Deciding to run a marathon is an amazing, inspiring thing to do, but it is also entirely normal to feel intimidated by the prospect and also feel overwhelmed by the training that you will need to undertake to succeed.
If you are a newcomer to marathons, which is likely given that race participation is growing, this brief introduction to scheduling your training ahead of the big event itself should help the whole process feel more manageable.
First and foremost you need to be prepared to plot out your training over the weeks in the lead-up to the marathon and give yourself plenty of time to prepare your mind and body. Even if you have got a good half marathon time under your belt, it is important not to get complacent when moving up to a much longer race.
It is best to give yourself 16 weeks to train as a beginner, running at least 4 times each week to gradually amp up your abilities, rather than going all-out from day one and potentially doing more harm than good.
Including rest days
Another temptation you might have is to run at every opportunity, but this is also a common mistake made by beginners. Instead you need to make sure that you factor in rest days throughout each week of your training schedule.
For example, it makes sense to plan to run on Mondays, rest on Tuesdays, run on Wednesdays, have Thursday and Friday as rest days, then make Saturday and Sunday back-to-back running days leading into Monday.
This approach will ensure that your body gets used to more intense periods of activity, while also having recovery periods where it is not put under strain.
Obviously you can adjust your rest days according to your other life commitments, but do remember to add them in and keep them uniform.
Start slowly and build up
Scheduling your marathon training is not just about working out when you can run, but considering how far you should be running and for how long.
For the first 8 weeks, a mixture of jogging and walking on the days you set aside for training is sensible and if you are starting from scratch, using longer periods of general walking rather than all-out jogging is worthwhile.
Gradually increasing the length of each session is also important. On weekdays, when you likely have other things monopolising your time, plan to train for between 20 and 50 minutes a day. On the weekends, schedule your longer sessions.
Weekends are also the time when you can start to add in distance-based goals, rather than timed sessions. By week 8 you should start to consider running half-marathon distances on a Saturday or a Sunday (but not both) so that you are used to spending longer on your feet.
When the day of the marathon arrives, it is natural and even helpful to feel nervous, as overconfidence can be the downfall of beginners. Take your time, have fun and trust your body to get through it.