The forever mile

The other night when I was racing, I had an all-too familiar experience with the mile markers. It doesn’t happen every race, but it does happen most races. It doesn’t 2710 The forever mileeven matter what the race distance is, be it short or be it long, it can happen. And it drives me nuts.

It was one of those times when you swear, swear, that the mile marker had to be wrong, because it took so damn long to get from one to the next. Now, sometimes they really are off, but most times, they’re pretty spot on. I think it all comes down to how you are feeling at any given point in a race. In the marathon, for instance, don’t you find that the first half just flies by? Then miles 20 to 26 of course seem to take. ALL. DAY. LONG.

For me last Saturday night it was between miles three and four that I had the forever mile experience. Mile three actually caught me off guard by coming up so fast and I thought to myself, excellent, only two to go! Then time stood still. I ran and ran and ran and it seemed I would never get to mile four. It’s no coincidence that this was the point in the race where my breathing seemed the most labored and I just couldn’t seem to move any faster, no matter what. Finally I hit four, and then five seemed back to how it should seem–about a mile.

I knew in the midst of that long mile exactly what was going on–that it was all in my head and I just needed some mind over matter. In this case I kept reminding myself that the entire race was only five miles long. I reframed it into a matter of time for myself. Realistically, I knew, I only had x number of minutes left of suffering. I’d suffered that long a million times before and I could do it again.

For me, this approach seems to help. How do you motivate when the mile(s) seem to go in slow motion? 

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  1. This is great! I was just talking friends about those “forever miles” after a 10k I ran last week. For me it was mile 4 to 5 that seemed like it would never end. And, like you, I ended up breaking it down to how much time I had left to run, instead of how many miles. Looking back, I think I have the most inner dialogue/arguments with myself during those miles, but eventually convince myself to keep on truckin’ :) Knowing how great the post race rush is, is always great motivation for me to push through the pain!
    GreenGirlRunning recently posted..A New Marathon Training Cycle & Training LogMy Profile

  2. Boy do I know what you mean. I’m so glad we work in kilometres because, although we have to run higher numbers, the markers tick away more quickly. But when they’re going slow I try to distract myself – with my music, the scenery or other runners.
    Char recently posted..Running, Running, More Running and BakingMy Profile

  3. Love the term forever miles. Miles 24-26 are ALWAYS forever mies for me, lol.
    Kris @ recently posted..Too Fast For LoveMy Profile

  4. When it’s hot, I experience forever aid stations. Haven’t figured out how to deal with it yet.

  5. For longer races I switch to longer intervals – in the marathon i do 3-mile “laps” instead of miles.
    Gracie (Complicated Day) recently posted..Paint Party!My Profile

  6. Yes! When the distance feels too long, I try to rationalize it by the number of minutes I need to run to get to the next mile marker.
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..Brian’s training planMy Profile

  7. One of the distinct advantages of Canada! The markers are KM and much closer together lol (twice as many).
    Robin recently posted..So Far So GoodMy Profile

  8. Ugh, yes, lots of ‘forever miles’ in my history. I say to myself ‘In XX minutes you’ll be done’ and just gut it out.
    Teamarcia recently posted..Zooma, The Bachelor, Hot Racing Oh My!My Profile

  9. When I hit those forever miles during a race, I flip through my iPod to find a really motivational song. If it’s on my long runs, when I don’t run with an iPod, I sometimes use advice out of Kara Goucher’s book and just count my footfalls. It distracts your brain a little so you’re not concentrating on how lousy you feel.
    Beth recently posted..Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Race RecapMy Profile

  10. Oh I am not a fan of when that happens!! I try to distract myself with scenery or think of other things I can. In the end….I’m just VERY thankful to see the mile marker!!
    Fancy Nancy recently posted..Next Olympic Track Star….Fancy NancyMy Profile

  11. I hate miles like that. I tend to start looking for people to “race” to get me motivated again.
    Kari @ Running Ricig recently posted..OMFG! All you eat is salads!My Profile

  12. Oh man – that tends to happen with miles 10-12 for me. And it was really bad my first half marathon – the route splits off for marathoner and halfs, but we all pass by the same mile 11 marker, but for the halfers it’s not really mile 11 so I had to pass by the marathoners 11 then later mine. Very very disheartening!
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Weekend Recap & Mediterranean Portobello and Olive SauceMy Profile

  13. Some runs every mile is a forever mile – just keep keeping on is all you can do.
    Kovas – Midwest Multisport Life recently posted..Hack Your FitnessMy Profile

  14. I run a lot of ultras, and there always seems to be a forever mile or two in each one! I just try and stay focused and tell myself I will run through it and get back in the groove soon. My last marathon on 7/14, I hit a low spot right around mile 13, due in part to some wicked climbing and high humidity. I really did not start feeling completely better until about mile 20, but I just kept grinding, got my legs back under me and finished strong.
    Gene recently posted..Grandfather Mountain Race ReportMy Profile

  15. This made me laugh because I think every race I have that dreaded “forever mile” where I am like where in the heck did the mile marker go???!!!! It is usually towards the end of the race where I am dying and just want everything to be over. When this happens I try to focus on the person in front of me or the next street sign. It gives me a distraction and makes me push myself to pass the person or get to the next point and then I pick out another street sign, person, light pole, etc. Before I know it I am finished.
    Tasha @ Healthy Diva recently posted..Where did the weekend go?!My Profile

  16. Mind over matter is SUCH a huge thing!
    Sometimes I even feel crazy long miles on training runs. In races when I feel that way I try to embrace the race and know I’ve worked hard so why not {try to} enjoy every minute. It doesn’t always work! Then I try to just get out of my head, focus on someone ahead of me, and forget about distance and how far I have left.
    Abby @ Change of Pace recently posted..Missing in {training} actionMy Profile

  17. I hate forever miles. I distract myself – making up grocery lists, making up meal plans, imagine I see my ex-boyfriend or nosey distant relatives and work up a “My life is quite fabulous and I am a runner” speech in my head.
    I know I have some problems.

  18. Forever miles…love this but since I am a metric ‘kid’ they are forever kilometers. I just say just keep going until the next one…then MAYBE you can slow down..

  19. I have had this happen many times. It’s so frustrating! Sometimes I just think I must have missed the marker and then I just happen upon it. UGH! I usually try to tell myself the next one will come much faster:) It works sometimes.
    hikermom recently posted..What is Your Healthy?My Profile

  20. For me, it’s always miles 8 to 11 that seem to drag on and are the most challenging. I typically let my mind wander then tune in to say something like “get over it” and eventually, one of those “get over it” works. I get back into a zone and keep pushing.
    Joanne recently posted..I Felt A (Capital “A”!) AMAZING!My Profile

  21. Yep, been there. It is Soooo frustrating. I try not to look up or around for the mile markers all the time and then when enough time goes by (at leaset what I think is enough time), I’ll look. When I’m on the treadmill, I don’t let myself look at the distance ticking by either!
    Ericka @ The Sweet Life recently posted..We (They) Are The Fittest People on EarthMy Profile

  22. I remember MANY a races where my Garmin said I had hit a mile and I’m looking, looking, looking.. Where the heck is the mile marker!!?? LOL I hate that. The treadmill def makes a mile seem longer, but I know that’s all in my head because I’m so bored! ~Nora
    Once a Runner recently posted..Just a Peek?My Profile

  23. YES! That happens to me a lot! At Rockville it was between mile 1 and 2 for me. I was convinced that I’d missed the marker because it was taking so long to arrive. Oy.
    ImTheMarigold recently posted..Runs, races, and my first doubleMy Profile

  24. Almost all of my miles seem to feel this way. I’m convinced that there must be some shift in the space-time continuum that makes my miles longer or my minutes slower when I run. Ugh.
    TriMOEngr (Christina) recently posted..Show Me State Games Race ReportMy Profile

  25. I want to first thank you for your comment today
    it really made me think and realize that you are so right and I will remember your advice,

    the forever miles…I do struggle with that…I try to not think of what is left or even the numbers…at least until I reach the half way point….I try to think of things I need to post I could write later…I sing out loud…in French so nobody can tell if I mess up or not!!!
    Caroline recently posted..New Shoes: Brooks Ghost 4My Profile

  26. Great post! I do the same thing and break it down in minutes. 2 minutes feels much easier than a 0.2 never-ending mile.
    Christine recently posted..Race Report: 5km Run for Mental WellnessMy Profile

  27. Forever miles…love it =) And yes, you are SO right – it happens to me at almost every race…I strain to look ahead to see the mile marker and it’s so depressing to not have one up ahead to push towards. The minutes remaining is often what I use if it’s a short race and/or I have only a handful of miles remaining. Otherwise, I try to focus on how far I’ve run in comparison to have far I have left.
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama recently posted..Friday Night Cry SessionMy Profile

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