It never surprises me when people who aren’t runners question why anyone would want to run a marathon. I’ve had had to justify my choice to run to just about everyone in my family and a lot of friends for as long as I’ve been running, and I don’t expect anyone to really understand it unless they’ve done it themselves. But more and more, I encounter other runners who say they have no desire whatsoever to check “marathon” off their bucket lists of distances they’d like to train for. 5k? Sure. 10k, sign me up! Half, sure that sounds like something I’d maybe go for someday. But .. Marathon? Oh no, I would never do that! Why would you ever want to run a marathon? I feel like the answer is simple. In my opinion, why anyone would want to run a marathon is the same reason that anyone would want to run at all.
When I was training for my first half marathon, I was running distances I’d never thought I’d be capable of. Once you cross into double digits in mileage, it really is a whole new world. So when I ran the Royal Victoria Half Marathon and I saw all those people out there running the full marathon, I was simply shocked. They were going to run what I was.. TIMES TWO? That seemed impossible to me and moreover, it didn’t sound like anything I would ever want to do in my lifetime. I told my running friends that I was never going to do that.
Fast forward a year, and I did exactly that. I don’t remember what made me turn the corner and decide to go for it, but before I knew it, I was out there doing the Portland Marathon. And it hurt. Mile 20 came and all the miles after felt like they were coming at me in slow motion. I had given into walking around mile 22 and one of the volunteers said “come on Nikki, you can do this.” And so I did.. I picked it up and I ran slow, but it was in the forward direction. And once I rounded that last corner and saw the finish line, I suddenly felt like I had the energy to run for another hour. When I finally finished, I immediately felt all the reasons why I had done what I previously thought was impossible and I got very emotional. Ask any marathon runner and they will tell you, it’s really a personal thing.
One of the reasons why I love running is because it’s a metaphor for life. Life is full of hills on your quads and rain on your head and blisters on your toes. You could do everything right, get plenty of sleep, eat the right things for your body, hydrate well, and follow the best training plan in the world to a “t,” and your run could still be a horrible disaster. You could also roll out of bed unprepared and dehydrated and have the best run of your life. It’s a constant test and you never take a good run for granted because you never know how long it will be before another bad one comes. It’s a the most frustrating, magical thing. It’s a crapshoot, just like life. Ultimately, just like the cheesy quote will tell you .. it’s the journey rather than the destination that matters.
The marathon is an extension of all that’s listed above. It’s a condensed version of everything and anything, all at once. There are dramatic ups and downs, but the feeling you get at the end is something that cannot be put into words. The only experience that really comes close is going through birth .. Yep, I said it. As a mother of two, I can say that all that intense pain is worth it the moment the baby is placed into your arms. True story. I don’t know any marathoner who’s regretted all those miles yet either. I mean, there has to be a reason people are willing to do it more than once, right?
Knowing what your body is capable of, or maybe even not knowing but having faith that it will carry you to the end, running through the pain and remembering always that there’s an end in sight, battling the internal struggle, and finally winning in the end.. it’s just an amazing thing. The marathon distance is a voyage. It’s pushing yourself to limits you didn’t think were possible and making it to the other side. They say the furthest distance you will ever run is the distance from one end of your brain to the other, and that is so true when you’ve been out there on your feet for hours and are swearing to yourself and thinking how stupid and pointless this and why would anyone want to run 26.2 miles anyway and when will you be DONE already?? Have you been here before? I know I have.
Running marathons isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer 5k’s and some people prefer ultras, and some people want something in between. I don’t do marathons all the time. I’ve done 5 and I don’t plan to do another one for awhile because the training is so hard when you have a family at home (including young children that demand so much of you that it’s hard to give anything to after a 20 mile training run.) But any runner will tell you.. Never say never.