Once you run your first 5K, you are hooked. You may think you will run 5K’s forever but pretty soon you’ll stretch to a 10K and then a half marathon. The half marathon is your gateway drug to long distance running.
The first half marathon you decide to train for feels like an idea that is so ridiculous that you sign up just to see if you can prove it to yourself you can run it. A half marathon is no joke! (And in my humble opinion the best distance to have fun and stay in great shape!) But once you do one half marathon, you know you can wake up on almost any given day and churn out another one. There is something so manageable and fun about that distance once you’ve mentally crossed the hurdle. Check out my post on tackling your first long-distance run: the half marathon.
Now, the marathon. I know what you are thinking:
- I can’t do it.
- Humans aren’t supposed to run that far.
- I don’t want to hurt myself.
All of these thoughts are valid concerns and very real considerations when deciding to take on training for a marathon. Let’s break it down by each statement.
“I can’t do it.” I’m going to ask you this: Is there really anything in this world that you can’t do? Just because you can’t accomplish something today, right now, next month or even next year, does not mean you can’t do something. It just means you don’t have the support and/or commitment today to start making the decisions you need to reach that goal.
Let’s look at an example. Perhaps you are midway into your career. You are married with children and have a big house. You are the sole provider for your family. Your dream is to go back to school and become a physical therapist. You can’t quit your job today or even tomorrow, but you can start making decisions that will position you to be able to reach that goal. It may mean downsizing your home or taking your children out of private school. Your partner will have to go back to work. It may mean saving every penny you make for 5 years before you can afford to make it happen. But the reality is: there IS a way.
In this extreme example, I am highlighting that even something that seems absolutely impossible, IS possible. Many things worth pursuing in life take sacrifice, pain and sometimes suffering to reach it.
Now let’s talk about a marathon. Hopefully it doesn’t sound so impossible after thinking about that situation! With proper training and a commitment to running one, you CAN achieve your goal of running a marathon. It starts with turning the “can’t” into a “can” and making a commitment to a training plan.
“Humans aren’t supposed to run that far.” This is a common comment from people who do not have “running a marathon” within their repertoire of something they want to accomplish anytime soon. Recognize where they (you) are in this stage and come to terms with the fact that running a marathon isn’t in the cards right now. Trust me, I have been here.
Sometimes, evaluating where you are in the Transtheoretical Model of the Stages of Change can be helpful in identifying your likelihood in making a behavioral change to attain a goal. This is something used in health coaching and many counseling modalities to evaluate where someone is with respect to making behavior changes in life. The stages are: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination.
What stage would you think this statement is in alignment with?
If you guessed contemplation, then you are right! (Pre-contemplation, believe it or not, is when you haven’t even uttered the word marathon.) Contemplation is when you start to ask questions and rationalize not doing something. This is also when you begin to process the possibilities and weigh the pros and cons of possibly doing something. It is usually when someone is most vocally against something when they are in fact in the contemplation stage. So take note of this!
I see this as the most exciting phase where crossing some of the biggest hurdles lays groundwork for fun stages later on.
* I would like to note that some people must be born with bodies who can endure distance running and events that even marathoners can't fathom. Ultra runners most definitely are made differently yet they ARE made to run that far!
“I don’t want to hurt myself.” This is a real issue in training for any long distance event. It’s (usually) never the marathon that hurts you, it’s the training. The hundreds of miles you must log to reach the physical fitness needed to cross the finish line can be grueling and very tough on your body. Depending on your fitness when you decide to start training also plays a large role in how injury-free you can remain while training.
It’s important that you have a reasonable training schedule to follow and that you aren’t pushing yourself to attain marathoner status before it’s time. Pushing your body too quickly in a short amount of time will likely lead to stress-related injuries which can take loads of time to heal.
Make sure you are mindful of your current fitness level and choose the appropriate schedule for you. And don’t be afraid to modify something you come across! Everyone’s body is different and only you are in charge of listening to your inner voice.
Don’t forget the importance of cross-training. Whether you like to do yoga (I highly recommend this to counteract some of the repetitive nature of running on your muscles), cycle, play tennis, swim, lift weights… you name it! Just work other muscle groups to make sure you keep all parts of your legs and body strong. Long distance running does hound the exact same muscle each time you take a step, so ignoring the muscles nearby only leaves room for injury down the road.
I some cases, you have been injured in the past and the idea of battling another injury is not in the cards. Take it slow, listen to your body and remember that no race is ever worth sacrificing your longterm health. There will always be more races yet you only have one body.
Most of the time we are slated to learn these lessons the hard way because we think we are different or immune or never get injured. The reality is even though your body is different, pushing too hard, too soon can only work for short periods of time.
Everyone always goes into a marathon thinking they will only do ONE marathon in their lifetime. And every seasoned marathoner you meet will tell you that you just have to do this ONE OTHER marathon in your life to be happy. Make no mistake: you will end up signing up for another marathon and your racing career has just started!
Ideally, training for any race is the beginning of a love affair with a good line of running shoes you decide you can’t live without (until they discontinue them and you are forced to look around again). I would invite you to be mindful of what your body tells you each step of the way and seek advice of professionals whenever you experience pain. A lot of times, the right pair of shoes or backing off on mileage can fix your aches, but don’t be afraid to ask for help.
*Healthspiration*: Just because you can’t accomplish something today, right now, next month or even next year, does not mean you can’t do something.
*Opportunity Discovery*: Think of something you have always wanted to accomplish in life and think about all of the decisions you would have to make to realize that goal. Think of each and every little thing you would have to put in motion to be able to get there. Even if it is something you choose not to pursue, let it be a lesson that even the most outlandish desires could be realized if you chose to make it happen. You are the master of your destiny and have the power to change your life.
Share your long distance running story below and help motivate fellow-runners on their journey to the marathon. Any tips and tricks? Schedules you recommend?
Interested in working with a health coach to start training for your first race? Message me to find out how we can work together on reaching your goal!