Let’s say you’ve thought about the possibility. You’ve bandied the idea around a bit. Wouldn’t it be great to run a marathon? Could I do it? What kind of shape do I need to be in to start? What are the issues I need to consider before starting? What would the training program be like (spoiler alert: it will be long and often painful)?
Then naturally you come to my blog because I have such vast knowledge and expertise, having hobbled to the starting line of exactly ONE marathon.
You do this, of course, for the entertainment value and the honesty. Yes, I will lay out the facts and the issues involved in running a marathon, at least in terms of what I experienced, and I won’t hold back, nor will I blow sunshine into your running shoes.
So let’s gather ’round my marathon medal and discuss, shall we? I’ll try to answer some of the questions that I remember asking myself before I decided to run my first marathon, as well as some of the questions I would imagine other people are asking or SHOULD be asking themselves before beginning the process.
I think that most people first ask themselves if they can do it. It was what I asked myself for years. And here I go with advice. I don’t think that’s what you should ask yourself to start. I think you need to think about why you want to do it. Trust me—the “why” is what powers you through.
It seems like lots of people put down the bag of potato chips one day and decide that they want to change their life and drop some weight. They decide something like, “I’m going to get in shape. I’m going to run a marathon within the next year.” I think that some percentage of these people achieve that goal, and more power to them, but that’s a kind of experience that I just don’t know much about. I’m more of an aim small, miss small kind of gal, and I ran for 8-9 years before ever even considering the sacred 26.2 distance.
Also, I think that the distance opens itself to such a wide range of experiences. Some of these chip-dropping, lifestyle-changing people will soar. Others will get to the finish line with a walk/jog combination, and it might take them 6 hours, but they also get their medal, and they all started from scratch.
It’s fantastic, and it’s powerful—but I can’t speak to it as motivation, except to say that I probably wouldn’t recommend it based on my training experience and my conservative nature. Embrace running, but start small. Be sure to build slowly. Give yourself a reasonable goal, a timeframe for change and weight loss and the chance to become a runner for life. Marathons will always be there, and I guess for me personally, it would be hard to imagine going from nothing to 26.2 in one year. Maybe 18 months, but 12 would be really pushing it. You have to respect the distance and the time it takes to prepare your body to even start the training.
Also, the training tested my appreciation for the sport. Again, this is just personal experience, but all those miles pushed my love for running to its very limit, and I can’t imagine getting through some of those awful training runs without the base of love that I had and the years of running memories. Again, it’s all about motivation, the big “why” of it all. I feel like wanting to lose weight or get healthy just wouldn’t have been enough for me to get myself through some of those times…but then again, I’ve never been in that situation, so I’m not trying to judge it, only to say that I’m not qualified to write about it as a motivator.
Have you seen this video? Most people have, but it’s always worth another viewing. Not only does it include one of my favorite running songs, but the story is so powerful. I guess I don’t have to wonder about the power of losing weight or making a life change as a motivator for running when I see this video. It sums it up perfectly.
When I first considered running a marathon (after years of saying no way, nokay!), I was already a committed runner. That’s what I can relate to… the current reasonably healthy runner, the person who laces up his/her shoes on a regular basis and wonders if 26.2 is possible as a race distance–no walking, all running, and likely with a personally difficult and respectable finishing time in his/her sights. Can you do it?
Sure you can–I think! I hope! Body willing! There are unknowns that I will speak of in other posts, but the general answer is yes! But you need to think about why you want it, because you will refer back to your gut reason so many times throughout training. Let’s remember, I called myself the MaybeMarathoner. I didn’t know if I could do it, and the worry over that exact issue held me up for years until I finally decided that I didn’t know and would never know ahead of time if I COULD do it, but I knew WHY I wanted to try…and that was enough, even if I failed.
Whatever’s driving you to do it needs to be on steroids. You’ve gotta be like Usher when he was hooked up with that chick from TLC and temporarily decided to try monogamy. You gotta get it bad! The mental commitment to yourself is as big as the physical, and even outweighs it at times.
For me, two big factors pushed me over the edge beyond the worry of whether I “could” do it. First, of course, was my sister’s disease. Setting my sights on the marathon was a way of raising money for AS, but it was also a way of making peace with myself for having good health while she suffered. It was an offering.
It was a powerful motivator, and one I came back to many times. In my mind, I didn’t want to try, I HAD to try. I had to be grateful for my health, and it was the best way I could think of.
Second, I think I’d always had some kind of warped sense in my own mind that I would never call myself a real runner unless I’d attempted the distance at least once. Now, if you said this to me, I would say you were stupid fo sho’! I’ve written before about what I think it takes to be a runner, and nowhere in my official Are You a Runner? checklist does it say that you have to have run a marathon. But, like many things in life, my standards for myself are neurotically different from my standards for others. It’s just one of those things about me. I like to call it cute and quirky. HH calls it batshit crazy.
So, find your reason, whatever it is. Don’t ask yourself if you can yet, just ask why. Allow yourself time to become comfortable with it. Will it see you through months of training? Does it move you? Inspire you? It’s more important than anything.