Like any goal worth pursuing, training for a marathon will affect other aspects of your life. In addition to planning your running time, plan about an extra hour of sleep each night so you can recover and go about your normal business [source: PBS]. You'll also be eating more food, preferably prepared fresh by you (so you can control ingredients and portion sizes). An ideal diet, in brief: Calculate how many calories you need to maintain your current weight (multiply your weight by 13, and the result is your body's ideal daily calorie intake). 60 percent should come from carbs, with the remainder from a balanced mix of protein and healthy fats, such as nuts and avocados. Plan your biggest carb consumption for before and after your workouts, and keep easy-to-digest, high-carb foods and drinks accessible during long workouts [source: Fernstrom, Douglas, Pfitzinger].
At times, your life will affect your running. Accept that you'll miss some workouts for things beyond your control. Legitimate excuses are severe weather (do a lighter workout indoors instead), injury or illness, and family- or job-related crises. When faced with scheduling conundrums, it helps to prioritize your training. Decide in advance which workouts you're willing to skip if necessary, and which are absolutely mandatory and have to be rescheduled. This will help you feel on track when you have to make adjustments [source: Pfitzinger].
If you're a gym rat, look for a regimen that incorporates alternative workouts. Some experts say cross-training is OK, but this isn't the time to try anything new or impress others at the weight rack. Do short-term goals and socialization help you stay on course? Try a couple of shorter races, such as 5Ks and 10Ks, into your schedule, which will provide speed training with real motivation [source: Rennie].
Running's simplicity may be a factor in its continued popularity. All you really need are good shoes, comfortable workout clothes (try sweat-wicking synthetics) and a safe route. Be aware of your environment: If you're running at night, wear reflective clothing and leave the headphones behind. Whenever possible, train on soft surfaces, such as grass or dirt, so an early injury doesn't derail your whole season.
If you're just about to start training, your next marathon is months away, and there's a lot to do in the meantime. The next page contains links to more advanced marathon training information.