I actually did exactly the same four years ago
Went from doing nothing to running the mini-marathon and then did the Dublin marathon the following October, whilst still a dedicated smoker. One abiding memory was after the race when the following conversation ensued -
Others - "eh, where are you going?"
Me - "I'm going for a cigarette"
Others - "eh, but you've just run a marathon"
Me(all sweaty rolley eyes) - "well, d'uh, I know, I bloody deserve one"...
Luckily, things have moved on a little since then... well, kind of.
Ok, in terms of hints and tips
1. I followed the program in this book. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Non-Runners-Marathon-Trainer-David-Whitsett/dp/1570281823/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264767392&sr=8-1
It's absolutely fabulous. I never missed a training run, even though sometimes I'd be so hungover, I'd have to stop to heave on the runs.
2. Get a decent pair of runners. Go out to Damien in amphibian king in bray and he'll get a proper pair of runners for you.
3. Get some decent sports socks (I know, I never believed it either but they make a massive difference).
4. Get a decent sports bra. Shock absorbers are rubbish, I use the Moving Comfort, Fiona bra from http://www.lessbounce.co.uk (great name!).
5. Get some decent wicking fabric shorts and t-shirts. Life is so much easier.
* Not everything here is essential starting off, but the shoes and the sports bra are pretty much non-negotiable *
6. Join a running club/group. I'd recommend fit4ife, lovely people and great support.
7. Read the book.
8. Read the book.
9. Don't start the book till July when you're ready to start marathon training. Otherwise you'll be sick to the back teeth of it by August
10. Tell EVERYONE you know that you're going to do. That way pride will prevent you from backing down.
11. Don't use it as an excuse to eat all round you, a mars bar is still equivalent to a 3 mile run. Unless you're running > 50 miles a week then you're going to have to exercise restraint. I know, bitter disappointment to me also, but such is life.
12. Keep well hydrated.
13. Try and eat a small bit of protein after your longer runs
14. Get some sleep, even half an hour extra a night will make a massive difference.
15. Join the athletics forum on boards.ie, there's always a starter marathon runner group there and it's a great way to get support and advice.
16. Enjoy it, get a kick out of it, if you hate it, it won't last long
17. Start off slow, you shouldn't feel like you've been run over by a truck after every session. The point is to feel good, not to feel rubbish.
18. Remember that you aim is to finish a marathon - not to lose weight, not to stop drinking, not to give up smoking. Some of these things will happen naturally after a while but I know a few people who've started marathon training and then become pissed off with the whole endeavour as they're not see-through after a month of running and given up. Your aim is to cross that finish line.
19. When you're getting into the high miles, go for sports massages regularly.
20. Have at least one half marathon under your belt before the marathon.
21. Enlist the support of family and friends, it's invaluable.
22. Enjoy it,
* you can't run a marathon and not change your life for the better * [/evangelical]
For me, it was always a dream, but I thought only people who weighed four stone and never smoked or drank and sprinted out of the womb and never stopped ran marathons. I will never, ever, ever forget the day I crossed the finish line. Even now, I've a goofy smile on my face thinking about it. It really turned my life around. I had a plan, followed it and achieved my goal. Simple steps but it really was life-changing. And remember, running the marathon is the easy bit, it's getting to the start line is the real achievement!