Race Prep: Do You Know the 7 Stages of a Marathon?

Menschen laufen einen Marathon

Running is a human instinct. “Birds fly, fish swim, and humans run,” said Czech long-distance runner and olympic champion, Emil Zatopek. Whether we’re made for running more than 42 kilometers straight is a question that pops up between kilometers 15 and 21 at the latest 😉

7 Phases To Be Mentally Prepared For Running A Marathon

We all have our individual training techniques, yet we all feel similar as soon as we’ve stepped over the start line. When you plan on running a marathon, you better prepare – both physically and mentally – for these seven phases:

1. High (km 0 – 5)

The starting pistol is fired, the adrenaline is skyrocketing. After the seemingly endless prep time, you not only want to run off, but to give it your ALL. Every meter feels like a victory and smells like freedom. You’re experiencing a high. Other runners are sprinting past you, but you should go slowly. Pace yourself. Be patient. Don’t burn yourself out on the first few kilometers. If your plan is to run an entire marathon in under or up to 4 hours, you should run at 75 to 80% of your max. heart rate.

2. Suppression (km 5 – 15)

You’re feeling fit and great while suppressing the thought of what’s still in front of you. You don’t think about the effort you’re still facing. Many runners automatically pick up their pace here – yet this is fatal. Remember you’ll need to tap into your energy reserves later on!

3. A twinge of panic (km 15 – 21)

You keep glancing at your reliable partner, the GPS watch, on a regular basis. Even if you’ve slowed down a bit, don’t panic! This section is decisive – you’ll notice whether you have enough energy left for the second half of the marathon or if you’ve already used up all your reserves. Keep calm, you still have time to make up time.

4. Disillusion (km 21 – 30)

Now, the marathon starts messing with our heads. Despite all the other runners by your side, you feel alone. You start wondering why you actually signed up for this run, why you thought you’d be able to do this. You can’t stop thinking about what’s left of the race. Focus on running instead! Take one step after another and start fueling your body with power gels or bananas.

5. Rock bottom (km 30 – 35)

Why?!, you think. Why am I doing this? Your first low-point. It’s around km 30 when most runners hit rock bottom. There’s still a significant distance to cover, yet your batteries are running low. Listen to your body and take walking breaks, if necessary. Try to keep your motivation up by thinking about the finish line, your friends waiting for you, the cheers and the joy. Remember: One step at a time. This phase really shows who has mentally prepared to run a marathon.

6. Silver lining (km 35 – 42)

The finish line comes within grasp and positive thinking has helped push through the lower points. If you still have the resources, step it up a notch. Your body is already overheated and your muscles will start hardening. Take small sips of isotonic drinks for a last kick of energy.

7. Change (finish line)

You did it! The last few kilometers are a mix of extreme fatigue, joy, exhaustion, pushing through and motivation. When they hang the medal around your neck, you’ll think: “I’ll never do this again. Ever.” Take a few deep breaths, wrap yourself in a coat, fill up with electrolyte drinks and shake and stretch your feet. As soon as your sore muscles feel normal again – usually after a couple days – you might find yourself thinking about the next marathon again. And about how much you want to improve your time.

Have you experienced the 7 phases, too? Do you have a different story to tell? Share your thoughts in the comments!


adidas Runtastic Team Are you looking to lose some weight, get more active, or improve your sleep? The adidas Runtastic Team gives you useful tips and inspiration to reach your personal goals. View all posts by adidas Runtastic Team