How to Avoid Marathon Burnout

Today’s marathons+moderation guest post was highly requested! I’ve received emails and comments requesting that Meghann, from Meals and Miles, do a guest post. I think everyone, whether you’re a runner or not, can appreciate the topic: burning out.

Hey guys!

My name is Meghann, from Meals and Miles, and I’m here to talk about burning out. Yes, the elusive ‘burnt out’ feeling towards racing and/or running. Trust me, we’ve all been there before and I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to take a break. In fact, I highly recommend it!

In 2009 and 2010 I went a little racing crazy. Over the course of two years I ran 5 marathons, 1 ultra-marathon, 3 half marathons, and several other race distances. I trained hard, shaved several minutes off of my personal records, and loved every minute of it. But at the end of 2010, I realized I needed a break. My mind was fried, my body was tired, and I was just plain burnt out on racing. I knew if I wanted to keep my love for running, then I needed to take a breather. So that’s what I did.

2011 became my year of rest. I didn’t step away from racing completely, but instead I just took it easy and had fun. I cut down on my speed training, paced some friends in their big races, and didn’t worry about my own time or pace. I took a break from trying to PR and just went along for the ride. I rediscovered why I loved running and just took everything in.


In addition to stepping back from speed training, I also picked up triathlon training. My siblings and I got this crazy idea to complete a half ironman, which ended up being just what I needed. I learned to push my body in ways it had never been pushed before in both the water and on the bike. I did something I never thought I would ever do – I crossed the finish line of a half ironman with the biggest smile on my face.


After training for my half ironman, I realized I was ready to start training for marathons again. My legs and mind were both antsy for new PRs. The break served its purpose well. That burnt out feeling? Gone.

Getting back to speed was something I knew wasn’t going to happen overnight. I started from scratch with a new training plan and took it one run at a time. When my speed wasn’t where I remembered it being the year before, I tried not to let it get to me. Instead I stayed positive and reminded myself that we all have to start somewhere.

Slowly, but surely, the speed returned. My legs found their place and came back stronger than ever. In fact, two weeks ago I shaved a full 7 minutes off of my half marathon PR and that’s only the beginning. I’ve got plans – big plans.


So take my advice, if you’re feeling burnt out on running or races, do not be afraid to take a break. It’s good for the body and mind. Who knows, you might just return faster than ever with fresh legs and a fresh attitude.

Question: Have you ever suffered from burn out? What do you do to avoid it?

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  1. Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 23, 2012 / 2:26 am

    I don’t know the race “burn-out” feeling as I’ve never done one but I think taking a break when you feel burnt-out is good advice for whatever your form of exercise is. When / if I get burnt out on the elliptical, I’ll change it up and run or bike an extra day that week, instead of the elliptical…etc. 🙂

  2. Josie @ February 23, 2012 / 1:35 pm

    I’ve never suffered the same burnt out that you described, but I have definitely gone through up and down periods with running. Sometimes for reasons I can’t explain, my enthusiasm just goes. I don’t want to race, to train, anything. Small runs become boring and hard. When this happens- I give myself time. I tell myself that its ok to take a break, that no one is actually making you run. So I don’t. And I soon find that once that pressure is off- I want to get out there. I miss running. So I come back more enthused, more appreciative of a stress relieving, happy making run in the park and all is good again 🙂

  3. Sarah April 30, 2013 / 11:47 pm

    YES. I needed to find this. I’m done with half/marathoning for the spring and looking forward to tri season — I’m hoping it’s just what I need to get energized for fall races.

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