It’s a long day out on the ironman marathon course and it’s a wise triathlete who understands proper pace.

As you start out on the 26.2-mile ironman marathon you will most likely experience several different emotions.

I used to find it very difficult at times to convince myself to leave the bike/run
transition area. After a long hard bike it often feels that finishing the marathon distance would be next to impossible.

It’s at this point in the race that your determination and resolve may truly be tested. This is where the term Ironman begins to have meaning.

Remember that you are not alone in feeling this. There are hundreds of novice Ironmen dealing with the same emotions out on the ironman marathon course.

Hopefully you had an intelligent swim and conserved energy for this point in the race.

ironman marathon   -legs of a marathoner


One thing I learned over the years is how much ones body can withstand and just how much we are capable of if we dare to try. If you made it through a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike you have already shown that you are tougher than the average person.

Often it’s our spirit that’s conquered long before our physical energy is used up.

A good example is my last Ironman. At almost exactly the half-way point in the bike I had a bad crash. I lost focus for just a few seconds and slipped off the shoulder of the road.

When I tried to recover the bike went over and I hit the road very hard. The last half of the bike was fairly difficult.

As I sat in the run-transition tent before leaving for the ironman marathon, my shoulder was extremely sore and it was only my experience that I knew my body could withstand quite a lot if I gave it a chance.

I was at the stage in my career where I felt that this particular Ironman Triathlon could well be my last and I didn’t want to end my career by dropping out of the race.

The marathon took me 5 hours and 5 minutes. The Ironman took me 14 hours and 15 minutes. I found out later that I had a separated shoulder.

I sort of had a feeling that was the case but then I reasoned that I wasn’t running on my hands so it would work out. Under other circumstances I most certainly would have called it a day and not even ventured onto the marathon course.

ironman marathon  -woman marathoner

Sometimes it's easier to keep going than to stop

I’m telling you this story because when you get at this point in the race you just have to realize that no matter how sore and tired you feel, the ability your body has to recover will amaze you if you give it a chance.

As soon as you cross that start mat on the way out of the final transition and your timer beeps do your best to run. At first your stride will be very short and unnatural, but as your legs adjust to the demands of running you will begin to feel and run better.

Run for as much of the Ironman Marathon course as you can without stopping. You want to get some kilometers behind you.

When and if you just have to walk try and walk the aid stations and run in between as much as you can. When you do walk try and walk at a fast pace.

Hopefully you practiced this in your training as I suggested in the run-training page. It makes a huge difference if you go into the marathon with a flexible race plan.


Be very careful at the aid stations when it comes to choosing your food and drink.

The urge is to try some of everything as you try and find the secret that will make you feel less sore and tired and possibly boost your energy. Many athletes have gotten sick during the marathon from making this mistake.

Really try not to mix your food and drink choices. I would suggest avoiding coke and pepsi until the last 6 or 7 miles.

Remember that if you do start drinking it, then you should drink it at every aid station from that point on or else you risk really upsetting your sugar balance. One year I drank nothing but water at every station and didn’t eat at all. I felt good and didn’t want to mess with it. My Ironman Marathon time was 3 hours 34 minutes.

ironman marathon  -marathon aid station

Aid stations are a busy place

So I think that goes to show you don’t necessarily have to fill your body with grapes, bananas,cookies, and whatever else you have to choose from.

Just go with what works for you at the time. Try and make a point of not walking the downhills. I have seen many people do this and I could never understand it. You should take advantage of gravity every chance you get.

It is much the same as taking advantage of the downhills on the bike course. If you plan on walking the uphills then be sure to run the downhills. Do everything you can to get those kilometers behind you without using up too much energy too soon.

Take heart in the fact that there are hundreds of you out there sharing the same dream. To finish the race. It is truly a beautiful thing when you see so many so determined to reach a common goal.

You may find it helpful to run with someone along the way. Be careful however. They may deviate quite a bit from what you have been doing and throw off your race plan. Sometimes its best to run on your own until you are CERTAIN you are hooking up with the right person.

Its always an uplifting moment when you make the final outward leg and turn for home for the last time. Now each kilometer that passes you feel a lift in your spirit.

In the final 6 or 7 kilometers you will most likely discover that you have an amazing amount of energy left. This happens over and over in the marathon. For some reason some sort of physical change takes place and many people have a sustained burst of energy.

You will also be lifted by an increasing number of spectators as you get nearer and nearer to the finish line.Soon dozens of spectators turn to hundreds and you hear that amazing, welcome sound of the finish line announcer.

This is when it will really hit home that you are really going to do it! You are going to be an Ironman! Be sure to take it all in, because this moment will be etched in your memory forever. No matter how many Ironman races you do, the finish of your first ironman marathon is one you will never forget.


Check out Runner’s World for some marathon tips.

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