Marathon Training: The good, the bad and the ugly

Wellbeing Exercise

Training for a marathon can be physically and emotionally challenging, but it can be an amazing journey if you have a smart training plan and are patient and realistic. That said, you will probably experience a range of experiences and emotions along the way; some will be good, some not so good and some just downright ugly! 

Most of us judge the worth or success of a run by the resulting pace, how we felt and our expectations on how we think it should have felt. This perceived result affects our mood and our motivation. But by going down this route, training can become an emotional rollercoaster that’s just not healthy or enjoyable, since it affects our mood, we question our ability, it can dent our confidence and make us wonder why we’re training in the first place.  If we are solely driven by the pace of any run, then we can easily find ourselves pushing harder in training to achieve the numbers we want to see. This is not sensible as we don’t achieve the physiological progress that we can with smart training and there’s a higher risk of illness or picking up an injury. 

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Training is physically demanding, it’s tough at times and can often just feel like a slog. Welcome to the world of the endurance runner! So, it’s important not to make it any harder than necessary and instead train smart, specifically and at the correct intensity.  

Many runners tend to run and have no thought about the bigger picture and have no plan or understanding of what each run is trying to achieve. This way of training often results in it being just too hard, is demotivating and can leave you open to the potential for injury.   

Because it’s physically more uncomfortable than necessary, it makes it mentally tough and more challenging than it needs to be. So, it’s key to get your training load and intensity correct. The aim should be to maintain consistency with your exercise, remember that training is just training, and focus on the challenge while keeping in mind that training is just preparation and not the goal itself. 

However, physical and mental challenges are inexorably linked.  

Good training will gradually build your endurance and overall body composition, but this takes time and requires patience. If you overdo it, then it’s likely your running won’t be progressive or enjoyable. Endurance training is a repetitive impact activity which can cause overuse niggles and injuries, such as runner’s knee, tight hamstrings, back pain and shin splints. This not only causes physical discomfort but also frustration and mental anguish from not being able to train and not seeing progress. More serious injuries such as a stress reaction injury or stress fractures, tendonitis or plantar fasciitis all start as pains that you perhaps thought you could run through. However, if ignored or left untreated, these injuries will prevent you from running completely.  

So, become a thinking runner, understand and take responsibility for your training, listen to your body’s signals and adapt accordingly.  This will allow you to train at the correct intensity and maintain consistency. 

Once we understand our training, we still need to manage the mental challenges. It’s often a mental struggle to find the energy and motivation to do the next session and of course, it will feel even harder if we’ve pushed a run too hard or if we haven’t looked after our nutrition, hydration and rest. We can’t expect to be able to train and run effectively if we are depleted or dehydrated. 

Running and aiming for a goal such as the marathon is a very personal challenge, it requires inner belief and desire that will be the fuel for your fire. There will often be friends or family who will doubt your ability to run the marathon, so you need to minimise your self-doubt and channel any negativity to fuel your training and to stay positive and motivated to achieve your goals.   

There are also so many other positives from running; the endorphins released help to improve your mood, giving you the feeling of a ‘runner’s high’, but running can also help with weight loss, and help prevent heart diseases and high blood pressure. Physical exercise can also help improve our cognitive and memory functions. 

Marathon training and race day is a journey you will never forget. We learn so much about ourselves and our character. The marathon is not to be underestimated or feared but it’s to be respected. It will test you. It will challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally and, you will be asked many questions along the way about why you’re attempting to achieve your goals. But the feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish is second to none! Nobody can take that away from you. When you wear your hard-earned medal, you’ll be so proud of yourself, not only for completing the race but also for committing to the training and challenge.  

Keith Anderson 

Head Coach 

Full Potential Coaching  




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