10 Things People Don’t Tell You About Running a Marathon

Many runners are training for marathons at the moment and there’s a lot of information out there, on this site and elsewhere, about nutrition, training, advice for the day etc. But, there are also a lot of things people don’t tell you about running a marathon. Here’s our contribution to the literature. 

  1. 85%* of people will start in an inappropriate pen. Unfortunately this only ever seems to go one way though. You will probably spend your first mile picking your way through people who put sub 3 down on their entry, based on nothing more than ‘being quite good at running at school’, or people who put 3.30 but are walking already. Of course a lot of people would believe the answer to this problem to be to bump up your own pen by half an hour or so. But no, no, no.

    I put ‘sub 2’ on the entry to get a good pen
  2. All of those people around you talking about their training, whether it’s ‘I’ve been doing a hundred miles a week’ or ‘I haven’t trained at all’ are probably lying. Ignore them.
  3. Those people who push past you in the first mile like there’s a fire have most likely set off way too fast, and you will catch them up again at mile 20 when they are walking, and feel pretty smug. Marathons have a habit of dishing out instant karma.

    Marathon top 10
    If you find yourself at the front with a guy on a bike, you’ve probably set off too fast
  4. Similarly those people who start with gel belts packed with 40 gels, making you think ‘oh no, I’ve only got 5, have I messed up here?’ will just leave a trail of dropped gels around the course and you will most likely see them puking up the 20 that didn’t fall out, and made it down their necks, at the side of the road later on.
  5. If you find yourself running at the same pace as any of these people: the heavy breathers, the inconsiderate gobbers and snotters, anybody who says ‘only 25 miles to go!’ – you need to make a strategic decision to speed up or slow down. Do not share this hopefully brilliant experience with those people.
  6. When supporters say ‘you’re nearly there!’ at 22 miles, these people have probably never run a marathon before. You can believe you’re ‘nearly there’ at about mile 25.5, but before then it’s going to feel like a very long way to go!
  7. See also ‘it’s all downhill’. (Unless they’re talking figuratively.)
  8. When you’re feeling like you can’t possibly run another step at the mile 26 point, you will somehow manage to access an amazing reserve of energy that allows you to sprint over the line like Usain Bolt.

    Marathon London 17
    200m to go? Woah, legs, where did that sprint come from?
  9. Whatever food you thought you would crave at the end of the marathon has probably completely changed by the time you actually finish. That cheese sandwich you put in your drop bag has lost all appeal, or if you’ve booked a table at a pizza place, you will now fancy a burger. Or more likely you’ll just feel a bit sick.
  10. When you go back to work everybody will ask you what time you did, then reply with something which shows that they have no understanding of the marathon at all, like ‘oh right, my uncle ran 2.20 when he was 78’. Then they will probably say ‘I’m going to do Marathon des Sables next year’ even though they have never run more than 20 minutes on the gym treadmill. Just walk past these people to get to the biscuits.

*Made-up statistic

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