First time marathoners ask me this question all the time. In fact, experienced marathoners have been known to say, “A marathon is probably nothing to you.”
Saturday I had the pleasure of watching a few of my friends run in their first marathon. They were nervous and excited to bursting. I was amazed when each of them crossed the finish line not only because they had accomplished what they set out to do, but because it started snowing right before the start and then it rained for the entire marathon. In fact, it rained for the next fifteen hours.
I understand where the question, “Does the Marathon ever get easy?” comes from. Most people think if you run ultramarathons of fifty to one hundred miles, twenty-six miles should be a breeze, right? Not necessarily.
Yes, I use marathons as a supported long run. Yes, my training consists of running thirty miles on Saturday and twenty miles on Sunday. Yes, I run four marathons back to back for fun, all through the night, and don’t stop to rest.
So, does a marathon ever get easy? It’s all in the way you run it.
If I run a marathon at my easy long run pace, I’m not sore the next day and I can run another marathon if I want and sometimes I do. If I put all my effort into the marathon, I’m probably going to take a rest day or two. I may even be a little sore depending on the course.
The marathon is as hard as you want to make it, even for ultramarathon runners and elite runners. Whenever you push your body to its limit, it’s hard regardless of what your training plan is and regardless of how many times you have done it before.
One thing that your body does get better at is recovering after the marathon. Even when you put out your full effort, your recovery time (time until you are out running again) gets shorter and shorter. It may take a first time marathoner seven to ten days to recover, but it will take a more experienced marathoner two or three days.