(Marathon) Monday Motivation & The Seven Stages of the Marathon

Thank you so much for showing my twin sister–my bestest friend in this whole wide world–such amazing support in her journey to get back into running! She’s excited to follow her training program and recap some of her struggles and successes every Friday in a new post 🙂


“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who has never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind.” Jerome Drayton

Happy, happy Marathon Monday to everyone!!! Today’s Boston Marathon is something that many runners–including me at one point in time–have trained and prepared for.

The 2012 Boston jacket colors: red and black

The 2010 Boston Marathon jacket colors, the year I ran it: Teal and Yellow

Unfortunately today, the weather in the Bean is not the best for marathoning. A high of 86 degrees has led many runners to either change or cancel their plans to run. The Boston Athletic Association announced on Saturday that, because of the hot weather forecast for Monday’s marathon, registrants for this year’s race may defer to next year’s. They are especially encouraging runners who know they have a relevant medical condition, such as cardiac disease, not to start Monday. Race officials advise the same for inexperienced marathoners (i.e., some of the race’s charity runners) and runners coming from cool climates who haven’t had a chance to train recently in warm conditions. In addition, the finish line will stay open until 6:00 p.m., an hour later than usual, to encourage slower runners to take their time and run safely. You can find the BAA statement here.

I’ve never run a marathon in such hot conditions (the 2008 Chicago Marathon: 70s and sunny; 2010 Boston Marathon: low 50s and sunny; 2011 Shamrock Marathon: low 50s and sunny) although my twin sister, who posted here on Friday, ran the Chicago Marathon in 2007 on a day that set records for high temps. Although she finished in a very respectable time of about 3:50, many people behind her were re-routed because it was simply too unsafe to continue the marathon. I ran the final 6 miles with her and let me tell you, it was HOT! So if you or someone you know is running today, please be careful!!!!

Running a marathon is difficult even under the best conditions and circumstances. It’s the difficult that makes it an amazing, transformative experience. It’s the reason why after you run 26.2, any shorter distance just doesn’t feel as satisfying.

My absolute favorite running documentary is the Spirit of the Marathon. You can watch the whole thing on Hulu or just see the 6 min trailer here:

You can be running with 30,000 other people, but everyone has their own individual journey over the course of a marathon. Something amazing happens to you in 26.2 miles.  An Addidas ad campaign for the 2003 Boston Marathon , which consisted of the “Seven Stages of the Marathon”, accurately captures the mental and physical struggle individuals experience when running that far.  When I lived in Boston I would see posters from this campaign hanging in Marathon Sports or the Bill Rodgers Running Store. It basically breaks down as follows:

1. Ritual: Training. For weeks and months you prepare. Running a set amount of days or miles/week for 16 or 18 weeks. It becomes a ritual and something that you actually come to cherish and miss after the marathon is over.

2. Shock: Marathon day and the starting line. After weeks of training the day is finally upon you. You can’t believe you are finally about to run 26.2 (if it’s your first or even your 50th you still get this feeling). You hope you trained adequately and go over every detail so that you can have the best race as possible.

3. Denial: Miles 1-18 give or take. You’re on the course and you’re feeling good (hopefully)! Your adrenaline is surging, your muscles feel warmed up and loose, and you get a boost from the cheering spectators. You start thinking maybe this marathon isn’t as tough as you thought. You enter into a euphoric haze otherwise known as the runner’s high. Make sure you keep hydrating and take enough energy supplements to maintain your strength for when the race really gets tough.

4. Isolation: Miles 18-22. Fatigue takes over and determination begins to slowly decrease. It’s just you, the road, and the sound of your feet hitting the pavement (or your ipod). Your body is only able to store enough glycogen in your muscles for about 20 miles. Amby Burfoot has said, in my favorite running documentary The Spirit of the Marathon (which again you can watch in its entirety here), “at some point in the marathon, the distance is greater than the human ability to physically transcend it” 

5. Depair: Miles 22-26.2. In the final miles your body surrenders fully to the pain and fatigue. While some (more experienced) marathons may seem to feel less pain, mostly they just know how to deal with it better. Because the distance is really long. The first half of the marathon is 20 miles and the second is 6.2. Although this is the most difficult point for most runners, this is what makes the marathon life-altering. Being able to push through that despair and prevail by crossing the finish line is what will change your life.

6. Affirmation: 26.2 Miles later. The finish line. Be prepared for one of the most amazing and inspirational moments of your life. This is what makes the marathon addicting. You have achieved something that many, many people can and will never do. Revel in it. You have earned a spot in that select fraternity of individuals who can proudly call themselves marathoners. And if you ran Boston? Well, you can a proudly call yourself a Boston Marathoner 🙂

7. Renewal: The week after the marathon you will feel excited and renewed. Invincible. Although many runners deal with the post-marathon blues after this stage, you can keep your renewed feelings and motivation going by signing up for another race and setting new goals.

Even if you’re not running a marathon today or anytime soon, you can still get similar feelings of accomplishment just by getting out there. So let’s have a great running week people!!!!

Have you run the Boston Marathon?

Have you experienced any or all of the seven stages of the marathon while running 26.2?

Did you run this past weekend? 

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17 Responses to (Marathon) Monday Motivation & The Seven Stages of the Marathon

  1. this is awesome! i never knew about the 7 stages but they’re so true. when i did my first marathon, i definitely went through all 7 stages. i never knew how much of a mental battle it would be! but boy by mile 20, i wanted to start crying. but crossing that finish line totally made it all worth it 🙂

  2. Carina says:

    Did you get your BQ in Chicago in 08? For some reason I had it my head that you ran around 4 hours, but I know you’re younger than I am. Or did you do charity for Boston? And if so, which one? All I’m doing today is tracking 17 friends. I am working hard to wait at least 60 seconds before hitting refresh on my screen…

    I ran Boston in ’11 and got my first BQ at Twin Cities in ’10 (but I got my ReQ at Boston). Love those 7 stages, hadn’t seen that before, but think it’s pretty accurate! My weekend run was just meeting a few friends for a few miles during our local marathon yesterday — it was rainy, so they all seemed very surprised and happy to have the company while the slogged it out.

  3. I’ve never run a marathon before but I plan to run my first one next year. This is so interesting and from what I’ve heard from other runners, it seems pretty accurate!

  4. Idlehide says:

    Great post! I am running my first in june, eeek! 😀
    I think I like your blue and yellow coat better than the red and black one

  5. I have experienced each of those stages! I am just finishing up stage one and will be on to stage 2 in less than 2 weeks! So excited for that day… and hoping that I don’t get caught up in denial and not pace correctly and that I am prepared for isolation & despair! LOVED this post! 🙂

  6. I totally just went through those stages with my first half! I can’t wait to sign up for another! Great post, and I can’t wait to watch that video!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Great post… doing my third in three weeks.. S.O.T.M. still gets me 🙂

    FYI: (spellcheck #5).

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yeah yeah yeah… I misspelled “spell check”… ugh

    • Ok, thanks. Since I’m a PhD student who writes all day every day (dissertation, articles, proposals, you name it), I’m a little burned out by the time I write my blog posts, so umm yea there are typos. In the short amount of time I even have to blog and respond to everyone I don’t proofread as much as I should!

  9. Pingback: Ahhh it starts again | Let's Go on a Living Spree

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