Marathon Mind

6-16 Wellness_Marathon_web1Can anyone run a marathon? Probably. Most people are capable of finishing a marathon when following training guidelines to avoid injury. But when the topic comes up, most people say, “I could never do that!” I hear those words a lot.

I have run four marathons and finished an Ironman. I am not a fantastic athlete. I am slow and not built like a runner.  The “I can’t do that” mantra ran through my head as I grew up.

I also failed my first attempt at doing a half marathon. The training started out ok, but things just sputtered out and I quit. The friend I was supposed to be training with was 400 miles away. I’d just started grad school and was living in a new town, so I was isolated in my training without familiar support nearby. My reasons for doing the race were weak and were more for my friend than myself. I allowed my excuses for not training to take over. In short, my heart wasn’t in it, and I never genuinely believed I could do it. We both stopped running and didn’t do the race. But in the back of my head there was always one thought.

“I want to be able to do that.” 

So I tried again the next year, despite past failure. I was forty pounds overweight when I signed up for a 16 mile trail run. I could barely run 3 miles without stopping, and I’d never successfully trained for anything big before. Not a recipe for success. However, I had extremely strong personal reasons and an equally strong desire to prove I could do it. And I had a lot of support. I was back in my hometown with family and friends close by who wanted me to be successful. They helped me by accompanying me on runs and hikes and encouraged me when I had doubts. This was a key part that was missing the first time around and could have been resolved by reaching out to the running community, a group that is always ready to welcome new people and be supportive no matter where you are in your training. 

There are a lot of people who say they could never do it, but actually want to. For me, “I can’t do that” transformed into “I wish I could do that,” then “I want to be able to do that,” and finally, “I will do it,” which became “I did it.”

6-16 Wellness_Marathon_web2It didn’t happen overnight. And obviously I didn’t succeed my first time, but you can. There are different reasons why people want to try running a marathon. Whatever the reason, it is a serious commitment. It takes significant time in addition to the physical component. It becomes easy to find excuses. Our work and social lives, families, and the weather create obstacles. One of the hardest things I found in my training was simply getting started. If I actually put on my gear and headed out the door, I was successful. I have never regretted going on a run. I always regret not going. Excuses and procrastination will not get you across the finish line.  The reason for doing your marathon needs to be clear. The more personal it is and the more you are doing this for yourself and not anyone else, the better. One foot in front of the other. You can do it. You will.

How To Get Going

  • Sign up for a race as early as possible in your training. This is your “due date” and keeps you focused on a specific goal.
  • Find a training plan that is realistic for your schedule. There are a lot of plans out there, not all will be right for you. Analyze the entire plan. Most plans will have one long run a week, and at least 2 other shorter runs during the week. Distance and/or time should only increase by 10% each week. If you are regularly running 10-15 miles a week now, you can build up successfully in 4 months. Plan on at least 6 months otherwise.
  • It’s ok to walk. Especially if you are just beginning.  This is not failure.
  • Join a training group. Check your local running store for information or search online.
  • Tell people that you think will be supportive. See if they can help out with your training. Have someone bike alongside you if they can’t run with you. 
  • Practice eating and drinking what you will use during your race. Try different things in advance. You do NOT want to be experimenting on race day. 
  • Cross train with low impact activities like cycling and swimming. Yoga can also help with staying flexible and preventing injuries. 
  • Warm up and cool down before and after EVERY run. This adds a minimal amount of time to your run and is key to preventing injuries. 
  • Join online forums and social networks so that you have people to answer your questions and provide encouragement. Try different Facebook groups, Reddit, etc. Ask a lot of questions.
  • Find great playlists, podcasts and/or audiobooks.  Use only one ear bud for safety, especially if running near traffic. For long runs that take you over 2 hours….a good podcast can be more encouraging than counting how many songs are left on your playlist.
  • Just put the clothes and shoes on and get out the door. If struggling, tell yourself you will only do part of the planned run. Odds are you will finish the whole thing, and you won’t regret it.
  • Do not let past failure be an indication for your future success.


By Gloria Clendaniel

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