(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
If you’ve never run a marathon, there’s a good chance that it’s difficult for you to imagine doing so. I mean, who in their right mind would voluntarily run 26 miles and 385 yards? I bet there are more people in this world who can’t run a single mile without stopping than there are people who can — that’s just a hypothesis, but I’m going with it. What I’m wondering is, what inspires people to run a marathon? Why run 26 miles instead of, say, 10? Or five? I’d be happy if I could run five miles without stopping.
From what I’ve read, it’s not like there are all these superbly-superior fitness benefits to running all those extra miles. On the contrary, for many people it actually increases their risk of injury. And on a related note, people who run for weight loss often find that they don’t lose any weight (or at least not enough to justify all the extra time spent pounding the pavement). The simple reason: they’re not burning off all the extra calories they’re eating when they come home starved from a run.
Everyone has a different motivating reason for doing what they do. Some people run because they actually like running that much. Some do it strictly for the fitness benefits. And some people run marathons because it’s a specific, measurable accomplishment. If you can say, “I ran a marathon,” it’s considered an awesome feat. If you’ve trained for a marathon, you’ve probably gotten up earlier in the morning than you wanted to; run in less than favorable weather conditions; given up social activities because they interfered with your training schedule. It’s something that you worked hard for, dedicated yourself to, spent multiple hours on…and other people recognize how much you had to go through to reach that finish line.
(As an aside: I’ve met several men over the past few years who have run long races — anywhere from ten miles to a full marathon — without any kind of advance training. They were fit, sure, but the ability to run so far on a whim just astounds me. Even though they were hurting afterward, and their finish-times were pretty slow, they were able to get through it. Let me assure you, I could not run ten miles right now. I could walk for ten miles, yes. But run it? No.)
I’ve said before that I’m casual when it comes to exercise. If I don’t want to do something one day, I’ll make sure to fit it in later. I don’t use hard, strict written schedules and goals to motivate me (although I recognize that using those methods would probably make me a little bit more hardcore and bad-ass and whatnot). This lackadaisical attitude towards fitness doesn’t lend itself well to the marathon mentality. Even though I think it would be completely awesome to tell people that I ran a marathon, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’m one of those people who would be doing it just to be able to say that I did.
It’s not that I don’t think I could do it. Even though I couldn’t run a long distance right now, I know that it’s not impossible if I were willing to dedicate myself to the training. It’s just that I don’t have “Run a marathon” on my internal to-do list. I wouldn’t be motivated enough to make it happen.
However, I do think it’s completely and utterly awesome when someone I know — whether online or in-person — decides it’s something they want to do and dedicates themselves to making it happen. Twenty-six miles? I salute you.
The Everyday Athlete: The Basics of Running. I liked the last one best:
Know that you are capable of far more than you ever imagined. We sell ourselves short all the time. We consistently underestimate ourselves. You’re pretty phenomenal, take it from me. And you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish. Take the risk. Push on your walls. Dream big. And then bigger. Seriously. Go crazy. I swear — you can do it.
Half-Fast: Advice for a New Runner (This is a humorous post: “Give up running while you still can.”)
You’ll feel guilty when you skip a run. Your toenails will turn black and fall off, and what’s even worse is that you’ll be happy about it as though it was some sick rite of passage. Your grocery budget will be consumed by gels and Gatorade. You’ll get so obsessive about your mileage, your pace, and your heart rate that you’ll spend hours pouring over your training log. You’ll need to purchase a Garmin (another couple hundred dollars at least) to keep better track of your training runs and to analyze your running in greater depth. People will look at you like you’re crazy because you ARE crazy for thinking about taking up running.
Sarah ran her first marathon early this year and was extremely proud.
I made the final few turns into the finish chute. I definitely had a huge smile on my face as I neared the line. After crossing the finish, it felt very strange to walk and not run. My legs had been running for SUCH a long time that it just felt like running was more natural than walking. [...]
My race was, by any measure, very slow. However, I completed my two goals — to finish in minimal pain and happy and smiling, and to run the entire distance, only walking water stops when needed. I’m planning on racing Marine Corps Marathon in the fall and this definitely made me excited to have another go at The Distance.
Runners World: Want to run fast? Run uphill.
MSNBC: Are you running yourself to death? Participating in a marathon can put severe stress on your body.
That’s Fit: Run – You’ll Live Longer