The marathon is a distance that puts you in a small minority of the population. Less than 1% of the population will run a marathon (some figures put this at 0.5% for the United States). And while the marathon is not for everyone, we truly believe that it’s do-able for most anyone who has the desire and is willing to work hard. But the marathon is also challenging enough that it’s important to put the time and energy into training properly. So, why run a marathon?
Why Run A Marathon?
The start of a New Year causes many of us to think about health and fitness related goals. And if you’re listening to this podcast there’s a good chance that one of your goals is to become a long distance runner this year or take your current level of running to the next level.
For some people running a marathon has been a long time goal and for other people it has been a natural progression as they’ve increased their fitness and want to challenge themselves. I’m sure many listeners have done a marathon at some point but then life got in the way and now they’re starting from the beginning again.
The reasons to run a marathon vary because each of us are different. We each have a unique set of life circumstances, personality traits and dreams for the future. Training for a marathon provides a big “payoff” or fulfillment factor. You will experience positive changes physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Here are some possible reasons that people have for taking on the marathon distance:
Friendships: Make new friends whether in person or online. Running puts you in contact with a community of active, healthy and goal oriented individuals and breaks down the barriers between people. Even some of the short-term interactions I’ve had during marathons are special memories that I cherish to this day.
Inspiration: Taking on the marathon challenge is very likely to inspire other people in your life to get healthier and challenge themselves.
History: You get to tap in to an amazing history of long distance runners. Our bodies are uniquely built to accommodate long distance running. When you run long distance there’s a sense of tapping into something truly primal.
Travel: A marathon can be a great way to explore new places. That may be a trail system nearby, a country road, or a state or country you’ve never visited before.
Explore: Be a tourist on foot. There’s a unique perspective that you get by running through the streets of a city, or past unique architecture, or through amazing natural settings. Somehow this just can’t be replicated by whizzing by in a car. Plus, during a race the streets are often closed down so you don’t have to battle traffic.
Supported exercise: How frequently in life do we get to have complete strangers cheering for us, or handing us water, gels, candy, and petroleum jelly? Plus, the end result is getting a medal placed around your neck. A marathon is a way to feel like a mini celebrity for the day.
Do good: Raise money for a great cause. Training for a marathon can be a wonderful way to shine light on a charity or cause that is important to you.
Self-confidence: Tackling the training runs and eventually the marathon distance helps put other challenging things into perspective. You’ll come away knowing that you can achieve a lot more than you previously thought. Long distance running can start feeling like a secret super power.
Head space: Running long increases resilience and improves mental clarity. Running can become a passion, not just exercise. It can be a place where you find peace, solitude, have time to think, and are able to work through negative emotions.
Improved health: Some of the many benefits of marathon training include a stronger heart and lungs; more defined leg, glute and stomach muscles; better posture; possible weight loss; increased strength and endurance; better fitting clothes and more energy. Many people find that as they train it’s a catalyst for reducing or eliminating negative behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and overeating junk food. You might add years to your life. But you’ll most certainly add life to your years.
New heroes: You’re very likely to come across some amazing people during training and the marathon. There are runners overcoming some huge challenges that just might put a lump in your throat, tears in your eyes and a smile on your face. Many of the people I admire the most are those who I’ve come in contact with through running.
Integrate: Become more at home where you live. Running has taken me down streets, roads and trails that I would never have explored if I wasn’t a runner. The quest to find interesting and unique running routes for trail runs, speed work and long runs really opens up the area that you live to exploration. There’s a special high to discovering a “new” (to you) running route.
Running gear: For people who like to accessorize you’ll now have a great excuse to purchase that GPS watch you’ve been wanting, stockpile some awesome running shoes, and buy attractive and functional sweat wicking running clothes.
Goal achievement: As we get older many of the “firsts” in life are behind us. It’s not like we can (or want to) go back to our high school graduation or the birth of our first baby. Going the marathon distance for the first time is a very special moment and something you’ll probably remember the rest of your life. It will help you realize that there are probably other “firsts” or hobbies that are now within your reach as well.
Emotional payoff: People who run are often happier because of the release of endorphins (or feel good chemicals) in their brains, also known as the runner’s high. This results in a feeling of well-being, lowers stress levels, increases self-esteem, and improves mood.
Heightened senses: There’s something about long distance running that sharpens your senses. Smells, sights, sounds and tastes become all the more distinct. As I run I often take vivid pictures with my eyes (but you can do this on your phone too). The scent of a forest or bacon cooking really gets your attention. Plus, the food you eat post-long run or marathon is going to taste so amazing.
Because you can: The most important reason to run a marathon is for you. It’s all about challenging yourself and personally experiencing all the benefits that long distance running has to offer. When you train for a marathon for yourself it enables you to become more proud of yourself. I like the saying that goes something like this,
“There will be a day when I can no longer run. Today is NOT that day.”
Commit, Train, Succeed!
When you set a big goal like your first marathon it’s important to define your personal motivation. If your goal of doing a marathon doesn’t come from inside you, if you’re not doing it for yourself, it’s much more likely that you’ll give up when the going gets tough…and it WILL get tough. Things like scheduling difficulties, sickness, injury, lack of motivation and much more will probably happen at some point.
Remember that becoming a marathoner begins in the mind so really define that personal “why.” It may be some of the things we previously mentioned or it may be something totally different.
- Your mind is in the driver’s seat on your marathon journey and once you decide to see something through it’s amazing how much the human will can conquer. There are people who complete marathons in wheelchairs, those in their 80’s and 90’s, and those using prosthesis. Many runners are battling or have overcome cancer, accidents, heart attacks, obesity, depression, anxiety and many other challenges.
In a marathon the average runner doesn’t run to merely beat others. Instead you run to achieve a personal victory. It’s a battle to become a better version of you. It’s hard to explain to non-runners why you would pay money to “abuse” your body. But anyone who has crossed the finish line understands. It’s part of the mystique of the marathon. Everyone who crosses the finish line is a winner.
Oprah finished a marathon in 1994 and her finishing time (4:29) has become something to beat for many people. She said that running a marathon is a metaphor for life. It has obstacles, moments when you feel like giving up, when you’re tired or overwhelmed. But you keep going. Finally you can see the finish line. She said it was a proud and joyful moment- one of the best she’s ever had.
Veteran marathoner Hal Higdon says,
“Your life will never be the same, and regardless of what the future holds you can look back and say, I finished a marathon.”
And once you’ve decided to train for a marathon and have started that journey our goal at MTA is to support you however we can. That’s why we emphasize smart training. This involves knowing and listening to your body, building up your running base, scheduling your training, knowing how much time you need to train for a race, picking an appropriate training plan or getting a coach, and planning for personal safety. We want you to stay injury free and have the best possible experience. You can do this by building up slowly, not cutting corners, doing regular cross training like strength and core work, addressing small issues early before they turn into injury, taking rest days, and having a balance of hard and easy training days.
Also Mentioned In This Episode
- Marathonguide.com -great race directory for finding marathons (and reviews of marathons) in the U.S.
- Marathons.ahotu.com -robust list of races all over the world.
- Loch Ness Marathon -Angie is running this in September
- 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 healthiq.com/mta to support the show and learn more.
Huge congrats to Academy member Joel who recently completed his first marathon!
Wow what an experience. Thank you Trevor and Angie for getting me through my first marathon and for such an amazing podcast. Your podcast has given me the courage to take my running to the next level. I now know I have what it takes to run a Marathon. The Chevron Houston Marathon was a great first Marathon. Having such an awesome support crew (my Texas Family) helped to push me through the tough miles. Unofficial chip Time was 5:51:58. -Joel G.