August 21, 2008

Surviving the sucky middle miles

Today’s Runners’ Lounge Take It And Run Thursday topic is about the middle mile miles. In a marathon, miles 13-20 pretty much suck. You’re over the halfway point, but not yet far enough along where the end is in sight. You all know I don’t train, so I’m going to talk about the middle miles of the actual race.

In the race, the middle miles start at the point where all those people not quite as hardcore as you have turned off the full marathon course and finished their half-marathon… but you have to do it all over again. You wonder why you signed on for this, and you consider turning off with them. Hey, none of your non-running friends know the difference between a full and a half-marathon anyway (“Hey Laura… I decided I’m going to train for a marathon too, but just a three mile one!”), and you can always do a half-cough as you say you finished the half-marathon. If you’re on a loop course or an out-and-back, it’s even worse. You literally have to do it all over again. That sucks.

How do you get through this slump? How do you keep going? Here are my tips:

1. Choose a course where there’s something fun in the middle. I still haven’t run an out-and-back course or a loop course for a marathon, and I’m sure I will eventually, but I’m trying to avoid it. The United States is 379 million square miles, and I want to see as much as I can – I don’t want to run the same ground twice!

2. While Tom advises stashing all your electronic/competitive gear, I say just the opposite. Pull that stuff out, and remind yourself that these are the miles where it’s easy to lose or make up time. The elites like to say the race doesn’t begin until mile 20, but let’s face it, if you get to mile 20 and you’re even 5 minutes behind, that’s a pretty blistering pace you’re going to need to run in order to make up for it. The middle miles are the easiest in which to lose focus, so try to stay on top of things.

3. Speaking of electronic gear, if you run with an iPod, now is a great time to throw in some of your favorite songs that you listened to in training. Don’t put in your heavy hitters yet – save your most inspirational “power songs” for the last 6 miles – but put in some music that you feel comfortable with, that allows you to forget where you are, zone out, and enjoy the race. This may seem contrary to my advice in number 2, but the best is if you can find a balance between chugging along not thinking about what mile you’re at, yet still keep up your goal pace.

4. You all know I run for ice cream. If you run for food too, make the middle miles where your favorite energy stuff comes in. My fueling strategy for a marathon is to have about 100 calories each at miles 5, 10, 15, and 20 – that means that two of those fall in the middle miles. If you do like I do and carry different fuel and not all the same thing, make the middle mile fuel your favorite. For my race on Saturday, I’m trying Sharkies for the first time (I’m bringing an extra set of my standard Sports Beans in case I hate the Sharkies though), and I’m planning to have them at mile 15. Woo, mile 15!

5. When all else fails, remind yourself that you’re better than those “wimpy half-marathoners.” If that doesn’t work, look at the people around you and start a rousing game of “Hell No, You Should Not Be In Front Of Me!” Okay, it’s mean, but take it from Jen Lancaster – sometimes a little dose of superiority can help you get through a tough situation. (I’m halfway through Bitter Is The New Black and absolutely LOVING it!)

Just remember that you’re in this race for a reason – you trained, and now it’s the ultimate day. If you give up, you’ll regret your slow finish forever – you can do it! Just keep swimming… 🙂

This post was written as a part of Runners’ Lounge’s Take It And Run Thursday, in which runners from all across the running blogging community come together to post about a single topic. This week’s theme was Don’t Quit Now! The Middle Miles.


12 thoughts on “Surviving the sucky middle miles”

  1. I agree, middle miles are a suckaroo fest. I am usually thinking:

    a. Why did I sign up for this and I will NEVER run one of these again
    b. I can’t wait to see mile 26 and all the free water and food I want
    c. How in the hell is she running faster than me?

  2. And I finished Bitter is the New Black at the beginning of the summer. Ridiculous, but hilarious. I love trashy summer reads. Currently I’m reading “How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls.”

  3. I love when people say they’re running a marathon, but they really just mean 3 miles. I have never run a marathon and don’t plan to, but when I tell people that I’ve done 5ks and 10ks, somehow they’re like “Mindy is a marathon runner”. I’m like “NO! the real marathoners will hate me – stop saying that!!!”

    Anyway, want a yummy vegan cake recipe? Rhubarb coffee cake:

    I just made that last night and it is worth running for, let me tell you.

  4. Great tips!
    I got one of my friends to run a couple 5ks this spring, and I noticed her away message would be “running a marathon!”…she had no idea. 🙂

  5. Oh girl! How am I ever going to get back in marathon shape when I am managing to run 3-4 miles a few times a week. HORRIBLE! Hopefully I can make it happen..but P90X is ruining me as far as running marathons goes.

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