Supporting a Marathoner During Training: A Guide for Loved Ones

Marathon Training start line

When I graduated from law school, my school gave special diplomas to the loved ones of the graduates. The spouses, roommates, and parents who put up with and supported us while we slowly went insane during our studies. I often think marathons should do the same thing.  There needs to be a loved ones finishers medals for those who put up with us while we go a little crazy during marathon training.

Supporting a Trainee

Supporting a Loved One During Marathon Training

Loved ones, there are a few things you need to know as your significant others and loved ones start training for a marathon.

It Takes a Ton of Time

Training for a marathon, especially as the weeks go by and we get closer to race day, becomes a part-time job. 20 mile long runs on the weekends, runs of 10 miles on a weekday. These runs require a huge time commitment for even the fastest runners. For slower runners (like me), these longer runs can overrun the calendar.

And this time commitment is over and above the physical demands of these runs.

Know that this time commitment is both necessary and temporary. Please help us to the extent possible with household chores, cooking, childcare or whatever else needs to get done. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all AND do long runs.

We Will Become Self-Absorbed

Marathon training is both physically and mentally demanding. We will become a bit obsessed with what we are eating, how we are running, how we are sleeping, what the schedule is coming up, if our clothes or shoes are just right, what routes we should run on any given day, and a million other little details.

You, I’m sad to say, may get a little lost in the shuffle (temporarily!). We may not notice your new haircut and we may forget to ask you about your day or how your presentation at work went.

It doesn’t mean we don’t love you, it’s just that training can become a bit all-consuming. We’ll make it up to you.

We Will Be Riddled With Doubt

Can I really run a marathon?

Why did I think I could do this?

Should I quit?

Even the most experienced runners often doubt their abilities and decisions during marathon training. All trainees will need some reassurance during training, so get your cheerleading hat on.

You know best what your loved one needs to hear when they doubt themselves. Do whatever that thing is that will provide them comfort and confidence.

We Will Need Regular Pep Talks

This is related to runners being riddled with doubt. We may need the regular pep talks to keep up our confidence.

Know why your runner wants to do a marathon. Remind them of that reason. Regularly. It is helpful to hear our goal and desires spoken back to us. We may forget our ‘why’ on occasion, it is always a good thing for someone to remind us.

We Will Have To Make Sacrifices

Marathon training can require runners to sacrifice a lot. We have to watch our diet. Cut back on alcohol. Turn down social invites on Friday and Saturday nights so we are ready for long training runs.

Support these sacrifices to the extent you can. You don’t have to participate in these sacrifices (although it would be great if you would), but don’t make them any harder on your runner than necessary. Staying home, sober, eating healthy food on a Friday night is hard enough as it is.

We May Forget To Say Thanks

Thank you for putting up with us. We couldn’t do it without you (even if we don’t always see it or acknowledge it at the time).

Marathon Support

You may also enjoy:

Supporting a Loved One on Race Day


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Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

2 thoughts on “Supporting a Marathoner During Training: A Guide for Loved Ones

  1. I almost feel that this needs a part 2: How we as runners can show gratitude to our support network of partners/friends/family who stand by us, even when we are crabby.

    1. Great idea Yavanna! I know I’ve done my fair share of ‘I’m sorry for what I said when I was training’ apologies over the years.

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