I usually divide the marathon into two halves. The first half is the 20 miles, and the second half is the 6.2 miles. Now it may seem weird to divide the marathon into two unequal groups and call them halves, but it makes perfect sense once you look into it. The human body was made to run 20 miles at the longest, and once you go beyond that, you go into a new world, where it's common to lose control over your muscles, as they cramp up, ceasing to function properly.
Legend has it that after the victorious battle at Marathon, Pheidippides the messenger ran from Marathon to Athens to share the good news with them, and after running all the way and sharing the news, died because of the amount of work he did, running that distance.
My first marathon was something I will remember clearly to this day. I was able to run the first 19 miles with no problem, running at a decent pace, but between miles 19-23, different parts of my legs started shutting down, starting with my hamstrings/quads, then my calves. At first, I had kept a good pace to be able to finish with a pretty fast time, but because of the muscle cramps, my pace slowed down rapidly, and I had to push extra hard in order to continue to run the race. Never having run a race at that distance, I wasn't mentally prepared to bear the pain that came with the last 6.2 miles of the race. Running at a considerably slower pace, I felt as if my legs were pulling apart, and struggling with each step I took, I pushed myself as hard as I could, to run to the finish. That was the longest 6.2 miles I have ever run, and by the time I ran passed the finish line, I was glad to have finished that race. The week after finishing the marathon, my body was in a lot of pain, muscles cramping so much that I had a hard time even walking because I had pushed myself beyond that limit.
After that marathon, I was able to finish a few more marathons, and using the experience gathered from the first marathon, I was able to train for the second marathon, prepared to train so hard to overcome that 20 mile wall. Most new marathon runners hit the wall because they have not trained hard nor have taken care of their body during the race to prevent that from happening, and now, understanding what exactly the second half of the race is, I was able to overcome the fatigue and push through to the end. Being prepared for the race mentally is really important, and with experience comes an understanding of the situation and knowledge of how to deal with the situation. It's through hard experiences that we grow the most, and become mentally prepared for what is to come. Understanding the race means that you know what's going on and what's going to happen.
Today was a pretty nice day. I woke up in the morning and ran 2.97 miles in 19:59, a 6:50 min\mile average. Although I felt slightly sick from pushing too hard, I was glad to know that I was indeed on the right path of being a fast runner. Also. After work, my family was invited to eat out with a group of people, and over there, I met a fellow runner who loved to run. Connecting with runners is a pretty awesome thing, and because of that, we're planning to run together some time in the future. It's nice to be able to share a passion with others that have the same passion.