How Not To Fall Into The Way Of Despair Whilst Training For Your First Marathon

It’s easy to understate the sadness you can feel whilst training for your first marathon, especially if you’re running on your own.

I remember lots of people were donating to my charity fund and yet I was thinking to myself “how the fuck can you possibly call yourself a marathon runner when you had to stop for breath on your list 14 mile run? You’re a loser”

Those negative thoughts can easily form into a loop that will send you into despair if you let it continue. Here are some ways to stop yourself from feeling that hopeless.

How not to fall into the way of despair whilst training for your first race.

  1. Stop over thinking the scale of the task – If you only started running a few months ago then the chances are that you’ll be worried about how you can possibly continue running for upwards of 4 to 5 hours particularly if you struggle to run for an hour as it stands. You’re covering a long distance in 26.2 miles, but it is not undoable if you stick to a training schedule.
  2. Don’t worry if you miss a few long runs – Sometimes life just happens. In my first marathon training schedule I missed a 16 mile run and thought it was the end of the world. When you haven’t completed a long distance race before you can start to assume that your training will capitulate if you miss any long runs. It’s perfectly reasonable to miss one or 2 of your workouts – just try not to turn it into a habit.
  3. Concentrate first and foremost on time spent on feet in your training runs if you’re worried about not finishing – It’s so easy to get lost in all of the finer details of marathon training such as your pace, heart rate, weekly miles and other statistics that you lose perspective on what you’re trying to accomplish. For example when training for Belfast I did not allow myself to complete a single training run in a pace slower than 10:18 min/mile as I was aiming for a sub 4 hours 30 minutes race.  My problem was I couldn’t run maintain that pace for any longer than 13.1 miles without my body breaking down. This made my last few 16 and 18+ milers extremely difficult. Eventually I made the decision to drop my pace to a 11 minute mile so that I could complete the distance. I could have improved the efficiency of my training by dropping my long run pace to a 11 minute mile from week one, covered the distances I needed to and worked upwards from there.
  4. Expect to reach a point in your marathon training where you’ll lose all interest in running – If you’ve committed to your first ever 18 week marathon training schedule, then at some point you’ll question whether all of the time you’ve dedicated to your training is worthwhile. You won’t want to run. You will want to eat junk food. Relax, this is perfectly normal and you’re not having a crisis! Just keep going and trust that it will pass given time.
  5. Quitting is OK contrary to what the experts say – I don’t know how many fucking times I quit training when I first started. I’d have one bad run and think “This is fucking hopeless! I’m not a runner! That’s it! I quit!”. The important thing was that I restarted again the next morning with a “I’ll give this one more shot!” attitude. It’s that attitude that will see you through your last 10k of the race. So if you’re gonna quit, just make sure that you’re prepared to restart again very soon.
  6. Don’t leave all of your training to the last minute – The best way to fall into the way of hopelessness is to leave everything until the last few weeks. Stick to your training schedule and chip away at the problem as you go along.  The chances are that if you don’t feel like running now, then you won’t to do it either in 4 weeks time before race day. Consider your training a nest egg that you invest into. You will reap all of the rewards of that nest egg once you cross that finish line!
  7. Comparing yourself to other runners will increase your levels of distress – I remember Googling and being distraught at the thought of finishing in a slower time than Oprah Winfrey. This was a huge fucking hang-up for me! Whilst comparing your times to other runners can be helpful in providing you with motivation, you have to run your own race ultimately.

How did you cope with falling into hopelessness when you were running your own first race?