This week’s topic at the Runner’s Lounge is The Marathon and Why Don’t They Get It?

I think this question elicits responses similar to people’s reactions when you ask them if they’re a runner, like I did this morning to one of my students. Her reaction is that to run is like torture. For some people it really is. For others (like me) it’s therapy.

When you get to the marathon, some people are completely content to never have to run that distance. Until last year, I was one of them.  For others, a marathon can even be considered just a warm-up distance (I’ve not gotten to this point mentally, but my brother has.)  As many others have done, I trained for the marathon with a charity called the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and its Team in Training organization.  I figured if I was going to put my body through this, I might as well raise money for a good cause in the meantime.

I think a lot of people think of the marathon distance as being impossibly long. They know it can take 4-6 months to train for, as it takes a long time to build that endurance, especially if you’ve never even “run” before on a regular basis. They may list multiple reasons why they don’t have the time, and all are valid, in my book:

  1. they have a family;
  2. they have a demanding job;
  3.  they don’t have  enough money to buy all the gear that they think they’ll need, not to mention all the GUs and supplements, etc. (it can be done cheaply, just ask my brother who’s very much a minimalist when it comes to running unlike me who’s never seen a piece of gear I’ve not tried); and
  4. they have  health reasons, such as bad knees, joints, ankles, etc.

Yet, once you can get past these reasons, they might find they like it. For me, I did it last year to see what I could push myself to do. It was a challenge, and now I can say I’ve done it, and it was not as bad as I feared.I can now say I’ve done something that only 3 to 5% of the population has done (at least I think that’s the right statistic.)

What I loved about training for a marathon was the self-confidence that increased with every mile that I could add to my long runs each week. I also liked the way it helped to transform my outlook on life from one that was quite negative a lot of the time to one that was more positive. I still have slipbacks, occasionally, since I’m human, but to be able to get through a marathon, and its training beforehand, you have to have a positive outlook. Just ask my training partner from last year what some of our/my worst runs were like, and she’ll probably remember that I was in a bad mood that day or was trying to work through some problem. 

Oh, and if you train for a marathon with a group, you are very likely to make some strong relationships. There is no way you can spend that much time with others, sweating, panting, going through a lot of bodily functional issues (trust me, you may see more or learn more about the other person than you may want to), without making some good friends.  Lis and I spent many hours together on Saturday mornings and found that we wanted to train together outside of our TNT practices, which we did, until she got injured.  But we’re looking forward to starting up again in the spring once tax season is over (she’ll be insanely busy at work until then.)  Meeting Lis was definitely one of the best results from my TNT escapade.

Oh, and there are two pieces of advice that people should remember if they decide to see “what all this marathon business” is all about – do NOT, and I repeat DO NOT give blood while you’re training. My running partner did that in the days preceding our 16 mile run, and she paid for it dearly.   Also, if you start to feel some pain and fear you are injured, do NOT try to run through it or self-diagnose. Go see a doctor (preferably one who is a runner, or works with a lot of runner because they’ll  understand your mindset), and get it checked out EARLY. Do not think you can run through it and make it all better – you may actually be making things worse.

I’d like to end this on a positive note, so I’ll say this: I ran my first marathon with my younger brother, who’s run many marathons and an ultra already.  It was one of the best days of my life, and I cried at the end (I’m sure I’m not the only one.)  My brother and I were close before and I think that experience even strengthened that bond. We now “get it” and “get each other” more for having shared those 4 hours, 51 minutes and 38 seconds together on that Sunday in October.   I also received moral support from so many running bloggers out there – if you decide to try one, you won’t be alone. You’ll be cheered on every step of the way.

Happy Running!