Managing the Ups and Downs of a Marathon

Comparing a marathon to a roller coaster is quite a cliche, but also very accurate.  When you put in serious work for completing 26.2 miles, you want to be as prepared as possible for whatever may arise during the race. 

You’ll want to run your tempo runs, threshold efforts, do your long runs and get enough rest.

While training purposefully for a marathon, you’ll want race day to go well.  How you manage those mid-race dips in confidence, energy, and motivation can be the difference between running well, finishing, and a DNF.

Here’s what you can do to get you through those hard times during a marathon:

Managing the ups and downs of a marathon
Managing the ups and downs of a marathon

Practice Your Patience

The marathon is a really long race.  That being said, you’ll want to practice being patient.  A low point in the race will pass, make sure you’re prepared for both the lows and the highs.

Know that you’ll come out of the funk eventually

Have the confidence that you’ll recover from the funk you’re in.  It may last a little longer than anticipated, but if you’ve practiced your tempo runs and long runs, you’ll know that you’ll come out of the funk you’re in.

Relax both your mind and your body

Not only should you train your body (miles, nutrition, sleep, strength), but you should also prepare your mind.  Having a plan for racing successfully will save you precious energy early which will help you later in the race.  When you have a good mind-body connection, your race effort will click and you’ll put yourself in a good spot to have a good race.

Dealing with the good and bad during a marathon
Managing the Ups & Downs of a Marathon

Focus on your Mantra

Mantras are a great tool and strategy to use to help you get out of a rough place during a marathon. Creating positive mantras is great for staying sharp and focused during the race. And, if you find yourself in a bad place, using your practiced mantra can pull you out of it.

Run Enough Miles

When you are well-trained, you know how your body will react and respond when you hit a low patch during the race.

There are no real substitutions for running a lot of miles.  Your body will be prepared, your mind will be accustomed to long periods of monotony (left foot, right foot), plus your body will be used to burning the right type of fuel to keep you sustained over the course of a few hours.

When all else fails, resort back to your strengths.  Repeat your mantra, relax your breathing, and focus on being as smooth and controlled as possible so that when you get out of your low patch, you have the energy to continue on.

Here’s how Samantha’s Atlantic City Marathon went and how we’ve learned so much about how to prepare and execute a race plan on race day.


“While I didn’t feel good, I finished and finished strong.  It definitely didn’t go as I had envisioned.  I knew it was going to be hard, especially those last 6 miles, but it was hard for me starting mile 2. I never felt as though I ran “my race” nor got into a groove. And maybe this is what marathoning is about – I’m not sure.  I just never felt I had a turnover in my legs, or felt good running. I actually felt like crap for most of the race. My warm-up was great, I had dressed appropriately, ate what I’m used to, felt hydrated (got water at most water stations), felt rested, relaxed upper body, but my legs did not want to move it felt like, and that was for most of the race. At mile 18 I felt really sick to my stomach and mile 22 was just slow and long.

The good news is that I did my absolute best to get a sub-4 hour time.  I trained perfectly.  So I know I have that to rest on.  I’ve also never felt this crappy racing – I love to race!  I’m taking it as a lesson to learn from though, and I’ll come back better next time!

Atlantic City Marathon was a very lonely race though. There were moments on the course where you were alone running with little spectators–which I think does play a factor in your spirits especially when you already feel like you’re running crappy early on.  Even though most of my training was alone, it still didn’t help that I didn’t hear a lot of cheering on the course.”

We know how much training Samantha put into the AC Marathon and without a doubt, we know that more good races are coming her way.  Keep up the great work Sam!  Overall, Samantha was 224th out of 849, good enough for 19th in her age group. Results can be found here.
Want more races about marathons and training tips for 26.2 miles? 2013 race recap about Atlantic City Half, Keys to a successful long run, Avoiding race day mistakes.

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