Discover the Hardest Marathon Miles to Overcome

The hardest marathon mile varies from runner to runner. For instance what a new runner considers the hardest might be the easiest for a seasoned athlete. It’s generally believed that the hardest marathon mile ranges between 18 to 23 miles.

Therefore, it’s important that you know when it’s coming and what to do. A runner will start and advance with a steady pace only to reach a point where they feel a physical wall. 


At this time, the pace becomes more and more difficult physically and mentally. How long you go before you hit that wall will depend on your training as well as your mental preparedness. Discover the hardest marathon miles below.

Discover the Hardest Marathon Miles to Overcome

Discovering and Preparing for the Hardest Marathon Mile

During training, the first and most important thing to do is to understand the race you are training for. 

Get all the details of the race which will help you train more purposefully and make you visualize how you will handle the hardest parts of your race. 

It will also help you anticipate when the hardest part will come and hence prepare for it. Below are the factors to prepare for the most challenging part of the race.


You need to consider the environment where the marathon is going to take place.  If it is going to be in a raised place or a higher altitude than where you are practicing, it will be difficult to get oxygen, so plan for that. 

As an athlete, you need enough oxygen to give you the energy you need. That’s why the heart beats faster to meet the energy demands of the body. 

In a high altitude with low oxygen, the body will adjust to balance oxygen lack in high altitudes- a process called acclimatization.  In case you don’t acclimatize well, you get higher chances of getting altitude sickness.


When the race you are training for is going to be in a hilly terrain, you anticipate it’s going to be more challenging than on a level ground.  

During training, it’s important you look at the course layout and understand where the tough hills are so that you are equipped well in advance. 

It’s in such areas that unprepared racers collapse due to lack of oxygen. Hence you need to train your body to handle less oxygen incidences by working your heart.


Look at the weather forecast for the day and month in general. Much as it might not be accurate, at least you get a rough idea of what it’s likely to be. This helps you during training, for instance how to run on a rainy day or hot day. 

You’ll need to drink plenty of fluids if it’s going to be a hot season.  Also, weather forecast helps you put on the right attire and gear appropriate for racing in a particular weather. 

Running while cold, feeling dry, feeling too hot etc. can all affect the outcome of your race.

Aid Stations

It’s important that racers understand where their aid stations are and what will be provided. This helps you to train with the same product that you’ll be served at the aid stations.  

Also, find out when gels will be available so you don’t start your ‘hardest mile’ earlier than you should.

Discover the Hardest Marathon Miles to Overcome

Miles 18-19

Every time a runner looks how far he has come and how far he still has to run can be discouraging. Moreover, this is a thought that creeps in runner’s mind a lot of times. This thought can create a hardest mile of the marathon. 

Most times, you are running at a steady pace before the 18-mile mark. Hopefully, you started smart without going out too fast and held back on high altitude areas to save energy. 

If you didn’t, then you’ll struggle when you get to these miles than a smart runner that started smart. It’s important that runners know this so that they don’t hit their most challenging marathon miles sooner.  

A racer that remains conservative through the marathon will likely get to these miles feeling good.

Miles 20-21

This makes the last 1/3 of the marathon which brings both physiological and psychological factors into play. Most likely by miles 20-21, you have wrestled with negative thoughts. 

If you are still running, then you pushed them away and should arrive at these marathon miles still holding the pace and feeling good. 

The fatigue you have experienced up to this level has been manageable and you are happy to be nearing the finish line.

Final Thoughts

Every runner gets to a point where they hit a barrier. Here, they feel like throwing in the towel because their feel too weak to continue. 

As long as you know this will happen, you can mentally prepare for the marathon mile and push past it. 


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