Strategies for coping with the second half of a marathon

Dealing with the last 13.1 miles

You will need strategies for coping with the second half of a marathon because even well prepared marathoners may struggle to cope with the last 13.1 miles of the marathon. This guide and these top tips will make sure you have enough left in the tank for the second half of the race so you can tackle the beast known as: the marathon.


Strategies to cope with the second half of the marathon

The first few hours

If you have put in some thorough training, then the first half of the race or your first couple of hours of running should feel realtively comfortable. After that point, you may start to become increasingly tired, both mentally and physically.

Because of this, your first few hours in a race should be about running in a controlled efficient manner. It is far too easy to go off too hard early in a race, or not take on enough fluid, and this will hit you hard in the second half of the race.

Ignore everyone

It always best to ignore those that go roaring off in the first part of a race; take it easy, safe in the knowledge that that you will have more in the tank for later than they will. It's quite possible you will overtake them in the latter stages of the race.

It may sound like a minor point, but try to avoid waving to the crowd in the early stages of the race. This will  help keep your shoulders relaxed and ensure you can work those arms when you are tired. You can save your waving for the latter stages of the race.

Run efficently

It is important to make yourself run in an efficient way in the first half of all your running training sessions. This will  make you feel mentally stronger because you are more in control. Remember, after around two hours of running, the body generally starts to be depleted of glycogen stores, but if you have been efficient and controlled you can delay this depletion for a while longer.

Stay hydrated

One of the keys to a successful race is staying hydrated.Start the race well hydrated, and then make sure you don't miss a drinks station. By drinking  little but often throughout the race will help delay the fatigue.

Long runs

During the second half of your race, your body will be crying out for you to stop or slow down. You can learn to cope with this by doing long runs in the build up to your event. This way your body is accustomed to the tiredness so you know how to cope with it when it arrives. Training sessions should be designed so you run over two hours on quite a few occasions so your body gets used not only to the energy depletion but also the mental tiredness.


Your concentration should improve the more you do long-distance training. The more you focus in the early stages, the better you will be prepared for the latter stages, when mental focus becomes even more important.

Running goal

Everybody should have a goal for the race, no matter how big or small it is. It could be simply to finish or to achieve a set time. In addition to your main race goals you should other mini goals, ranging from targets at various mile markers, or if you are going through a tough time, aiming to get to the next water station and then taking it from there.

Running motivation

You can often keep yourself running just out of a sense of pride. Think about all those people you have told you are going to complete the run, and this will keep you going. If you are running for charity, then that can be the extra bit of motivation you require when the going gets tough.

Look around

Remember, you won't be the only person suffering during the race. Be positive, and think that like all the others in the race, you are going to finish. Look out for family and friends who will give you the extra boost just when you are flagging. Try and get them to spread out around the course so that you have support at various stages of the race.

Comments (1)

  • FranFitAfterFifty 'I did my first marathon-Blackpool-on 6 April this year (2014). I needed something to help psychologically to get through the miles. I took a strip of paper, wrote numbers 0 to 26 on it and wrote the names of family and friends against each number. I taped it comfortability around my wrist. During each mile, I thought of the person whose name was by that mile number. Call it a prayer, a dedication, whatever us meaningful. It certainly helped me to tick off the miles and I felt supported as I remembered all the good wishes that everyone had been giving me during the lead up to the marathon. '

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