The Final Miles

By Maren Elliott

The NYC marathon is only few days away. Success on race day this weekend eventually comes down to those final miles, so we've asked Maren Elliott, a 3:00 marathoner, experienced long distance runner and one of our favorite running advisors, to discuss what it takes to make it to the finish.

Everyone always says that the marathon starts at mile 20. The official halfway point is 13.1 miles, but talk to any seasoned marathoner and they’re sure to share battle stories of fighting through the last 6.2 miles of their most recent race.

For me the real clincher are those final four miles. It is during those painful, long, and seemingly endless miles that my body breaks down and my mind starts telling me I don’t have to finish. I’ve completed 7 marathons and every single time the final four miles try to keep me from crossing the finish line. Regardless of whether I’m running a 3:00 marathon or close to 4:00, once I hit mile 22 all bets are off.

I’ve sat down on a curb in the Bronx to take off my shoe, convinced that my second toe was broken. I’ve stopped at an aid station desperate for ibuprofen (or “Vitamin I” as we like to call it). I’ve almost peed my pants while running down Michigan Ave in Chicago… well, maybe I actually did, just little. I have slowed to a pace that is not much faster than a walk and watched as everyone passed me by.

Though the physical experiences may be slightly different, every time it is essentially the same: I start telling myself that this race is stupid, I don’t have to finish, no one will care if I just give up.

But I never have. Somehow I keep going, one foot in front of the other over and over again. I am never sure what motivates me to continue at that point in the race when everything is telling you to stop. My friends and family would say that it is my competitive nature. I’d like to believe it is inspiration from the other thousands of runners. It is probably a combination of both and the simple truth that life is hard with unexpected hurdles, but you have to keep going.

It is those final miles, the ones that hurt the most and when we’re looking for any excuse to quit, that make the marathon so special. It isn’t always pretty and certainly doesn’t always go as planned, but I know that despite the challenges and pain, I can always finish.