Are You Ready to Run a Marathon?
The marathon is the crowning achievement for a runner. After all your running accomplishments, it's no wonder you're considering it. You started with a short walk-run program.
The marathon is the crowning achievement for a runner. After all your running accomplishments, it's no wonder you're considering it. You started with a short walk-run program. Over the following months you kept it up. You walked less and ran more. You signed up for a 5k, then a 10k, and maybe even a half-marathon. Somewhere in the back of your mind that ultimate goal has been looming. It calls to you. At first you dismissed it, but now you wonder. Are you ready? Could you actually do it?
How Long Have You Been Running?
Once you've been running consistently for a few months you will start to feel really good when you run. No longer will you feel like you're dying, unless you start doing some major speed or hill training. But you won't yet be ready for a marathon. Running offers a multitude of health benefits, but it also is stressful on your body, and the marathon distance is even more so. It takes time for your ligaments, tendons, muscles and cardiovascular system to adapt to the increased stress and strain. Make sure you've been running at least three times per week consistently for at least a year before you start training for a marathon.
How Much Time Do You Have for Training?
Running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to fit into your schedule, because you can do it pretty much anywhere and get a good workout in a short period of time. Once you start training for a marathon, however, that long run on Sunday gets longer and longer. The average finishing time for men is almost 4 hours and 30 minutes, and for a woman the average finishing time is over 4 hours and 50 minutes. While you do not run a full marathon when training for one, most training programs have you run at least 20 miles, which for most people means over three hours of running on your long day. Yes, you will work up to that distance, but that is in addition to probably at least three other runs per week, possibly along with cross training, yoga and massage. Can you fit this into your schedule without causing problems in your life and relationships?
Do You Have an Injury or Physical Limitation?
Yes, people can do amazing things such as running marathons with visual or physical impairments. But training for or running a marathon when you have an injury can cause permanent damage, and not just the injury itself. For example, if you have an injured foot you might run in a way that favors that foot, putting extreme pressure on your other foot, leg and hip and causing injury on that side. And some physical or structural limitations can also cause problems down the road, often because you hold your body in a way that puts too much stress on one part of the body over another or because you hold your body in a non-neutral position. People can and do run with all sorts of disabilities and structural problems, but you need to take a good look at whether running for these lengths of time and distance are in your best interest down the road.
Is It Important To You?
Are you deciding to run a marathon just because you feel it's the next step, or is it something you really want to accomplish? Training for and running a marathon sounds just fine, but it can take a lot of self-awareness, focus, and determination to complete. For some people, that is half the fun—being able to overcome. Other people may sign up for a marathon with no real idea what they're getting themselves into, just because they feel they should. If your heart isn't in it, then why do it? Running shorter distances makes you no less a runner.
There's a reason they give medals on the finish line no matter how you did in the race; just completing it feels like an accomplishment because it is. Only you can determine whether training for a marathon is right for you, if you have the time, the health and the will, and if your body is well enough adapted. Crossing that finish line does feel fantastic, and if you do decide to do it, then don't be surprised to find yourself hooked.
Doris Hall is a freelance writer, analytical essay editor, and researcher specializing in educational, health, safety and domestic issues. Previously, she spent five years in marketing in the self-help, health and health and safety sectors before leaving to start a family. She now edits and writes content for the U.K. Health and Safety Executive. Fran graduated in 1993 with an honors degree in English Literature.