The 15 Secrets of Successful Marathon Runners

After running multiple marathons and coaching many marathon runners, I’ve come to realize that there are “rules” or maybe we should call them “secrets” that all marathoners tend to abide by.

I want to share them with you so that you can be sure your marathon journey is following the right course! 

Are you ready for them?!

The 15 Secrets of a Successful Marathon Runner

1.A successful marathon runner knows how to eat right. 

They realize that if they are asking their body to train and run 26.2 miles then they had better give it what it needs to do that!

2. They prioritize sleep. 

Running is a high intensity sport. Running multiple days out of the week is taxing on the body and we need to give it ample time to repair itself. It should be a priority for every marathoner to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every single night! This helps them avoid injury, have better training runs, and stay in peak condition! 

Related: The Importance of Sleep for Running Injury Prevention by Whitney Heins from The Mother Runners.

3. They drink lots of water.

Water is a priority in their life. They start their day with at least 8oz. of water, they stockpile water bottles in their kitchen, bathroom, car, bedside table. They are never without it. (Bonus secret: Their best friend is probably their water bottle.)

4. They include functional lower body strength training in their routine. 

Sometimes your lungs and heart rapidly increase in endurance while your leg muscles slowly increase. Strength training helps accelerate how fast you increase your total body endurance.

Successful marathoners are placing emphasis on endurance strength training and are focusing on functional strength moves that will help with their running such as lunges and calf raises.

5. They place importance on rest and recovery. 

They know when and how to take rest days. This is never something that they ignore. If their body is starting to feel overwhelmed by the load or volume of training they listen to it and take a day off. They realize that this will not set them back but rather enhance their ability to improve.

On rest days they focus on doing restful and relaxing activities such as stretching, taking a bath, doing some yoga or Pilates, that will help push that needle a little bit more by rejuvenating their mind and body.

6. A good marathon runner reflects on what is working and what is not working for them. 

They are constantly assessing how they have improved, what has held them back, what workouts they could have done better, what training runs really helped them progress.

They keep records of these notes and then build from them with each new phase of their training and running.

7. They know how to listen to their body and make adaptations. 

They realize when they might need to modify something on their training plan, when a workout is not serving them. This is also when a running coach can greatly help! A pair of outside eyes looking in will help but if this not accessible to them they trust their gut. 

8. A marathon runner hones in on their running form. 

They know that because they are running for hours at a time, form plays a huge role in whether or not they avoid injury, are able to conserve fuel, feel good for the duration of the marathon, and help or hinder their speed.

They start with one area that they know they need to improve and focus on that until it is perfected. Then it’s time to move on to the next area that needs work! Here are some running form tips! 

9. They are self-disciplined. 

They realize that motivation cannot be counted on. It will get hard and the only thing that will be able to keep them going is self-discipline. They’re fine with that though since the rewards are great.

They understand the saying, “If you want an easy life, do the hard things. If you want a hard life, do the easy things.”

10. They know the value of self-coaching. 

Marathons are 20% physical and 80% mental. Successful marathoners know that they must practice positive self-talk to get them through those hard times. If anything can trip a marathon runner up fast it’s their brain telling them that they can’t do it.

By learning to talk themselves through a difficult situation they become stronger and take their marathon training to the next level! You can learn all the mental training techniques in my 20 Week Develop Your Marathon Mindset Training Plan! 

11. They focus on the 3 most important things when it comes to their marathon training: their marathon training plan, their marathon nutrition, their mental strategy. 

By focusing on these 3 pillars of training they know that they can and will be successful in their goals! Read more on the importance of each of these areas on this page + tips and resources! 

12. They know how to celebrate their wins and learn from their losses. 

Running is fun, marathon running is...out of this world. :)

Successful marathoners know how to celebrate those small wins that lead to a great race, whether it be a great training run, sticking to their nutrition plan or getting 8 hours of sleep. They rejoice in the little things.

On the other end of the spectrum, they try not to over-analyze their losses. They learn from them, try to pin point what made them take a turn for the worse and then start fresh the next day while keeping in mind those pitfalls so as to learn from them. 

13. They know that consistency is key. 

They realize that it’s not the runs they do every once in awhile. It’s not the food that they eat every once in awhile, it’s the little things that they do every single day that makes them successful.

Whether that be meal prepping, waking up at 5:30 am, laying their clothes out the night before, drinking their water,taking their supplements, crossing off their training runs, making journal entries in their log books.

Whatever it may be, they know that it’s the small day-to-day tasks that help them achieve their goals. 

14. They know their WHY. 

They know exactly WHY they are doing this. They let that WHY hold them accountable. They know it needs to be powerful enough to make them keep going. They get very specific on their WHY. They keep their WHY visible. They think of their WHY often.

Again, this is another area that you work through during one of the first few weeks of the 20 Week Develop Your Marathon Mindset Training Plan!

15. A marathon runner knows that every run is a gift. 

Each run is a practice in gratitude because each run means that we are alive and well.

And here is a last powerful little tip from a dear reader:

"My biggest marathon tip is to just keep smiling. When the going gets tough, smile even harder! It tricks your brain into thinking you're having the best time. It also keeps your mind positive. Remember, this is your hobby, not a chore. I am so lucky to be able to run! This is what I do for fun. My body is so amazing for allowing me to run and I'm celebrating it by letting it run free." - Emily 

Isn't that the truth?! 

Do you have a secret or tip you would share with a fellow marathoner? Email me, I'd love to hear!

And Whitney from the Mother Runners has 26 pro marathon training tips for race day success that build on these 15 secrets!

Related Pages to the Secrets of a Successful Marathon Runner:

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