20 Mile Training Run Success!

Guys, I think I might be crazy. Yesterday I ran 20 miles for the first time ever, and I actually really enjoyed myself.


I remember a few years ago when 6 miles was a huge deal.

I remember running 10 miles for the first time back in 2010 and being so tired and sore after it that I napped half the day.

I remember running my first half marathon in June 2010, and then running more halfs in the years that followed, and always thinking there was no way I could possibly go another step past those 13.1 miles.

Never say never, but I always said never. Never 26.2. That’s insane, and bad for you, and not fun at all. Insane? Definitely. Bad for you? I’m sure that much distance isn’t great for these knees.

But not fun? I was wrong. Running this far IS fun, weirdly. Or, at least it is with these ladies on a beautiful Sunday morning in September.


The Oatmeal did an awesome comic a few years ago entitled “The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances(totally worth a read if you haven’t seen it – hilarious), and I totally agree. No matter what else is going on, how much work you have to do or how much of a mess your place is or whatever, running 20 miles will leave you feeling like a total bada$$. Gotta love a runner’s high. No drugs necessary, just my feet and a pretty day.


My running buddies Kathleen, Rachel, and I met up at 9 a.m. at Roosevelt Island yesterday, ready to conquer the big 2-0. As I said last week after 19 miles, 20 just sounded way more intense than 19, even though it was only one more mile. I was nervous but excited.

Before I left my house, I had two of my Banana Spelt Muffins (click for recipe) to fuel up. My mom made a batch of these (with blueberries) over the weekend because she had a ton of overripe bananas and gave me and Matt some of them. Thanks mom – they were as good as I remembered!


As for fuel during the run, I brought the following, in addition to my 2 L of water in my Nathan HPL 020 hydration vest:

what to eat during a 20 mile run

  • Mocha Clif shot gel (eaten slowly over miles 6 to 9)
  • Clif Margarita Shot Bloks (one every mile starting around mile 10, with a break when I ate the granola bar. Ate one last one around mile 19.) I took these out of the package and put them in a ziplock baggie so they were easier to eat while running!
  • Cascadian Farm chewy chocolate chip granola bar (eaten between miles 16 and 17 when I was craving real food)


The girls and I decided to do a nice big loop of trails for the run. We headed up the big hill of death in Rosslyn onto the Custis Trail along I-66, running on that until we hit the W&OD trail.


Side note – how awesome is this water bottle specific water fountain? SO much easier than trying to get the weak stream of a normal water fountain to go into your bottle. (Rachel had a mix of Gatorade and water in her bottle, hence the weird color, in case you were concerned…)


The girls and I took the W&OD trail towards Arlington, chatting the whole way. Around mile 6, I ate my first piece of fuel – the mocha Clif shot gel. I ate it slowly, finishing it around mile 9.


When I finished the gel, I started eating one of the Clif Margarita Shot Bloks every mile or so.


The miles flew by thanks to the chatter from the ladies and the nice weather. Eventually, we picked up the Four Mile Run Trail towards Shirlington. I’d actually never been on this trail before! We hopped off the trail to run through Shirlington, just for fun. Amazing brunch smells were wafting out of the restaurants… we might need to end our next run here so we can hit up brunch!


From there, we got back on a trail that spit us out on the Mt. Vernon Trail by the airport. 


This is our favorite part of the trail – love running under the weeping willows.


From there, to add in some extra mileage, we headed over Memorial Bridge.



We ran along the water and then got onto the I-66 bridge, which I’ve driven on a ton but have actually never run over!


Just like with last week’s 19 miler, I started to get hungry for real food around mile 16. I broke into a Cascadian Farm chewy chocolate chip granola bar and demolished it. For our 22 miler in a few weeks I might need to bring two of them! It tasted soooo good by this point in the run, and was easy to chew while running, too.

When we made it over the bridge, we realized we were on the wrong side and had to run back to get onto the other side so we could get back onto the Mt. Vernon Trail. Oops! Back we go…



Once we made it back onto the Mt. Vernon trail, we headed over the pedestrian bridge onto Roosevelt Island to tackle our final mile.



I was definitely feeling pretty wiped by this point but still strong, considering. I couldn’t believe how quickly the run went by!


And then… done. Wow. 20 miles!!


Right on track with pace, too.


    • Mile 1: 10:16 (<—hill of death – rough way to start!)
    • Mile 2: 9:57
    • Mile 3: 9:53
    • Mile 4: 9:51
    • Mile 5: 9:38
    • Mile 6: 9:16
    • Mile 7: 9:34
    • Mile 8: 9:38
    • Mile 9: 9:40
    • Mile 10: 9:49
    • Mile 11: 9:26
    • Mile 12: 9:36
    • Mile 13: 9:39
    • Mile 14: 9:52
    • Mile 15: 9:44
    • Mile 16: 9:12
    • Mile 17: 9:35
    • Mile 18: 9:43
    • Mile 19: 9:11
    • Mile 20: 9:14
    I was really pleased with our pace – nice and consistent and right on track as per our marathon training plan from my running coach Mary. Our overall time was 3:12:53 for an average pace of 9:38 minute miles. Sitting down and stretching had never felt so good. ;)
    I’ve heard from marathoner friends that there are two halves of a marathon – the first 20 miles and the last 6. I know that if things are going to totally fall apart, it will probably be after mile 20, and that just because I felt decent on yesterday’s run doesn’t mean things will go well on race day. That said, I’m still feeling pretty good overall about the marathon at this point, with fingers crossed on the injury front.


      I did another ice bath yesterday when I got home from the run, and spent some time with my foam roller, too. This morning, I enjoyed a nice and easy 30 minute recovery swim to stretch out my tired legs. I let my arms do most of the work and my legs enjoyed the nice water pressure – love swimming the day after a long run. Overall, I’m not really all that sore today, but I do have a wicked blister on my little toe on my left foot, and I got some bad chafing right under the bottom of my sports bra in the middle of my chest. Ouch. I used body glide, which normally solves the problem for me at the half marathon distance, but for these really long runs it apparently hasn’t done the trick because I’ve been chafing in that same spot on all our super long runs. I’m thinking next time I might put a band-aid or some moleskin over that area unless I want to end up with a scar from repeated chafing!
      Up next on the training docket is a step down week! This coming weekend we’ve got a 12 miler on tap, and then the weekend after it’s back up to 20 again. A month and a half to go until Richmond! :)
      If you’ve done a full marathon, do you agree that the last 6 miles is just as hard as (if not harder than) the first 20?
      How did everyone else’s runs go this weekend? Any great races or training runs?


    1. 1

      Wow great job on the 20 miler! I did 20 miles for the first time myself on Friday. It was TOUGH, but I felt so badass :D

    2. 3

      Great job on your training run! I have done one marathon and I have to say, I hit the wall at EXACTLY mile 20. Hard. I was really poor at fueling though. I took my gels way too late, and didn’t eat any real food.

      I want to run another one next year. I took this year off of serious injuries :-(

    3. 6

      Awesome job! I’m training for my first 26.2, too! We did 19 a week ago (14 this past weekend) and have our big 22-miler coming up this weekend. We might do the exact route you listed below, and just add on an extra two miles somewhere…your route looks beautiful and we conveniently live in Rosslyn!

    4. 9

      Nice job, Anne! Congrats to you. I love all the scenic pics of DC, too…makes me want to go out and run. LOL. What is the purpose of the compression socks…is that what they are?

    5. 13

      Yep–totally agree the last few miles of a marathon are harder than the first 20 for a myriad of reasons–mental, physical and just plain being “done” with it all. You’ll be fine, I’m sure!
      I had a good 21 miler this weekend.
      BTW, if you have 12 on your schedule for this upcoming weekend you might want to consider the Wilson Bridge HM on Sunday–great race and great course!

      • 14

        21 – nice! Good for you. And that Wilson Bridge Half is one I’ve heard great things about – I would love to do it but will be out of town this weekend. Next year! :)

    6. 15

      Great job! I actually ran 20 THIS morning before work! Not as quick or fun as yours seemed unfortunately. As for the body glide issue…sometimes I actually use a glob of vaseline and that helps but for under sports bra rubs, I’ve also use athletic tape over the areas — can be a bitch to tear off when you are done but worth to get rid of the rub.

      I’ve never done 22 pre-marathon (only up to 20) but good luck, I’m sure it will be helpful. You are seriously going to rock Richmond — you are a strong runner. Hopefully the weather is great — I’m excited!

    7. 17

      The last 6 miles of a marathon are the hardest not just physically but mentally too. I have ran 5 marathons and through each one I find it helps to have a little positive mantra to repeat in my head as needed.
      I ran 5 miles with my daighter in the jogging stroller: the extra 25 pounds makes a difference!

    8. 19

      I continue to be so inspired by your amazing attitude and love of the training process. Sometimes I find myself dreading the long runs so much that I think they end up worse, whereas you go in with a positive attitude and just enjoy them! You’re going to rock this marathon! And, for what it’s worth, I think the marathon split is probably about the first 17 miles vs. the last 9 miles or so … I hit the wall before 20 in all 4 of my marathons, which is why in the back of my mind I want to do another one to get it right this time!

      • 20

        I’ve found attitude/mental state going into runs really does make a huge difference. That, and cooler weather has majorly helped, too. And fun running buddies to chat with – makes the miles go by so quickly!

    9. 21

      I was out running in Shirlington yesterday (22 miler, 4 weeks until Marine Corps Marathon!) and I could have sworn I saw you. Next time I’ll say hi!

    10. 23

      Wow, good job!! I’m still in the “yay, 6 miles!” phase of my running career. You’re a total inspiration!

    11. 25

      Woah, 20 miles, that’s serious! Congrats!! Would you ever consider doing a Map My Run image of the route you take? I love running in DC but I’m not from there so I’m not that familiar with the names of the trails and I have trouble visualizing the path you take. Thanks :)

      • 26

        Yeah, this loop was a kind of confusing one! I actually wouldn’t be able to map it out if I tried, unfortunately – my buddy Rachel was leading us. :) I’ll consider this in the future though!

    12. 27

      Great job!!! I ran an AWFUL 10 miles this weekend. Mentally it wasn’t good two weeks out from my first half but at least i finished…..Only short runs over the next 12 days and then 13.1 or bust :)

    13. 29

      I had my first training run of 10 miles (training for RNR 1/2) and I had all the same thoughts you did about going from 9 to 10 that you had going from 19 to 20! Totally mental, I guess! I chose very hilly course, similar to my 1/2 course, and was glad to see I could survive it! It was very windy, but I finished in under 2 hours. I was actually nervous starting out, but finally realized it was a mile-by-mile thing, and it went well and I was happy. Still cannot even fathom 26.2, just focused on my goal race 10/27/13……

    14. 31

      “If you’ve done a full marathon, do you agree that the last 6 miles is just as hard as (if not harder than) the first 20?”

      YES! But to be perfectly honest, a LOT LOT LOT of it is mental.

    15. 32

      That’s exactly where I get chafing, let me know if anything works! I use vaseline at the moment, but think I need something more!

    16. 33

      Congrats on another PDR!!! Sounds like you did awesome and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed yourself!!

      Also — LOVE the comic. I totally have a blerch that follows me around and also haunts me if I sit for too long!!

    17. 34

      OMG. The first 20 miles are DEFINITELY and without-a-doubt the “easy” part of the marathon. Glad to hear your run went so well! Can’t wait for the actual marathon!

    18. 35

      Wow – congrats! That’s quite the accomplishment. I love those margarita block shots – so refreshing on long runs.

    19. 36

      I ran Richmond in 2010, it’s beautiful, especially the first part of it. I did hit “the wall” around mile 20. It was mental for me. At that point in the course you ran into a neighborhood and at the entrance was an actual brick wall, of course some schmuck labeled it “the wall.” Thankfully someone running near me picked up on it and encouraged me for the next mile and I was able to push through it. If the course is the same and you see that wall, you just laugh at it, don’t let it get the better of you!

      • 37

        That is hilarious/mean that there is an actual wall where most people usually hit the mental wall! Thanks to you, I will now see it and smile – or at least grimace :)

    20. 38

      For me, the last 6 miles were the hardest mentally. The first half was so fun and I was so excited that they flew by- the last half is all mental!

      So glad you had a great run! This will put you in the BEST mindset for your race!!!

    21. 39

      I had my 11 miler on Saturday-2 weeks out from my second half-marathon. It was pretty good despite having to change up my route due to a 5k I was totally unaware of being at my usual park trail. I have never used body glide, but I’ve also never had a problem with chafing. Also, at what distance did you start using the compression sleeves and decide they were really helpful? I’ve never used those either, but I feel like I hear so much debate about the effectiveness of them. I’m not sure if they would really benefit me for the half-marathon distance. What are your thoughts?

      • 40

        I started using the compression sleeves around 10 mileish runs. They’ve really helped me! Especially with calf/ankle area tightness.

        • 41

          Thanks for the feedback! My calves tend to feel the tightest after a run and don’t always loosen up after some foam rolling as well as my other muscle groups, so it does seem logical that I’d benefit. :)

    22. 42

      Great job on the 20-miler! We did an 18-mile run around DC this weekend – perfect weather! It’s so exciting to constantly be reaching new milestones. I completely understand what you mean about enjoying it. I already can’t wait until the next long run. I’ve started to really look forward to them! It’s relaxing!
      Also, tried my first ice bath (well cold bath with ice) right afterwards. I think it helped significantly with the quad soreness. Have you tried the CEP compression socks for recovery after the run? I wear them to bed the night after a long run – found they really help too! Agree on the sleeves – always wear them for long runs now!

    23. 44

      I love reading about your runs. They make me feel like I can do it too :) I am running my first half in a few weeks and did 10 miles on Saturday… and I felt like I could have kept going! I definitely have similar thoughts in that I can’t imagine (right now) running that much farther… so awesome that you are though

    24. 46

      Awesome Job! I’ve never done over 20 before a marathon, but I think I am going to do 22 next weekend before I taper for MCM. I actually never hit the wall during my first marathon, I just kept going and actually sped up the last 3 miles! But then in my second marathon, I hit the wall hard at mile 23. So I guess the two halves for me are 23 +3 miles… Just keep putting one foot in front of the other :)

    25. 47

      Great job!! And pretty pictures! I have run 1 marathon and I really enjoyed the long training runs as well. During the actual race, mile 22 and 23 were definitely the hardest. After that, I was so excited to finish that the end didn’t seem too bad.

    26. 48

      Great run! I like hearing about what you do for fuel during the run, it gives me ideas for my future long runs. I did an awesome 11 miler on sunday, it’s got nothing on your 20 but it was also a pdr

    27. 50

      Congrats on a fun, feel-good 20! I wanted to second an earlier reader’s recommendation to use vaseline instead of body glide for bad chafing. I’ve used it before for marathon training and it works great!

    28. 52

      Awesome job on your 20 miler! When I did my marathon last year, I remember miles 17-20 being the hardest both mentally and physically. Once I got past the aches and pains, I actually -dare I say it- enjoyed the last 6. It definitely took a lot of mental power, but I loved it!! As for the chafing, I find that globs of Vaseline work the best for me on all my long runs. At the bottom of the sports bra is the worst! Happens to me a lot if I forget to lather on the Vaseline.

      Sounds like you have a great strategy for the race and your training seems to be going awesome! You’ll do great come race day :)

    29. 53

      I love the shot of all the rowers out on the water! I used to be a rower myself, and now I’m a runner :) although I did a half marathon last weekend and about 3 days later my foot started feeling really badly and bruised, although its not swelled. I’ve been icing it and elevating it as much as I can, so sad I can’t enjoy a run with this beautiful Ottawa weather were having!!

    30. 55

      What a nice trail to run! I am still struggling to run more than 3 miles. Do you have any suggestions to run more distance? Do you listen to music while running?

    31. 59

      What a beautiful day! There is nothing better than running with friends…it makes the miles just slip by.

      Many a marathon can fall apart in the last 6 miles. It is frequently due to starting too fast, then paying the price near the end. Keep your plan in mind and you should be fine.

    32. 60

      Kudos on your 20 miles! I’m so impressed and inspired by your training process. After reading your running posts, I have no excuses not to push myself a little farther each week with my own fitness goals. Thanks for the shot in the arm. I know you’ll do a spectacular job in Richmond!

    33. 62

      I can see why you had such a great run, you had some really awesome scenery! I remember the first time I ran 8 miles and I hurt all over. It was years before I ran more than 6 miles again. Now I do 8 miles or more at least once a week. How times change!

    34. 64

      Absolutely epic!!! Congrats!!! And awesome recap!

    35. 65

      Congrats on the new PDR! You are going to do so great at this marathon! As usual, love all your running pics!

    36. 66

      Great job! I had some chafing from my race(s) this weekend and think it’s time to purchase Body Glide! I am not running 20 for a few weeks – 14 this weekend, which will be a PDR!

    37. 68

      Great job!! It’s all downhill from here. Sitting down feels sooo good post- long run. After this year’s San Francisco Marathon, I sat on the curb near the finish line for a good two hours before hobbling back to my apartment!

    38. 69

      Well done :)
      I’ve never run more than 13.1 miles but I can relate to the 2 halves – every time I’ve done that distance it felt like a breeze until mile 10 where things changed completely. I remember my first time, I was practically crawling the last 3 miles! Second time was better but my body is way more comfortable around 10 miles than 13. I know it’s different to marathon training but similar at the same time. :)

    39. 70

      Wow!!! You guys are awesome!! Great run!

    40. 72

      Wow, your pace is a amazingly consistent! Congrats on getting the 20 miles done.It looks like you pretty damn strong and steady with the running :)

      I did another PDR for me. 17 miles and it was TOUGH. More physically than anything else. I drop down to run my 1/2 on Sunday and then back up again, but I have no idea how I am going to handle 20 miles let alone 26.2. It’s looming and scary.

      I got a bit of chafing too. Behind my knee because of my sleeve and the same area because of the bra. I need to glide.

    41. 74

      Wow, amazing! Looks like a gorgeous run too!

    42. 75

      I have been reading your blog for a long time now but have never actually commented — hi!

      Your training seems like it is going so well, and so great to have training buddies with you.
      I was supposed to run my first marathon yesterday but unfortunately am out with a femur issue — such a bummer after so much time and energy in training.

      Enjoy your step back week!

    43. 77

      The last 6 miles are really you vs your mind. Everything hurts and you’re so close but still far. I always seem to cry around 18-20. Normally after 20, I’ll walk a minute after each mile to give myself SOMETHING to look forward to, it makes the mile faster and it becomes more of a game. Of course, the thought of post race beer never hurts either ;)

    44. 78

      Such an inspiring post! Like you, I was in a place of “never” with running a marathon until the opportunity to run NYC as my first marathon fell into my lap! :) And now I can’t wait to be at the starting line!
      I checked 21 off my list this weekend and felt surprising good as well! I think I need to try eating real food fuel around mile 16-ish as well. Definitely felt pretty hungry while running for the first time this weekend and the shot blocks just didn’t cut it. Keep up the great work!!

    45. 80

      Woohoo!! I have a half coming up this weekend, and while I didn’t get to train the way I wanted to, I am excited as these last few weeks have gone (knock on wood) quite well! Hoping to hit the marathon distance this spring! (The more I admit this the more real it gets!!)

    46. 81

      Wow, 20 miles is amazing! I was just starting to get into my 5k training before breaking my ankle this summer so anything more than a mile seems miraculous to me at this point :)

    47. 83

      I definitely agree – the 2nd half of the marathon starts at mile 20. That’s where it becomes more of a mental ability rather than a physical ability. Luckily after running 3 marathons, I have not yet “hit the wall” at any point, but mentally, 20-22 is where I start to doubt my reason for running/torturing myself. But in the end, I somehow convince myself that “that was fun” and to sign up for another one! Congrats on you new PDR!

    48. 84

      My first marathon was the Walt Disney Marathon, and the race course was just so active and so pumped with energy it was hard to say if the last 6 were that hard. I think what happened was once I did 20.01 (the farthest I had ever run), I was so excited to keep running knowing this was the farthest I had ever gone! Congrates on the 20 miler!!

    49. 86

      Maybe the last six miles are when things get bad, but it’s certainly boosting my confidence to be completing these 20 training runs! Makes the marathon seem totally doable and I agree… So fun with great company!

    50. 88

      Congrats on 20 miles! Your training is going so well! I get the sports bra chafing too… what works for me is to use a regular (not all-natural) women’s deoderant like Secret or Degree. I think because it has that wetness protection and moisturization combo. Good luck!

    51. 90

      Hi Anne, Congrats on your training run! I wanted to point out something I noticed in your post- saying that running this much is “probably not so great for your knees”. New peer-reviewed scientific research shows that while running can be detrimental to the knee joint once osteoarthritis has begun, if your knees are healthy to begin with (i.e. no osteoarthritis) then running does NOT put more stress on the joints then walking. You can see how this would make sense if you think about the force applied and the number of strides. While running increases the load on your knee joint (you hit the ground with more force than when walking), when you run you hit the ground less overall for a given distance than when you walk it. This is because when you run your stride is longer than when you walk. So essentially, it evens out and the two are no different in terms of effect on your knee joints (i.e. running = less strides with more force at each step vs. walking = more strides with less force at each step). Hope this helps!

    52. 92

      Such beautiful pictures! I can’t believe you take them with just a point-and-shoot camera.

      My sports bras are all the ugly Moving Comfort ones with the clips in the back, maybe that’s why I’ve never had a chafing problem… Ugh, sounds ouchy! Hope it heals up soon.

    53. 93
      Roadrunner says

      Really well done, Anne! And awesome photos. I think there actually may be three races in a marathon: the first 20, the next 5, and the final 1.2. Well done on the first of those races! :-)

    54. 94

      Great job on 20 miles!! You guys are amazingly consistent with your pace – and you ran 20 miles at my typical *mile* pace… wow, girls! haha I ran my first half-marathon in Johnson City, TN two weekends ago. I actually felt pretty good endurance-wise during the whole thing, but about two miles in, I could have sworn I was running on two broken ankles… that’s how badly they hurt! Never got that during a training run (just some mild PTT aching typically) so I have no idea what happened, but I spent the next 11 miles in serious pain, going much much slower than usual. But, dang it, it was a gorgeous, perfect morning for running, and I FINISHED that race! I’ve only been running for 1 1/2 years, and I’m not genetically or otherwise a “runner”, but I’m now a (slow) half-marathoner!! :-) I can’t wait to hear all about you becoming a full MARATHONER!

    55. 96

      I’ve ran one full marathon, and I totally hit the wall at mile 20. But my longest run was 20 and I think I ran the first 20 faster than I had been training on my long runs. PLUS, I heard a man say next to me to his son…only 6 more to go! And that statement kind of deflated me. lol. But I made it, and it was a blast!

    56. 97

      Honestly, the last 6 you’re not even thinking any more. You’re disconnected from feeling/emotions by that point and sort of just on auto pilot. I don’t remember much of the last 6, but I remember being miserable 16-20, so if you’re still feeling good at 20 I think you’ll be great!!

    57. 98

      I did 20 miles last Saturday and am jealous of your conditions! I’m up in Seattle and it rained the ENTIRE time -I was so miserable! I was also alone, so that didn’t help! Anyways, I found your blog through another site, I really like it!

    58. 99

      Just a quick tip: I checked in for a marathon today and learnt that they don’t allow my hydration backpack (due to the Boston bombing). Check with Richmond if you’re allowed to wear yours there. Ugh, pre-race day and I need to figure out hydration :/

      • 100

        Oh no… that’s really good to know – thank you for the tip! Was definitely planning to wear mine… fingers crossed Richmond allows them or else I guess I’ll just be relying on water stops!

    59. 101

      Great job and lovely photos — I am sure you will do great in Richmond. I am training for my 4th half marathon (funny that I still find I don’t consider myself a runner since I am so slow) and will be doing 9 miles tomorrow and have terrible problems with chaffing. So I clicked over to see the suggestions. I find it worse in the heat and humidity around here. I will often wear a camisole under my bra but usually attempt this once the skin damage has been done and I need to keep up the training. Hoping the rain lets up at least for a couple of hours tomorrow.


    1. […] milers and this 22 miler in our marathon training plan (click that link to read more about it), but I only did one of the 20 milers a month ago because the weekend of the second 20 miler I was having some weird foot pain. I’ve […]

    2. […] just had a fun trip down memory lane reading my blog recaps from previous super long training runs: my first 20 miler in September 2013, a 22 miler in October 2013, and a snowy 20 miler in February 2014! Also, I totally forgot I did a […]

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