1. Have A Plan
Whether your aim is simply to finish your first proper race or smash your marathon personal best, you need a plan or else you run the risk of getting nowhere fast. You have two options: find a good off-the-peg plan, or ask a qualified running coach for a bespoke one.
Generic plans are available for free and based on achieving a set distance in a target time and many runners have used them to good effect. Make sure it’s been put together by an expert and that you understand the rationale behind each session. This will allow you to make small changes based on your weekly schedule and how you progress.
Some dynamic plans, such as on TrainingPeaks, feed straight into your calendar and as long as you set your metrics up from the start (pace, HR etc), you will have a plan that is pretty much suited to your abilities.
Getting a coach will be your gold standard of planning and there are a few things you should consider there. See my post about getting a PT/trainer that might give you some pointers.
2. Get An MOT
Before embarking on your plan it can be worth getting a once-over to correct any minor niggles or running technique flaws that could develop into major problems, especially if you have a history of injuries. This is perfect in your 'off' season too, as it means you can get things sorted before training and competing ramps up again.
If you’re going to start running in a serious way, it’s essential you identify and correct poor habits as early as possible, which will make training much more beneficial and pleasurable. Schedule an appointment with a physio or sports masseur who will be able to highlight any weaknesses, stiffness or imbalances.
Having an expert evaluate how you run will bring to light any weaknesses or idiosyncrasies that, if left unchecked, could end in pain or injury down the road.
3. Consider A Club
Running solo can be one of life’s great joys but if you’re knocking out several runs a week as part of a training plan, doing some of them with other people is a great way to stay motivated, make friends, and discover new places to run.
You’ll find free running groups in most cities around the world now – many specialist running stores stage several group runs each week – or you can look into joining your local running club.
Rest assured that you don’t need to be a speedster to join – they cater for all abilities.