Can I Really Run a Marathon?

Here is a question we received from a listener named Dawn who has dealt with serious health challenges and wonders if it’s really possible for a person in her situation to run a marathon.

We featured this question at the end of podcast episode 316.

Read Dawn’s question and my reply . . .

Can I Really Run a Marathon?

Dear Angie and Trevor, you say that everyone has what it takes to run a marathon. I wonder if that is true. I turn 54 this year and have been running since early 2011. When I was 13 I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This never went away. In addition, when I was in my early 20’s I was also diagnosed with myasthenia gravis. After years of treatment and decades of medications, I started swimming which helped me get strong enough to start running.

I did the couch to 5k workout and after around 3months I ran my first 5k. Not fast, not pretty, but done. This led to more 5k, 10k and half marathons. Now I want to do a full. My speed is such that many are not able to run it. They end up walking…My physicians are all on board even though I still have quite active diseases.

What do you think?  Will someone like me get benefits from your team or will we all end up frustrated? My A goal is to finish uninjured B goal is to not finish last. -Dawn

Thanks for the question Dawn! I absolutely love how you have put in the work, that you continue to push through challenges, and want to run a marathon. 

The fact that your medical team is on board is also very important.  I definitely don’t want to diminish the very real mobility and pain that you deal with on a daily basis.  But I will say that when there’s a will, there’s a way.  You do have what it takes!  

In our latest podcast episode we spoke a Texas runner named Rhonda Foulds who was in a wheel chair after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and undergoing multiple brain surgeries. She has since gone on to complete 100 marathons!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

The Mindset
Realize that there are people who have even more health challenges who have done marathons. For example there was 39 year old Maickel Melamed from Venezuela. He has a form of muscular dystrophy and it took him around 20 hours to finish the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Talk to your doctor if you have a chronic medical condition to make sure that you have their support. It’s okay to get a second opinion if the doctor you’re working with seems to be “anti-running.” What I mean by this is a doctor who dismisses running completely. If they have concerns they should share those and you can talk them through.

Choose your marathon wisely. If you’re a slower runner you want to make sure the marathon has a generous cut off time. That way you’ll be able to go the distance without having to worry about your pace. Like Rhonda talked about it may be wise to contact the race director and use the early start option if they have one.

Remember that it’s okay to run/walk and may even be beneficial to use a run/walk method from the beginning. Many runners find that a run/walk strategy helps them preserve energy, presents less impact on their joints, and allows them to recover more quickly.

Don’t be afraid to finish last. Finishing last is something that many slower runners dread (along with being pulled off the course). But when you think about it someone has to finish last. Plus, the person who finishes last has still covered the exact same difference as the first place finisher. And I’d argue that it’s a huge accomplishment to finish, no matter the finishing time.

Talk to a coach about your goal. It can be very helpful to work with a coach who can design a plan that helps you build long runs safely, includes plenty of low impact strength work, and builds in recovery days as you need them.

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