by John Stanton

As you prepare for a marathon, it can be helpful to imagine the experience in advance. Read on for a sample play-by-play of a marathon race.

After months of self-discipline and hard training, it is the morning of the marathon. You are rested and well hydrated. At the start line, some runners are silent and pensive while others are laughing and joking. There is a mixture of nervous adrenaline and anticipation all around you.

The horn sounds and you are off. At first, it is more of a shuffle than a run as laughter and noise fill the air. You hear a mixture of race chatter, both from the runners and the people lining the course at the start.

Slowly, the crowd around you starts to open up and you start to find that familiar stride. Your breathing is now relaxed and you feel comfortable as you make the first turn on the course and head down the long straightaway. As you pass a small pack of five or six runners, you realize you are already at the 1K mark. Are you right on target, did you start a little fast, or did the crowd slow you? Either way, this is only an early benchmark of your pace. You are feeling good. You think back to the months of training—some of it done with the group but a good portion done on your own. You know that those runs will pay big dividends to you today in your marathon.

At the 2K mark, you do your first systems check. Are you relaxed? Are you taking deep, full breaths? Is your chest out, hips forward? Have you started to sweat yet? Is your head straight, eyes up the road, spotting a runner ahead? Arms relaxed and in tune with the rhythm of your push-off? You feel good and you are going to do your best.

A hill appears after about 5K. You shorten your stride slightly, just like you did in all of your hill repeat sessions. This is a piece of cake; you did 10 to 12 hill repeats on hills that were a lot steeper than this. You continue with an even effort as you head up the hill. The ground flattens out and you regain your familiar rhythm. You think back to the enjoyable runs you did with your training buddies. This is just another long run.

As you pass the halfway mark, you remember your power words: I am strong; I am in control; I feel good. As you say them to yourself, you feel the power boost they give you, both mentally and physically, as your legs respond to the familiar, comforting words.

You are now passing through an older part of the city, filled with character and history. Enthusiastic crowds call words of encouragement to you. It’s unexpected yet energizing to receive applause from complete strangers. As you pass through a water station, there are people dressed in costumes cheering you on. Someone hands you a cup of water and you drink it in, feeling the cool, clear water on your throat. Your confidence builds as you start to realize you are well into the second half of the race. You can do this.

As you pass the 32K mark, you start down a hill. You know that this is the tough part of the race, but you also know that you are ready. You think back to some of the long runs when you felt tired and you were not always sure you would make it, but you did, and after completing them you felt great.

You now have less than 5K to go. You are strong and feeling confident as you start to pass runners. Some of them passed you earlier but you chose to let them go. They are now walking. You pass them and pick up the pace as you realize this is your race—you prepared well and are now ready.

As you approach the finish line, you can hear the crowd cheering and the race announcer calling your name. You cross the line and someone asks if you are okay. You smile, unable to speak. You feel that special euphoric feeling that is somewhere between joy and the pain of the moment. With your hands on your hips, you walk towards the refreshment area, medal around your neck. You did it! You ran a marathon. Even with all of life’s speed bumps and challenges, you will achieve success because of the confidence that today has brought you. You are a marathoner.



John Stanton is the President and Founder of the Running Room. He is the author of 10 books about running, walking and family fitness.


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