If you are looking for a great goal for this year that is a bucket list item for many people, here are 6 reasons to set a goal to run a marathon!
6 Reasons to Run a Marathon
Running Tip: Check out the book I used to run my first marathon – the “Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer.” It has some great stories while laying out a very good running schedule. You won’t run longer than 18 miles and not more than 36 miles in a week!
1. Check Off a Bucket List Item!
Running a marathon is on the bucket list of millions of people. In fact, it will be in the top of many bucket lists you see listed as things you have to do in your lifetime.
Many end up checking this one off the list but others just never even get started. It is a bucket list item for most people because it is seen as something that is unachievable or something that they can always start training to accomplish – someday.
Unlike climbing Mt. Everest, visiting Antarctica, or going to a Super Bowl, running a marathon is a bucket list item that can be accomplished with not very much money and just a decent amount of commitment mixed with effort. Maybe you have it as an item on your own bucket list item – time to check it off!
Or, maybe you know other people with this little activity on their bucket list! You could be the motivation that helps them get to that starting line – and the finishing line – as well. A marathon does not have to be as fearful as many people make it seem to be!
2. See a City As You Never Have Before
Running a marathon in a city is an eye-opening experience. That is because you get to see a whole lot of the city (26.2 miles, to be exact) from ground level at a speed that allows you to take it all in. This is true even in your own home city! It is amazing what things you can see that you never noticed before just by pounding the pavement over the course of a marathon.
Of course, running a marathon in some cool city is also an amazing experience! It really gives you a chance to see things that a tour would never let you take in and to experience the highs and lows of your race while passing by some intriguing attractions.
I have run the National Marathon (Washington, DC) a couple of times (now it is the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in DC). I absolutely love DC for many of reasons and one is that it is such a runner-friendly city. The unique thing about the National Marathon was that the mayor at the time (who was a runner) wanted the whole 26.2 miles to take place inside of the district. That really let you see every nook and cranny of the District of Columbia – and it was enjoyable!
I have run marathons in cities like Jerusalem, Dubai, Baltimore, Kansas City, Phoenix, Tel Aviv, Richmond, and dozens of others that gave me some really great views of the cities that I had visited before but had never really quite seen in that way.
Let’s face it – once you say you want to run a marathon, you are going to get a whole lot of people that will be like “Oh wow, that sounds cool.” After a week, they will follow it up with, “you know, running is bad for you” or “can’t you just try running shorter races” – basically treating you like you have lost it.
During the Race
When you run a marathon, you get to meet people along the way that are enduring the same journey you are and at the same pace you are doing it at. This gives you a couple of things in common! I have made quite a few friends during marathons – some I never talked to again and others that I have kept in touch with. I say “friends” because I talk with them more in 2-3 hours than I talk to my regular friends over the course of a month!
In Training for the Race
Not only will you make these friends during the marathon itself, but training for a marathon can help you to find some new friends that also train in your area. I have many of these friends that I have made over the years and it is always a source of encouragement to help get me out of bed at 5am on a Saturday morning knowing they will be waiting for me so we can take our long run – and neither of us think the other one is stupid for getting up at that hour in upstate NY in the wintertime!
Sure, we all have friends, but it can be very helpful for us as we train and maybe become a little healthier and in better shape to have people that are in that with us. There are many weight-loss programs that use that accountability to help shed the pounds and running friends can do that for you as well.
4. Perseverance and Pain
I threw these two together because they do kind of work together. Running a marathon is an enormous accomplishment. There are many things that happen to your body over that 26.2 mile journey (and all the training that leads up to it) that shorter distances just do not do. Not only that, but you can hit these emotional highs and lows – all during that single race. I cannot tell you how many people I have seen crying in that last mile of a marathon and as they cross the finish line.
There is something intensely emotional about finishing that distance and to do it, it will require perseverance and the handling of pain. A typical marathon program takes from 16 – 18 weeks. That includes running at least 4 times a week and running anywhere from 30-ish miles in a week to over 100 miles in a week (for the super elites).
No Cutting Corners!
Maybe you have never really been the kind of person to stick with something. A marathon has not corners to cut. If you don’t put in the work and stick it out, you will have a very miserable experience, maybe get an injury and be in quite a bit of (extra) pain!
That is one of the beautiful things about a marathon – it will strip away the talk and the excuses and leave you with the work you have actually done. That takes perseverance and a marathon can really help to hone that.
Oh, That Beautiful Pain!
Now, about that pain! Yes, it will be painful. There is the wall that is talked about around the 18-20 mile point of a marathon. This typically has to do with the depleting of your glycogen stores which can be a part of not managing your nutrition and/or pace during the race.
But, even if you don’t hit that wall, there is a pain that will likely be like nothing you have experienced before! I have heard women compare it to the pain of childbirth (I obviously cannot speak to that!) and I know that seldom have I experience pain like I do during and after a marathon.
But it is an incredible pain! It is the pain of satisfaction knowing that you have stuck it out, defeated the pain and burning of your muscles to run twenty-six point two miles – at one time. Trust me, it is one kind of pain that you really will love!
5. Running in the Steps of the Pros
There is really no other sport in the world where you get to participating on the same turf and have the same spectators as the people that are the top professionals in your sport. Think about it – you will only be a few miles (at the beginning at least) behind people that run in the Olympics! You get to run in their very footsteps that they just planted a few minutes before you.
You also have the same fans cheering you on that cheered them on when they ran ahead of you. You know that, at the end, you will have run the same exact distance that they did, on the same roads, and on the very same day. You cannot get that in golf, baseball, soccer, football, cycling, even track and field.
Finally, you will cross the same exact finish line that they did and likely have the same announcer shouting out your name, just like they did for the men and women that won that race and claimed the (sometimes) huge prize purses.
6. Training for a Marathon Can Help with Weight Goals
Running a marathon and losing weight are not always goals that can work together. This is because you really don’t want to be cutting way back on your caloric intake while burning 1,000-2,500 calories extra per day.
But, those two things often do work together! In fact, this has happened with me in my most recent marathon training program. For the longest time, I have been around 205 pounds. However, during this latest training cycle, I have lost about 11 pounds – first time I have been under 200 pounds in years! I did not plan for this but it is what happened with my increase in miles for this program.
Bonus! Unique Experiences
Running marathons can be sort of like an all access pass to various places in and around cities. I have been able to run all over Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, OH and run down the taxiway with a dozen fighter jets lined up in salute of us runners – before having a medal draped around my neck by an Air Force General.
I have been able to run over finish lines in football stadiums, baseball stadiums, sport arenas, run through ancient ruins, and in dozens of other places that many people may never get to enter. Some marathons even finish inside of Olympic Stadiums! Other marathons let you run over bridges that pedestrians never get to cross.
These are just some of the unique experiences that marathon runners get to enjoy!
Running a marathon is an awesome accomplishment. Just lining up at the starting line of a marathon takes a lot but to finish, it will take sometimes all you have. Yes, you will probably hate yourself (and me!) after you finish – but you forget that pain in no time at all!
I remember after I finished my first marathon in 4 hours and 34 minutes in Tiberias, Israel. I was lying in my bed that next morning, groaning. I promised myself I would never, ever run another marathon again! However, it was about one week later that I signed up for my second one that was taking place just 10 weeks later. After that, I told my wife she is not allowed to hold me to anything I say in the first 48 hours after a race.
Since that time, I have run over 50 marathons and ultra-marathons (distances over 26.2 miles) – and I am always looking for another one!
Featured image courtesy of Max Herman via Shutterstock