As a runner, I get asked on a regular basis if I run marathons. My standard answer is that I draw the line at the half marathon distance. If the conversation is with another runner, inevitably I am told, “You have to run at least one marathon!” Why is that? The answers I have been given are all over the board and quite unconvincing. I’ve listened to all the arguments trying to convince me that I have to run a marathon. Here’s why I don’t want to.
I didn’t sign up for this. When I first started running I had no thoughts of ever running any type of race. I just wanted runner’s legs. (See my article about how I got started: My Quest for Runner’s Legs or Why I Started Running.) It didn’t take long to get sucked into the world of races and soon I began enjoying the challenge and thrill of racing. But, my goal wasn’t a marathon. It was runner’s legs. Now I’m a runner and I have legs that run. Quest complete!
Half marathons still kick my butt. Since I began racing in 2001, I’ve run a total of 20 half marathons and one 30K. Nothing longer. The 30K was a huge challenge and I’m quite proud of that accomplishment. The more half marathons I’ve run, the less brutal they’ve become, but they are still challenging. Each one has kicked my butt. Sometimes because I wasn’t as well-trained as I should have been, other times because I was shooting for a PR. Either way, I’ve never finished and thought, “I could totally run that course again!” I’m always very happy to have finished.
It’s a huge time commitment. Sure, I’ve had the thought that, “After this half, I should try and extend my training and shoot for a marathon.” That thought was always when I started training. After finishing the half I had been training for I would think, “Are you crazy? A half marathon is plenty! I’m exhausted!” Whenever I have started thinking about how many hours I would need to commit to training for a marathon it becomes overwhelming. I run slow. Training for a marathon just might encompass my entire calendar! (When’s the next 10K?)
Running a marathon is like having a baby. Not long after I got married (in my 20s) people began asking, “When are you going to have kids?” That question always put me on the defensive because I wasn’t anywhere near ready to have kids. Just because of my age and my marital status, why was there suddenly an expectation of reproduction? That is how I feel when people ask me when I’m going to run a marathon. Just because I run doesn’t mean I have to do a marathon. There is no rule! Both pregnancy and marathon running are a huge commitment. One should not jump into either one just because the rest of the world thinks you should. You need to be ready and you should want to do it more than anything else.
I’m OK with where I’m at. Often I’m told I have to run a marathon just to say I’ve done it. Well friends, I’m really OK with saying I haven’t done it. I have plenty of running goals. It’s not like I’m stuck in a rut. I want to improve my times at the various distances I do run. I’ve added obstacle course racing to my race calendar over the last few years and am working to improve my obstacle skills. I’m always striving towards something. Having goals is a regular part of my life. But right now, my goals do not include running a marathon and I’m OK with that.
I’m not saying never. We all know how that usually turns out. I’m just saying not now and not unless I suddenly feel the desire to take on that challenge. So go ahead, ask a runner if they’ve run a marathon. But, if they say no, don’t tell them they have to. If they want to they will, in their own time.