Tackling the 'Super Bowl' of running

November 28th 2019

I love blazingly fast 5Ks. I'm a fan of challenging 10K's. The half marathon is also a blast. But, there's one distance that holds a special place in my heart. 

It's the veritable 'Super Bowl' of running. I'm talking about the 'marathon'. The marathon promises agony, ecstasy, and everything in between.

There's an undeniable mystique to this distance. Getting to the starting line, let alone the finish line, is a daunting task. But, it's this very opportunity to challenge one's perceived limits that seduces countless would be marathon runners. 

I'm not going to claim anyone can (or should) tackle a marathon. I think 'most' can if they really, REALLY want to. But, before you decide to tackle 26.2, there are a few things you should think about.

Does your schedule/lifestyle allow for training for a marathon?

Everyone 'wants' to conquer a marathon. The 'idea' of doing it is amazing. Running 26.2 miles is an incredible accomplishment. 

But, does your lifestyle support it? Are you working 12-16 hour days? Are you married with kids?

Training properly for a marathon is akin to taking on a part-time job. You've got plenty of miles to log every week. But, there's more to it than logging the miles.

You have to prepare for long runs. You need to recover from your long runs. You need to get more sleep.

There are a litany of 'little' things you must do when training for 26.2. All these little things take time and energy. If you're already running a bit short on both, now may not be the best time to take on the marathon. 

Do you have enough miles under your belt?

The demands of training for 26.2 are non-trivial. Before you dive headlong into a challenging marathon training cycle, make sure you're ready for it. I recommend getting at least 2-3 half marathons under your belt before exploring the marathon.

If you're brand new to running, I'd discourage tackling a marathon right away. Your body needs some time to simply adapt to a regular running routine. Get a solid 6-9 months (at least) of regular running in before you start thinking about going after the marathon. 

Can your body handle a marathon training?

I've been extraordinarily fortunate to cross the finish line of every marathon I've entered.

Some are not so lucky. Some end up in a medical tent. Some end up in the hospital. Some never come home.

I don't say this to frighten. It's just the truth. At virtually every marathon, a 'small' percentage of the runners who show up have some kind of medical problem.

See your doctor and get a thorough checkup. Make sure there aren't any underlying medical issues that might present problems down the road. It's critically important to do what you can to make sure your body is capable of handling 26.2.

How bad do you want it?

Training for a marathon is a major project. A typical training cycle for 26.2 can be anywhere from 12-26 weeks depending upon your current running fitness. You're looking at 3-6 months of consistent training. 

The marathon is a serious commitment. You're going to have to make sacrifices and compromises in other areas of your life to make it happen. Your life must change (at least temporarily) in order to train properly. 

During the course of your training, there will be days when the weather gods frown on you. Some runs will be rough from start to finish. There will be times when you simply don't want to run, but must. 

So, you need to ask yourself, how bad do you want it? If you want it bad enough, you can deal with the crappy weather. If it means enough to you, you'll find away to survive the runs that simply suck.

The marathon is a daunting challenge that requires a lot from anyone who endeavors to conquer one. But, if you can commit to the training and endure the inevitable challenges that accompany said training, you may just find glory on race day.