Couch to Marathon Revisited

Last week I wrote a nasty post about people who decide to run a marathon and start from a zero balance (if you go back and read it, please take the time to leave the great comments from other bloggers!)  I wrote the post in part because I was conflicted about my feelings.  I want to support any runner, and yet I found myself almost angry thinking about the foolishness of people who want to just suddenly start running and think that they can run a marathon right off the bat.

I was surprised by my own vehemence on the subject, that I would feel so angry about people chasing the same medal that I had worked so hard for and potentially walking away with it in 6-7 hours versus my 4:22.  I saw the ridiculousness of it.  There will always be someone faster than you who could scoff at your time, and Lord knows there’s a whole gaggle of runners who could laugh at mine, so who was I to judge someone else’s journey?

Further, I’d written months ago in a post on joggers versus runners that speed is not the issue, and that committed runners who run slow paces have my admiration.  It’s easy to do something when you’re exceptional at it, right?  But to be committed to something for the love of it, even when you’re technically not the best?  That takes true love (not to mention more time out of your day to make the same training run commitment as the faster runners, and that adds up when you get into the meat of the marathon training!)

So where were my feelings coming from?  I love new runners, and I admire those who make the commitment to run long distances.  One of the commenters helped me understand my feelings on the subject.  She said I sounded like a marathon purist.  And I think I am.

I’ve only run one…I’ve only ever wanted to run one.  I held off on running it until I had my good reasons and was ready to make the commitment to train hard.  It deserved nothing less than my absolute best.  I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, even though I’d been a runner for years.  I was afraid that I would get injured (which I did, btw!) and that I wouldn’t be able to give it my best.  I revered the distance (and the runners who tackle it) like it was holy ground, and I resented people who want to jump into the ring and immediately go after the lion.

Still, those feelings didn’t seem entirely like me either.  I hoped that other bloggers and running readers would chime in and help me understand my thoughts.

And you did!  Thank you for taking the time to comment.

So here are my (semi-revised and semi-just better expressed) thoughts now, in all their who gives a rip what she thinks glory.

Are you a person who is longing for a change, hoping to feel inspired, looking for a personal goal?  Hello, I love you and would like you to discover running!  It’s a life changer, a soul scrubber, a surefire way to squeeze more meaning into every day.  I write this blog in the hopes that some new person will stumble across some of my words in any random post and feel motivated to run.  Running has added untold meaning to my life in the past ten years.

Are you brand new to running?  No problem.  The internet is there for you to get you started!  Check out the Runner’s World website for tips and info on how to get started.  Google beginning running and you will find numerous articles.  Check out all of the amazing WordPress blogs written by everyday runners, and you will find countless sources of inspiration.

But start slow.  Please don’t set a marathon as your first goal, even if it’s a 28-week plan.  I want you to be able to run long-term, and I want you to learn how to incorporate running into your daily schedule, not just as temporary training.  Be kind to yourself.  Give yourself time to learn what it feels like to run and recover.  Give yourself room to adjust and cut back as necessary, since your body isn’t used to it yet.  Training programs, even the Disney 28-week plan, call for a certain number of miles on a particular day, and I don’t want you getting scared in Week 4 when you’re scheduled to run 6 miles and don’t feel like that number is possible.

Are you the type that needs a goal, though, to keep you going?  I understand!  I would say try a 5k first, but I know that when I started running, a 5k would have been the LAST race I wanted to run.  Run fast for a shorter number of miles?  No way…

So try a 10k (6.2 miles.)  See if you can find a 4-mile run…it’s a nice step up from a speedy 5k, but doesn’t add too much distance.  Or do what I did–I ran for years without racing, then ran a half marathon as my first race.

And if none of those work for you (because let’s face it, I’m not in your head and don’t know your needs and goals), and you set that marathon as your first target and get up off the couch or off the elliptical in Week 1 for training, then here’s what I want to say…

Good Luck!  I will cheer for you.  I may not agree, because I have your best interests at heart and am scared, but I will hope that the running gods spare you any injury and that most of all, you emerge from the process with your medal AND…

a love for running that doesn’t go away.

It’s more important than the medal.  It will stay with you and be a far better friend than that one piece of bling.

Happy running, and welcome to the club!