9 phases in running a full marathon

Strange as it may sound - every time I run a full marathon, my mind goes through the same exact process with nine (9) phases.

Be it my first marathon, personal best marathon, or person worst marathon, it's exactly the same old same old process.

Start line


I usually have mixed feeling standing at start line of a full marathon race before flag-off. 

I feel excited that I am going to run another full marathon, with a possibility of achieving personal record / personal best time.

I am curious what the next four to five hours will be like as anything can happen in a forty-two-kilometer marathon journey.

At the same time, I feel anxious whether I can complete the race. 

And even if I can, I am worried whether I will have leg cramps or injury.

Five kilometers (5 km)


It's always a struggle for me during the first five kilometers (5 km) of running. With the runners all starting at once, I have challenges finding my pace and speed as I zig zag among runners to find my right footing.

Sometimes I end up running much faster than I should.

Sometimes I end up running much slower than I should.

As I try to shake off my sleepiness while my body is warming up to running, I also start to feel the muscle exertion.

Then I start to get thirsty. I start to sweat. The usually hot and humid weather doesn't help much either.

After running about five kilometers, I feel regret for even joining the full marathon. 

"Oh no - still a long way to go!"

"Oh no - why I even signed up and started at first place?"

I remember once during Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2014, I saw an ambulance passing by. The thought of pretending to be injured so that I could sit in the ambulance and forget about the rest of the run came across my mind. I so desperately wanted to wave my hands at the ambulance. I so desperately wanted to stop running, go home and sleep. I wanted to forget I even came for the marathon.

Yes. Regret. Regret. Regret. What do I get myself into?

Ten kilometers (10 km)


Once I overcome the struggle and mental torture in early stage, my body will find the "zone" where my breathing is stable, pace is more consistent and body is totally warmed up striding forward confidently.

In a car driving world, I guess this is called, "cruise control mode".

This is the time when water, isonotic drinks as well power gel help to replenish my energy to fully charged.

Twenty-one kilometers (21 km)


I would say I enjoy the distance from ten to twenty-one kilometers the most. I would have gotten at least two times of energy replenishment. And my body is in cruise control mode - with my mind strongly controlling movement of my feet.

By the time I reach twenty-one kilometers (21 km), I am at the high of the adrenaline high. 😉

I feel confident, energized, and positive. 

I feel that my body and legs are under my control.

And I think I'm on top of the world and I can run a good time with the possibility of achieving personal record.

Twenty-five kilometers (25 km)


Oh no, what happens to my body? 

Why is it that my legs are not listening to my command anymore and slowing down significantly?

Why is it that I feel super tired now?

Why I feel like a car tyre with a small punctured hole and air is leaking out slowlng??

No matter how much I consume banana, drinks or power gels, my energy is still depleting.

Thirty kilometers (30 km) 


Everything falls apart after thirty kilometers of non-stop running.

My body bonks. It stalls.

Seemingly, there is an invisible wall as tall as the sky blocking right in front. 

And I just run straight to it and hit myself on the wall.

Body function breaks down. 

Legs refuse to move.

Here is where I can become psycho a bit. I will focus on my mental wellness trying to psyche myself up switching from negative to positive thoughts.

Hello - I still have twelve kilometers (12 km) to go. Keep moving!

Thirty-five kilometers (35 km)

7. PRAY AND $%@#$%%@%&*# 

Well, I actually pray a lot during my full marathon race. From the beginning to the end - whenever I am down or I need the strength from God.

To confess, I also curse $%@#$%%@%&*# occasionally. Not all the time though. 😉

I remember I cursed the most during the The Island Ocean Marathon held in Langkawi a few years back. Running on the rolling hills of Langkawi island towards Pantai Tengah was so tough. The hot sun was burning on my skin. I asked the volunteer on duty if there were any more hills in front. His assertive answer was: "No more hills. This is the last! Come on, you can do it! Few more kilometers to go!"

He lied! (out of good intention of course. I don't blame him for doing it!)

More hills in front. 

That's when I cursed four letter word out loud. I believe even the monkeys could hear. ha!ha!

What actually goes through my mind at this juncture after running thirty-five kilometers, three and a half hour in the hot and humid weather?

Mad. Mad. Angry. Upset.

I can get angry and upset at everything at this stage.

"Why the monkeys are laughing at me for torturing myself?"

"Why the organizer doesn't provide isotonic drinks at all water stations?"

"Why the volunteers at water stations don't smile and cheer us on?"

Also, this is the most crucial point to know if I can still pull through the last seven kilometers to achieve a sub four hour marathon time or my personal record. 

If I knew I couldn't, perhaps more $%@#$%%@%&*# and feeling demotivated.

If I knew I could still have a chance in making it to sub four hour or achieving personal best time, I would then do my best to turn all cursing into prayers!

Forty-two kilometers (42 km)


Whew! I don't have to run anymore! I'm at finish line! What a great relief!

There is also a sense of accomplishment for being able to complete another full marathon. The sense of accomplishment is even greater if I manage to achieve a personal record or a sub four hour time.

After squeezing every ounce of energy out for the last forty-two kilometers, dragging heavy feet to the finish line, I feel like a car that's just run out of gas. 

Fully exhausted, all the pain and muscle soreness start to crop in and surface. During Twincity Marathon 2015, I felt so dizzy and I wanted to vomit. I had to sit in medical tent for sixty minutes before I could stand up and walk without the dizziness. Another two times (Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2016, 2017), I sat in medical tent putting ice packs on my knees, thighs and back.

If anyone were to ask me at that point if I'm going to run another full marathon, my answer is definitive, "No! No more!"

Two days later


What do you know? 

After about two days of full rest and recovery, I totally forget about all the pain and misery of the forty-two-kilometer torture and start to sign up for next race, and on how to achieve better time in the next race.

Do you go through exact process in running your full marathon?

The same exact process in running a full marathon that I have shared above are what I have been experiencing after running twenty-six (26) full marathons and a fifty-kilometer (50 km) ultra-marathon since 2012.

No matter what marathon it's, be it in Malaysia or overseas, be it an early morning or midnight or night marathon, it's the same exact process involving nine (9) phases. 

How about you? Do you resonate with what I'm going through? 

Same old same old process? 

Welcome to the exciting marathon world! 😉

Written by Vincent Khor on August 19, 2017.

Picture from Pexels


No comments:

Post a Comment