The race was April 2007. I was literally starting running from scratch nine months earlier, but off a good aerobic base (cycling, gym). Having chosen the HH Intermediate II plan which starts on 25 mpw building to 50 mpw I decided to spend Oct/Nov/Dec to build from about 20-25 to 35 mpw just to get a bit ahead of the schedule. So 18 weeks out from the race my LR was already up to 15 miles, and 35 mpw, and then I loosely followed the plan but let it catch up to me, so that by the time the LR was getting up to 18 miles it felt reasonably comfortable.
Being slightly ahead of the written schedule allowed me to add in a few tweaks but nothing too crazy, e.g. the odd tempo run as mentioned, but also increasing the max LR to 22 miles and getting comfortable with a mid-week run of 12 miles instead of 10.
I've never been a mileage monster. I did throw in a couple of weeks of 90-100 miles when peaking last year, mainly by adding a couple of running doubles per week, but average in the 8 weeks leading to taper was 62 mpw. But I tend to do a lot of cross training, especially spinning (2/3 x/wk) and cycling over the summer before concentrating more on running in the month or two before the marathon.
I wish it felt relatively comfortable! Berlin was weird, I had doubts in my head from early on as to whether it felt harder than it should based on previous experience. Even at halfway in a textbook 1:15:52 (I was aiming for 2:32:00) I doubted I could hold the pace, but just kept plugging away, ran evenly till I was completely spent at the finish. I haven't worn a HR monitor for a few years now, so race pacing is always a combination of target pace based on recent performance, and perceived effort.
Anyway, that was my fifth (raced) marathon, and although I've never completely blown up (splits have ranged from 1 minute negative to 3.5 mins positive) I'm still not sure exactly what the perfect race should feel like!
I've always thought that the HH plans are preferable for a first-timer compared to RW, because they're more straightforward. The RW plan will have you increasing your mileage substantially (something that is unavoidable IMO if you're to give the marathon a good go), but with lots of quality thrown in, i.e interval sessions and hill work, often in the same week. If you've got a heavy mileage base already, adding in some quality might be the icing on the cake, but if you need to up your mileage substantially I think you're better off keeping it simple.
The simplicity of the HH schedule also means that it can provide a template to add in some quality if you're coping with the increased volume. For example, I used the Intermediate II plan for my first marathon, and as well as the easy and race pace runs, I added either a weekly or fortnightly tempo run, by including some faster running to the mid-week "sorta long" run.
Anyone on here managed to get a marathon time that online calculators say you should get based on half marathon Times. I'm apparently capable of a 2.34 from a 1.13 half but the marathon is a different beast isn't it.
I got there eventually at Berlin last year. 2:31:41 which McMillan equates to 1:12:04, which is actually 15 seconds inside my HM pb. All I need to do now is go back to Berlin in September with a 1:11:16 HM under my belt and I'll run 2:29:59. Simples!