What is the Hardest Part of Running a Marathon? Mile 20?

Running a marathon is an impressive feat that requires months of dedication and hard work. The training process is crucial to preparing for the race and balancing the physical demands of running with the rest of your life can be challenging.

But even if you make it to the start line, there are still many obstacles to overcome before crossing the finish line.

One of the biggest challenges of running a marathon is the logistics of getting to the start line. Depending on the size of the race, you may need to wake up early, navigate crowds, and deal with transportation issues. Arriving at the start line feeling rested and ready to run can be a struggle, especially if traveling from out of town or dealing with unexpected delays.

Once the race begins, runners face a series of physical and mental challenges.

Many people find the most challenging part of running a marathon after mile 20 when the body begins to fatigue, and the finish line still seems impossibly far away.

This is often called “hitting the wall,” It can be a demoralizing experience. However, with the right mindset and preparation, pushing through this challenging phase and finishing the race is possible.

Training for a Marathon

Training for a marathon is a rigorous process that requires discipline, dedication, and perseverance. Most marathon training plans range from 12 to 20 weeks, and beginning marathoners should aim to build their weekly mileage up to at least 25 miles over the four months.

However, it is essential to remember that everyone’s body is different, and it is crucial to listen to your body and adjust your training plan accordingly.

One of the most challenging aspects of marathon training is the long runs. These runs can last several hours and require significant physical and mental effort.

To prepare for these long runs, increasing your mileage gradually and including various workouts in your training plan, such as tempo runs, interval training, and hill repeats is essential.

Another critical aspect of marathon training is recovery. Running long distances can be hard on your body, and it is essential to incorporate rest days and recovery workouts into your training plan. In addition, yoga, stretching, and foam rolling can help prevent injuries and improve overall performance.

Finally, nutrition is also a crucial component of marathon training. Eating a well-balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats can help fuel your body and improve your performance.

Staying hydrated and replenishing electrolytes during and after your runs is also essential.

In conclusion, training for a marathon requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and energy. However, with the right training plan, mindset, and support, anyone can cross the finish line of a marathon.

Logistics of Getting to the Start Line

Getting to the start line of a marathon can be a logistical nightmare. So it’s essential to plan, arrive early, and be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Here are some tips to help you get to the start line on race day:

  • Plan your route ahead of time and consider traffic and road closures.
  • Book your accommodation as early as possible, especially if you’re traveling from out of town.
  • Check the weather forecast and pack appropriate clothing and gear.
  • Arrive at the start line at least an hour before the race starts to allow time for bag drop, warm-up, and finding your corral.
  • Consider using public transportation or shuttle service to avoid parking hassles.

It’s also important to stay calm and focused on race day. Refrain from letting the stress of getting to the start line affect your performance. Instead, take deep breaths, listen to music, or chat with other runners to help calm your nerves.

Remember, the logistics of getting to the start line are just one part of the marathon experience. You can overcome any obstacles and have a successful race day with proper planning and preparation.

What is the Hardest Part of Running a Marathon

What Happens After Mile 20

After mile 20, many runners experience what is commonly known as “hitting the wall.” Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this all too often.

This is when the body’s glycogen stores are depleted, and the runner feels overwhelming fatigue and exhaustion. The legs may feel heavy and weak, and the runner may experience muscle trembling, shaking, sweating, and lack of coordination.

At this point, mental toughness becomes crucial. Runners must dig deep and find the motivation to keep going, even when their bodies tell them to stop.

Some runners use mental tricks, such as breaking the remaining distance into smaller, more manageable chunks or focusing on a specific goal, like finishing at a particular time or beating a personal record.

In addition to mental toughness, proper nutrition, and hydration are essential after mile 20. Before hitting the 20-mile point, runners should consume carbohydrates to replenish glycogen stores and electrolytes to prevent dehydration.

Many marathons provide aid stations with water, sports drinks, and energy gels or chews. Taking advantage of these resources and taking your time with your food is essential.

Finally, listening to your body and adjusting your pace if necessary is essential. If you struggle to maintain your current rate, it’s okay to slow down.

Remember, the goal is to finish the race, not necessarily to set a personal record. By pacing yourself and listening to your body, you’ll give yourself the best chance of crossing the finish line.


Running a marathon is an incredible achievement that requires a lot of dedication and hard work. While many challenges exist, the hardest part of running a marathon can vary depending on the individual.

For some, it may be the grueling training process, while for others, it may be the logistics of getting to the start line. And for many, the real challenge begins after mile 20.

Training for a marathon is a long and challenging process requiring much discipline and dedication. Finding the time and energy to fit in all the necessary training runs can be difficult, and it can be frustrating when progress feels slow.

However, with the right mindset and support, overcoming these challenges and making it to the start line is possible.

Once you’ve made it to the start line, the logistics of the race can be another significant challenge. From navigating crowds and finding your start corral to dealing with pre-race nerves, many factors can make the start of the race stressful and overwhelming.

However, with some preparation and planning, minimizing these challenges and staying focused on the goal is possible.

Finally, after mile 20, many runners hit what’s known as “the wall.” This is where the body starts to run out of glycogen, and fatigue sets in. It can be a mentally and physically challenging time, but with the right mindset and strategy, it is possible to push through and finish the race strong.

Overall, running a marathon is a challenging but enriching experience. Focusing on the proper training, preparation, and mindset makes it possible to overcome challenges and achieve your goals.

What is the Hardest Part of Running a Marathon


Slightly obsessed middle aged runner.