11 Things You Think About When You Run a Marathon

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Running a marathon is not just an exercise of the body. It is arguably just as much exercise of the mind.


Runners who are not pushing their aerobic thresholds might be apt to chatter during a race and pass the time by talking to another runner.

However, racing a marathon requires a few hours of challenging yourself mentally.

1) Your body will argue with you to stop. You will make negotiations about never racing again, about quitting, about the rewards you will receive when stopping. You will think about running a lot. You will wonder if other runners are also thinking about running while running.

2) You will think about prior races and training runs. You will envision the finish line. You will try to do runner math and no matter how hard you try, you always will forget about that stupid 0.2. You will repeat mantras, think about your family & friends, breakdown splits in your head, and try to remember to eat, drink, and keep good form.

3) You will lose that initial adrenaline, that freshness in the legs. You will seek solace in completing a tough workout. Your thoughts will become more sporadic, more broken the more miles you cover. You stop seeing the scenery and can only focus on the road in front of you.

4) You might find yourself lucky to be the runner who is slowly passing the carnage after the first half. You think about how smart you ran your race and didn’t go out too fast. You guiltily thrive on the boost of passing. Your mind gobbles up each positive thought, hoping that the momentum will continue.

5) But you might find yourself depleted and broken. You might be lacking in calories. You might have sustained an injury. You might have bitten off more than you can chew. You are being passed and as you go to latch onto that smarmy runner now in front, you try to hold on.

6) You will think about how you wished you signed up for the half marathon.

7) You will think about how proud you are for running the full marathon.

8) You will pass mile 24, 25, and wonder how each mile gets longer. You might still be making deals with yourself in those final 5,280 feet. You know you are lying to yourself, but if it distracts from the pain for a short moment, it is worth it.

9) You will feel determined as you see the crowds swell towards the finish, no matter the size of the race. You will feel joy when you see the arch of the finish line. Your relief is in sight.

10) You might feel ashamed, hurt, and upset as you come into the final meters. Your body might be destroyed or your time far from where you’d like it.

11) But you might feel extraordinary. You might feel powerful, strong, and this thing that cannot be explained when months, years, a lifetime of work comes to fruition.

You will find that the finishing final meters are the apex and crossing the line begins a new chapter.

The journey of the marathoner is never over.

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

1 comment… add one
  • Edward Jackson October 18, 2018, 9:29 am

    I admit I get a bit emotional at the end of marathons. I ran my first marathon in 1976 at the age of 16. My second was in January of 2014, after my divorce. I run Disney and when I run past the gospel choir at the 26 mile mark I tend to choke up a little.

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