Dealing with marathon training anxiety

I think we can all admit to feeling nervous about standing at the start of a race. I remember when I did my first marathon in Brighton 2011, I was buzzing with so much nervous energy, I just wanted to get started and go. My then boyfriend kept texting me to calm down and relax. My then friend, now husband (yes that’s confusing) kept laughing at me. His friend, who is a fast and experienced marathon runner kept telling me to calm down as I kept wasting energy buzzing about and being nervous.


Brighton Marathon 2011


Luckily, I was able to channel all that into a pretty good run. Nerves can be positive in a race environment.

But what about marathon training? I firmly believe that marathon training anxiety is a problem for many runners.

Most of us have had our London ballot results now. Some of you will have been lucky (I wasn’t) and will be eager to get started. Some of us will have selected other marathons to run. And some of us will have a marathon booked and suddenly been hit with an overwhelming sense of dread. What the f**k have I committed to?




The first thing to know is that it’s totally normal. I experienced it when I signed up for Brighton. Committing to the training is a mind game and I think once you establish the routine, it gets easier and the nerves start to subside. Somewhere down the line, you’ll realise that the marathon is a distance you can beat.

The second thing to know is that it’s okay to talk about nerves. It’s great to celebrate what’s going well, but it’s also good to talk about your anxieties. Jump on Twitter. Join a Facebook running group. Talking to like-minded people who have been there can really help.

It’s interesting to know that this fear doesn’t just apply to newcomers to the distance. I have completed four marathons now and the fear gets me every time. In fact, my marathon training anxiety is sometimes crippling to the point that I don’t train properly. I trained well for Brighton, in a routine that worked for me. I ran twice a week, I was walking every day, I did core exercises twice a week and I played badminton once a week. I felt fit and strong and for my fifth marathon, whenever and wherever that may be, I want to try to recreate a similar plan. Will I follow it however? I don’t know.


running helen


For my third and fourth marathons, I must confess to having no structure. I ran. But I printed a training plan and ignored it. I didn’t even really build up mileage. I ran a half marathon a few weeks before both and that was my long run. I finished both marathons in around 5:40, not terrible, but I certainly deserved no better.


Dymchurch Marathon 2015 (Thanks Kat for the snap)


Anxiety over training stopped me from training. Going out to run a set distance filled me with terror. The idea of running because I had an event coming up stopped me from getting out of the door. I’m not sure where this mindset came from, but the reason I’m blogging about it is to let others know, you’re not alone.

I’m not yet quite sure how I’m going to overcome this fear of training problem. Marathon training anxiety definitely seems to exist with me. I know I can do the distance, yet the training frightens me.

For now, I’ll just continue to put one foot in front of the other and continue to run one step at a time. I can do this. So can you.


Bexley parkrun finish line

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