Their faces aren’t the only things twin brothers Patrick, left, and Warren Hatton have in common. From the time they were teenagers, these brothers have mirrored each other—in appearance, hobbies and even jobs. About 10 years ago, the firefighter brothers added marathon running to their long list of connections.

The Hattons, of Paducah, Ky., haven’t always been runners. Patrick says by the time he decided to run his first race in his early 30s, the longest distance he had ever run was no more than a mile.

“The farthest I had ever run was probably in basketball practice when I was young, and at the time I thought, ‘Man, this is terrible,’” Patrick says.

At first, Warren didn’t like the idea of running, either. But, following his brother’s example, he registered for a 5K.

“The first race I ran was the Jingle Bell 5K Run in Paducah. At the time I thought, ‘It’s just three miles. I can do that. Piece of cake,’” Warren says. “But it killed me, and kind of discouraged me for a while. It was another couple of years before I ran any more races.”

Patrick and Warren have come a long way from their days of barely being able to complete a 5K. Each year, the brothers train to run at least one marathon—all 26.2 miles of it.

“When I started running, I didn’t even own a pair of running shoes. My first race was the Barbecue on the River 5K Run in Paducah. I ran that in a pair of basketball shoes. It was really tough,” Patrick says.

Ironically, neither of the brothers actually enjoys much about the actual act of running. But they go back to the habit because they love the feeling of fitness, and competition.

Getting ready to run a really long way

Running 26.2 miles is no easy feat. And according to the Hatton brothers, those last six miles can really push a person, both mentally and physically. That’s why it’s important for runners to seriously train and prepare before running a race of this magnitude.

Runners can use several training tools online, including schedules and diet plans, ranging from beginner to advanced level runners. The preparation time for a marathon is typically about three months, but many runners train throughout the year to stay fit.

The Hattons say another key element to crossing the finish line is the encouragement they get from their families, other firefighters and from fellow runners. Encouragement can make all the difference for a runner at the breaking point.

“Runners are a very supportive community. When you run a marathon, you hit that last stretch and don’t think you can finish it,” Patrick says. “That’s when someone comes along, and just keeps telling you to go one more step. Sometimes you have to rely on each other to pull you through that last part of the race.”

The good, bad and ugly

So far, Patrick has completed 10 marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon, where two bombs exploded within 15 feet of where he had run earlier that morning.

“That was the most memorable marathon I’ve ever run. My family was supposed to be standing in the area where the bomb exploded, but because of heavy traffic they were forced to relocate to another part of the city,” Patrick says.

Other races are memorable for other reasons. As much as Patrick and Warren both love the sensation of completing a marathon, some races are more challenging than others, and the memories sting.

“There are races that you sometimes wish you could forget,” Patrick says. “For me, and probably for a lot of other runners you ask, it was the first race I ran. You hit mile 20, and you don’t think you can cross the line. Running is as much mental as it is physical.”

Though they’re often literally competing against one another, the Hattons say their strongest motivation to finish a race comes from their own personal goal—beating their last race time.

And as challenging as marathons are, the brothers make it their goal to run at least one marathon each year. Perhaps it's the promise of the unmistakable energy that fills the air when spectators are cheering as they cross the finish line.

“When I’m running the race, it feels terrible,” Warren says. “But, then—it’s crazy—it becomes addicting. Every time I run a marathon, I say I’m never doing it again. But then the next year I do another one.”