When you think about marathon training, you tend to focus on the physical aspects of it. The tough long runs that test your ability to go the distance, those speed workouts that leave you with that “ohmigoshiwantotpuke” feeling and of course, those recovery runs that just always seem a little TOO slow.

I think there is a component of training that is all about building you up mentally. After all, running a marathon is a very emotional experience. We are all out on the course for our own reasons and often times, these reasons are because of things that are close to our heart. I couldn’t help but burst into tears when I crossed the Big Sur Marathon finish line, after all that had happened in Boston this year.

And I definitely couldn’t hold back the tears when I ran the New York City Marathon in 2010. My grandmother had passed away a few weeks prior, and the last words she ever said to me were “good luck in your race.”

That being said, our training plans really don’t tell us how we need to be feeling when we do these runs. It may tell us that we need to hit the track for 800 repeats, but it doesn’t tell us to “feel defeated” as you do these. We bring these emotions into the picture ourselves.

In all of my marathon training experiences, I’ve seemed to followed the same emotional “stages” as I’ve approached marathon training. No matter how long I train for, these stages hit at some point.



  • Typically occurs during the first few weeks of marathon training.
  • You are still really really really excited about the idea of running a marathon.
  • Usually, you wake up a few minutes before your alarm goes off (if you’re a morning runner) or you get dressed at least 15 minutes before a run because you just can’t wait for it.
  • In general, people are really annoyed by your constant chatter about how GREAT your run was and how you CAN’T WAIT for the next one… oh, and did I mention I am running 14 miles on SATURDAY? And this is the FARTHEST I’ve ever run? And it’s going to be FABULOUS?

Stage 2: Feeling a little sleepy

  • Once marathon training has set in, your body starts to wonder what you’re doing to it.
  • You are still pretty excited about this whole marathon training thing, although you aren’t that much of an eager beaver anymore.
  • You definitely need your alarm clock to get out of bed in the morning.
  • People start to get annoyed by you skipping social events because “you fell asleep” or simply couldn’t peel yourself off the couch.

Stage 3: I can’t move.

  • Your body is starting to get really angry by the idea of running.
  • When you look at your training plan, you sigh in agony at the sight of your next workout. What do you mean I have to do 10 miles WITH sprints? What? Despite that, you lace up your shoes and hit the road the next day.
  • Bracing yourself with a handrail and the wall on the other side is definitely necessary when it comes to stairs.
  • Taking the elevator, even going up one flight of stairs, is totally acceptable. I’m training for a marathon, people. My training plan says nothing about taking the stairs. 

Stage 4: Why am I doing this again? 

  • There is no excitement or wonder about the marathon. You start to doubt your decision to pay $100 to put yourself through the torture of running a race.
  • When you look at your training plan, you almost start crying. The idea of waking up super early or spending your night running just seems silly.
  • However, you keep on running. Because you know that runner euphoria will hit at some point during your run.
  • When people ask you how your training is going, you give them a look with daggers of steel in your eyes. If looks could kill, they would have been dead three days ago.


  • After weeks of suffering the worst workouts known to mankind, you cannot believe it’s TAPER TIME!!! The best time of training!!!
  • You rejoice in the fact that you can sleep in a little bit more and that you aren’t feeling exhausted at every turn around! More than two rest days a week? SCORE!!!
  • Marathon training starts to get a LOT more fun! You can get used to this.
  • Your friends start to like you again.

Stage 6: Taper is the worst. 

  • Whoever came up with the idea of TAPER? It is the dumbest thing in the world. What do you mean I can’t run???
  • You can’t help but glare at every runner you see who looks like they are running further than you on that given day. You even consider tripping a few.
  • You console yourself in the fact that you still have a humongous appetite.
  • Once again, your marathon training plan is your best friend. You look at it regularly. You start a countdown, to the minute, of how much longer until race day.

Stage 7: I think I broke my leg, my arm and my hip… all while I was sleeping.

  • Once you adjust to taper and think “I can get used to this,” you start overanalyzing every little pain. When you wake up and your foot hurts, you instantly think that you sprained a muscle. There’s no logic to it, but you know it happened.
  • When you go on your short taper runs, you feel a little niggle in your shin. WHAT! I have shin splints. Race day is 4 days away. I AM DOOMED.
  • You start to spiral into a running depression.

Stage 8: What do you mean I have to run 26.2 miles? For fun? I paid for this?

  • With the race a few days away, you start to freak out. FREAK OUT.
  • After an emotional rollercoaster ride during taper, you don’t think you can do this. You start to forget all of the training that you’ve done.
  • You tell your family and friends to NEVER let you sign up for a marathon again.

Stage 9: IT’S RACE DAYYYYY!!!!

  • You wake up hours before your alarm, from pure excitement that THE DAY IS HERE!
  • You convince your husband/sister/brother/dog that you really do need to get to the start at least an hour early because you have to absorb the atmosphere.
  • Once you get into the mix of all the runners, you KNOW this is the best thing you’ve ever decided to do in your life.
  • You think back to everything you’ve gone through during training. It brings to a smile to your face, knowing that you’ve prepared the best that you can and you are ready to ROCK IT.

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