DALLAS — Despite having run 15 marathons, four 50Ks and countless half-marathons, Blanca Gonzales still harbors a fear of mile 17. She traces it back to her fourth 26.2-mile race, Austin, Texas, in 2004.
I followed my training, didn't miss a run, says Gonzales, 48, who lives in Arlington, Texas. I carbo-loaded, hydrated, and on race morning at mile 17, I felt like someone took every bit of energy from me.
Some fears, such as weather, are not in anyone's control. Others, such as Gonzales', can often be dealt with fairly simply. We asked Keri Wilson, a six-time marathoner and a training coach at Luke's Locker, for some solutions.
Hitting the wall. Wilson acknowledges that 18 miles (around the time many runners bonk) is a long way to run, plus there's still another eight to go. That, she says, is enough to play mind tricks on anyone.
She suggests eating a snack if an energy gel isn't working. Or do some math, sing a song, play a game in your mind.
Getting injured midrace.
Heaven forbid you face-plant at mile 4, says Wilson, which she saw while running the Philadelphia marathon, or something pops at mile 20, or your bad knee becomes a searing knife pain at mile 13, she says. You have to know your body and determine if this is a niggle or real pain.
The more hours you're running a race, the more the pain seems to move around, she says. Take inventory of your body and see if the pain is temporary. If it continues, whether because of chafing or a blister or a persistent side stitch, stop at the med tent.
Not being properly fueled.
This goes back to your training, I know I can do gel and fluids consistently until around mile 22, and then I need real food.
What's her fuel of choice? A handful or two of Teddy Grahams.
Falling short of your time goal.
Wilson didn't hit her time goal in Philadelphia, but she had a great time, she says.
Go into this with the right mind-set, she says. Running a marathon isn't easy, or everyone would do it. It's just another day, and it's a great day because you can run a marathon!