THERE'S NO REASON completing 26.2 miles on foot has to be brutal: The average time for San Diego's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2000 was a safe and sane four hours, 30 minutes for men and five hours, ten minutes for womenenough time to hit the john at mile six, walk through every water station, and hug your loved ones at mile 20. To get you to a triumphant finish, distance-running expert Jenny Hadfield, co-author of Marathoning for Mortals, has come up with an 18-week program that "allows you to finish with dignity." Hadfield has good reason for her regimen of short workouts. "It takes time to adapt your body to a marathon's high mileage," she says. "Push it and you risk hurting yourself." Apart from long runs every Saturday, you'll spend only two to three hours a week in your running shoes. Hadfield's plan assumes you've been logging five miles, three times a week, for at least three months. Now, on Mondays and Thursdays, run at a pace that makes it a little too hard to talk at the same time. On Tuesdays, cross-train with yoga, swimming, weight lifting, or biking to keep your whole body fit. Go for an easy run on Wednesdays or complete one of the following, as noted on the chart: (A) Run hard for five minutes; walk briskly for one minute; repeat sequence three times; (B) run hard for ten minutes; walk briskly for two minutes; run hard for ten minutes; walk again for two minutes; or (C) run hard for 20 minutes. For Saturday's longer runs, your pace should allow you to have a conversation.
CHICAGO MARATHON In 2002, Paula Radcliffe set a world record of 2:17:18 on Chi-Town's flat course. Ambitious? Yes, but inspirational nonetheless. (October 12, 2003; www.chicagomarathon.com)
TUCSON MARATHON It's all downhill! Now hear this: Running down 2,250 vertical feet is easy on the lungs but murder on the legs. Be prepared. (December 7, 2003; www.tucsonmarathon.com)
WALT DISNEY WORLD MARATHON Run straight under Spaceship Earth and hang a left at Cinderella's Castle as you bound through the park's level terrain. (January 11, 2004; www.disneyworldsports.com)