:
a) running more long distances, i.e. 2 x 16 M., 2 x 17 M., 2 x 18 M., 2 x 19 M., 2 x 20 M., 2 x 21 M. Start long enough in advance so that you can plan a long slow distance run every two weeks (in the weekend), and ends with the last 21miles three weeks before Race Day. The first time you run 'a' distance, you run it very slow, the second time, you have to run a few (5) sec/mile faster.
b) drinks: please only rely on sportsdrinks: you'll NEED the SUGAR. Try them out during your training runs, look for the one you like best (I'm European, so I don't know which brands are in, in the US). If the race doesn't provide your favorite drink, than carry a (large) bottle on your back: bottle holders are for sale!. Look in your local sportsshop. Start drinking fluids (carbo loading + water) during the last three days. Start eating as much carbohydrates (pasta's, cakes, bananas, ...) as possible during these last three days as well. Then, on race day, drink every hour up to 0.5 liter of your sportsdrink. Do this up to 1 hour before the start; (during this last hour you will get rid of all fluids you took inside); finally drink 0.3 liter during the last 5 minutes before the start (or even better when you're running already), then every 3.2 Mile (5 Km) drink 0.3 liter of yours or other sportsdrink. If you think you've had enough, i.e. when your stomach throws up, switch to water for a few service stations.
c) start quietly: your first half marathon should be slower then your second part ! this is called a 'negative split', every body knows it's good for you, but nobody does it, or succeeds in doing it, as the pace at the start of the race will be much too high; therefor, the person who gave you the advice the run with a heart rate meter is right: use it, buy it.
d) oh yes, built up quietly: do some 5K, 10K, 10M, 1/2 Marathon Races during the months prior to the marathon: you do best 2 of each (if you have the poss.; one in the pace of the marathon, one as fast as you can run.
May I wish you all the best in your next attempt (please keep me posted) Regards Richard.
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