Doing some research on people who run multiple marathons over various time frames, I came across a subset of articles and commentary which called the ability to do marathons into question. The arguments were very well laid out and the statistics were overwhelming. My own experience makes me feel that the argument has some validity. I’ve been roughly 100 lbs overweight for years with questionable willpower and still I’ve been able to complete 3 marathons this year so far. I tell people all the time that they could run a marathon – I really believe that if I could do it, anybody could do it. Most of these articles work along the theme that anybody can run a marathon, but it takes real commitment and athleticism to win marathons.
Out of 729 marathons held in 2014, there were 590,399 finishers. Over half a million people completed marathons last year. Median times for the most popular marathons fall under 4 hours. Unfortunately for those who enjoy the feeling of running a marathon, there is a tapering of elation like with any addiction. Just finishing the marathon becomes passe. One needs to improve upon the initial experience – striving for a better PR (Personal Record), reaching towards a BQ (Boston Qualifying time), doubling up events or pyramiding events like Disney’s Dopey Challenge (5k,10k, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, over 4 days), running a marathon in each state, running ultra-marathons. These new and different experiences can help us overpower the brains natural tendency to try and shut us down as we push our bodies to do more. When you hear about these runners upping the ante, it can make it seem like the marathon is a paltry distance.
With so many people entering the ranks of first time marathoner each year it becomes easy to dismiss the marathon as a dated benchmark. However dated it may be, it is still THE benchmark. This is not a race that someone who is physically fit can easily say “I think I’ll go run a marathon today.” There is a commitment and forging that must occur both mentally and physically. “The Wall” is real and although it starts in the brain, it can wreck the body without proper preparation.
Many of the aforementioned articles make it sound like first time marathoners don’t deserve much respect because, in this day and age, everybody s doing it. While a half a million is impressive, it is still a far cry as a percentage of total population. No matter what time they are crossing the finish line, they are still lapping those sitting on the couch. When someone says they are raising funds for a cause by running a marathon, you can still be impressed and donate to the cause. At the end of the day, a marathon is still 26.2 miles – a distance to be reckoned with.