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5 Key Things I’ve Learned About Running The Marathon

It’s been two and a half weeks since I’ve run the Boston Marathon, which was my second consecutive Boston and eighth marathon overall. With every marathon I run, I learn so much about the process of training and the art of running a smart race.

Here are the most important takeaways for marathoning success.

Nail Down Your Fueling

This is easier said than done. It takes a lot of practice during training (plus trial and error during a race). If you don’t fuel well, you will absolutely bonk in the last half of the race and set yourself up for a death march all the way to the finish line. Some runners like to eat whole food during a race, while others only take energy in liquid form (GU or some type of energy gel or an energy drink). There are runners that can eat anything and others that have very sensitive stomachs. Really, work on what is best for you and maximize it over twenty six point two miles. For me, I ingest GU really well, I know the flavors that I like and I prefer the highest content of caffeine for an extra kick. It’s taken me eight marathons to realize that I need to take one every four miles, which would mean six GU over the course of a marathon. It worked out perfectly during Boston and my energy levels were much better in the final six miles (except for the heat—silly, fickle New England weather).

Adjust Your Posture During The Hard Sections

I remember my first few marathons where I would hit the pain cave around mile twenty two, and suffered my way through until the finish line. One thing that I have been practicing in my training is when you are pushing to the max and things start to get really tough, focus on your posture. Is your body hunched over? Straighten your posture. Are your arms crossing over your body? Gently move them so they are swinging in a relaxing, comfortable position. Noticing that your feet are shuffling along the ground? The simple act of picking up your feet will make a big difference in your running economy. You shouldn’t be able to hear yourself running—a direct order from my physical therapist.

Attitude Is Everything

Running a marathon is really hard. There is no easy way around it and at some point you are going to be in pain. I don’t even drive 26.2 miles during my days and yet somehow we manage to run that distance. When you get to tough sections, really think about your attitude. Acknowledge that, yes, this is really freakin hard right now, but I will push through the pain. Smiling helps a lot (try it and see the difference!), and also thinking about the fact that even though it’s hard in that moment, the next mile will feel better. Use the downhills to boost your confidence.

Achieving a PR is HARD.

If you are striving for a PR, keep trying and you will get there. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Note: After keeping the same PR for years, this is a tough pill to swallow, but I’m going to try and take my own advice.

You Are Stronger Than You Think

Running a marathon gives you a key to unlock your inner bad ass. After a string of disappointing mile splits during miles twenty through twenty four in Boston, I finally learned how to shift into a higher gear during the last part of the race. I ran the last mile faster than I thought possible given the weather conditions and how I was feeling. At that point my mind was definitely stronger than my body. I learned that my training cycle was really successful and I am a strong runner.

You ARE a strong runner—if you have the power to believe.

Nat Runs Far

Nat Runs Far

Natalie Mitchell is NatRunsFar. Natalie is mom to three young kiddos and wife to her best friend. She is a seven-time marathoner, four-time Boston qualifier and five-time triathlete. Natalie enjoys taking her readers on a journey of running, inspiration, motherhood, chasing dreams and how to balance it all with a smile. When she isn't running, you'll find her playing with her kids on the beach, hiking, baking or reading. Natalie and her family also love to travel and you can find pictures of their outdoor adventures at NatRunsFar.com and social media. She is an ambassador for Procompression and Stonyfield. Follow her daily musings on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NatRunsFar.