You Have What It Takes to Run a Marathon! Here’s Why . . .

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At the beginning of the year we asked the following question on our Facebook page and got so many good responses.

“What are your biggest challenges in reaching your running and fitness goals in 2017?”

We then narrowed down the answers to the five biggest challenges . . . which we will seek to tackle in this episode. Here’s why you have what it takes to stay motivated, find the time, manage injury, eat healthy and run at any age!

Biggest Challenges in Reaching Your Running Goals

1. You have what it takes to stay motivated!

I want to start running again but since the kids came along I’ve struggled with the energy to motivate myself. I would like to do a half by the end of the year. -Anthony from Facebook

Staying motivated or reviving your motivation can be a challenge. And if you got out of the running habit for one reason or another it can be difficult both mentally and physically to get back out there. And it’s certainly a fallacy to think that you’re the only one who deals with this. I’ve heard from people who said that running was really exciting when they started because it was new and they were making progress. But if you get injured or sick, take time off for pregnancy or even a vacation or feel like you’ve hit a plateau with your training there can be a barrier to starting again.

  • When it comes to motivation I think it’s helpful to know yourself. The book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin was very helpful for me as it talked about the Four Tendencies: upholder, obliger, questioner, and rebel. Each of us are not wired the same with the way we’re motivated. If you’re an upholder you may not have trouble setting and meeting the goals you have for yourself. On the other hand, an obliger may do best when they have some external accountability. Rebels need to have a deep sense of doing something for themselves to stay motivated and questioners may need to examine the how’s and why’s of their running goals for it to remain important to them.
  • Define your WHY. There are many different reasons for having a running routine and training for a race. Some people do it for the health benefits, psychological boost, time to themselves, goal accomplishment, fun, travel, socialization, being in nature, weight loss, competition, etc. There’s really no wrong “why” but some that I mentioned will keep you motivated beyond just the next race on your calendar. For example, if running makes you feel stronger, more energetic, healthier and happier that’s more likely to keep you going rather than a motivation like weight loss.
  • Find a community. Even if you consider yourself a solo runner and don’t ever have the desire to do a race you’re still part of a larger organism called the running community. Each runner expresses this connection differently. For some people listening to this podcast is a way to learn more and connect, for others it may be running with a friend, joining a local or international running club, running or volunteering at races or being part of running related Facebook groups. Being involved in some way with the running community can help keep you motivated and inspired to be a strong and healthy runner for life.

2. You have what it takes to find the time for training!

Time! Job, sleep, cross training, dogs…I try but can’t seem to do it all! Jesse
I’m scheduled to run a half in March but will need to find a way to balance work, kids and training. No excuses, time to do the work. -Damion

Finding time to run (or train in general) is something that nearly everyone struggles with. We’re busy with jobs, family, friends, pets and other commitments. Knowing that you’re not alone in this struggle can be very helpful. Defining your “why” or motivation will help you make the time to do what’s important to you.

  • Know your body’s rhythms. It’s helpful to know yourself and when you WILL do your training. It may seem like a great idea to get up an hour early in the morning but if you consistently stay up late at night, end up pushing your snooze button and don’t get up in time then that’s not sustainable in the long term. You may be better off running during your lunch hour, running right after work, or when the kids are in bed at night. Other people run either to or from work to really multi-task.
  • Schedule it in. Running and cross training is something that you need to schedule in just like any other important appointment in your day. Even though I’ve been running consistently for years I still like to schedule in my workout for the day and then check it off later. If you leave training until you can find the time we all know that it rarely happens. It’s all about making training a priority and doing what works for you. I like to remind myself that no matter how busy I am there’s probably someone busier than I am training right now.
  • Find a support system. When you have a lot going on in your life it’s helpful to have a support system to help you stay motivated and encourage you along. For those with young kids having a person who you can swap babysitting with or who is willing to watch your kids occasionally can be very helpful. Choosing a workout facility (like the YMCA) that has childcare can help facilitate your exercise goals. If you can find a running partner who you’re accountable to meet that can help you make the time. Even if you don’t have any people who are runners in your life you can find virtual support options—-people who really understand the sacrifices and rewards of running.

3. You have what it takes to train injury free and avoid overtraining!

I have been getting close to being strong enough to run a marathon and then starting a family happened! This year’s challenge is to get fit enough and stay injury free so I can make that marathon happen in 2018. Jennifer

On our last episode we talked about the tendency to want to take shortcuts in training or even do too much for your fitness level. Here at MTA we emphasize the principles of injury prevention. Staying injury free and avoiding overtraining comes down to doing the often boring things like core and strength training, using a foam roller regularly, taking a rest day each week, not building up your mileage too soon, taking a couple days off from running if you develop unusual discomfort, and catching problems early before they turn into big issues. As you mature as a runner you’ll realize that staying healthy should be more important than any one race. When you keep that perspective in mind it helps you avoid taking shortcuts, doing too much too soon, and to start listening to your body.

If you’re at the place where injury is your current reality there is hope. The key is to seek help and guidance with your injury early. This may mean starting to self-treat the injury, visiting a medical professional, or starting regular therapy or rehab. The type and extent of the injury will determine how much time is necessary to heal and this may mean taking time off of running. This is never fun but you can use the time to focus on strengthening your body and learning all you can. It’s never enjoyable to learn the hard way from an injury or to put your running goals on hold but often it can make you a smarter and stronger runner. Be sure to get my Runner’s Toolbox -8 Items to Keep At Home to Help Fight Injuries.

4. You have what it takes to have a healthy eating plan!

My biggest challenge is to lose the weight I put on over the past 2 years and get lean and fast! -Jacquii

Becoming a runner it’s a good first step in prioritizing your health and wellness. But one of the common problems that we hear about is the inability to lose weight or even gaining weight despite being a long distance runner. Being a runner doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to break poor eating habits overnight or automatically reach your goal weight. There are obviously many factors that go into your current weight including things like age, genetics, hormonal balance and lifestyle. Plus, sustainable habit change is hard. And we’re certainly not saying that you have to eat healthy 100% of the time. It’s all about balance and fueling your body to reach your goals.

There are certainly a few areas that are going to make a big difference if you’re looking to make healthy changes. Things like cutting out soda and trans fats; reducing the amount of sugar, alcohol, processed and fried food in your diet; drinking more water; increasing your intake of vegetables, fresh fruit and protein; and eating regular meals will really help. My Fat Adapted Eating Plan helps runners cut out sugars and grains and become fat adapted.

Knowing yourself is very helpful in making positive habit changes in the area of eating. And there can be a place in your diet for the occasional treat if you’re a moderator. Planning a treat that’s “worth it” can help moderators stay the course with the changes they’re making. However, abstainers often do best if they completely eliminate certain things from their diet. Not having a food at all is less stressful to them than having a certain food hang-up always on their mind.

For example, if chips is your Achilles heel then simply not buying chips and being “free from chips” may be easier. Again, when you’re making dietary changes it’s helpful to know what your motivation is and to seek accountability if you need it. A healthier diet will make you a stronger and healthier runner so make decisions that your future self will thank you for.

5. You have what it takes to train, at any age!

I’m 54 with multiple chronic knee injuries and keeping up the training to get in 6 half marathons this year is my goal. Joe

It’s a common fallacy to think that as we get older we’re more limited in the types of activities we can and should accomplish. I’ve had people tell me that “running is for young people” or “running will ruin your knees for when you’re older.” The covers of running magazines or pictures accompanying online articles are often that of young and model-fit people. This can reinforce the thought that running is only for a narrow demographic. But the truth is that runners are young, middle aged, old, fat, muscular, thin, tall, and short. We come from different countries, from unique backgrounds, and have various identities and goals. And age is only a small piece of the equation. Age is an area where your mindset and attitude plays a huge role in what you can accomplish. If you don’t think you CAN do something then you probably can’t.

I think we’re fortunate to have a growing number of master’s runners (that’s anyone over age 40) in the running community. Many people don’t begin running until their 50’s, 60’s and beyond. We’ve heard from people in the MTA community who are training for their first marathons in their 60’s and 70’s. I have a coaching client who’s 70 and who has the goal of getting his first BQ (Boston Qualifier). Truly, age is just a number and getting older just means entering a new age group! I find it very inspiring to see older runners at races and it always makes me smile to be passed by someone older.

We did an episode about The Aging Marathoner- How Getting Older Affects Your Running and have had the privilege of talking with Ed Whitlock- age 85, who is still setting marathon records, Olympian Frank Shorter, Professor Tim Noakes who is still active in running, CNN Anchor Tom Foreman (who re-started running in his 50’s), and of course Bart Yasso of Runner’s World. There’s also a great article over on our blog by physical therapy doctor Ben Shatto:

Then of course there’s people like Gunhild Swanson who finished the Western States Endurance Run (100 miles) at age 70, Marshall Ulrich who at age 57 ran across the United States in 52 days, and Lisa Smith-Batchen who completed a Badwater Quad (584 miles through Death Valley) at age 54.

Our encouragement is to start now, at whatever age you are, and work on becoming the best version of yourself through running.

Also Mentioned In This Episode

Health IQ -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by Health IQ an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to to support the show and learn more.

Huawei Fit fitness watch for EVERY BODY!

Headspace -an app for guided meditation.

MTA Facebook Page -over 12,000 likes!

The Academy -Our proven system for training for a marathon or half marathon strong and injury free.

Photo credits: Kevin Dooley, Flickr Creative Commons

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