Pretzels Are Magic, And Other Marathon Training Insights

This is week 10 of marathon training. We’re officially registered to run on July 21st and it’s getting real.

During last Saturday’s 16-miler, I had an epiphany.

This sucks.

Like, really, really sucks.

I came home after two hours and 44 minutes of running and couldn’t decide if I needed to puke or pass out. Maybe both. Jared, considerably more functional than I was, brought me water and an assortment of food. A granola bar, a pear, a bag of pretzels. Everything sounded revolting, the way I imagine it might if you’re pregnant.

Korean race
Back in the good old days of Korea and 6km races.

The granola bar remained unopened and I nibbled at the pear. When I got to the pretzels I felt like Goldilocks, relieved to find that they were just right. The combination of crunch and salt was a winner, and I felt human enough to get in the shower.

And as I sat on the floor of the shower because standing up was too challenging, I had some time to think about what I’d just done to myself.

“That was a serious reality check,” Jared had said when we limped back to the house. “It’s going to get really tough from here.”

It was and it is. Completing that run was like charging headlong into a brick wall while somebody dances on your toes. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t rewarding. It was foreboding.

If that’s what sixteen miles feels like, how in the hell are we going to survive ten more?

But on the floor of the shower, water streaming relentlessly onto my head, I was mainly focusing on surviving that moment. Of getting to the point when I could stand up and wash my hair. Get dressed and walk like I hadn’t been bashed in the knees. Function like a normal person.

But I learned a twofold lesson from Saturday’s epiphany:

1) Never underestimate the full distance of a marathon.

2) Never underestimate your abilities.

Once upon a time I wrongly assumed that I was capable of running a marathon without an adequate training plan. The half-marathon last September turned that notion on its head, and I am approaching my first marathon slowly and methodically.


I wrongly assumed that it ‘wouldn’t be that bad.’ Each week we ran a little farther, and it happened so gradually that I felt pretty capable. We’d build up so gradually that maybe I wouldn’t even notice.

I noticed, all right.

But I also noticed something else: that if I didn’t give myself the option to quit, I succeeded. And that was kind of incredible, the knowledge that if you put your mind in charge, you can make your body do a whole lot of things it doesn’t want to do.

So this weekend, one mile at a time, I’ll do it again. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be record-breaking.

But I’ll do it. And this time, I’m bringing the pretzels with me.


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  1. This is how I felt during the 545 mile bike ride I did, that I didn’t train enough for. Just so much pain. Not fun. Not rewarding. Just agony. I’m still thankful its over and I never have to do it again.

    So…good luck on the marathon!

    1. That was super-reassuring. Next time I need boosting, I’ll come to you.

      The good thing is that I actually am training properly this time, so I can only hope that I will survive.

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