“It should be easy for you now.” If I had a pound for every time someone said this to me, I’d have enough money to sign up for another couple of marathons. 

There is a misconception that marathon veterans find these gruelling 26.2 miles a walk in the park. While experience undoubtedly brings wisdom, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every race and training block is a rollercoaster ride filled with surprises, challenges, and lessons.

So, join me as I explore 15 things I’ve learned from completing 15 marathons:

  1. Training matters: While you might get away with winging a 5k, marathons demand meticulous training. Understand your body’s limits and avoid pushing too hard. Knowing when you need to ease off comes with experience.
  2. Celebrate small wins:  Don’t focus exclusively on crossing the finish line. Acknowledge the little milestones along the way – those long training runs, those personal bests in shorter races – they’re like the bricks that build your marathon success story.
  3. You’ll become a maths master: Be prepared to calculate your pace, remaining distance and gel intake as you go. Then convert the remaining distance into how many parkruns you have left! 
  4. Expect the unexpected: Marathons are like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Be ready for surprises, from unpredictable weather to course conditions and unexpected niggles to stomach issues.
  5. Pace yourself: While it’s a race, don’t sprint at the start – it’s a marathon, not a 10k.
  6. Start line nerves: Even experienced runners face pre-race nerves. The knot in your stomach and self-doubt are part of the marathon tradition.
  7. Embrace the wall: It’s not a marathon until you hit it – for me, it usually shows up mentally around mile 20, and you’ve got to be prepared to face it head-on.
  8. Mental resilience matters: Running a marathon is like a mental obstacle course. Keep a positive mindset, and remember why you signed up in the first place.
  9. Embrace the pain cave: Marathons are meant to be challenging. Remember, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
  10. The running community is amazing: Don’t isolate yourself with music throughout the race. Engage with fellow runners – we’re all in this together. Practice your “runner’s nod”, it’s the universal mid-race signal for, “I’m suffering, too, but we’ve got this!”
  11. Water station strategy: Avoid the rush for the first water bottle. Everyone aims for this – we are not here for a water fight! Head further down the line and pick up your water there. You’ve less chance of being elbowed in the face! 
  12. Every marathon is a chance to learn: Every race teaches you something new about yourself. Even your toughest run reminds you of your resilience.
  13. Smile you’re on camera: You’ll learn that race photos can be both hilarious and horrifying. But hey, you’ll have some great throwback Thursday material.
  14. You’re stronger than you think: No matter how many marathons you’ve conquered, each finish line is a reminder that you’re capable of more than you ever thought. The joy of seeing the finish line is unparalleled.
  15. “Never again” is a lie: Many marathoners say “never again” but keep coming back for more. Treasure the journey, savour the ups and downs, and keep running.

Most importantly, remember, it’s just 26.2 miles of pure, exhausting fun! Crossing that finish line is a huge achievement, irrespective of your time. So, don’t let anyone convince you that marathons become a breeze with experience. They don’t, and that’s the beauty of them.