Marathon training programs are designed to fit the goals of runners at all levels, from beginner to elite. Runners should select a program based on their goals for the marathon and their current level of fitness.
An active, experienced runner who has race experience may want to consider marathon training programs that include speed training (fartleks, intervals, etc.). These types of programs are geared more towards runners who already have an established distance pace and look to improve their pace with a goal of finishing a marathon under a certain time (3 hours, 3 ½ hours, etc.).
However, first time marathoners commonly have little running experience to draw from, especially at long distances over 14 miles. For many, the goal is simply to finish. After finishing a first marathon, one then has an established marathon pace and finish time. They can then set a realistic goal for the next marathon and consider marathon training programs targeting a specific finish time goal.
The following marathon training programs are for first time marathoners with a goal to finish. As you train, expect to see your pace gradually increase and you improve your level of fitness. Keep a record, or journal, of your training runs so you can see your overall improvements as you progress through training.