Marathon: You Can Do It!

Why Choose the Marathon?

There’s been an overwhelming flood tide of entrants into marathons in the past few years. Beginning exercisers by the thousands are targeting a marathon instead of the safer choice of a 5K or 10K. Established marathons are filling their quotas earlier than ever, and in 2008, over 425,000 people finished a marathon — an all-time record. What started as a once-in-a-lifetime achievement is now being attained by former couch potatoes every six to twelve months.

At the same time that a majority of the North American population has been labeled “significantly overweight,” marathon training has been designated as the fastest growing type of exercise. More than two million people train for a marathon each year; surely some start with the goal of losing weight. The overwhelming number of those who continue, however, do so because of the unequaled positive boost in attitude, significant stress release, and overall increase in vitality, focus and creativity.

As the average age of the marathoner has increased to 40+, the marathon has become a mid-life mission, an attainable goal. It could be worse: when you list the other mid-life diversions, the marathon’s not a bad choice. At this stage of life, a high percentage of these first-time marathoners are accustomed to relying upon key people and leveraging influence through contacts, income and other negotiable items. The marathon stands out as one of the most esteemed of life’s achievements, but it has to be won by pulling from within oneself physical, mental, and spiritual resources over an extended period of time. Universal respect flows from sedentary observers who wish they could find the fortitude to get out there and do the same. Participants discover a mature self-respect, along with previously dormant strength to meet the challenges of this six-month adventure.

Part of the fulfillment must come from getting back to our roots. Our ancient ancestors walked and ran for thousands of miles each year to survive. In the process, they developed and passed on to us a treasury of physical and mental skills, which we renew on every run. The challenge of a significant physical journey on foot unleashes some primitive connections to our identity as human beings.

Most new marathoners bypass shorter distance events because they know that they need a challenging mission. By writing the marathon date on a calendar, one becomes more motivated to get out the door when the alarm goes off way too early or on days when the weather is bad.

If you have read this far, chances are you’re ready to go forward with one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life. At the very least, you’re saying that you want to take responsibility for your health and your attitude. On the long list of benefits from such a program, those two are at the top.

Every marathoner, no matter how experienced, has to dig down and find resources to get through the training program and to finish the marathon. You’ll discover strengths that you didn’t know were there. Most of those on a marathon mission become more positive and react more directly to life’s offerings. When the finish banner comes into view and you realize the end of your journey is near, even the tough guys let loose some tears.

Over the past four decades, I’ve run over 150 marathons. I’ve received the same wonderful exhilaration when running them fast (2:16) as I do when running them slowly. To reach the finish line in a marathon is to enter an elite group: only about one-tenth of 1 percent of the population does it.

By the way, my most treasured marathon was my slowest. I ran with my father (age 75) in the 1996 Boston Marathon in 5:59:48. He tells folks that if I hadn’t been there to slowhim down, he’d have run much faster.

  • To stick with a marathon training program for six months is to become a winner.
  • To finish a marathon will leave you feeling like a champion!
  • You can do it!

Before You Take Those First Steps . . .

There are a very few people who should not exercise because of cardiovascular, structural, muscular, or other problems. It’s very important to ensure that you are not in this risk category.

  • Before beginning any exercise, diet or other improvement program, be sure to have yourself and the program evaluated by specialists in the areas you are pursuing.
  • Your own specific body type and any physical problems may require program modifications.
  • Always back off when you feel that the training may lead to an injury or health problems.
  • Benefits come from regular exercise and steady adherence to a long-term program.
  • Never radically increase the amount of exercise or drastically change your diet.
  • The advice in this book is offered as such — advice from one exerciser to another. It is not meant to be a prescription.
  • Joining a group helps motivation.
  • Have FUN and you’ll want to continue.