You plan to run a marathon on 12/9/01. Since many marathon-training programs take about 18 weeks, you must be ready in early August to begin your training. Many training programs assume you have a base of running 30 mpw (miles/week).
Your first step is to pick an appropriate training program for you. You can find these programs on the web at sites such as runningtimes, runnersworld, halhigdon, jeffgalloway, coolrunning, and restonrunning. Some of these sites end in .com and some in .org.
Step 2 is to run. You need to put in the mileage. You also need to build endurance by running long distances. Assume that you will be running 30 mpw by August 1. Assume that you will get to this level by increasing your weekly mileage by 10%/week, a rate of increase that most people say will avoid injuries. As you work your way backwards to 6/21/01 (today), are you doing sufficient mileage now to get to your August 1 goal? If not, can you run more days of the week? If even this is not enough, can you run doubles (twice a day)? Whatever, you must establish a level of running this week that if increased by 10%/week will get you to 30 mpw by August 1.
Step 3 is to improve. North recommends races. You could enter several 5k races this summer and try to improve your time (i.e., set a PR) at each race. You will want to look for some 10k races by September and some 10 milers and ½ marathons by fall. Nothing will motivate you more than to know that your race times will be posted on the web for the entire world to see!
Frankly, you have set yourself a very difficult goal of running a marathon with only a half-year of training. Dont be discouraged if your first marathon results in a personally unsatisfactory time. Just keep training for a Spring 2002 marathon. You will continue to improve.
I agree with North that nutrition is personal. One of the posters of this site who lives near me once asked what and when I eat before a marathon. After hearing my answer, he said that wouldnt work for him. So try things on your own. Just remember to eat more carbohydrates in the coming months. Particularly eat some carbohydrates immediately after your runs. Drink plenty of fluids.
Let us know if you pick a particular training program, and why. Also tell us how easy or difficult it has been for you to ramp up from 5 miles today to 26 miles by December. Good luck!
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