Let me guess, you want to run a marathon because it’s on your bucket list?
No? Then it’s because you just turned the ripe ol’ age of 30, 40 or 50 and you wish to prove to yourself you can still accomplish something amazing at your age.
That’s not it either? Then, you’re running for one of the many worthy charitable organizations that have you run a marathon to raise money to fight cancer, heart disease, HIV, etc.
That’s not you, huh? OK, then maybe it’s just because you have so many running friends that have raced a marathon that you feel you better toe the line quick to keep up with all of them.
The truth is these are all good and bad reasons to run a marathon. Confused? Let me explain.
In this era of more extreme racing events, a marathon today may seem like the vanilla scoop in the endurance race spectrum of flavors. Ultramarathons are races over 30 miles up to more than 100 miles. An Ironman is where you swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles, and run a marathon all in one day. And running a race series like Tough Mudder, Spartan, XTerra or Ragnar Relay that have you jump through fire, climb walls, run up and down treacherous terrain or run on and off for 24 hours, respectively, all seem both exhilarating and challenging. But with all that said, a marathon is still 26.2 miles — that’s roughly running from the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA to Scottsdale Community College off of Chaparral Road and the Loop 101 — that’s no small undertaking.
I get this all the time from new clients, “Dave, I want to run a marathon.”
“OK.” I answer. “Why?” is my next question.
This usually takes the person back a bit because I’m a running coach and you would think I’d be all fired up to coach someone to run a marathon. The fact of the matter is, in my opinion, the marathon is a grueling race. And there are more than just physical factors to think about when deciding whether or not a marathon is right for you.
• Do you have time to train and recover? Understand, as your mileage starts going up, you’ll not only need the time to put in for two- to four-hour runs, but you’ll also need time to rest after these workouts. If you have a job where you work long hours, then training for a marathon may not be ideal.
• Will family/friends be supportive? If your spouse or significant other is not going to support this, then there are going to be a lot of long weekends where he/she expects you to still do your share of the chores even though you just ran for three to four hours that morning. This can be frustrating for both of you (not to mention if you have kids and they’re wanting your attention as well). Before you make this decision, be sure everyone understands that this training isn’t forever. If you let them know why this is important to you, you will most likely get some good buy in.
• Why are you doing this? You have to want to run a marathon first in order for the experience to be a positive one. Don’t let friends or family convince you that you have to run a marathon because they all are. While you still may make it across the finish line, the amount of training and time it will take you to get ready for this distance may turn you off from running altogether. There are many good reasons to do a marathon, but make sure it’s YOUR reason and not a reason you’re simply going along with so as not to upset others.
• Are you really in shape to train for a marathon now? The keyword here is “now.” And I’m not trying to be Mr. Negative. But I always find it odd when I meet a person who can barely walk a mile without keeling over, who wants to do a marathon as his or her first race goal. What’s wrong with a 5K or a 10K? Build up to a marathon over time, if that’s your ultimate goal, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be your first running goal.
• Do you have a running group to train with? This isn’t an absolute for all runners. But I would argue if you are new to distance running, you will enjoy having some people “in the trenches” with you during those longer training runs.
Understand, I think finishing a marathon can truly be a life changing experience. But at the same time, I would caution you to make sure you have the right reason, time, support and focus to take on this tremendous undertaking.
• David Allison has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 2005. He has a personal marathon best of 2:27 and was a Division I athlete at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the owner of Marathon Coaching Consultants and also the co-founder of Phoenix Flyers Track Club, both in Ahwatukee. Please send comments and question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.