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Struggle of Marathon

"Your body and mind must be in unity for a Marathon."

After Race by Tobias Mathes, All rights reserved.

"Relaxtion of the back after a finished Marathon."


While reading some of the comments at the Facebook pages of the London Marathon and Berlin Marathon, I decided to write up something about Marathon prep. Many people commented on the Marathon being their first and several are also plagued by injury due to their prep. Unfortunately prep injuries are very common and an alarming trend.

Don't get me wrong, I strongly believe it's admirable for anyone to take on the challenge of a Marathon, but there is so much you can do wrong in your prep.

Pro Tip: Better take a step back, then a step too far.


Setting yourself a goal is good, but be reasonable with reaching it.

Some background on my person; I started with Power Walking in March 2014, at some point I set my goal to finish the Berlin Marathon in September 2016, which was a reasonable goal. In May 2015 I did a spontanous long distance tour without any pressure, just with the idea; "Let's see what I can manage". Which led to me doing 38 KM (23.75 mi) and then I thought, if I can manage that distance; a Marathon (42km/26mi) with the proper training must be possible. I finished the Berlin Marathon in September 2015, roughly a year ahead of my initial schedule, but I was very good prepared for it and knew exactly what I was doing. My body and mind were in a perfect balance.

Some people however want more then their body is prepared for and that's exactly the reason why proper training is so important. Because you will learn the limits of your body and at the same time improve them.


Believe in yourself, but don't pressure yourself too much.

Please be aware of the fact, that a Marathon will always put a strain on you, no matter how much experience you already have with it or how much you have trained beforehand.

If you do your first Marathon, please steadily increase the distances you can manage in training, while respecting the time your body needs to recover from the training. Over time you will be able to do longer distances, up until a certain point, with lower recovery times.

Please don't push yourself with arbitrary speed or time goals, concentrate on enjoying the time and finishing the distances. Speed will come automatically over time, there is no need to push for it. Also, pushing too early for certain speeds will put much more pressure on your joints, which will often lead to unnecessary injuries.

I will give you an example for that statement. After my first half marathon (Oct 2014) I could barely move for three days, I felt severe pain in my hips and was feeling very weak for the duration of recovery. By now, April 2016, I hardly feel any repercussions after a half marathon and I still give my body at least one or two days for recovery. Because I have learned from regularly training this distance, that's about the amount of time my body will need for the recovery.

For Marathon prep, which I am currently (Apr 2016) in, I do at least three sessions of 28 km (17.5 mi) to properly adjust my body to the strain of a Marathon. For a distance of 28 km (17.5 mi) I need about 03:30:00 hours, which is absolutely acceptable for me. Long Distance Training is less about the speed, it's more about finishing the distance and learning something about yourself.

I give you an example for steadily increasing your mileage, in kilometers (miles in brackets). Please adjust this slowly, by experience, to your needs. Keep in mind, approach this reasonable and don't get ahead of yourself too much.

Especially the longer distances can be very dangerous, if approached too early on.

  • 5 KM (3.12 mi)
  • 8 KM (5 mi)
  • 10 KM (6.25 mi)
  • 14 KM (8.75 mi); 1/3 Marathon
  • 16 KM (10 mi)
  • 21.1 KM (13 mi); 1/2 Marathon
  • 24 KM (15 mi)
  • 28 KM (17.5 mi); 2/3 Marathon
  • 31,5 KM (19.7 mi); 3/4 Marathon; MAYBE ONCE!

The idea behind this is; once you feel comfortable with one milestone and ideally in the speed you like to run it, move on to the next milestone. Slow down, first get comfortable with the new distance, then steadily increase the speed over time, but only if it's not coming on it's own. Always be wary, don't push too hard.

You can approach longer distances with interval training, which is a good idea to initially get accustomed with a new distance. But eventually you will need to finish the distance at least once without any intervals. Otherwise you will fail to complete a race course without 'rest walking' in between.


Race Day

You can only prepare so much.

Believe in yourself, have family and friends to believe in you. Enlist them to cheer you on, select cheering points along the race course, have your support groups appear on several. Rally the troops! Their support is at least as important, as your training beforehand is.

Some rules of guidance for you:

  • Don't stress yourself with arbitrary goals
  • Don't judge yourself by the performance of others
  • Don't force the speed of others on yourself
  • Find your own pace
  • Get your head on the course with you
  • Concentrate on your breathing
  • Concentrate on your technique
  • Be supportive of others
    • Have nice words for other people

Enjoy your race day!