Real talk: hitting your (marathon) goals will probably be hard

I have wanted my goal races to feel easy so many times. I’ve toed the line wishing fiercely for a day that felt effortless. (Never happens.) The first time I ran a BQ (Marine Corps, 2012), the miles ticked by quickly, and largely without issue, until about mile twenty-two, and then the pain set in and suddenly it definitely WAS NOT EASY.  And it should be noted that this was one year after I ran a very painful 3:37, because I spent a good part of the first half flying through fast, easy miles and thinking “Wow! This feels great!” Until it didn’t. I crashed real hard.

The second time I ran a 3:34 (Eugene, 2015) was tough from mile fifteen on. I thought my quads may literally explode right off my femur. I convinced myself that was a thing that could definitely happen, and probably would happen, as soon as I finished. I couldn’t even fathom a walking break, because my legs might not start again if I stopped. Not easy.

(I crossed the finish line and immediately went to the recovery area, laid on my back and had Mike roll a foam thing on top of my thighs. I have yet to figure out what really happened on that day.)

Real Talk

I’ve spent many cycles thinking that only the training would be hard, but the (goal) race would be a breeze.

Isn’t that kind of the opposite of why we race, at least about ninety-eight percent of the time?

I race because it’s an opportunity to push myself, challenge what I’ve done before and what I could maybe do on this day, and then see what happens! It doesn’t always turn out well. That’s for damn sure. But I find solace in knowing that at least I tried.

We’re ready for it to be hard

Way more ready than we ever think! Because training IS NOT EASY. It takes months of being dedicated to something, many moments of convincing yourself to do a hard workout by choice, and then getting through those workouts. Our brain is used to “hard”, even though we so want to avoid it.

So, come race day, guess what your brain is ready to do? Push through the hard stuff. You just can’t doubt that that’s true.

— — — — — — —

A lot of you (my clients and myself included!) are staring down a starting line this weekend in Chicago, or the BAA half, or on a trail. A lot of us are bracing ourselves for the fall marathons (or half-marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks) that are finally here, after months of training.

This is when we get nervous.

It’s going to be hard, in some way! We know that. It’s the only thing we know for sure. That’s a little daunting.

If you are going for a goal, it’s not going to be easy. Even if that goal is a marathon/race that feels “easy!” Because then you still have to stay in your head all day, before and during the race, convincing yourself that you’re trained to do this and you will be OK. That’s still a fight. It takes consistent effort to stay in that good place.

Trust these two things: your training, and your self.

Your training probably wasn’t perfect. No one’s ever is. Your self—body, mind, ego, etc—will communicate, you just have to listen up.


  1. October 10, 2016

    I wonder: Do you think you would feel satisfied if the race felt easy? Or would you go away thinking, man, I wish I would have pushed myself harder?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be made public.