I'm up to 19 km on my long runs, so I've had a lot of time out there to think about what's helped me be successful in completing the marathons I've run over the years. Here's what I've discovered.
Stick to the schedule
A general rule in increasing to long distances is to not run more than roughly 10% of the distance you ran the week before (although there is some debate about the validity of this rule, generally I think this can be a sensible starting point). Marathon training programs are designed to gradually increase the distance a person is running from week to week. Skipping a run here or there is one thing, but to miss a week or two, or even a long run here and there, can easily throw your schedule off track. Hey, life happens and sometimes it's not possible to make every training run. Learn how to adapt, but get the mileage in as needed.
Go the distance...
I've been out on my share of long runs where I get to a certain point, and all I want to do is totally ditch. I will admit, I have been tempted more than once in the middle of a long run to just hop on a bus or flag down a taxi and go home. But somehow, I've forced myself to stay on my feet and make the distance for that day. Sometimes it's by telling myself to just make it to the next kilometre, or next walk break. Sometimes, I need it to be even simpler - like, committing to one step at a time. I'm a firm believer that whatever you need to tell yourself at that time, that day, in that run to keep going, is exactly what you need to hear
...unless your body is saying otherwise
When I got injured in 2012 training for #3, it was devastating. But that injury didn't come without its warning signs. Fatigue, pain... these are all precursors to injury and they should not be ignored.
In running, there will be good days, and there will be bad days. And very rarely have the rest of the days been just "okay" or "meh". I've found running is either glorious, or heartbreaking. Incredible, or soul-sucking. For all the awe-inspiring runs I've had, I've had just as many that were plain awful. But you know what? I learned something from all of them. I became stronger. I found confidence, courage, belief - and more - simply by putting my shoes on and going out there. As long as you are open to the possibility of what running can bring, I believe you will gain as much or more than you give.
Be kind to yourself
Lastly, running can be hard to do - not just for beginners, but for everyone. It doesn't matter whether you're starting from scratch, or if you've been running for years. Struggles befall us all - in life, and in running. Don't forget that this is something you are doing for yourself, to be fitter, healthier. So remember that. If the going gets tough, give yourself a break... and then get back out there the next day.
What are the things you've learned while training?