My Semi-Ridiculous, Uncontrollable Pre-Marathon Emotions

Since late April, I’ve been training for the Hamptons Marathon.

Coach Cane is teaching me how to do the grapevine. Apparently that is both an awesomely relevant step-aerobics move AND a practical marathon training tool.

For a long time, that marathon seemed so far away. I focused my energy each week on my weekday runs and my weekend long run. I never really thought much about the actual marathon. The training was what mattered most immediately, so that’s what I paid the most attention to.

But now, it’s September.

It’s Marathon Month.

Sooo that day's coming up pretty soon, huh?

I can no longer say I “just started training for a marathon” or “I’m running a marathon next month.”

No no.

I’m running my first marathon in three friggin’ weeks.

Does this look like a girl who can run a marathon? Sure.

Needless to say my emotions are kicking into overdrive at this point. Yesterday, during an email exchange with my brother about the night before the marathon, I started crying. For no reason.

I can’t stop picturing the race. I am completely distracted 100 percent of the time because I’m in Marathon Mode.

Do you want to hear more about my inner crazies and the voices inside my head?

OK. Let’s talk about that.

I’m feeling ANXIOUS. September 24 is three weeks away, which at times feels like it’s right around the corner and other times feels like it’s still a far-off date. Part of me wants another full month to train but another, bigger part of me wants to run this thing tomorrow.

I’m feeling NERVOUS. Uh, yeah. Obviously. I think this is the strongest emotion I’m feeling right now. I’m nervous my stomach won’t be in strong shape on race day. I’m nervous I won’t sleep the night before the race. I’m nervous I’ll forget something. I’m nervous I won’t see my friends and family along the race course and then I’ll get sad and frustrated. I’m nervous I won’t be able to stick with my goal pace. I’m nervous about the course. I’m nervous about hills. I’m nervous I’ll get a cramp mid-run. I’m nervous I’m not going to make everyone proud.

I know what you're thinking: That's the sweaty face of a champion right there. I mean, maybe. We'll see. I'll try.

So yeah. I’m kind of nervous.

I’m feeling DISTRACTED. It’s amazing I’m able to get work done during the day. All I really want to be doing is reading other peoples’ marathon recaps from their first 26.2 experiences (send me your links, people!) and I want to talk to anyone who will listen about training.

I’m feeling PREPARED. I feel like people always tell marathoners, “Trust your training” on race day. I need to remember that. I have put in the work. Some of my training runs have been incredible and others haven’t. There was that gloriously pleasant 18-miler in Central Park, after which I felt strong and confident. Then there were all those weekday runs, especially recently, where I’m pretty sure I spent more time darting for bathrooms than monitoring my Garmin.

But at this point, the training is almost done. After tomorrow’s 20-miler, I will begin to taper so that my body is fresh and recovered by race day.

The Fairfield Half Marathon sucked bigtime, but I finished with a smile on my face, so that's cool.

I know I have it in me to bang out 26.2 miles. Trust your training, Ali. Coach Cane has you ready for this.

I’m feeling EXCITED. Obviously, right? I’m going to run a marathon! I read so many running blogs from people who are awesome and have run like 100 marathons. Those people aren’t average. They’re way above that.

I find myself forgetting that running a marathon isn’t an easy, every-day achievement. Most people will not run a marathon in their lifetime. I will, though. And I’m pumped about that. I can’t wait to get to the race, I’m psyched about the pre-run energy and adrenaline and I know I can’t prepare myself for the rush I’ll get when I cross the finish line.

I'm waving to my people. I don't know who "my people" are, but apparently I think I'm F-ing famous or something. Take it down a notch, Ali.

I’m feeling FOCUSED. Last night I took a spinning class. What a waste. I didn’t push very hard anyway, because I wanted my legs to start recovering before tomorrow’s run.

I can't run in this room!

I basically sat on the bike the whole time thinking about running. I only want to run. I think that’s what Coach Cane wanted me to say from Day 1. I’m just getting around to the realization now that running > other things that aren’t running.

I’m feeling SAD. I have absolutely loved training for this race. Everyone I talked to beforehand — who had been there — was like, “Marathon training takes over your life” and blah blah…shut up. Marathon training is cool. I never minded staying in on a Friday night. I rarely minded waking up at the ass-crack of dawn on a Saturday. I certainly never minded stuffing my face with every carbohydrate I could find.

I’ve learned so much throughout the training progress. I’ve done things I never thought I was capable of. Things, in fact, that my doctor told me I wasn’t capable of. Well suck it, doctor, because I’m going to prove you so wrong. And then I’ll march in and pay that $40 co-pay just to let you see my medal.

But yeah, I’m sad. I like marathon training a lot. I hope Coach Cane wants to be my friend after the race.

I’m feeling HUMBLED. Running the Hamptons Marathon has never just been about completing the race. Since getting selected as a Run For The Rabbit participant, it’s also been a fundraising competition.

Yay Team Ali! Yay Sweat!

I’m raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America because Crohn’s disease is a whore that needs to be exterminated. Basically. That’s the short version. And the classy one.

After a hugely successful fundraising event at JackRabbit Sports, plus a current giveaway and lots of other initiatives still in the works, I’m feeling so gracious. The support that my friends, family and total strangers have shown me is mind-blowing. Fundraising over the past four months has truly restored my faith in humanity. (I lost it that time a total stranger on the subway asked me if I was wearing underwear. I freaked out on him. And then faith in humanity = lost. Sorry Mom, for sharing that story. NYC is totally safe though.)

I will be raising money for CCFA right up until race day. I want to win this competition. There are prizes for the winners, and rumor has it the prizes include a trip to Napa Valley and a trip to Hawaii. I would like that very much…

I’m feeling PROUD. Regardless of what happens on race day, I’m proud that I was chosen out of 350 applicants for Run For The Rabbit. I’m proud of the effort I’ve put forth and I’m proud of my unwavering dedication to my cause and to my training.

Happy Rabbits

The next few weeks are going to be a little crazy, I predict. I’ll probably cry a lot in anticipation, because I’m a basket case. I’ve already issued a pre-apology to my very patient, very kind, very understanding boyfriend. “Don’t judge me!” I basically begged.

He mostly looked a little nervous and said, “Thanks for warning me.” I also politely asked him to keep dating me, and he offered up a smile. I’ll take it. I’ll also take a kiss at the finish line, thank you.

In non-running (so, non-important) news, my mom raised with that silly rule that you can only wear white between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Damn her. I hate that rule but can’t bring myself to break it. So I plan on wearing a lot of white between now and Monday.

White pants. I love them.

Now back to thinking about running…

MAKE ME FEEL BETTER: Share with me your running crazies. That will help.



0 Responses

  1. You’ll be great, Ali! I am running my first half ever this Sunday. And have been freaking out. I keep on changing my goal pace to something really slow, then changing it back to what I had originally planned. In between, especially after big meals, I’ve even considered running faster than my planned pace. Let’s hope I can stick to my correct pace.

    By the way, love the pants!

  2. Allow me to help ease your nervousness..

    It is very likely that you will not sleep the night before – don’t worry, no one does! You may forget something, but it won’t be anything you needed anyway. As for the rest of it.. your stomach WILL BE strong, you WILL see your friends and family, you will ROCK the hills and stay right on pace! You WILL make everyone proud!

    I have been following your journey for about a month or two now and cannot wait to read your race recap! I will be donating shortly and want in on that necklace raffle!! Although, I was planning on donating either way 🙂 Also, I will still grab an I <3 Sweat t-shirt once they are online too. I hope you win the fundraiser and get to go to Napa! (I have been a few times and I <3 Wine just like I <3 Sweat) Hey, maybe you should make an I <3 Wine tshirt as a epilogue to I <3 Sweat!!?

    I am running a marathon the day after yours – it is #13 for me, but my 1st at altitude (Tahoe) so there is a new sense of nervousness for me right now too. My latest dream included me running the race while breathing through a snorkel – ha!

    Good luck to you, Ali! You have certainly put in the work in both training and fundraising, and no matter what happens on race day it will be one of the best days in your entire life! Something tells me you will definitely sign up for another marathon after this one….

  3. i have a draft in my gmail, that has never been sent to anyone, where i wrote a list of everything I was scared of before my first ultra. it’s long. and every time i open it, it still makes me nervous. but, something about writing it down totally helped. you’re definitely not alone. we’re all in this together. 🙂

    also, no one sleeps the night before a marathon. unless you’re a freak of nature. but, all the adrenaline will be there that you won’t even be able to tell.

  4. Your feelings are totally normal! My crazy is that I always doubt my training. I focus on what I didn’t do instead of what I did do. I think the best way to get over it is to look back at your training and take in how much you’ve accomplished.

  5. So this whole “I’m gonna run a 10K” thing is already hurting. I realized yesterday that I AM NOT GOOD at running outside. I’m good on a treadmill but my pace is all over the place when I run outside with no moving belt under my feet. I need to spend more time running outside. Also – 6 miles to me is daunting but I’ll get through it. Just like you will rock the 26.2 because you know you can do it and we all know you can do it and you have friends all over the country who are rooting for your success. And if anything, you know you have AT LEAST 1 huge fan in Boston =)

    xo Marie
    Chocolate & Wine

  6. and to echo what somebody above said – it’s actually TWO nights before the race where the sleep is most important. NOBODY sleeps well the night before a race, so don’t worry if you don’t. Just sleep well the night of the 22nd!

  7. You are so fantastically awesome! I just found your blog a few weeks ago via Runner’s Kitchen and I am so addicted and really, really rooting for you. I’ve run 13 marathons and have been so nervous before each (it’s a “healthy respect for the distance” and what you’re asking your body to do for you – which is exactly as it should be!) You only get to run your first marathon once – you have trained hard, respected your body, not taken it too seriously, and you’re going to have an amazing experience. Even if it hurts during the race – and at some point, it may suck – I bet within 2 to 24 hours you’ll be making plans for your next one. You are going to kill it!

  8. i am planing to wear white jeans on tuesday out of spite. 🙂 but then, i live to break fashion rules.

    i have no running crazies to share; i’m just grateful to be running a few miles a week without any pain! but i think your wild range of emotions is par for the course for such an all-consuming event (maybe this is good prep for when you have to plan your wedding when the time comes…). you’ve got a lot of people ready to cheer for you in 3 weeks – i think now is the time to feel pride for all the hard work you’ve done and just enjoy the ride!

  9. I think you are going to do great. Your attitude about it is amazing, and you know what even if you don’t who cares, this journey has to have been worth it either way right? I was reffered to your blog about month an a half ago from a friend I was in Europe w/ bc I too have Crohn’s. Since then I’ve been keeping my tabs on your site and I think its really great. It’s inspired me to start getting in shape myself! I started with a personal trainer 3 weeks ago and I love it. Positive thoughts, and have a great holiday weekend.

  10. I love this 🙂 You are feeling everything you should be before your first marathon!! Cherish this time and all of the emotions you’re feeling, because you can never duplicate your first marathon experience EVER! I’m so excited for you already. And I will feed you chocolate chip zucchini bread anytime.

    Here’s a link to my NYC Marathon recap from last year – I love that I have it and can relive such an amazing experience!

  11. Three weeks??? ahhhh freaking out. I’m getting more nervous as it gets closer and closer.
    Have a wonderful long weekend! I hope I get to see you soon.

  12. I felt all of these very feelings during my first half marathon last year. And YOU are doing a full. We are ALL going to be so proud of you!! Race training this summer was fun for me too, I really enjoyed the early summer mornings to beat the heat. something about it, ya know?

  13. I’m about 1 week out from my marathon (1 week!!!!!!) and I feel all of those same emotions too. This is my 9th marathon and I would love to say it gets easier but it doesn’t. In fact, I think it gets harder because you put more pressure on yourself. But the biggest thing (as you said above) is trusting and believing in your training plan. You have done all the hard work, and now it’s time to have fun and really show ’em what you got (sounds corny, I know)!

  14. Loved this post, Ali. Even though I am not running a marathon, I have been reading lots of first time recaps as well lately (for what.. I do not know)… but they get me all emotional and I am not even going to be doing one.. so I can only imagine how they are tugging at your emotions!

  15. I have the same nerves going on right now too! I’m running Chicago in October and I have one more 20 mile run before I start tapering. It blows my mind at how far I’m able to run and how much I’ve loved marathon training. You are going to rock your Hamptons race. You’ve worked hard for it!

  16. Sometimes I feel like you and me have the same brain! I can relate with absolutely EVERYTHING in the post (even the white pants rule!) You already read my recap, but I can assure you that just your excitement for the marathon will carry you to that finish line!!! I’m excited that in three more weeks I’ll get to read your recap!!! Aah!

  17. Marathon training has made me permanently emotional, even when I’m not training! So I totally understand where you’re coming from. During my own races, I cry at the start and the finish. Every.Single.Time. Even if it’s a 5k. I also cry when I see other people racing even when I’m not.

    You’re going to kick this marathon’s a$$! Don’t be nervous. It’s just running, you do it almost every day! Don’t worry about your time or your pace, just enjoy every single step of that 26.2 miles. You’ll never have another first marathon!

  18. You are going to ROCK the marathon. I’m so excited for you! Crossing the finish line is an amazing feeling, and so worth the training! I’m currently in a bit of a running rut and am eying a series of FUN races through the winter/spring to reignite the spark!

  19. I fall asleep at night thinking about running to the finish line of my first marathon (I’m running Marine Corps this October). Most of the time I cry when I think about it…the finish line is uphill to the Iwo Jima memorial. Also, I’ve cried during almost every race I’ve ever run because I can’t believe I’m actually running and I’m so thankful I have something so special in my life. And if you ask my sorority sisters, pretty much anything makes me cry (I probably have hormone levels that rival those of a pregnant woman lol).

  20. Yep, I can totally identify with all of this. You’re not alone! Especially the nervousness – I was so nervous leading up to my first marathon, obsessing about all the variables. And I was also obsessed with thinking about it all the time and reading race recaps everywhere. My recap of my first (and only) marathon is here:

    Good luck! All of what you are feeling is totally normal an part of the whole experience.

  21. Hey Ali!
    I think your emotions are normal. 🙂 I was a hot mess for two weeks before my first marathon. But you have been doing so well, you are passionate about running, and most importantly you have trained your butt off for this. All you can really do is trust your training. The feeling of crossing the finish line is amazing. I’m so excited for you!
    Definitely get sleep 2 nights before the race. Pre race, it’s hard to fall and stay asleep.
    Here is the link to my first marathon recap It’s a little silly but fun 🙂

  22. I was the same way when I ran my first 1/2 marathon. I mean seriously – these are LONG distances! I remember asking my training buddies one early, chilly Saturday morning, “WHY are we doing this?!” I still can’t answer that but I think it has something to do with being a lil’ crazy and kinda loving running (weird). You are going to do GREAT! As someone who also runs with a chronic illness, you have been such an inspiration to me! Thanks for posting about all aspects of your training. And I can’t wait to buy an “I love sweat” shirt! I’ll rock it over here in Michigan 🙂

  23. Hell, I get emotional thinking about your race and it’s YOUR race not mine!! You are going to do something so very amazing in three weeks – I love the range of emotions you’re feeling, even though it must feel like a rollercoaster, try to enjoy the next three weeks – this is YOUR TIME TO SHINE, take it all in my friend, sear it into your memory!

  24. As many others have said before – what you’re feeling is totally normal! Before each of my marathons I had nightmares for weeks (about missing the start, getting injured), I was hyper aware of every sniffle, ache, and pain, and reading running stories and blogs made me both excited and scared out of my mind. You are going to run this marathon in 3 weeks and you’re going to be awesome!

    And then you’ll start thinking/planning/training for the next one. You’ve got the bug!

  25. I am currently training for my first marathon too and I can totally relate to the need to read other blogger’s marathon recaps. I’m obsessed. It’s a huge problem. I don’t know how I get any work done during the day and I can only imagine it will get much worse once November rolls around. Best of luck this month….you will rock that marathon!

  26. I cannot wait to hear your marathon experience! I predict you will do amazing! I have really enjoyed following your training- you are so motivational!! Following your training inspired me to sign up for my second marathon (first marathon recap: )! Good luck with your second 20 miler! You’ll rock it girl!

    1. Also–I was more emotional during the race. When I saw the finish line and my mom standing near there taking pictures, I burst into tears! Ahhh! I’m so excited for you to experience all of that! 🙂 🙂

  27. Everything you’re feeling right now is totally normal. Completely normal. I think I felt every single one of those emotions at some point (but most often, all together) last year as I prepared for my first marathon. I think it’s a good thing to be getting so emotional, honestly, because it means you care. Running this marathon is a huge priority in your life right now, and you’ve invested so much time and sweat(!!!) into your training, it’s natural for it to be a bit all-consuming of your emotions! It’s a major life milestone to train for AND complete a marathon. All the more energy directed at Sept. 24th to rock it!

    I remember going on a shakeout run the week of the marathon and running by them setting up the finish line near Tavern on the Green. I actually had to stop running to contain my emotions, because I started crying and getting ridiculous butterflies just upon the sight of it. I felt excited, sad, nervous, anxious, stressed, relieved and exhausted all at one! Ah! And go read my recap (and posts leading up to the race) if you haven’t already to get a feel for what it’s like for your first time.

  28. I love that you just put it all out there and tell us exactly how you’re feeling…it makes marathon training REAL…and it helps prepare me for the turmoil I’m going to experience in a few months haha. And I love your calendar….especially because you’re going to the FITNESS MB&S games the weekend before the race! See you there!

  29. I wish I could pull off white. People who can and don’t spill on themselves really impress me!
    So having never run a marathon or anything close to a big deal as that,I’ve never had the pre marathon emotions. But I still have random running related paranoia. you don’t have to worry about my crazies (neither are relevant), but I’ll entertain you- welcome to my madness:
    -“I’m going to finish last! They’ll shut down the race or take down the signs as I run!” Pretty sure I spent half of my first 10k race looking over my shoulder to ensure that there were actually people behind me and signs were still in tact. Yes, I’m slow, and yes finishing dead last scares me.
    -“I’m not hard core enough to use this gear, or run with this gadget. Technology, outfits and accessories don’t by skill. Don”t pretend to be something you’re not” I’m pretty sure any store will disagree with this because they lose a sale if they don’t, but I always think about it when gear/clothes shopping or heading out. “What’s that slow girl doing with that?!what does she need it for?!

    But, enjoy! Breathe! Relax! Watch happy/silly youtube videos , listen to happy music. You’ll rock it!

  30. You know, some of the best insight I got before NYCM last year was that it’s the “night before the night before” that counts most, sleep-wise. I was glad I got 10 hours that night because I got less than four on Marathon Eve!

  31. You are going to do awesome! The nerves will be there until the minute you start running and then you will ask yourself, “Is this actually happening?!” It so wierd when you train for something for so long and then the day is actually there and you really can’t believe it. But it only takes about a mile and all of a sudden you are loving it and you know that all the hard work was worth it! And then after…for me at least…I am excited about my accomplishment for a day or so, but then some wierd post-race depression kicks in and I don’t know what to do with myself! Like there is so much build-up, then it happens and its awesome, and its over and I always wonder, now what?! And that usually leads to signing up for more races 😉

  32. You are going to ROCK it Ali!!! I’ve never run a marathon, but I know how I feel in prep for a long run or a 1/2 marathon – the nerves turn me into a crazy lady. I’ll be able to share my obsessive story with you after my first 26.2 next spring. I’m already obsessing over it and its 9 months away!

    Your bfriend, family & friends will be there with a big kiss and smile for you at the finish line. KICK IT IN THE A**!!! And definitely tell the Dr. to shove it. The power of the human mind and will is greater than any nonsense a Dr. will tell you.

  33. Darn, I forgot about wearing white today. Well, that’s okay, I always spill on white anyway!

    It’s been such a pleasure to read about your journey throughout marathon training. Since I can’t really run very much right now, I’ve kind of stopped reading running blogs as much (too much of a reminder of what I’m missing). But yours makes me feel nostalgic and motivates me to do all I can to improve my injury so I can experience all of the things you talk about.

    I can relate a lot to the one about being nervous something will go wrong…although I’ve never had severe stomach problems, I did have a bout with them in my first marathon. It was nothing like Crohn’s, but there were times it was pretty bad. Anyway, the point is, I swear your body knows when it’s time to turn it up a notch and that’s how it was for me. Everything just went smoothly. I just know it will be the same for you 🙂

  34. hmmm, food cravings/appetite + crazy emotions……..I think I know what your doctor’s diagnosis would be……(hint: it wouldn’t involve nerves or race anxiety)

  35. I always get a little sad, too, when a big race comes up I’ve been training for because I’m like “oh this has been so fun!” I agree with you, marathon training does not take over your life unless you let it!

    Also, I’ve never slept well the night before the marathon and I still feel like I’m in a dream when I’m going to the start. So, no need to worry if you don’t sleep well. You will ROCK IT regardless! You’ve put in all the work and had a great attitude throughout – the race is the reward for all of that. Its your prize for all those am runs, bathroom stops, etc. Its an opportunity to show what you’ve been working for all those months.

  36. I’m training for my first 26.2 also and feeling the same way! Constantly googling previous MCM race recaps and reading first marathon stories. While I’m freaked out and nauseous, I’m also pumped because you’re right – not everyone can say they ran a a marathon!

    I’m so excited to follow you through this last month of training and hear about how you kicked the Hamptons Marathon’s ass – because YOU WILL!

  37. When I was about to run my first half marathon I actually secretly hope something would happen that morning (like my car would break down en route to the race or something) because I was SO nervous… it was a totally lame wish though because I got there, had an AMAZING time, and took away such fun memories of my first 1/2 marathon.

    You are going to feel so great when you cross that finish line.. you have many people cheering for you!!

  38. i have white pants on today too!!!!!

    the way you are feeling is absolutely normal. you will have crazy f$cked up dreams between now and marathon day – weird things like being naked and having to swim to the starting line. it’s all normal. enjoy these last few weeks and…definitely TRUST your training. you are ready!

  39. You should totally wear white after Labor Day, too. Try it. I have a feeling you’ll feel a little bit dangeous and LOVE IT. 😉

    You’re going to rock the Hamptons Marathon, and you’ll have an incredibly fun time doing it, too.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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