Marathon training is a big commitment. You can expect to spend 10 hours a week in training, possibly more. Training is mentally, physically and emotionally demanding, and it's critical to choose a schedule that helps you achieve your goals without affecting your lifestyle.
If you have a particularly busy lifestyle, or if you aren't looking to break any world records, Runnersworld.com columnist Jenny Hadfield, author of Marathoning for Mortals, says a training schedule with three runs per week might do the trick. With this type of schedule, you would do one easy run, one tempo (faster) run and one long run per week. On two to three of your non-running days, you should do some cross training, such as biking, swimming or strength training. Remember to always leave at least one or two rest days in your schedule.
If you're trying to improve your time, or if you prefer running over cross-training, a schedule that includes four runs per week might be the way to go. Hadfield suggests a tempo run, a short easy run, a moderately longer easy run and a long run. On two of your non-running days, strength train or cross-train, and make sure you leave one day entirely free for rest [source: Hadfield].
There are a ton of free or fee-based marathon schedule planners online. Once you've picked the schedule that suits your style, it's time to think about how to stay hydrated while you sweat. We tackle that subject in the next section.