It takes a lot of dedication to do the training to run a marathon. The big question is: Why would you want to put yourself through the pain of trying? Here are nine good reasons to persuade you to get to the sports shop and get yourself some new shoes.
Marathon running isn’t for everyone. But athletes who feel up to the task and training gain more than bragging rights.
Preparing to run 26.2 miles takes three- to four-months of training, a significant time commitment that alters your schedule, workout regimen, sleeping and eating habits. Such preparations also require sacrifice and support from your loved ones.
“It’s not like people do marathons because they’re fun,” said Ellen Brenner, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester and Yellow Jacket Racing, which owns and operates the Rochester Marathon in New York. Marathoners want to test themselves and achieve a goal, she said. To do so, they train diligently.
“Running a marathon is one of those epic milestones,” said Mort Nace, general manager of Medved Running and Walking Outfitters in Pittsford. “The distance is a challenge, especially that second half. What it takes goes well beyond being physically prepared.”
In 2014, more than 550,000 people completed a marathon in the United States, according to Running USA.
Four times as many runners, more than 2 million athletes, completed a half marathon in the same timeframe. While a record number of runners are completing 26.2- and 13.1-mile races, marathoners and half-marathoner still make up less than 1 percent of the American population.
Here are nine reasons to go for it:
1. Achieving a goal – Non-runners know marathons are difficult, but may not understand what it takes to reach the finish line, to accomplish something that you previously considered impossible. “Most marathons will eat you up if you try to make it without training properly,” Nace said. “You never know what race day will bring. Embrace it, don’t take it for granted and enjoy the experience. Sometimes its about what you learn along the way.” Nace said he warned runners that marathons can become addictive. “When it all clicks for a race you won’t ever forget it.”
2. Building confidence – When you finish running a marathon, you get that sense of satisfaction, that sense of accomplishment,” said Kiplangat Tisia, 26, a professional runner who lives and trains in Rochester, N.Y. “You feel like anything you try, you can now achieve.”
3. You’ll test yourself – Jason McElwain, 26, of Greece is among marathoners who loves the challenge of the distance. A cross-country runner in high school, McElwain said he needed a break from the sport. When McElwain started running again in 2011, he not only targeted 26.2 miles, but aimed to run fast enough to qualify to run The Boston Marathon. To date, he’s run five marathons. Part of what McElwain said he loves about marathons is how the distance forces him to test his limits. Your body wants to stop, but your mind can’t let it, he said. “I just keep pushing,” he said. “I don’t think, I just go. I run the mile I’m in.”
4. You’ll gain more than you lose – “No matter how fast or slow you go, it’s never easy and it always goes just a bit longer than anyone running it would like it to,” saidChris Patterson, 30, of Rochester, N.Y. “I’ve gained a lot of humility and perseverance for completing the marathon distance.” Patterson said that in his five years of marathons he likes helping other runners reach their time goals just as much, if not more than, achieving his own goals.
5. Overcoming obstacles – A large part of training for a marathon is learning from your mistakes. Runners must listen to their bodies and decide when to train (and when not to train) based on how they cope will all they put the body through, Patterson said. To avoid injury, runners also need to rest between workouts and not over train.
6. Increasing fitness – Laura Anderson, 28, of Rochester, N.Y., ran her first marathon in 2011 to cross the milestone off her bucket list. She said she fell in love with the experience in part because she said training for months helped her focus on the process rather than her goal. “You can’t just run a marathon,” she said. “You have to work hard for it. You can’t just focus on your end goal. You have to pay attention to your daily training and nutrition.” In the past four years, Anderson said her fitness and speed has improved. “You see yourself doing things regularly that once seemed out of reach, like running a double-digit run mid-week.”
7. Friendships – You log a lot of miles (anywhere from 20 to 60 each week) in a training cycle. Running alongside a friend or with a group of like-minded athletes with a common goal helps ease each training cycle. You push each other to do your best and count on one another to help you through a rough day.
8. You’ll explore new places – Mort Nace, 49, of Brighton, N.Y., has completed 15 marathons since 1991. He loves exploring new communities, parks and natural wonders like Pike’s Peak in Colorado. Traveling cross-state or cross-country is a fulfilling way to enhance each marathon experience, he said.
9. It will change you – “You become a better version of yourself,” Nace said. “Having passed that test, having accomplished that goal and suffering through training, you may not run the race you want, but you are a stronger version of yourself as a result.” Tisia agreed. “When you race, you compete against yourself and others, but mostly you’re reaching for something. Nothing is given to you, you have to work for it and that experience builds you as a person.” Knowing you can complete such a feat is empowering and exhilarating. “If you can do this, what can’t you do?” Nace asked.