Run a marathon. Are you out of your mind?!!! This is how I would have responded to the idea of running a marathon had you asked me anytime over the last 20 years. I’ve hated running. I’ve never been good at it. It’s laboring and I’ve never liked it. Until…
Wait, wait, wait…more back-story… I was a fat kid growing up. I loved sports – many of which included running. However, I couldn’t run worth a lick. Long-distance runs were like torture…and they were probably less than a mile. I’d get this pain in my side like someone was sticking a knife in me. I actually went to a doctor about it. Apparently, they call it a “stitch”; totally harmless and something that fat, out of shape kids (and adults) get. There was no cure for the discomfort. To make matters worse, as elementary school progressed into Junior High, sports took on a whole new meaning…dealing with coaches.
I’ve always been pretty independent, so taking orders from some idiot trying to re-live his glory years as an athlete might be a natural problem for me and Junior High sports. No, it was the fact that all my coaches were married to the idea that they had to run us into the ground…or at least that’s how it felt to me. Ahhhh…let’s reflect… I recall “suicides” in basketball in the 7th grade where I was run until I hyperventilated. I thought I was going to die. I couldn’t breathe, but I could cry. That ain’t cool in 7th grade. In football the coaches had us run similar drills that required you to sprint and sprint…and sprint………and sprint… I was fat, but I guess I didn’t have a butt because I had to keep pulling my pants up as I ran. That’s probably cool today (the whole pants down thing), but it was a pain in the no-ass back then. In the end, I shed some tears and gasped for life running football drills as well. Good fun.
Fast forward six or so years and I grew out of my fatness and grew into a desire to workout at a gym – the local YMCA. Fast forward some more and I’m graduating college with a degree in Exercise Science, and a couple certifications as a personal trainer and strength & conditioning specialist. I could tell someone how to get fit a hundred different ways, but still…I didn’t run. I was about 10% body-fat without running or cardio of any kind. Fast forward another 15 years… I’ve trained hundreds, along with myself, to accomplish many different health& fitness related goals. Yet, the furthest I ever ran was 20 minutes. Unless, I mention that time I was chased for…well…nevermind. Frequently I would do a warm-up for 5 minutes before weight-training, but that was the extent of my cardio. I didn’t even preach it to my clients (still don’t) because I believe weight-training is more effective in most cases. So what the hell happened to me that prompted my desire to run this year’s Dallas marathon?
I’m actually going to skip some of the specifics in order to keep this post from spiraling into a book and to emphasize my main point. For me, and for many other long-distance participants, running and training for a marathon is really for mental health. It can be a retreat from current life challenges, or, a challenge in a life which is lacking stimulation or a sense of progress. In running, you can get lost in the scenery, lost in your thoughts, lost in the music in your ears, or even lost in the pain. You can get high on endorphins, the feeling of accomplishment, and the belief the sweat rolling off your body is liquefied fat.
I like big challenges, especially physically, and my life has been lacking this. I like to be involved in something where I feel like on most days I’m progressing toward something. My life seemed a little stagnant before I decided to run. People who know me well now call me crazy (as I did for all those years). That makes me feel good too. I don’t know if I can complete the training or run the whole 26.2 on race-day, but I’ll try. I’ll enjoy the journey. I’ll enjoy not having to pull my pants up or hyperventilate.
If you’re not currently enjoying your life’s journey, I wouldn’t say that a marathon is the answer…but don’t consider the option as crazy as some personal-trainer-types-who-now-blog might have told you.