The Hardest Thing About Marathons & How To Train For It

Carissa Liebowitz

Plenty of things about marathon training scare evoke fear even into people who have done it before.

The long hours away from home, the commitment of months of work, and the constant feeling of a little tight and a little sore.

Some people abhor speed work and some hate the long run, but both are widely considered to be pretty necessary in marathon training.

But the hardest thing about marathon training is learning to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This is my opinion of course and I’m no expert. But I have run 30 marathons and am no stranger to consistent training. The more I race, the more confident I am in my ability to handle a trip to the dark side.

The physical aspect of training can be trying at times. Upping mileage, chasing pace goals, and avoiding injury are all a part of marathon training.

There will be exceptionally good days where miles click off seamlessly followed by a recovery run that leaves you wondering what you are doing with your life. Most will be somewhere in between and seasoned runners know to adjust their workouts as necessary.

Use tough training days to strengthen your mental game. You certainly shouldn’t do it with every workout, but try doing it every week or two. Run an extra mile as recovery. Finish your terrible run with a few striders at the end. Drop your goal pace for one repeat by 5 seconds.

The point is, don’t be afraid to fail because chances are that your body has more to give than you think.

Training your mind to be comfortable with being uncomfortable is just as important as mile repeats. Because in a marathon, even in a perfect race, you will experience a mile (or ten) that are hard.

I’m not talking about physical limitations like injury or bonking due to insufficient calories or hydration. I’m talking about when you’ve been running for 2 hours and those fresh taper legs are long gone.

How will you manage your self-doubt? How will you overcome feeling uncomfortable?

Know that nothing ever lasts. Those low moments, just as in life, are not forever. You will feel good again. It might take a gel, a high-five from a kid, a short walk break, or simply time. But know that there will be a low spot and you will get through it.

Trust your training. If you’ve spent months training to get to the starting line, trust that your body is prepared to make it to the finish line. It is normal to have a few missed workouts and a lot of self-doubt. But all those days that it seemed really impossible to finish a workout were actually preparing you to keep going when doubt starts to seep in.

Are you ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable?

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on Instagram and her blog.

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