Why Not Everyone Should Run a Marathon

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The other day one of my favorite bloggers, Lisa at Running Out of Wine, posted about “Why Everyone Should Run A Marathon” … and since I was apparently feeling rather contrary, I had to disagree – at least in part. Not that I don’t LOVE the marathon and running long distances … just that I think it isn’t for everyone – not even all runners.

Actually one of the motivations for me to write about this and take an opposing view was that I felt like “everyone else is falling over themselves to agree”, and typically that means either an obvious truth or a bad case of ‘hive mind’. And apologies to the commenters, but I think it is the latter. As runners we so often just can’t see outside of our bizarre little cult! More on that later …

Anyway let’s jump right into things!

How I Agree:

Lisa made some really good points about the process – here are just a couple:

3. You will learn to push through when things hurt or get hard.
5. You will overcome self-doubt time and time again.

These are things I agree with, along with much of the basic reasoning she stated, and think that stepping outside your comfort zone is important, as is pushing yourself (basically the same thing) … and also setting and working towards audacious goals.

Where I Become Unsure:

2. The process takes a whole lot of dedication.

I loved this article about marathon running and what happens to you:

In the weeks leading up to the race, you will undoubtedly find yourself in the pub on a Friday night, talking to a friend with intense zeal about how you “really need to work on speeding up your splits”, or you’ve “been experimenting with a combination of electrolytes and gels”. STOP. Take a breath. Go and take a long, hard look in the mirror. And ask yourself why you have turned into a wanker.

That cracks me up, but the reality is that things like putting in a couple of 20 mile runs takes TIME. If you are working full time, are in a relationship, have pets and/or kids … then it is no longer about just YOU. Suddenly there are multiple people involved – and the ‘required dedication’ goes beyond you. Again, more on that in a bit …

How I DISagree: Here are 10 reasons you should NOT run a marathon:

1. You just aren’t THAT into running: if you managed one 5K on a ‘Couch to 5K’ program and thought it was OK, but suddenly have loads of people saying ‘you HAVE to run a marathon now!’ … and all you can think is ‘ugh, I thought I was done!’. Then you get registered and take a look at a training plan and realize ‘this sucks … I HATE running!’

2. You can’t afford to pay your rent: marathons are EXPENSIVE. In general you can plan at least $100 for registration alone. And unless it is local, plan extra money for food and travel and someplace to stay. Also plan to add money to your weekly grocery bill for the added fuel you’ll need … as well as new running shoes, more clothes, higher laundry expenses, and …well, if you get really into it the costs can quickly spiral out of control!

3. You can’t or won’t allocate the training time: maybe you have a job with long hours and a longer commute, maybe you’re in a new relationship, maybe you are addicted to Skyrim or Minecraft or quilting or origami or whatever … regardless the reason, unless you can plan to set aside at least a dozen hours a week strictly for running – as well as added time for stretching, icing, rolling and whatever else you need – you might be training for an injury rather than a race!

4. You have been injured running before: if you know anyone who has been injured in the past, you know that once your body is weakened in a certain spot it is more likely to get re-injured in that same spot. The saying I heard ages ago “bad breath can be cured with a Tic-Tac, bad knees are for life” comes to mind.

Also, unless you have experience or a coach or fitness partners it can be nearly impossible to find that line between GOOD pushing and BAD pushing. Another old saying “turn the screw until it snaps, then back off a half-turn” … translates pretty much into ‘keep pushing until you have a stress fracture … then back off’.

5. Your primary goal for running is weight loss: sure you MIGHT lose weight training for a marathon – but really only if you are very much overweight. The reality is that once you are close to your ‘correct’ weight (whatever THAT is) you are at least as likely to GAIN weight as to lose it. And for many … that is a total cause to freak out!

6. It will deplete your immune system: regular exercise helps keep you healthy. But like a few other things on this list, once you go past the 10 or so mile point and particularly up to the 20+ mile level for marathons, you are depleting your immune system. THIS is why rest and recovery are so important … and why with a busy non-marathon schedule it is so easy to end up sick and subsequently injured.

7. Your REAL goal is to go faster or do shorter distances: we have been sold on believing that races are progressive – a 10K is ‘better’ than 5K, half-marathon is more ‘real’ than 10K … and marathon is the pinnacle (ultras are just for crazy people 🙂 ). News Flash: It is NONSENSE! No race or distance is ‘better’ than the others – they are all different. What you need for each one is different and as we are all different people some of us will excel at shorter, faster races while others can plod along forever.

8. Because everyone else is doing it: good old peer pressure! I’ve known people who have done some running even though it wasn’t their thing, just because someone else was – one even tried to train for a race because they are very competitive with their significant other! Marathon training is a significant commitment that should really be internally motivated.

9. You Just Want to BQ!: this might seem weird, but I have heard and read about people who really weren’t runners but who were motivated to try to push for a marathon based solely on the Boston Marathon … and this goes all the way back to the 80s! The problem is that with THAT as a singular goal, unless you have significant natural running skill, you are likely in for a much longer and harder path than you imagined. And if you tick off any of the OTHER items on the list … maybe you should start with a 5K or 10K and see if you catch the ‘running bug’.

10. Your Heart isn’t healthy enough: we all know that exercise is good for your cardio-vascular system. But we have also learned that distance running such as marathons can damage your heart a little bit, especially if you have not put in the time to build up your fitness level. It is another good reason to know your risk factors and get yourself checked out before embarking on something like marathon training.

OK, so given that I do at least one run longer than a half-marathon most weeks all year long, and this summer seemed to have a 20+ miler at least every other week … I might sound like a hypocrite. But here’s the thing – I LOVE running, and for me running and marathoning have been some of the greatest things in my life. Running has been a constant companion for nearly 26 years, and I hope to still be running in another 26 years!

But perhaps the BIGGEST reason why not everyone should run a marathon is that they haven’t considered the impact that marathon training can have on their lives and relationships.

Understanding The Context of Your Running – It is NOT All About You!

Last May I posted about ‘Helping Your Non-Running Family Understand’ … and the swift, strong and negative reaction from non-runners in my real and virtual life led to me posting ‘The Other Side of the Finish Line’. The bottom line is this – these things are never so simple as they seem, and individual activities really don’t exist for anyone with attachments and responsibilities outside of themselves (which is pretty much everyone to varying degrees … and those with significant others and kids even more so).

There is a term used mostly jokingly called a ‘running widow’, basically talking about the impact of long training seasons on pretty much everything else in life. It wasn’t something I was really aware of for most of my life … until last year. During 2012 I was losing weight, on a great pursuit of getting fit and healthy and eventually running a marathon. Lisa was the most supportive person in the world, but worried about my restricted eating and constantly told me to ‘not do something stupid’. That is because she is smart – I WAS being stupid.

But in 2013 I was traveling a lot for work to Kentucky (pretty Mon-Fri much every week for 6 months), and also ran two marathons and a half marathon. It was a bit much, really – but again, my family was there for me every step of the way. But another thing I did in 2013 was to start taking rest days whenever Lisa and I both had a day off. And into this year Lisa would still feel odd when her schedule changed and we’d be together and it was obvious I had planned a long run – and to be fair it took me some time to let go of all of that – and talking it through with her (surprise – it all comes back to fear of getting fat again!).

Last year I also came across a couple of blog posts about the potential for training (running, triathlon, etc) to ruin your relationship, here and here. There was also an article in the Wall Street Journal back in 2011 on the subject.

I had thought about this more than a few times this year as I was reading about training, and also when I felt pressure that I HAD to go out for a run, or comments from friends or family or the boys. I am definitely fortunate to have moderating forces in my life to ‘keep me real’. Not that I am saying I see too much ‘not real’ on the internet … well, I guess I actually am.

A couple of other links to ‘running widow’ posts I’ve stashed in a couple of drafts over the last year or so (I’ve told you guys I am a ‘draft junkie’!) – The Running Widow, Losing a Spouse to His Hobby, The Non-Running Spouse, Confessions of a Running Widow, It’s Me or the London Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon Leads to Divorce … and OH so many more! Here are a few quotes:

… He was taking this running far more serious than I ever wanted to and at that moment, I remember looking at him and saying “I am done running with you. You just sucked all of the fun out of this.” And that is the day when I became a “running widow”.

It’s a common affliction, being a widow to a spouse’s hobby. My father was a golf fanatic and as a result, my mother was a golf widow, and I grew up a golf orphan. …

… These people, they are driven. You don’t try to shape the experience. You just accept them and support them and get out of their way, because they’re going to run. They’ll find the hour. They’ll work it in however they have to. You can stay in bed.

So if you read on and are nodding in agreement or perhaps sympathy then the chances are, you too are a Running Widow. And a Running Widow knows that the support doesn’t start and end on race day, but somehow (and none of us can exactly pin point when it happened) you turned into a one woman cheer squad/ exercise nutrition expert/cook/chauffeur/masseuse and nurse.

Now don’t get me wrong, you may like running. Indeed I am quite partial to jog along the beach on a sunny morning, and have even been known to take part in City2Surf, voluntarily. But a Running Widow knows another world of running. It isn’t a charity fun run, or just a way of keeping fit, it’s a world with words like Hoka, Garmin, S-Labs, Kilian, Skins and Glide, and where the North Face isn’t just somewhere you shop for a ski jacket. …

… Sporting widowhood spans all disciplines, from golf to football, but marathon running is by far the most all-consuming. It seems that jogging 30 to 55 miles a week is fundamentally incompatible with socialising, dating and basic conversation – unless, of course, it’s to do with the marathon. And I’m not the only one who’s struggling to cope. …

… Marriages across this great nation are being torn asunder due to excessive exercise.

Experts are calling it “exercise divorce.” The out-of-shape partner left on the sidelines calls it irreconcilable differences with someone devoted first and foremost to a great set of calves and the daily endorphine rush. …

Nicole wrote a great post (that referenced a great post from Michele that I couldn’t find anymore) called “Does life get in the way of running? Or running in the way of life?” … and it fully addresses the reality of the challenges of trying to have a full life AND be fully engaged with marathon training. Spoiler alert: it is NOT easy!

And that is OK – and the struggle those ladies express is natural and felt by many people trying to juggle too much and adding yet another demanding activity to the pile. THAT is not the problem … the problem is when you DON’T ask yourself that question … when you start saying “I have a long run, guess missing that dance recital is OK”, and of course your kids will say ‘sure, it is fine’. And then it gets easier … and easier … and suddenly you are easily missing birthdays, anniversaries, school events – and pretty much deserting your life FOR A HOBBY.

Am I making too big a deal of this? Probably – we are all a product of our likes and interests, and in a relationship we have interests that overlap, those that conflict and still others that are separate. But there is a significant difference between a 5K and a marathon in terms of the scope and time and length of training investment. If you are not in it together … then it is something that is between you. That doesn’t mean it is – it is just something you need to deal with, otherwise it can become a serious issue as noted in many places around the internet.

Just as divorce and breakups and other problems can lead someone to pursue a marathon … so too can the pursuit of a marathon lead to problems in relationships that you weren’t expecting.

What are YOUR thoughts on all of this?

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52 thoughts on “Why Not Everyone Should Run a Marathon

  1. I agree with you – running a marathon is not for everyone. Running one is not a natural progression or something you have to do to be considered a successful runner by yourself or your peers.

    The points you raise are good counter-arguments to not run one.

    As much as I might want to run 2 more (a BQ and then Boston), because it has been a dream since the late 60’s. However, the truth is that I probably will not ever run another full marathon.

    I will not say never, but when I train for a marathon I typically end up injured and not able to run – which defeats all the progress that I have made.

    It seems that my body does better at the shorter distances and as much as I might want to do another marathon – I will focus on shorter distances for the near future.

    The decision to run a marathon should (it is often is not) be one that is taken seriously, not be made in the spur of a moment and talked through with the family, because the time it takes is more than most people realize – at least to train for one properly.

    Running a marathon is a deeply personal decision and then training for and running a marathon can change your life in many ways, some positive and yes, some negative.

    Will I run one again – I want to, but my body keeps telling me no, so I need to listen to my body. So until my body say let’s do this, I will stay with the shorter distances. Even though my weekly mileage seems to about the same as some marathon completion plans and I usually do a 10-14 mile long run almost every week.

    It is more important to me, to keep running.

    Good post Mike.

    • Thanks, Harold – and I agree with all of it!

      “It is more important to me, to keep running.”

      That was one of my big realizations of 2013 – that nothing else, no race, pace, or mileage … was important as being able to get up and run whenever I wanted.

  2. I see this mentality a lot. I have a friend right now who really does not run at all – we’re talking could probably run half a mile if forced. A few weeks ago, she told me she wanted to run a half marathon. Not a 5k or a 10k or a mile – a half marathon. We have been down this road multiple times (ultimately resulting in her stopping the training plan when it becomes overwhelming about 3 weeks in). I always encourage her to start with completing Couch to 5k and decide from there if she wants to train for more, but I think she feels like that’s not “good enough” and she needs a bigger goal. Lots of people do that with marathons as well and end up in over their heads.

    • In a way I understand – it was really after completing my first marathon that I shook off all of the residual feelings from being overweight and so on. But at that exact moment I also realized how silly it was to have had those feelings. Also, I did 3-5K races and a 5miler before my first half marathon and then my first marathon … and was already doing nutso weekly totals.

      I guess my point is that I get that there is a mental element … but really we need to step back and think in a way that makes sense …

      When I ran my 5K this past weekend my kids reminded me that 3.1 miles IS a long distance … maybe not in the context of my daily runs, but it is more than most people in the country could even run continuously!

  3. I think that the argument can be made either way (as with everything). Like you should learn to cook to feed yourself, but you shouldn’t learn to cook if you are likely to kill yourself or others. But you should learn to do it (IT being whatever–running, cooking, etc) CORRECTLY. Perhaps taking on a full isn’t the best idea for everyone, but every in life should, at least once, attempt to do something that they never thought they could or would. That can be their “marathon.”

    • Agree Suz – and I think that Lisa’s post made a pretty good case ‘FOR’ … and I loved the sentiment in her comments from people with no desire to run an actual marathon to ‘find YOUR marathon’. It is a great thought. 🙂

  4. I agree both ways but you bring up some great points. I especially agree with remembering that there are other people involved in this besides yourself. I always think of them as my running “team.” But that is because they are so supportive. As a running coach and specifically a marathon coach I do encourage a lot of people to do the marathon but I never push because you have to truly desire to do a marathon and have the time, etc. to commit to the training. If your heart isn’t in it (literally and figuratively) it will never end well. Heck you’ll likely never even get to the start.

    • You make great points – and having a supportive team is SO important! I mean, I had Lisa cheering from the sidelines at Wineglass just 4 days after breaking her ankle! Amazing.

      But I have also seen people where the family/spouse/whatever is supportive at the start when it is a few miles here or there and weight loss and so on … but as it becomes a major priority and reason to not engage with actual people – I’ve seen resentment and arguments and even divorce spring up. That was a big part of my point – on Lisa’s post there was total ‘hive mind’ going on, and I’d seen things in posts from a couple of people who commented ‘totally agree’ that indicated that the level of training WAS a point of contention. Just stuff to contemplate …

      Thanks again for the great comment as always – and thank you for helping people reach their marathon dreams 🙂

  5. I have been in the “not everyone should do a marathon” boat for a long time, and for many of the reasons you listed. I had a friend recently tell me she wants to run a marathon “just to say she did it.” Yet, she DREADED her long runs for her half marathon! I told her she should wait until she actually likes running long distances. I hate that people feel like they have to do it, when it’s such a larger commitment (for most amateurs), like you said, with time, and family commitments.

    Good for you for mentioning hive mind! I hate when I see that in comment sections. Of course, we are more likely to comment on something we agree with! Like this. I doubt I will comment on the post that inspired you to write this!

    • Thanks so much for the great comment – I definitely see the ‘bucket list’ aspect of things. But there are many things that others have on their bucket list that I have no desire to do … I personally happen to love running.

      And I agree on the ‘hive mind’ thing … but as you note when you are working with a community with similar interests, it is natural to an extent.

      That said – I would suggest checking out Lisa’s blog and post – she welcomes opposing views (I started this post as a comment on hers, then cut it way back and turned it into this). And as I replied to another comment, there are others there who don’t want to run a marathon, but have their own goals that push their comfort zone. There are too many sites where opposing views are not welcome … but Lisa’s is not one of them. 🙂

      • Exactly that – have running things on your bucket list if you love running! It’s so totally okay if you don’t!

        Cool! I will check her out! I always enjoy finding new blogs!

  6. I agree with you wholeheartedly, especially on that whole “hive mind” thing. I am simply not interested in running a marathon right now, for a wide variety of reasons, and I often feel like I’m the odd girl out in running circles because I don’t dream of BQing or crossing a marathon finish line. Maybe I’ll change my mind someday, but right now, half marathons are about as far as I want to go, and even that is super taxing on my energy and time.

    • From the last Olympics there was a big deal about 5K runner Molly Huddle who was born and went to school in Elmira (very close to us), now in RI. She is an amazing runner, and when she came through the area it was a big deal … and I am pretty sure that no one was saying ‘how can you claim to be a REAL runner when you don’t do the marathon?’. haha.

      My point is there is no ‘correct’ distance – it is what works for us. I love reading a race report when the person is passionate about what they ran – regardless of what it is!

  7. Oh wow do I agree with all of this! Great points and not much to add. Many of these reasons are why I’m chilling on running any sort of long distances right now, it takes a toll in many ways. While it can be an amazing and life changing accomplishment, no one should feel like they are less of a runner for not running 26.2. There is not as much glamour and prestige in it as it is often made out to be.

    • Thanks Michele – it is so true that it really is a personal milestone, not some glamorous thing. I remember finishing my first, and having a few work friends make a point of congratulating me and asking questions … and by 9AM it was back to reality 🙂

      Oh – and do you have any idea which post Nicole was referencing? I remember you writing something but couldn’t find it.

  8. Absolutely valid points. A few observations: As a middle-aged person, I know several marriages that have broken up. And I am going to say this: the majority of them are runners/triathletes. There is no doubt that it can strain a relationship if you lose perspective on it. And there are definitely other reasons one might want to avoid a marathon, including all those you listed. All that said–from the empowering standpoint, I do think running a marathon can be a great thing for anyone, provided they are in the right frame of mind/place of life to do it. I do hope that both my kids run one someday (as adults) if they desire and it fits into their life in a healthy way–I want them to experience that finish line feeling for themselves.

    Great post!

    • Great points Amanda!

      Since we’re almost the same age (actually you and my wife are very close on birth-dates, and I am ‘much younger’ having a April ’66 b-day 😉 ) I have also seen many marriages end. And exactly as you say there are many who are eyeball-deep into something like running … and I’ve also seen it with golf, fishing, and other things. Too many … and also too many using it as an escape rather than as a source of exercise and other positive things.

      I love seeing your posts with your kids running 🙂 I have to confess I suppressed a ‘squee’ when my younger son actually mentioned the possibility of doing a 5K at some point – that is on my bucket list!

  9. A vast majority of my local friends are marathon runners and it’s always interesting for me to see them ask my husband about doing a marathon and hear him feel like he’s defending his statement that he’s done a bunch of half marathons, likes running, but has NO desire to do a full having done very long distances long ago in the military. Heck, I’m sometimes one of the ones asking if he’d consider training for and doing a full, just because I know how much marathoning has added to my life and health (did I mention that’s how I’ve met almost all my best friends?).

    I’ve long believed that almost anyone CAN run a marathon if they want to. I actually did my first for one of your “not” reasons — because everyone else was doing it. A friend talked me into signing up with her for a program that was basically couch to marathon. Neither of us had every done even a 5k. I agreed because she flaked on a lot of things, but was a fun person that I liked spending time with (still do!). We’d joined a rowing club she wanted to join and met with them about 3 times and then forgot about it. We enrolled in Spanish for lawyers, bought the books, went to 1 class, and never went back. But suddenly after about 18 weeks or whatever, we were still doing it and we were hitting 20 miles and it sank in that she was going to really want to do the actual marathon. It had never been on my bucket list, but I’d put in the training time, it seemed like I was doing something healthy, and I really liked the group I’d met in training, so I ran that first full anyway. No goal time, no expectations, finished. And then I thought, I could do better. And that’s how I got hooked. Now 12 years and more than 20 marathons later, I’m still trying to improve, though I’ve taken more than 2 hours off my time from that first goal race…

    • Thanks Carina – though I have to say you have ended up with your own sort of ‘hive mind’ crew, ‘shaming’ your husband for not joining the ‘better’ cult of marathon, only being part of the ‘inferior’ half-marathon sect 😉 I’m teasing, but you get what I mean … it would be easy for an outsider to see it that way. 🙂

      Based on the people I have know – and maybe it is now being older – I don’t see an ‘almost anyone’ in marathon. I see a ‘majority of able-bodied’ people, though part of that would be ‘can follow a reasonable training plan and *run* a marathon’. I have known too many people for whom their physical limitations and weaknesses would almost certainly land them with a life-long and movement-limiting injury … and I would consider that a valid ‘can not do’ reason 🙂

      But with that said, I think many more people CAN run a marathon than THINK they can.

      • Guilty as charged on the hive mind! I’m glad he’s so firm in his belief that he does not want to do one, so I think/hope my occasional suggestions don’t bother him!

      • I doubt it is a big deal at all – I just was teasing because I know that in any sort of ‘like minded community’ it is easy to not see how the rest of the world sees things so very much differently 🙂

  10. Mike, great post — your points are right-on. As you know I walk (and hike!) rather than run, but what you said translates over very well. I found myself saying “YES!” numerous times as I read through your post. In fact, I started writing a whole bunch of comments and then thought maybe I’d do what you have done, and turn them into a post for my own blog with just a brief comment here. 🙂

  11. I agree 100% – and that’s why I can positively say I have NO plans to EVER run a marathon! The half was great….and I did it….and I am definitely thinking about the next one….but I know my body and I know my limits – physically, mentally, literally (my kids, husband, life!) – good food for thought! And to all of you that do long LONG distances – more power to you!! 🙂

    • Thanks Sammy – I think the whole thing about knowing your body and limits is very important! I have always said that I would love to still be running in another 26 years, much more important than any race or pace or distance.

  12. I really enjoyed reading your views on this and the comments from others! Isn’t it funny that a few people who agreed with my post also agree with yours:) And I am one of those people because I believe you made an extremely valid argument!
    Even though I didn’t mean for my post to be taken 100% literally (i.e. mentioning in the beginning that I wasn’t trying to say that everyone should “run marathons” but do something equivalently challenging) I think that many people who commented did take it literally and were all like “yes! everyone should run a marathon!”
    But even if we take out the factor that some people just don’t run and have zero interest in running, you bring up alot of good points about why even runners shouldn’t necessarily run a marathon. If you are happy doing half-marathons and doing a full would be more of burden, you likely wont get any of the benefits out of it that I talked about.
    In thinking about the point I was making in my post, whatever you choose to be your “marathon” (aka something that will eventually get you those benefits that I talked about)- you need to be invested and want to do the activity/reach that goal for yourself. It also needs to happen at the right time in your life for you.
    Another point that I guess is a disclaimer: I wrote a draft of that post on my phone while flying to Florida after several glasses of wine:) The deep thinking about the topic could only reach a certain level.
    Whew, I feel like that could have been a whole other post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and always bringing up a good conversation about topics like this!

    • Thanks Lisa – and this: “Isn’t it funny that a few people who agreed with my post also agree with yours:)”

      Absolutely I did! And like you say, for good reason! I mean, I love long distance running whether or not it is in the form of an organized marathon, so I loved your post as well. My wife loved my post as well, it spoke to her as someone whose body will never support running any distance but who is married to a guy who has run for their entire relationship.

      I think it reflects that there is no ‘absolute truth’, but rather many sides to consider. Thanks again for kicking it off, albeit in the haze of air travel and wine 🙂

  13. When I first started running I thought about marathons and BQ’s but then I got real. There is a reason my blog has the word slacker in it, a marathon is just too big of a time commitment for me. I may not have kids but I know I don’t want to feel forced to run and get miles in just so I can jump on the bandwagon. I like half marathons and I like sleeping in. Plus I drive people batty with all my running talk already, they don’t need to hear more from me. Great post!

    • Thanks Fallon! I think deciding what works best for us is SO important to being happy! And I loved the thought around driving people batty – that is why I loved the thing I quoted about stopping and asking yourself when you became such a wanker 🙂

  14. I agree that I think a lot of people really need to work their way up to a full marathon. I do not (and will probably never) think a half marathon or full marathon in general is the best idea for everyone. I don’t even think running is the best for everyone!

  15. I was just having this conversation with a co-worker. I asked her if she wanted to run with me one morning because she mentioned she ran. She said in a group full of other co-workers that she couldn’t run with me because I was a marathoner and the furthest she ever ran with a 10k. I explained to her that just because I have run a few marathons does not mean she 1. isnt a runner 2. that i am a better runner, It just means that I had specific goals that I wanted to achieve which included running a specific marathon (Boston) 3. running a marathon is NOT for everyone and that is more than okay!

    I love to run, but I also know my limits and marathons year after year aren’t in the cards for me physically (my damn calves) and because of the effect it has on my family life, which you so eloquently went into detail about. Both my boys are affected greatly when I am training for a marathon, I sacrifice time with them, I am often tired and sometimes more grouchy, etc. It’s not fair for them, even though they support me fully. I think running marathons can be very selfish (at least it is for me) which is why I am done with them.

    And I agree that you have to know WHY you run and what you want out of it. We all run for different reasons and it’s those reasons, along with a million other variables that will determine if running a marathon is realistic.

    • Thanks for that great comment – and it is so true that we are all different. I definitely know I was intimidated way back when by people who had run a marathon … heck even a 10k was a big deal back then!

      And I think you have been really smart about assessing what all of that running was doing to your body – and I think it is also important that you take into account the impact on those around you. It is too easy to slip into the ‘my body, my life, my choice’ mindset … which is never so simple.

      • I can’t say it’s been easy to walk away or limit the things I want to do. I try to always think of who it impacts–usually Robyn and Ashton, but it’s really hard to always find and keep that balance with still being “me” along with my other roles. I still haven’t figured it all out!

      • Totally agree – and honestly when your kids are little I think it is harder, because (a) they literally need you (b) they are constantly changing and (c) are a dominant topic of your relationship with your husband. I mean, my wife stayed home, was with the kids all the time while I was working and commuting Townsend to Marlborough – and of course when she gets away for a ‘girl’s night’ is the first time our older son used the potty himself! haha

        It is SO important to remember that the three main identities you have – mom, spouse, individual – must all remain, and each is important as an independent thing. You can’t forget that your child is a product of you and your spouse … though it is easy to do so at times – even more important is remembering that at the core of everything is YOU. Sorry to ramble, but it is something Lisa and I have talked about a bunch – and now that we’re on the cusp of our first heading off to college, it is more important than ever that we actually like hanging out 🙂

  16. I think running a marathon has become a bucket list item, and I agree with you that it’s not necessarily the best idea for most people. What’s wrong with being thrilled over a 5k or 10k? Frankly, I wish more 10k races were available for me because I like that distance a lot. When I came up with the idea I wanted to run a half, it was when I was 23 and had been running 4-5 miles most days and my longest run was about 8 miles. I figured I could probably get myself to 13, but then life got in the way and I didn’t run for two decades. But I started small, with 5 and 10ks. I never dreamed I would ever run a marathon until I realized I liked running long.

    But as you said, there are so many factors going into marathon training and it’s not something people should take lightly. It’s been a good time for me since my son is in college now and my husband is a dedicated swimmer, so he gets my passion. And I really wish more people would give shorter distances more love! I think 5ks are incredibly hard — it’s all about the effort you put in, not that marathons are some sort of superior distance that somehow legitimizes you as a “runner”.

    • I still haven’t run a 10k! There aren’t a lot around here, it is all 5K and then half- or full marathons! I get the thinking behind the progression – you start running a little and then build up and up … but that doesn’t diminish what it means to run a shorter distance WELL.

      And I also agree with what you say about timing – I NEVER ran on weekends, it was family time. But now with the kids older and having their own stuff and Lisa often working – it just works out for me.

      “not that marathons are some sort of superior distance that somehow legitimizes you as a “runner”.”

      Exactly 🙂

  17. Great points! I think that anyone who is considering running a marathon needs to really question if it’s right for them. If you can’t fully commit to the training (and it does take up a lot of time and energy) then maybe it’s not for you. And that’s fine. You don’t need a marathon medal to confirm your place as a runner. Doing half-assed training for a marathon will end up in a miserable race.

    • Totally agree! It is one reason I dislike the name ‘half marathon’ – it is like ‘junior marathon’ or something, like you are only doing it until you’re good enough for the REAL one! 13.1 is a very different challenge than 26.2, just as 10K is different and 5K is different. And anyone out pounding the pavement (or in on the treadmill) doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

      • Weren’t people trying to make the name “Pikermi” catch on for a while? Too lazy to look it up, but maybe that’s halfway between Athens and Marathon?

      • I heard that a few months ago … but I think it is a silly name. Marathon is something that despite the origins of the name has come into the common vernacular, and it immediately evocative and usable as a generic adjective (we actually had a ‘marathon’ strategy session for my group last week!)

  18. Pingback: Friday Updates: Dec 12 | FueledByLOLZ

  19. Great post! This was perfect for me to read. After I finished my last half-marathon a lot of my Tumblr friends were encouraging me to run a marathon, and while I love a good challenge, I knew that challenge wasn’t read for me… not next year and I’m not sure when. I’ve been running consistently for over 2 years and playing sports for 8…. and I just don’t know about it yet.
    Thank you for this, it made me feel so much better about not wanting to run a marathon yet. I love running and I am going to keep true to myself and keep doing what I want.
    Thank you!

    • Thanks Kayla – I’m glad that it was the right thing to read for you! And I think you are right – people will see you do one thing and then push you for the next thing. But whether or not it is the right thing or the right time … is something only YOU can determine. Good luck!

  20. I’m PASSIONATE about running but it comes with a healthy dose of real life and the ability to balance it all. That’s the key, all things need balance. I give up certain things to train, but my family will always come first. If not, then my compass does not point due north, and my goal is to always have it due north!

    • I like the analogy of the compass. It really gets at the sort of balance I was talking about – that can be easy to lose in light of our passions for running. Thanks for sharing that!

  21. Yes. Just yes. someone asked me the other day if I could teach them to enjoy running, and I told him to buy a bike (I late explained progression, starting slow, etc) but my point is – if you don’t live to run, find something you do love and do that. Life is too short to do something you hate.

    • Great point – and I think that is always part of the ‘hive mind’ that I talk about. I mean WE all love to run, so why doesn’t everyone?

      I see it with people who eat ‘more normally’ than most of us and seem apologetic about it. Why? Eat what you like – my choices tend towards a bit off-beat and very healthy. Lucky me … but my family doesn’t like a lot of the crap I eat, that is just how it works!

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