It’s estimated that less than 1% of the world’s population will run a marathon. According to FindMyMarathon.com
, approximately 109,676 people ran and completed a marathon in the first four months of 2019 in the United States and Canada. While this is not necessarily a huge portion of the overall population of North America, it is still a significant number of people who love the challenge of running 26.2 miles (42.2 kilometers, if you’re in Canada).
If you are one of these people, the big question for you — especially if you are new to the sport of running and running long distances — is how far do you want to take this thing? Do you simply want to adopt the healthy and fit lifestyle of running on a daily basis for the rest of your life? Or maybe you want to fulfill your desire to train and race for more half or full marathons? Certainly the two can go hand-in-hand, but not every runner chooses both.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why runners choose to run a long distance race.
The most obvious reason runners want to train and run a marathon is for the overall positive and healthy benefits for their bodies. Lower blood pressure, reduced body fat percentage, enhanced cardiovascular health, increased strength and stamina, reduction of anxiety and stress, and increased confidence in one self.
Many people choose to race 26.2 miles simply for the challenge. To most of the general population, even contemplating running one mile seems like a marathon! Mention running 26.2 miles non-stop, and you will often receive the response, “You’re crazy!”
However, there is an inherent desire to for humans to push our bodies to extreme limits doing things such as skydiving, mountain climbing, adventure skiing, bungee jumping, Iron Man triathlons, weeks-long cycling races, deep sea diving and more.
As a runner, there is a natural progression to increase the amount of time and distance you can run. Once you reach a new level of fitness, that natural progression also applies to the mentality of wanting to see just how far you really can go. This is when the marathon distance pops into your head.
Much of the time, the idea of running a marathon comes from chatting with your running buddies. One of them may casually mention they just signed up for a fall marathon and ask if you want to run it, too. Once you get home, you may think to yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” If you ever find yourself in this scenario, just know this question usually disappears from your mind pretty fast — and off you go, training for your first marathon.
Which brings us to…
Most runners who decide to take on the challenge of training for and racing a marathon gravitate to one of their local running groups. I’ve written many times about the incredible camaraderie of the running community, so it should come as no surprise that many runners train for a half or full marathon just because they enjoy the company and friendship they gain.
You not only enjoy the benefits of a healthy, fit lifestyle by running with a group, but also add an increased sense of social wellbeing and happiness via the new friendships that result. Check with a few of your local running groups, and you will find many of the runners have been with their group for many, many years. They may have even become mentors and coaches because they enjoy it that much.
Run for Your Life
In regards to the aforementioned question of just how far you want to take your running, know that it is perfectly okay to decide not to train for and race a marathon. After being a marathon runner for decades, I have been in the “running just to enjoy running” mode for a while now. This is a great way to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle, while easing up on the strain and pressures of training for yet another long race. It has helped me keep “burn-out” at bay and keep me running for the rest of my life.
Others who decide running five miles is as far as they want to go may have other extreme challenges in their life already. When they’re ready, the marathon distance may or may not speak to them.
All-in-all, the bottom line is to just run and run for your life! You decide just how far you want to take your running. Either way, you will be hard pressed to find any other physical activity that holds so many benefits and rewards for you!