Marathon Training: This is Where the Hard Work Begins

On Saturday I tackled my longest “fast finish” run ever – 14 miles with 3 fast ones at the end. I started out on the treadmill and finished outdoors because it was crazy hot out.

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Saw this on tumblr… pretty sure it’s a picture me : )

I ended up having a ton of thoughts about this run once it ended, and I’ve tried to pin them down into a couple of points — more for my future reference than anything, but maybe you’ll find them interesting too.

FACT: Miles 1 through 11 were spectacular.

FACT: Miles 12 – 13 were pretty great. I hit close to my “fast finish” paces without too much suffering.

FACT: Mile 14’s fast finish made me question why I even want to run a marathon.

Isn’t it funny how you can run a bunch of really great miles, but that last hard one sticks in your mind for a while?

During the last .25 I started thinking about how nice the half marathon distance is… long enough to test you, short enough to not kill you. I thought about how if I was running a half marathon I’d be done by now… then I remembered two things:

1. “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” Last week Kristen commented that as her favorite running mantra and it popped into my mind as I was wrapping up my run. It makes a lot of sense!

2. During this week last year 6 MILES WAS MY LONG RUN. I was just getting into half marathon training and I thought 6 miles was really difficult. I remember coming home after that 6 mile run and saying to Adam, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to run a half marathon, I can’t imagine having to run double that distance” and he replied, “well you didn’t think it was going to be easy did you?” That definitely applies here, too.

FACT: My long runs the last two weeks have tested me a lot.

On one hand it sucks because prior to these two weeks I felt like I could run any distance (lol), and on the other hand I know these challenging runs are where progress is really being made.

From March through June I was doing a long, EASY run of 10 – 12 miles every weekend. That gave me a really solid base for marathon training. I think that is also why my first 14 and 15-milers left me feeling confident. Those distances aren’t really that different from 12 miles especially when run at a comfortable, conversational pace.

16 miles felt different.

14 miles that included 3 hard miles at the end felt different.

Different is good.

I just have to remember that it is these hard training runs that will serve me the best on October 5th when I cross the starting line in Portland.

Runners become marathoners not because running 26.2 miles is easy but because training teaches us that we can do hard things.

It’s time for me to wholly embrace the challenge because I don’t think it’s going to get any easier between here and October 5th.

Now that my mind has recognized that I’ve hit the point where the hard work begins, I can better mentally prepare for these harder long runs and hopefully enjoy them more!

“Every single one of us possesses the strength to attempt something he isn’t sure he can accomplish.” – Scott Jurek, 7X winner of the Western States 100



  1. August 11, 2014 / 7:36 am

    I completely agree with how 16 miles feels ‘different.’ Something happens to my body once I reach that point in a long run where it definitely becomes mental. My husband and I had this conversation after my long run yesterday. It’s awesome that you did your three fast miles at the end. Doing that is always so tough for me. Great job on your run Kristina!

    • August 11, 2014 / 1:57 pm

      Thank you Heather!

      16 miles is definitely the “oh crap I’m out of half marathon mode now” spot!

  2. August 11, 2014 / 8:30 am

    Great job on your run! I am with you on the mental aspect–now is the time for hard work, but it will pay off. I think the hard part of the journey is what makes it so rewarding. I have noticed how much stronger I feel on those long runs, but I woke up last night feeling like I need to move my legs…they were tired! I think I need to take a walk in the evening on long run days…

    • August 11, 2014 / 1:58 pm

      I completely agree that the hard part makes it rewarding. After a tough run I always feel the two R’s: relief and rewarded!

  3. August 11, 2014 / 9:10 am

    It sounds like we are all starting to get to that point where the “honeymoon” phase of marathon training is over. I also had a less-than-stellar long run this weekend. I only had 16 this weekend, after 18 and 20 the weeks before, so I thought it would be totally easy but it really wasn’t. It definitely shifted my mindset from “I can’t wait for this marathon!” to “I can’t wait for this marathon to be OVER”. So, I know how you feel. Hang in there, though, it gets better! Peaks and valleys.

    • August 11, 2014 / 2:00 pm

      Exactly! I was thinking “14 pfff no big deal” but it was definitely a big deal. I think the increasing mileage is getting harder plus our legs are just more tired in general making all the long runs (even the shorter long ones) harder.

  4. August 11, 2014 / 11:31 am

    “Runners become marathoners not because running 26.2 miles is easy but because training teaches us that we can do hard things.” <——— THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • August 11, 2014 / 2:00 pm

      When I was rereading my post before making it live I kind of thought that sounded smart 😀

  5. August 11, 2014 / 11:50 am

    great job on the run. I totally know how you felt at the end of that run. I felt the same way in the last two miles of my 15 miler. I think it’s just your body going beyond it’s normal limits, although it’s easy to reflect on that after the fact lol. Im going for 15again this weekend so I hope it’s easier than a few weeks ago lol

    • August 11, 2014 / 2:01 pm

      Haha exactly! In the moment you’re just like “$%^&U*I(!!!!!!!” but afterwards we can really reflect on the lessons learned.

      I hope your 15 miler this weekend is awesome! Can’t wait to hear about it!

  6. August 11, 2014 / 3:48 pm

    I think you are amazing! I seriously couldn’t imagine running this far and I certainly don’t think I would be feeling good at mile 11.

  7. August 11, 2014 / 4:30 pm

    I loved this post, Kristina, and it took me back to when I first started training for a marathon and running my longest distances. Each week will be challenging. Shoot, I still have 5 or 6 mile runs that feel challenging. Every day and every run will be a different experience. Your body will learn and get stronger with each week. Sometimes you will have to rely on physical strength, other times mental strength. You are doing awesome and I love reading about your experiences each week. BTW, did you see the finisher medal? Pretty awesome!!!

  8. August 11, 2014 / 8:42 pm

    I love that it felt hard at the end – those hard endings are going to pay off big time when you run your marathon!!!

  9. August 11, 2014 / 11:36 pm

    I thought about you while I was running my 14-miler on Saturday!! It was my first ever and I was struggling at the end. I literally said out loud “I don’t know how Kristina finishes the last 3 miles faster than the first, I can barely pick up my legs!” I also thought the exact same thing after I finished my 14 miles. Some days I want to throw in the towel, but in the end it will be worth it for both of us!!

  10. August 12, 2014 / 12:40 am

    Oh man, I needed to read this. I struggled so much with this last 10 miler I did, I thought about how I’d even make it another 16.2….

  11. August 12, 2014 / 4:13 pm

    I love this “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” Last week Kristen” I need to remeber that 🙂 You are doing amazing! I am still chicken lol maybe one day!

  12. August 12, 2014 / 8:44 pm

    Good point! i will probably have those same thoughts in a couple of weeks. This weekend I have a 12 miler, I think it bumps to 16 the following week. Stronger than Yesterday…. of course I was singing Brittany Spear’s song… prob not your intention 🙂

  13. August 12, 2014 / 9:10 pm

    It’s sooo amazing to look back and see how far you’ve come. I know the challenges and hard times of training is what MAKES a marathoner. I know overcoming hard runs is what will make me mentally strong enough to complete 26.2. I think if training were just easy all the time, the marathon wouldn’t be what it is, you know? I totally identify with this post!

  14. August 15, 2014 / 4:37 pm

    YES! You have such a great attitude about your training, and it absolutely helps to put things in perspective! Look at how far you’ve come! Also, the fact that you can get through more than double-digit miles and still feel pretty fabulous means that you are KILLING this training. Oh, and I’ve totally been trying to copy your “fast finish” concept — I can’t say it always goes according to plan (HA), but I think it will totally serve you well on race day! 🙂