The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday January 20th

Pit Talk

How to survive a marathon

Running a marathon sounded like a good idea seven months ago.

As a first-time marathon runner, the Rock n’ Roll Raleigh race this Sunday can go one of two ways: wild (but sweaty) success, or soul-crushing (yet still sweaty) failure.

I’ve endured seven months of following a running schedule from an online spreadsheet and eating ungodly amounts of pasta and washed it down with G2 Thirstquencher Gatorade. Though sometimes I have my doubts, I like to think my training has prepared me for four and a half hours of nonstop running.

One of the most frequent questions about marathon training I get is “Why?” 

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Usually I respond Forrest Gump style, “I just felt like running.”

But in the words of rock god Jack Black, “You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore.”

These are the words that drive me. After mile 16 I may feel like dying, but at least I feel hardcore while I’m at it. Training for a marathon is not like running an obstacle course. It’s an obsession. A hardcore obsession. It has taken over my life.

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I said I would never become one of those crazy marathon runners who run 10Ks every week like it’s no big deal. But after five months of steadily increasing the miles I ran, any run less than ten miles began to seem boring to me.

Physical training is important, but a marathon can be as much as a mental challenge as a physical one. Another frequently asked question I get is “How do you do it?”

Determination and energy gels, mostly. Over the past seven months my perception of what I think my body can do has changed.

I’d think, “If you can run six miles, you can run 10. If you can run 10, then you can run 13. If you can run 13, you can run 16. If you can run 16, you can run 20…”

It’s all about psyching yourself up.

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One of the most nerve-wracking things about being a rookie marathon runner is you do not run the full 26.2 miles until the day of the race. I learned from my dad, who has ran seven marathons (including Boston), that the real marathon starts at mile 20.

For me, the goal is not to win. It’s to survive the last six miles.

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