The first time you set out to run 26.2 miles—in a sea of other willing humans, all collectively striving to do the same—will undoubtedly change your life.
And whether you’re in it to win it (looking at you, Boston Marathon champ Desiree Linden!) or your debut goal is just to finish (always smart), bouncing on your feet for hours will give you plenty of time to think.
Keep reading to see the thoughts 7 running vets say are totally normal to have during a marathon.
Gwen Jorgensen, Olympic gold medalist
“When I stood on the start line of my first marathon, my longest run to date was 16 miles. I was nervous to complete the distance. I remember getting to mile eight and doubting if I would get to the finish line since my legs were already getting sore. No matter your speed, the marathon can humble you quickly.”
Jessica Frey, general manager of Virgin Sport
“My mind was on two things during my first marathon: When will I see my friends and family on the course? And how much pizza can I eat in one sitting after the race?!”
Robin Arzon, 30-time marathoner and head instructor at Peloton
“Discomfort is inevitable, but temporary—that finish line is forever. Whatever you’re thinking, remember to run your race. Show up as your full self on race day. Wear the thing that makes you feel like a badass. Take in the cheers.”
Michele Gonzalez, 16-time marathoner
“By the time I got to 10 miles, I was ecstatic to hit double digits—but reality set in when I did the math and realized I still had 16 miles left. From there, I started thinking about the infamous ‘wall’ and wondering whether I would know if I hit it and what it would feel like. I kept waiting for it to appear—which it did, somewhere between mile 21 and 22.”
Jessalyn Keywork, master cycologist at Cyc Fitness
“Which mile am I going to have to pee at? I knew making a potty break was inevitable—between birthing a child and drinking plenty of fluid before the race, I was never able to figure out how to run without bathroom stops during my training. So there I was, at mile four of my first marathon. Quickest pee I ever did have.”
Elizabeth Corkum, coach at Mile High Run Club
“Around mile 23, you’re probably going to realize, ‘This is what tired feels like.’ And you won’t know it until you’re there. When you cross the finish line, you’ll feel like a superhero. No matter the time on the clock, your first marathon is an accomplishment that should be celebrated. Enjoy the high for the week or so after. You’ve earned it!”
Kara Goucher, 9-time marathoner, professional runner, Olympian
“Toward the end of your first marathon, you’ll definitely question your sanity. You’ll wonder why this particular torture sounded appealing to you, and why you ever thought this could be fun. Keep going. It is fun. And as you’re running toward the finish, you’ll be thinking, ‘I can’t believe I did it. I can’t believe I did it!’ As you run across that line, you’ll have a new love and respect for yourself. You’re stronger than you ever imagined, and you’ll view yourself differently forever.”
And if you need more marathon motivation, remember: If Karlie Kloss and Katie Holmes can do it, you totally can, too!
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