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In The Long Run, It's Worth It!

by Karl Gruber
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Almost every runner I know—including myself—who has trained for and completed a full marathon has sworn, “I will never do one of these again!” Here’s why… RUNNING A MARATHON IS HARD! But then we remember the benefits of running a marathon and why we chose to make that commitment in the first place. 

Let’s take a look at some of these benefits to remind us why running is worth it.

Better Quality of Life
You may not notice an improvement in your overall quality of your life right away when you first start your training; it will kind of sneak up on you. Though you may be sore and tired after longer training runs, one day you will also notice just how good you feel. 

The more you train, the more your runs should become progressively harder. These workouts, in turn, stress your heart to become stronger and more efficient in order to supply your muscles with more oxygen and blood. In other words, you are increasing your cardiovascular fitness level, and your entire body benefits. You’ll notice your daily activities seem relatively easy when compared to how you performed them prior to your marathon training.

Decreased Mental and Emotional Stress
According to Raju Easwaran, senior consultant at Max Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi, India, "On the mental front, you feel more energetic, you start looking better (that may take a while), and most importantly, you get your stress reduced." Less stress—both mentally and emotionally—absolutely go hand-in-hand with running. 

I don’t know of a single runner who has not used a long run to blow off some steam. Rather than lashing out physically or verbally during stressful times, lace up those running shoes, head out the door and blast through some miles. This way, you can channel that stress into running, which I promise will result in a calmer, more peaceful you, with a clear mind and better focus. Stress is a major cause of conflict in each of our lives, and training for a marathon help to either reduce or eliminate it from your life.

Improved Diet
While there are certainly exceptions, most runners gravitate toward healthier eating habits. This tendency to eat healthier and more intelligently is a natural result of the effort you put in as a runner. 

Much like the improvement in your overall wellbeing and fitness, healthier eating habits just kind of sneak up on you. This occurs because your mind and body are telling you that while tempting, a giant bag of junk food is not a smart choice. You may have put in a week of 45 miles, and though you could afford the calories, you remind yourself, “I just put in all of that hard training this week, so there’s no way am I going to ruin it with this junk.” 

As a marathoner-in-training, you will soon find yourself seeking out food that supplies you with needed energy for your next long run, and doesn’t (as I like to say) “clog your carburetor” with fat, sugar or grease.

Weight Loss and Control
After many, many decades as a runner, I’ve reached a weight less than what I measured in high school. Consider the fact that you burn approximately 100 calories per mile when you run—which varies according to your gender, size, effort and weather conditions—and it is pretty easy to see how you can lose and maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. 

Running will burn-off any excess calories and allow you to enjoy an intake of more calories. Still, it may come as a surprise to new marathoners-in-training that they may gain weight. However, you must understand that you may drop weight composed of fat but gain weight composed of muscle mass, which is a healthy result. 

Longevity
While running does not guarantee you will live a longer life, it certainly can increase your chances; a healthier, fit lifestyle—which marathon running inherently produces—correlates to a longer, more enjoyable quality of life. The late, great Canadian marathon runner Ed Whitlock is a prime example: he set the world record for senior runners at the ripe old age of 73 with a time of 2:54:48 and continued running marathons until just short of his death at the age of 86.

Even Raju Easwaran believes in all of these benefits: "Marathon running offers both physical and mental health benefits. The physical benefits include losing weight, becoming fitter and eating better. Your heart beats more efficiently, and in time, you manage to achieve a reduction in basal heart rate that translates into less work done more efficiently by the heart. In a nutshell, with all the above benefits, you will lead a longer and healthier life."

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