Marathons can be rewarding

stgeorgemarathonfamilyAs I made it up and over Snow Canyon, and began my descent down to the finish of the 2014 St. George Marathon, I noticed that my body felt different — very different from any other marathon I had ever run before.

My legs felt fresh, my arms were loose, my breathing still relaxed, and my mind was alert.

In years previous, I came to expect the last miles of the marathon to be difficult physically and mentally. I have been to what I call, “the pain cave,” where everything hurts — everything from my head, to my stomach and hips, and even to my extremities, including my arms, my toenails.

I have been in that mental darkness, too, where nothing makes sense except to quit. I have overcome that darkness, and I have succumbed to it.

But somehow, this time, as I crossed the finish line in a personal best time of 2:52:09, I managed to do so, having not experienced the physical and mental darkness that I thought was inevitable.

And as I sit here, one week later, my body has completely recovered, and has been that way for days.

Now, the question remains, of how? And while I don’t know what will work for you, I know what worked for me, and I am more than happy to divulge my secrets. Here they are:

Mileage is key. You may have heard from fellow runners, “If you can run 18 to 20 miles, you can run a marathon.” Taking his or her advice, you do your daily runs, and plan your token 20-miler one month before, banking on that being your saving grace. And while the statement is true, and you will most likely finish the marathon, I can guarantee you will hit “the wall,” and those last miles will hurt.

Rather than running one long run, do two, three, maybe even four runs 20 miles or higher. Your body and mind will acclimate to the mileage. And come race day, the 26.2 miles will not seem so daunting, and the wall will come and go, or better yet, not be there at all.

Fuel. Many times, I have heard runners say that they don’t eat or drink before a race, and certainly not during, for fear that they will have a side ache or stomach problems. I am here to say, that if you want stomach problems, not eating is a surefire way to cause them.

Don’t skip breakfast, drink water, and begin early in the race, fueling on sport drinks, water and other things (gels, bars, salt tabs). Take your long runs as a time to practice fueling, so that you know what your body can handle.

By fueling, you will be giving yourself the energy to complete those miles, and you may even find that you have a little left in the tank to smile and wave at your family as they cheer for you at the finish.

Relax and have fun. You’d be surprised how much energy is exhausted when you worry. You’ve put in all the hard work up until now, and race day should be the day you relax and reap the rewards of your hard work.

Smile at and encourage those who you pass, and do the same when you are the one being passed. The positive energy is a great way to maintain a good stride, or give you a kickstart to move a little faster.

When you see a hill, don’t think of what it will take to get to the top, but imagine what it will feel like once you are there. And before you know it, you will be there, sailing down the other side.

Marathons are hard, but they don’t have to be miserable. They are mentally challenging, but you don’t have to lose your mind in the process. Marathons hurt, but the pain can be bearable, and shouldn’t be long-lasting.

More than anything, Marathons are an experience like no other. They show us what the human body is capable of.

And if trained for correctly, a marathon can and should be a wonderful and rewarding experience.

Arianne Brown is a mother of six and Southern Utah native. She loves running the mountain trails of the Wasatch and beyond.

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