If you have never run a marathon before, you are probably thinking, “bored with a marathon?!” Believe it or not, like anything else, it is possible become bored with running marathons! 🙂
Maybe you have plateaued with your pace or maybe it does not mean as much to you as it used to when you finish a marathon. Or, maybe you are just a little marathon fatigued. If this is you, here are 5 alternatives to running marathons to help you out!
5 Alternatives to Running Marathons
Most marathons take place on roads. Many cities do a fantastic job of putting on quite a show for the runners when running their streets. Still, pounding the asphalt for 26.2 miles can take a little toll on you – both mentally and physically.
Trails Are Beautiful and Exciting!
If you have never run on trails before, it is really a different and quite enjoyable experience! It will not necessarily be a lateral transition from your road training as trails can be anything from a smooth path to more technical trails so they need to be approached differently. But, it is a great thing to just launch out through the woods, hills, mountains, or jungles!
Running trails is a great way to immerse yourself in nature and gain a different experience when checking the miles off on your calendar. You can do it with just the shoes you have but as you run more technical trails, you may want to pick up a pair of trail running shoes to give you that extra grip and support.
Sign-Up for a Trail Race to Get Started!
A nice way to transition to trail running is to sign up for a trail race. The trail running crowd is not quite as competitive as road racing so you can learn a lot from your trail-running companions. It is nice to take the pace down a notch and talk with experienced trail runners.
Also check out the huge Facebook Trail and Ultra running group with almost 100,000 members.
If you are used to training and running marathons, races like 10Ks, 15Ks, and half-marathons are normally nothing more than tune-up races on the way to your marathon.
However, it can be a nice break to dial down your mileage from marathon training and pick a 10K, 15K, or half-marathon as a goal race. I have run races from 1 mile to 100km distances and one of my all-time favorite distances is the half-marathon. That is because it is really a great distance that will let you really push hard during the race – but you can walk semi-normally the next day!
With the shorter races, you can limit your long run distances and some of your training distances. This frees you up to do some cross-training, workouts, or just doing something unrelated entirely with running!
Take a break from the marathon distance and go for a great PR (personal record) at the half-marathon distance or a 10K, 15K, or even 5K!
There are Huge Races for Shorter Distances!
Here is another little thing to push you in this direction – there are some huge races around the world at those shorter distances! The largest race in the world is actually a half-marathon and takes place each year in Gothenburg, Sweden (as many as 60,000+ runners have run in that race!). There are also some very large 10Ks and 10 milers (check out the Crim 10 miler in Flint, MI or the Army Ten Miler) in the US that you could travel for – and then do a walking tour after without feeling like you are doing a shuffle!
Ok, now we are going the other way a little bit! An ultra-marathon is describe as anything over the marathon distance (26.2 miles). This means races like the 50K (31 miles), 50 milers, 100Ks, 100 milers, or the timed races like 12 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours.
How does it help you to run an ultra-marathon if you are bored of marathons? While the 50K is fairly similar to the marathon, ultras are still a totally different beast. Unless you are on the elite end of the spectrum, you are not going to be running a blistering 50 miler. To finish a 50 miler is actually quite an accomplishment so you don’t really need to pay that much attention to time.
Eat Some Great Food – While Running a Race!
When was the last time you stopped during a marathon to eat a bowl of chili or eat a sandwich? Probably never! But, that is just part of the fun in ultra-marathons! I sometimes look at some of them like spending a beautiful day out on trails with a picnic lunch every 3-5 hours. 🙂
The reason for eating like that is because gels cannot really sustain you the way you need for the calories you will be expending for running for 8-14 hours. How about that – you will actually have to incorporate eating on the run into your training so that you stomach is able to handle solids like that.
Enjoy the Run – Don’t Think About Time!
I have run a number of ultra-marathons and they are really something else! No matter how much you train, you never really know how your body will respond to that many miles. And, you know what, it is ok to take a little break along the way! Remember, finishing is the goal! It is not uncommon in longer ultras to see runners sitting down in lawn chairs at an aid station for 30 minutes or so. Like I said, it is like a really long picnic!
And there are actually some very big ultras as well! There is the JFK 50 miler in November that attracts thousands and the Comrades Marathons in June in South Africa that attracts over 17,000 runners! So, you could run one of these events and get a lot of companionship along the way.
Wait, “marathon?” Yes, sometimes running a different kind of marathon can kick the boredom out of the 26.2 mile distance. There are some incredible adventure marathons that take place around the world. There are things like the highest marathon in the world (that takes place at base camp on Mt. Everest), a safari marathon, running a marathon on the Great Wall of China, running a volcano marathon, or maybe running at the North Pole or on Antarctica.
Those last 3 options are put on by Richard Donovan, an incredible runner who has put on some extraordinary marathons for a number of years (including the World Marathon Challenge – 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days). If you run one of his events, you know you are going to get a quality production and experience.
These types of adventure marathons are more expensive than your regular marathon, especially since many of them come as part of a travel package. But, if you are looking for something different, these races can definitely kick the marathon doldrums and make the 26.2 mile distance come alive again!
Running Beautiful Places
Ok, let’s leave the races behind! How about just going out for a run in some beautiful places? There are beautiful parks around the US that give some incredible beauty for those that will venture out.
Running is a great way to get out to these beautiful places. It will get you there faster than walking and give you more time to take in the fascinating views around you.
Running is also a nice way to just appreciate your surroundings. Think about running the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Northwest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and more! I have run through old Civil War battlefields before and just stopped along the way to read and understand what happened in various places along the trails (but be respectful of some such areas – some places welcome runners but it may not be courteous in others).
Running a marathon is a great experience and a bucket list item for many people. But, if you have been running marathons for a while, they may have become a little boring for you! If that happened to you, I hope these 5 alternatives help you to get past that and experience some other fantastic running adventures!