I have not publicly announced my marathon goal yet. It's my first marathon, and you're just supposed to try to finish, or so the experts say.
But that does leave the problem of pace. I'm not just going to get out there and run willy-nilly; first marathon or no, I do have to have some sort of plan and goal.
After consultation with experienced friends, a sub-max heart rate test, and review of my current running ability, I am targeting running the marathon in 3:45. This time is several minutes slower than I am predicted to be able to run but will still be challenging.
I've spent all spring and summer building up a good base (at no small personal cost - you try running when it's 95 degrees and 90 percent humidity!) in anticipation of the training. I have an established training program with a few tweaks of my own. Mondays and Wednesdays are mileage-grinders - I pay no attention to pace but just finish the miles. Wednesdays are pace runs - the distance, pace, hydration, fueling, etc. will mimic what I anticipate I will do in the marathon. Thursdays are for interval training. Saturdays are my long runs - the most important days of the week.
Friday and Sunday I rest. And every third week has a significantly reduced load (and no interval training) as well.
My longest runs are in November and December. I start to taper right after Christmas.
All of this barring injury. That's why I spent so much time building up base in the first place, but if I get even the slightest bit injured (as opposed to just being sore) I'm not going to hesitate to take a day/week off.