For the 2011 Boston Marathon (my first) I have adopted a training program designed by Jeff Galloway. Jeff has run over 90 marathons and was an Olympic athlete in his younger years. He has written many books on running including “Marathon: You can do it”, which contains the specific training program I am doing.
Jeff’s programs are especially helpful for first time marathoners and older runners who want to train and run the marathon and finish injury free. I have actually read quite a few books on the subject and another book “Marathoning for Mortals” comes to very similar conclusions and training programs as Jeff.
The key behind Jeff’s program is that you both train and run the actual marathon with walk breaks. I think of them as “intervals” but that word has a heavy meaning in running circles as being something different. But basically the idea is that you run for some number of minutes and then walk for some amount of time before repeating the cycle over and over. The exact ratio of running to walking is tailored to you and is dependent on quite a few factors. Oh and even if you *can* run the entire marathon continuously does not necessarily mean you would not benefit from walk breaks. Many people experience as much as a 30 min reduction in their overall time by walking 1 minute every mile. Most of this time is made up in the last 8 miles when your legs are still strong and others are dragging.
In addition to walk breaks Jeff has also designed a very nice set of training programs from novice to experts. In this regard I found quite a few similarities between programs by other trainers and authors and with Jeff’s programs. When looking through my options I found that the rank novice programs were a little easy for me, and those programs shooting for specifc marathon times were mostly too agressive. I ended up adopting Jeff’s 4:40 marathon program with 2 slight changes.