(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
If you’ve never run a marathon, there’s a good chance 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 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 you worked hard for, dedicated yourself to, spent multiple hours on…and other people recognize how much you had to go through to reach the 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 I ran a marathon, I have to be honest with myself and admit I’m one of those people who would be doing it just to be able to say 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 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.