There are two types of people in the world. The ones who believe they can run a marathon and the ones who don’t.
I don’t enter races very often, but over the years I have run in many 5ks, a 10k or two, a 15k, and several half-marathons, and one full marathon.
What made my first and so-far only marathon possible was a confidence that I could run 26.2 miles, despite never having run even close to that distance before. It took me two years to complete my goal, but I just knew that I could do it.
It takes a special kind of person to complete a full marathon. The type of person who sees a big challenge and is willing to go all-in. It is a huge time commitment, not just on race day but during the 16 to 24 weeks of training prior. While I have some fond memories of that training period, it was also more draining physically and mentally than I could have ever imaged. It was also difficult to have any kind of social life when balancing marathon training, work and family.
Ran 26.2 miles for a medal and a peanut butter bagel.
A few weeks after running my first marathon in 2019, a friend convinced me to sign-up for the same marathon again for the following year. When she first asked if I wanted to run it with her, I hesitated. I still remembered the pain of those miles and the hours spent training during the months leading up to the race. I wasn’t sure if I was up for that again, but the memories of the pain quickly faded while the memories of the glory gleamed. I registered.
Training for the second marathon was tougher because I knew what to expect. I had not done a good job training for my first marathon. The goal then had been to finish the race, and while I had done my best to prepare, on race day I realized some of my training errors. Things like not training for the hills and not practicing a nutrition and hydration plan slowed me down.
The goal for the second marathon was to get a better time. To do that, I needed to train smarter and harder. I started reading more running books and building a better training plan. The problem lay with keeping the plan.
I started getting busy with work and having to attend weekend and after-hours events. My dog went blind and needed a second eye removal surgery, making me weary of leaving her home on the weekends for long runs when I was already gone for so long during the week. Life started getting in the way. I’m sure many runners out there can relate.
In addition, time-management issues and life events, I believe knowing what lay ahead also created a mental block for me. I knew what I needed to do but felt stretched too thin and like I didn’t have the strength to climb those walls. I just didn’t have it in me to do a full marathon that year. I wasn’t the only one. My friend ended up dropping to the half-marathon with me.
I think when most people consider or think about running a full marathon, they only consider the 26.2 miles on race day. But it’s so much more than that! The more was too much for me on my second attempt.
I didn’t want to drop down to the half-marathon and for a little while I felt disappointed in myself and like a failure. I see these big time milers on social media racking up weekly numbers I’m not sure I’ll ever reach. It took some soul searching to remind myself that I am me, and this is my running journey and no one else’s. My runner status is not defined by my mileage. It is okay to scale things back when you bite off more than you can chew.
Fast forward another year and we’re in 2021. I haven’t run a race since that half-marathon and the rest of 2020 was an on-again, off-again relationship with running for me. Am I still a runner? Absolutely.
After a year of running leisurely for myself, when I felt like it, I feel ready to tackle another distance challenge. I’m ready to put in the work and strive for the glory of a personal best.
This is my relationship with the marathon distance so far. I would love to hear about yours.