When I decided to enter the Loch Ness Marathon back in May, it seemed such a long way away. I had almost 20 weeks, so much time. Then it was 16 weeks and I was starting the training plan. Now the race is just 3 weeks away.

Back in June when I started the plan, I’d never run farther than 15 miles. I’d raced a couple of half marathons, but nothing could prepare me for what would lie ahead.

Mostly the training has been fine. I’ve enjoyed it, and the midweek sessions have been fun and challenging. The long runs at the weekend though – they’ve been my nemesis. The first time I did 16 miles felt huge, I couldn’t imagine running 18. But I did, then 20, and finally 22, which I’ve now done a couple of times.

My training plan has been based on a goal time of 3:45, which is about 5 mins slower than the McMillan calculator estimates as my race time based on those half marathons back in 2015. That equates to a pace of roughly 8:42/mile, which should be more than doable… a half marathon.

However I’m really struggling to imagine how I can hold this pace over 26.2 miles. At this stage in the game the challenge is more mental than physical. My body will be able to run for 26.2 miles, that’s not in doubt. But can it do it at 8:42/mile? That’s what I just don’t know.

I’m afraid of setting off at this pace and blowing up. Of hitting ‘the wall’. I realise this isn’t a fast pace, and that I’ve comfortably run half marathons well below 8:00/mile, but the magnitude of the marathon makes me doubt myself.

I know that I’ve done the training, haven’t missed a session. I’ve been diligent with my nutrition, I’ve rested, stretched and looked after my body. I’ve given myself every chance to be able to run at my goal pace. And yet I still have doubts. I’ve never raced this distance before – it’s a step into the unknown.

I’m going to have to believe. To suck it up, set off at my goal pace and see what happens.

Have you run a marathon before? Did you have doubts before your first one? How did you approach pacing it? I’d love to know.

This week in numbers:


Miles run – 44.8

Time on my feet – 6:49:59

13 thoughts on “Believe

  1. My first marathon will be in December, and I am not far enough into training to have my goal pace set. For other races that I have taken a risk in (pace, course, distance) I trust that my drive/motivation increases during the race. Sometimes during training, I think to myself, ‘this is what it is going to feel like, but I can keep going.’ I hope this helps. These next couple weeks will be a test for me as my long runs will be increasing to 20 and 22 miles. Running mantras really help me on long runs. : )

    1. I was channeling your mantras on my long run yesterday! It’s exciting taking on a new challenge and I’ve learned a lot about myself already. These long runs have been mentally hard and I’ve allowed them to get the better of me. I will do this!

  2. I hope you enjoy it Ali, regardless of pace. Remember when you “just wanted to finish?” I know it’s hard to stick to that when you’re a driven and competitive person, but I hope at some points you are able to soak the whole experience in and feel joy and maybe even a bit of fun! It would be such a shame to finish your first marathon disappointed in yourself because of a few minutes or seconds.
    Good luck on your last three weeks. Trust in your training–you know you’ve done the work. Just like anything else, we only have so much control. We’ve just go to let go and live and go for it. You know you’ve got someone pulling for you in NYC. x

    1. Hey Cat! Thank you, it’s awesome to know that you’ve got my back. My focus is still on just finishing, will be a fascinating experience and I’m excited to do the actual race now. I’ve always enjoyed the process of training more than the actual race itself. The last couple of weeks have wore me down a little, I’ll be honest. The training starts to taper now, so hopefully as I get my energy back, my old positivity will re-appear πŸ™‚

      1. I totally get it Ali. You’ve done some major training–I honestly don’t totally know what that’s like yet. I think I’ll start to get it a little more this week with a 15 or 16 on the schedule. Taper well–let all the training settle in. You’ll be ready πŸ˜‰.

  3. Although I don’t have an event set in stone, I’m planning to run my first one next year. When I think about it, I get caught in two minds a bit: I do want to get the most out of myself, but I also want to recognise and acknowledge the attempt and completion is significant in itself.

    My aim is to go into it without a time expectation, with justification that (if all goes well and I stay relatively fit and healthy) this will be the first of many. And there will be opportunities to chase times later on, and I’ll have the benefit of greater experience. It’s hard for me to keep that perspective at times, but that’s my intention.

    Solid week of running! Keeping the discipline and determination is going to give you the best possible chance to hit that target time.

    1. Hey, thanks! I’ve always enjoyed the process of training, seeing the small improvements over time, almost more than the racing itself. My goal for this marathon is simply to finish in once piece (!), but I’d like to be able to run at a pace that I know my body will sustain. That’s where I’m struggling. Maybe I just need to let my body decide on the day πŸ™‚

      1. Agree on both counts. The incremental benefits of consistent training are really satisfying, and finding that pace isn’t easy when the distance is new territory. But yeah, that’s not a bad idea: train with discipline and do everything you can do help achieve that time, but also accept that conditions on the day (how you feel waking up on the day, weather, etc) are something that you may need to adapt to as and when.

  4. A friend of mine ran her first full marathon about a year and a half ago. She had a running coach (who has qualified and ran Boston) and a running group (most of whom have also qualified and ran for Boston). Her half-marathon time put her just at qualifying for Boston. However, the day of the run it was rainy, and it didn’t go as planned for her. I think she finished in 4 hours and 15 minutes. And her coach said that was completely fine, that it’s nearly impossible to BQ your first marathon because until you actually do it, you don’t know what’s in store for you.

    My advice is to focus on your race and then change your goal as needed. If you’re feeling good and thinking you can do better, than do better. But don’t forget that actually finishing is a goal that most will never set for themselves!

    P.S. I know you’re going to do so much better than just finish though.

    1. Thanks for sharing that story Erin, it’s great advice. I’m definitely planning on tuning into my body on the day. I’m excited for my taper and to start not feeling so tired! Getting quite excited about the race now πŸ™‚

  5. Alasdair, I’ve found those McMillan calculators very accurate in the past so I’d believe that 3:45 is possible. Most important part of pacing is to be consistent and not run too fast early.
    My first marathon i was a nervous wreck leading up to the race, nerves and self doubt is natural, you’ve done the long training I’m sure you’ll be fine

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