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Marathon Training Burnout: What Happens When You Plan Two Marathons Too Close Together

Have you ever experienced runner or marathon training burnout? Sharing my symptoms of burnout and story when running two marathons too close together.

woman running Detroit Free Press Marathon 2019

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When you run marathons too close together….you get burned out. Sounds pretty obvious, right?

Well this may not be the case for everyone, but this is surely what I have experienced and what I am in the midst of right now.

Symptoms of Marathon Training Burnout

I haven’t written about marathon training too much. And honestly, there hasn’t been too much happening over here. 

Here are some of the symptoms I’ve experienced of marathon burnout, or burnout in general.

Poor Immunity

I talk to clients about this, and I need to take my own advise. I’ve been sick (twice) and basically took a week straight off due to sinus infections and general fatigue.

Too much stress on the body can impact and impair the immune and repair system. Also very common in relative energy deficiency as well.

Lack of Motivation

I’ve just generally lacked motivation for running. I think part of it was the holidays and winter weather (who decides to run a marathon in January?!), and not wanting to spend hours outside in the cold, or spend long runs on the treadmill, either.


Fortunately, I haven’t had any major injuries, but I have had some nagging problems. I’ve had a hip thing that’s been bothering me for weeks now, so I’ve been doing some cross-training and strength training, like this killer upper body workout for runners, to try to maintain my fitness. 

I realize as I type these out that it sounds like I’m making a lot of excuses, or I’m totally out of tune with my body.. 

In one respect, I’ve completely taken all of the pressure off of myself for the Disney marathon because I literally have no expectations of finishing.

I’m thinking it will be a walk/run combination if I do finish. 

Girl wearing teal top taking a selfie while running

Mental Doubt

But, on the other hand, I feel very nervous because I am so under-trained and I don’t know if I can even manage the race. 

I’ve gotten out for several “small” runs ranging from 3-5 miles, but the speedwork has been nonexistent and the long runs (and hence long run nutrition practice) haven’t really happened. 

Some other symptoms of marathon training burnout may include:

  1. Decreased Performance: Are you noticing a decline in running performance despite consistent training efforts? Your muscles may need a break!
  2. Persistent Muscle Soreness: Experiencing prolonged muscle soreness or stiffness (DOMS) that doesn’t improve with rest.
  3. Increased Resting Heart Rate: Perhaps your heartrate is constantly high and can’t come down to its normal rate, signaling that overtraining may be a problem.
  4. Insomnia or Disrupted Sleep: Trouble sleeping is definitely a symptom of overtraining (and undereating)! Maybe you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to racing thoughts or something else (like an injury, low blood sugar, undereating, etc.).
  5. Appetite Changes: Experiencing changes in appetite, such as increased cravings or loss of appetite. Are you not eating enough after your runs? Even if you are not hungry after a run, fueling is important.
  6. Mood Swings: If you’re experiencing mood swings, highs and lows, feeling irrtable or constantly anxious, it may be worth digging into. If there is no other obvious cause, overtraining may be at play.

As always, talk with your doctor, running coach, dietitian, etc. Sometimes there are multiple puzzle pieces to put together to get the full story.

girl in pink tank top running around track grabbing her hamstring

Focus Since the Detroit Marathon

I ran the Free Press Marathon in Detroit in late October. In the last two months, the furthest I’ve run was 12-13 miles and that was about a month ago. It didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t the worst thing. 

I actually even tried to switch to the half marathon at Disney because I feel pretty confident I could run that based on the minimal training I’ve done, vs. extending myself in the marathon.

Now, I either have to decide:

  • Do I just run the race, or at least start it? I likely won’t finish, unless there’s lots of walking involved and it just seems like it would take forever. None of my marathons have been over 4 hours, so I’d have to put my pride aside and possibly get a DNF.
  • Do I just sit it out completely and earn a DNS?
GU gel and GU chews during long run

At this point, I’m leaning towards just starting it and doing what I can and enjoying the experience. I’ve received many comments on how fun the race and experience is itself, and I am really excited to see the characters.

But, is it worth starting and dropping out, or just not doing it completely?

I’ve never been in this predicament before, where I’m going into a race thinking I can’t finish.

At least with Detroit, I felt more prepared – I got up to 18-20 miles and had consistent long runs. I stayed pretty healthy, considering.

Is it Burnout?

While the motivation surely points to burnout, my performance and speed haven’t really been affected. However, burnout doesn’t have to be all of the above factors, even just some may tell a story.

You know yourself best, but oftentimes in these situations, it’s hard to diagnose yourself. Talk to your partner, running group, coach, friends, etc.

Are you acting like yourself? Recovering the same? Craving or not craving the same foods? Sleeping differently? Always tired?

post workout picture with tree in background

Personally, I do have some hip pain right now but I think it’s more an alignment issue from constantly holding Camryn (she is in a clingy phase right now). 

I don’t feel irritable before and after workouts and I am finding some positives about my workouts. For example, yesterday I ran 7 miles and enjoyed a podcast, the sunshine, and felt really good overall, which was mentallyencouraging. 

I think overall, I’m just not feeling it like I was in the fall, which is a sign of burnout. I think I’m burned out from the overuse of long-distance impact on my muscles.

Seriously, I would happily run a 5k, 10k, or even a half marathon because I know I can get through it. But mentally, the grueling thought of 26.2 miles, and hours and hours on my feet is not appealing to me right now!

Plan for Next Week

Well, I’m currently 9 days out from the race. The Disney marathon is on a Sunday. 

What I’m thinking for the next week is…this is technially taper time so it’s not a time to test how far I can go. I am going to continue with a few shorter runs (3-5 miles), a day or 2 of cross training, and some light yoga and stretching. 

I just want to focus on being healthy on raceday, and from there, I’ll just see how I feel at the race. I’ll definitely start running it, and maybe I’ll include a walk/jog/run sequence or just stop after I feel like it.

running a marathon with bib on

In terms of fueling, I am just going to go with my marathon fueling plan that I used for Detroit. 

I really have no idea but I’m not going to make that decision until I’m actually running it.

While I’ve never gone into a race with this much unknown (it is a little disturbing), I don’t want to push myself too hard or overdo it, either. 

I know this post is a little different and more of me rambling, but my hope is that some of you can relate to this feeling and can shed some light on the situation.

Or, maybe you’ve even experienced it with work or another sport.

I’d love to hear from you!

Have you ever run an endurance race with so few miles under your belt? Will the extra cross training help me?

If you’ve been through burnout, what helped?

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  1. Oh, that’s tough…I would never recommend running a marathon you didn’t train for, I feel like you have to respect the distance, but you did just run one, so you can do it…however you might be setting yourself up for some serious injury 🙁 I hope not! At least you know that Disney has a super long cutoff if you do have to walk.

  2. I never do Disney races for time; always just for characters and fun! Sometimes I make it my mission to have my slowest race at Disney lol. Princess 2018 I think it took me 3:05 to run the half with character stops. Definitely my slowest half but SO MUCH FUN.

    I have lots of friends who did fall marathons (MCM and NY) and then turned around for Disney to train. All of them have the same feelings as you…just a general blah feeling about distance running. I don’t think I could do the back to back thing. Training through the winter is hard as it is and I typically only have enough energy to do one full a year. Hopefully you figure out what you’re going to do and have fun!

    1. That actually makes me feel better that your friends are feeling the same way lol. The back to back thing is rough, I’ve never attempted it until now but now I know it’s not for me. Thanks for sharing, Montana!

  3. It’s really too bad that Disney doesn’t allow you to drop down in distance. I think given all the money invested I would probably just go and enjoy the experience as best I can. The biggest key to all of this is to listen to your body. Good luck with your decision!

    1. It was disappointing but it’s such a big race, they have to follow their rules, I understand it.

  4. Ugh. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this.

    Personally, with the cost of the Disney Marathon, and the fact that they won’t refund, transfer or defer, I would say go for it. It’s a really fun experience, even if you walk the whole thing. Get pictures. Go on Everest. Buy a pretzel or cocktail in Epcot and cross the finish line with it. It’s a really fun experience and you will NOT be the only one run/walking, walking or just taking it all in.

    Good luck!

    1. Have you done it before? They do have so many fun activities that do seem worth taking advantage of! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jenn!

  5. I’ve heard that a Disney race is not a PR race usually, so I would just enjoy the course and get all the pictures if it was my choice (unless there was a big chance I’d get injured). I’m sure it would be a blast just taking it easy!
    Good luck making a choice that’s right for you. I can’t wait to see what you pick!

  6. Hi Sarah, I think you are being too hard on yourself! I know it is disappointing not to be able to stick to a training plan, but it happens to everyone in different seasons of life. Sometimes it is just not going to work out, and now you know that one marathon/year or something is a good fit for you. Try not to sweat it and just know there will be other races with better training, but enjoying Disney with your family will only happen once. Good job with everything you are doing!

    Can you drop out at 13.1 and make it a half marathon for yourself? 🙂

    1. Hi Erin, Thank you for that! I probably am being too hard on myself, sometimes its easier to see that when I take a step back and look at it. You’re right – there will be other races and I’m realy excited to enjoy the Disney experience!

  7. I think because its Disney I would probably try to run it and just see what happens. You might have more fitness remaining from your last marathon than you realize. For most other races, especially local ones, I wouldn’t run. But its different when you already have travel plans and cant defer from the race. Hopefully the fun course will make it an enjoyable experience!

    1. Right – it is Disney after all! Wish I planned a little better but it will be fun either way 🙂

  8. Since there is no deferral option, personally I’d try to finish what I started and just do the best I can. Do walk intervals when you need to and have fun with the characters. If it gets really bad then of course pull the plug.

  9. Ugh, I hate that Disney doesn’t let you switch to the half marathon. Sometimes I really dislike them. I ran the Detroit Half Marathon undertrained. I still wanted to do it because I was stubborn. I needed to cross of MI from my list. While I loved the race, I paid for it that week. I was very sore the rest of the week. Usually I recover quickly after a half marathon. But not for this race. I think It took me a week before I was able to run again.

    1. Yea, I was bummed! Hearing about your recovery is definitely a reason I don’t want to “push it!” It took me a few weeks to recover from detroit, too!

  10. Tough call on what to do! I’d say, since you have a lot of $$$ invested, and no option to switch registrations), just show up and run it conservatively. Run slow, walk/run intervals, maybe walk a few intermittent miles…just go with it. You said you know it will be a fun event, with all the characters & Disney magic, right? You’ve had some consistent cross-training, so that will boost your endurance some. None the less, go with whatever your gut instinct tells you 🙂

    1. I think it’s got to be a one of a kind event with characters and Disney magic 🙂 I am hoping the cross training comes through!

  11. Hey Sarah, it’s great to see you again on the WRD, somehow I’ve been missing out on your posts. I haven’t run a marathon, so I can’t give you any advice there, but being sick and having a cranky hip aren’t excuses, they’re red flags. Good luck with whatever you decide to do! There’s no shame in a DNS or in a “just show up and have fun” effort. You had a great race at Detroit and there will be lots more great races in your future even if Disney isn’t meant to be.

    1. Hi Becktt, thank you! I haven’t linked up recently because I haven’t had much running to report lol. I’m really trying to not feel pressured to run it if that’s not in the cards for me and I like the “just show up and have fun” attitude. Thank you!

  12. well I can certainly relate to feeling undertrained and out of shape for a race you signed up for. My hip thing had me out for 7 weeks and I am slowly coming back. I have a destination half in 5 weeks and not sure what I will do about it. No shame in a walk run for your race if it will not aggravate your injury

    1. Totally agree – especially with an injury. I’m so sorry you’ve had an aggravated hip. I hope it feels better for your race!

  13. I haven’t run two marathons as close together as you so for burnout I’m not sure. When I ran New Jersey in April I was injured (unknowingly) so if you do end up doing the run/walk method I’d recommend having set intervals ahead of time! I ran/walked the second half of NJ and the intervals were all over the place at first until I said I can walk through aid stations and eventually I walked about a minute at each mile marker too since I was dying haha.

    One thing you could do is really soak in the race at Disney! You could wait in line for character pictures if there’s any that Camryn specifically loves or just say “screw it, I’m here and want all the pictures with landmarks like Cinderella’s Castle” then do that.

    1. I am planning on soaking it up! I think meeting the characters sounds fun! And honestly, probably the only time I’ll ever do it.

  14. Tough situation to be in for sure! Honestly I’d DNS; you already know you may not finish and I know I’d personally feel bad about dropping out. Good luck with whatever you decide!