last 6.2 miles of a marathon

The last 6.2 marathon miles

It’s been an incredible journey for me from 5k to my first marathon. From battling injuries to training in the rain, I don’t think I’ve ever taken on anything so demanding (mentally and physically), but also so rewarding. And I say that, four days after the Brighton Marathon 2019, legs feeling on fire, but with an overwhelming sense of pride.

I am a marathon runner, and that can never be taken away from me. In upcoming posts, I’ll blog about the overall experience and what I’ve learnt, but for this one, I want to talk about the last 6.2 miles.

These miles are the most brutal miles I’ve ever faced. It’s where marathon runners really earn their medal. It’s why the marathon is so special. It’s why a marathon is 26.2 miles, not 20 miles.

The last 6.2 miles of a marathon

From mile 20 onwards, the battle becomes both physical and mental. It’s almost surreal. Why? Because those miles are specifically designed to break you. Your body. Your morale. Your resolve.

If you’ve done the training, you’ll be able to do the first 20 miles. These miles are when you can soak in the atmosphere, get into a rhythm, look around and enjoy yourself.

Every step beyond that point is simply painful. Because the toughest miles are those when the finish line is just out of sight. In my case, at mile 20 we were running away from the finish line.

But the reminder of the reward is what gets you through. Whether that is doing something special for charity, the personal achievement of finishing a marathon or something else.

After the Brighton Marathon, my cousin James (who served as my trainer) told me a Ray Lewis quote which put it nicely:

There’s another side of pain that’s called effort, it’s called glory, it’s called if you can find a way to push through pain there’s something greater on the other side of it…

Ray Lewis

It really stuck with me. Nothing that rewarding is easy. And while for moments I genuinely had every bad thought you can possibly imagine, I will look back on that moment as one of the best experiences of my life.

Looking around and seeing hundreds of fellow runners going through the same emotions and pain helps. You really feel a team spirit, that we are all in this together – on mile 22 I saw the magic of a marathon when a fellow runner stopped to help a charity runner who was suffering from painful cramp.

I can’t really put into words how difficult those last 6.2 miles were for me, but I did it and I feel incredibly proud of doing it. I’m left with an overwhelming sense of achievement.

Approaching the end

Conquering endurance sports

Conquering endurance sports is mainly in the mind.

I’ve completed a lot of endurance events in the last ten years or so, from 24-hour cycle challenges to the three peaks challenge. Every single time there is a common theme – a battle in my mind.

It’s not about power and it’s not about speed. It’s about the ability to actually ‘endure’. This ability involves your resolve, willpower and desire. It’s not about how physically strong you are, it’s about ‘will you carry on when your strength has left you?’

The marathon truly begins at mile 20. It’s what makes it special. In those moments, when quitting seems like a very reasonable option, you know when you get through to the other side, it will be worth it.

This mindset applies to everything. You’ll always have doubts, you’ll always be tempted to give up. It’s when you don’t that you achieve the things you want to. Remember, real endurance begins at the end of the race. But it makes crossing the finish line the best feeling ever.

Defeating the marathon

The London Marathon social channel put out a post at the weekend and I thought it really resonated with how I felt, so here it is:

It’s exactly what was going through my mind before the start of the race. I was extremely nervous. I felt I hadn’t done enough training. But I can assure you, the body can do phenomenal things, and you can do this. The reward is worth the pain.

I want to finish with a big thank you to our supporters on the day, my fellow runners James, Nick and Jonny, and everyone who donated to our fundraising page (for Prostate Cancer UK).

Chris, James and Nick – Three exhausted but happy finishers

The big question now is, what next?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what other challenges I should take a look at – let us know on our social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) or send us an email!

Chris Smith
Founder of Vivi Nation, sports enthusiast, occasional triathlete, keen cyclist and optimistic Liverpool FC fan.

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