Meltdowns and Mind Games in Marathon Training

I haven’t talked about it in a while on this blog, but if you stalk me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll know that I am in the middle of training for a marathon. And y’all? It’s by far the hardest thing I have ever willingly put myself through.

Saturday was The Day I Had to Run 18 Miles. The sheer weight of that fact gave me weak knees long before I started running. I ran 16 miles the week prior, but it was with my friend Allison who was also training and the thought of running 2 miles longer and alone… well, I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it.

I woke up early on Saturday to fuel up properly. I suited up in my ugly running gear — shorts over leggings, duo dry shirt and jacket, and a water belt that may me look like I was trying too hard.

And the next thing I know I was weeping on the floor of my living room.

I’m not sure specifically what triggered it — perhaps it was leaving J and Leia cozied up on the couch watching a holiday movie. Maybe it was the fact that I announced I would be home by 11 or 12 at the latest — and it was still 7:30. Or maybe it was the fact that I only ran once during the week and it was a measly old 2 miler. Or maybe it was because my knee was already hurting me before I had even started. Pretty sure it was a combination of them all.

I can’t do this! 18 miles — EIGHTEEN MILES!?
I just can’t do this! I’m so tired of training.
Why did I sign up for this?
Why am I willingly putting myself through this torture?
I haven’t even lost weight!
Over three hours of running — I don’t want to do it!
I just can’t do it….

And because God put the perfect man in my life — somehow He spoke through J to give me the wisdom and encouragement I needed. I could do this. He was proud of me. I could take as long as I needed, even if I had to walk most of it. I did 16 last week, so I can do 18. The next run longer than this will be with my friends, so this is the last super long one alone. Take one step at a time. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it.

I wiped my tears away, apologized for messing up his T-shirt, bid my family farewell, and drove towards the American Tobacco Trail taking deep breaths and focusing on his pep talk.

Now, anyone who has run for any amount of time may know that your mind does really weird things when you run. Your body certainly needs to work up to long distances, but it’s your mind that actually allows you finish.

In all of my long runs, the first 3 miles are the hardest. It’s cold and the thought that you have so many more ahead of you is daunting. You just can’t think about it or else you’ll go crazy. Usually when I reach mile 4, it starts to get a little easier. Then I realize I’m at mile 5, then mile 6, and then, hey mile 7, how’d I get here so fast?

My favorite part of running is the camaraderie with other runners. They start to populate the trails mid-morning. Other people have exaggerated gear on, and we both know we’re doing some gosh-awful distance that morning too. And for a split-second we bond. We have an understanding. They’ll tip their head, give me a little wave, and we weakly smile at each other in an instant that says, Good job — keep going! You can do this. One time there was a sweet old man that I passed twice who actually took off his hat and gave me a little bow. The mile following was the fastest of them all.

When you get passed the double digits, your body starts to catch up and your leg muscles get really tired. Stopping at red light to cross feels like a sweet gift from heaven — but then it’s torture to pick your feet back up and move again when it turns green. I remember at mile 12 I thought, Just 6 more miles! Just one more hour and you’re done! And then thinking,  How cool (or depressing?) is it that I consider one more hour as not a long time? How far I have come from the first day when 2 miles felt arduous! 

After some trial and error, I’ve come to realize I can’t listen to music too early or else I get burned out. In fact, on Saturday I listened to four sermons before I blasted my tunes. (In case you’re wondering, I subscribe to The Village Church, Summit Church and Redeemer Church podcasts.) It isn’t until the last 30-40 minutes that I invite Kayne and Beyonce to join me.

I could write a detailed paragraph about every inch of the way, but will spare you the boring details. Let’s just say, I finally finished. Thank goodness the last two miles were in a bad neighborhood because it kept me moving.

When I finished, the exhaustion won over the endorphins. But still, as I limped to my car, I was amazed to think that 3 hours and 20 minutes ago I didn’t think I could do it, and BOOM, it was done. Nevermind that somehow I’ll have to manage to run 8 more for The Real Thing in January (let’s not dwell on that now, okay?), but for the time being it was the greatest accomplishment I had ever done. And looking back now I wonder who that girl is that ran 18 miles — it certainly wasn’t me! Because running more than 5 miles is just crazytown.

Have you ever trained for something you didn’t think you can do?
Have you ever trained for a half or full marathon?
What is your favorite or least favorite part of training? 



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  • Mark Stearns

    Yes, I’ve done a marathon before and I think the 18 mile run was the hardest. 20 was rough, too, but I did it with a friend and that made it so much better. Here’s a quote that got me through! Good luck! “There will be days when I don’t know if I can run a marathon, and there will be a lifetime knowing that I have.” (BTW, this is under my husband’s name, but it’s really Jenni, his wife, not some creeper guy :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kds0924 Kim Hatch

    Ginna! You’re amazing! Keep it up – you’ll have this crossed off your bucket list in no time! It wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t so hard, the good things in life don’t come easy! I wish I still saw you at work every day to tell you that! :)

  • MissAmanda

    I’m SO JEALOUS. I’ve always wanted to be a runner and eventually do a marathon, but a bad knee keeps hindering any real progress for me. I gotta stop with the excuses, and figure out how to do it.

  • http://www.blondeonbudget.wordpress.com/ Blonde on Budget

    I think you’re doing great! Every path has its ups and downs, but it seems to me that you have both the perseverence and motivation needed to reach your goal. I feel really inspired by you, and i would really like to reach a goal of running 10k. Which I will begin training for next week! Hopefully! :-)

  • http://www.thousandmilesfirststeps.com/ AdeOla

    Awww Ginna! You are doing wonderful and You can do it! I am inspired. SO keep going and sometimes, you just have to push through it. I am so glad for you and pretty jealous too. lol

  • http://Www.Plantingourpennies.Com/ Mrs PoP @ PlantingOurPennies

    I recently finished my 4th marathon, so I know you can do this!

    As someone recently put it to me, a marathon is just like a savings account. You’re putting in your weekly deposits, and pretty soon you’re going to be able to cash in all that hard work and have something big to show for it. =)

    You’ve got it with podcasts for the bulk of the run to keep your HR down – I also recommend a lot of the NPR podcasts and audiobooks, which can be tons of fun. =)

  • Julie

    Good for you Ginna! I am proud of you and a little jealous at the same time! I always lost the mind games battle with long distances. You’re going to be so proud to finish that marathon!! (And then you never have to run again…) :)

  • Dorothy Clement

    Wow Ginna and way to go J and Leia. I’m really proud of you. Pushing through tears and the games and messages our mind play is part of the battle! There is nothing that can stop you! You are an inspiration!

  • http://www.blondeonbudget.wordpress.com/ Blonde on Budget

    hope this can motivate you:-)

  • Cgregor

    I love this post Ginna! Not that I love you went through that but because I can totally empathize! :) I am SO looking forward to running the 22 with you and Allison but I may need that same pep talk from you when I attempt to run the 18 in a few weeks!!

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Haha, I love it!! Thank you so much! Such truth. :)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Thanks… and so true! I may never decide to run again after this!

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Wow, which marathons did you run? That is so impressive! And you’re so right — I will have something big to show for it soon, just need to keep striving for that big goal. :)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Hey, a 10k is nothing to snuff at! I remember when I finally worked up to 6 miles — an hour of running! — it felt amazing! Good luck with your training!

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Aw, I’m so sorry about your knees — I am so thankful that so far (knock on wood) I haven’t had any injuries, but it’s so easy to hurt yourself in a training like this. Thanks so much for your comment, it meant so much. :)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Wow, that’s an great quote! Thank you so much for sharing, that really means a lot. And congrats on running your marathon! It’s a club I hope to join pretty soon. ;)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Thanks Kim!! I wish I saw you every day too — such fun times we had in that little pod. :) Appreciate your encouragement, it means a lot!

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Thank you! Thank you!! Your words are so encouraging and meant so much. :)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Thanks Mom! It’s a hard journey, but you’re right, the mind games are the worst part of the battle. :)

  • http://myprettypennies.com ginna

    Thanks Christen!! I can’t believe we’re really doing this… just a few more weeks and we will be running the entire thing together. Whew! I am dreading and anticipating that day so much. :)

  • http://www.thousandmilesfirststeps.com/ AdeOla

    You are welcome Ginna!

  • zade

    That’s awesome!

  • Reader

    I did an 18 miler in Central Park in September. It was one of the tune up runs for the NYC Marathon that New York Road Runners organizes. The camaraderie of other runners helps, but I have to admit that my sometimes less than charitable thoughts help, too. :-) As in, I can’t let a 70 year old pass me! That lady threw her half full water cup on my shoe- I can’t let her beat me!