Things NOT to say to someone running their first marathon

I’ve got only one week to go before my first marathon – I can’t believe it. I’m finding it hard to think of anything else right now.

Having been in training for the last four months, I have been surprised by some of the strange things people have said to me.  I will add the disclaimer that these comments all have been made by people that are “couch potatoes” who don’t know the pain of training. They also fall in the acquaintance rather than friend category – real friends have been much more supportive! Here are the things they’ve said along with what they would have heard back if they could read my mind…

  • “How long is your race again?” Me: “26.2 miles.” “Oh, you’ll be fine (dismissive wave of hand).”  This is insulting as it ignores all the hard work I have put in,  the pain I have felt at times, the hours and hours of running that I forced myself to finish, the medical stuff I’ve had to figure out along the way, all the things I’ve given up recently to make time for training, need I go on? In fact, it implies a major non-accomplishment, which it’s not. So there.
  • “Oh! I knew you did outdoors type stuff but I didn’t think you did…well…that….” This wasn’t so much about what the person said as the way they looked me up and down with a mix of horror and disbelief. Yep, thanks, I’m clearly more fit than I look but I really didn’t think I looked THAT unlike a marathon runner! Should I just enrol you on that course on tact now?
  • “When is your race again? Can we have our group night out two days beforehand? What about the night afterwards? Why not?”  Boring as it is, I’ve got to watch what I eat especially for the last few days before the race or I actually might not be able to finish it. And the night afterwards? Believe it or not, I’m still going to be feeling a bit rough then. (do you like my use of English understatement there?)
  • “Oh, just have a little chocolate/cake/doughnut – it won’t hurt! No? I’ll just leave it here/save you a piece/bring some more in tomorrow.” Similar to the last point – just respect me when I say I don’t want to eat something! There’s nothing worse for my running than eating junk. So although I still eat it sometimes, it’s what *I’ve* planned to eat at the right times – please don’t throw me off course and ruin my running so you can feel better about the fact that you’re eating junk.
  • “I know the Boston Marathon is 26.2 miles. How long is yours?” I can’t even think of what to say to this now…. let me just clarify, ALL MARATHONS ARE THE SAME LENGTH. That’s why they are measured so carefully and…oh, never mind.

If I’ve scared you and you’re now wondering what you SHOULD say to a first time marathoner, it’s actually pretty simple. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of what they are doing, but just keep in mind that even if they already do lots of running, they are probably doing at least twice their normal training and will be physically tired or sore a lot of the time. They will have learned to do things they don’t want to do a lot of the time – so may not have as much tolerance for other people whining as they used to! They will also be scared about the actual race.

General support is always appreciated, and positive influences not involving food, drink or asking them to do anything else physical will definitely earn you brownie points! And if you get inspired and decide to do one yourself you will have a big supporter to convince you to keep going.

Do you have a hobby that other people don’t “get”?


15 thoughts on “Things NOT to say to someone running their first marathon

  1. A hobby that other people just don’t get?

    Yeah, writing a blog. Most of my friends don’t read mine (which doesn’t bother me in the least). They are always surprised when i tell them how much time I spent on a single entry, but it is something that I enjoy enough to do two of.

    Most people don’t understand why I like to drive (or here in Taiwan, take the train) whenever I go anywhere. Even though it is a lot slower than flying, there is nothing more relaxing to me than a drive across the country.

    The one that people really don’t get is that I like to watch old football games (American). I am a coach (even though I was not “in practice” this year), and there are many times where I see something I didn’t notice before that might help me.

    Running a marathon is a lot more difficult (from what I hear, I have never and probably will never run one) than people make it out to be. It is not just running one mile 26.2 times. At least you know that the people who make those comments don’t have a clue in hell. If it was easy, everybody would do it.

    • Very true about the blogging! How can people not get how fun it is – and that you can write about anything you want no matter how obscure and you will make lots of friends doing it. Crazy. I’m always surprised that my friends don’t read mine, as I am so nosy that I would read anyone’s that I knew out of nosiness if nothing else.

      Driving can be fun. You probably have to think of it as an adventure rather than a chore, which is what your friends are thinking.

      I can understand the old football games. Just because something isn’t “new” doesn’t mean it’s boring or you can’t learn something from it.

      I do find it strange that some people can have NO hobbies. I just think they must not know how to enjoy themselves! They are missing out.

      You’re right, and I’m going to keep reminding myself as I’m struggling along at mile 20 that it SHOULD feel hard and that’s ok!

  2. My dear.. I SO get you on your points there. Before i started up my bodybuilding ( and believe me… I get comments about that, and often very rude ones) I used to run, every day. I’ve never done a Marathon, but that takes ALOT of hard work and dedication. Running is one of the most difficult sports i´ve been into, so much respect for you, and your first Marathon 😉
    I love Bodybuilding and fitness, and people often critize that alot, so i get that point compleatly.

    • I can imagine that being a female bodybuilder must be hard. It’s a shame that so many people live in such a small mindset. They should admire your dedication for following the diet, training and the competitive element that bodybuilding entails. I think your love of fitness is great. I only wish I’d felt the same when I was a kid instead of waiting until I was in my late 20’s to start exercising.

  3. Back in my long-distance cycling days I once did a back-to-back century (100+ miles on two consecutive days.) There are places you you can get with your body and mind that are hard to explain to someone who has never done it. I would imagine a marathon being much tougher than a century- no coasting!

    • That sounds like it could be painful. It amazes me how much of exercise is actually mental. I think that’s what you don’t appreciate when you don’t do it yourself.
      Yeah, unfortunately I haven’t found a way you can cheat at running or I probably would! Sometimes you really wish you could just go faster for a day instead of pretty much knowing exactly what your pace is going to be because it’s as fast as you can go.

  4. Running a marathon is hard. Every time. (I’ve done a few). The training is hard, the focus is intense and the day you run can be harder. I ran Paris for my first one and I was in tears in the last mile, partly from the pain, but mostly because I couldn’t believe I’d done it.

    It is worth every step you take. You’ve done the hard work, now go out there and enjoy every minute. The pain passes, the achievement never does.

    • You’re supposed to tell me that the day is easier. 🙂 I think on the day that I will just be so desperate to have it over and be able to say it’s done that that will get me through it! I’m wondering how I will feel about doing another one afterwards. It almost seems like training for anything shorter would be a step back again, although easier to fit in with the rest of my life. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I’m looking forward to coming back and telling you all that I am a marathoner!

      • After Paris I staggered off to a quiet patch of grass swearing I would never run another. Half an hour later my recovery drink was doing it’s job and I was ready to book the next. I ran it on Exmoor 5 weeks later 🙂

        Being a marathoner will never leave you. Good luck.

      • That’s encouraging! If I can recover that much in half an hour I can put up with the pain! I’m trying not to worry about the 2 mile walk to the start line…

        Thank you, and in a way being a first timer is good as you’ll never have that not-quite-knowing-what-to-expect feeling again. I like the thought of it never leaving you (even if you never do it again).

  5. Talk about stupid comments. It just never ceases to end. What flattered me most was when my brother (who was originally going to run it with me), told me that he thought he would never be able to finish one. And I consider him one of the most athletic people I know. Just goes to show you how mental the marathon is. So, good luck on Sunday! You’ve done all you can do and now you just need to tell yourself that you can finish it (and you’ll love the feeling when you cross the finish line).

    • Thanks very much! I agree, it’s amazing how even the really good runners are still worrying about their pace, and things going wrong… It doesn’t feel real in a way but I’m just thinking back on all the runs I did that were specifically building up to this one. It’s been a long 4 months and when you think the race is only a few hours it can’t be too bad, can it? 🙂

  6. Pingback: Marathon training second time around! | I'd Rather Be In Iceland

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