Why I’m training for a marathon and what I’ve learned
22 Sunday Jan 2012
A marathon is approximately 42 kilometres. Before I began training I had never run anything longer than 5 kilometres.
The word “marathon” comes from the legend of a Greek messenger named Pheidippides. As the story goes, sometime around 490 BC. Pheidippides was dispatched from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to announce the successful defeat of the Persians. Legend has Pheidippides ran the entire distance without stopping until he reached his destination, communicated the message, then collapsed and died from exhaustion.
A marathon is not a race you can run without training.
So, I’m devoting hours of my life running to train for one day that I will also spend running. But I have no plans on sufffering a Pheidippides-like fate. I’m trying to survive.
Why am I doing this to myself? For starters, I enjoy staying fit.
I like to think regular exercise will help me run faster, jump higher and lift heavier than the average person. I’m hoping, ultimately, it will also help me live longer.
I used to play a lot of basketball. But over the past year work has kept me away from the courts.
I still lift weights regularly and I’ve even taken a few aerobics classes (I was the only male participant), but I found I wasn’t getting as much cardiovascular training as I would’ve liked.
So, now I run.
But simply running wasn’t enough for me. Like many first-time marathon runners, I wanted a challenge.
I love feeling like I’ve pushed myself further than I’ve ever gone. I love reaffirming that I can do anything I put my mind to. And trust me, the training is more mental than physical.
I didn’t expect to gain anything beyond endurance. But I have. Training for a marathon teaches you:
Discipline. My training program (created by Runner’s World) has me on the treadmill three times. The length of the runs increase each week. It would be impossible for me to go from having never run more than 5 kilometres to running to 42. Success demands that I keep up with the program.
Patience. Slow and steady wins the race, they say. While I’m not competing against anyone, I do want to finish my runs as fast as possible. So sometimes I’m tempted to run faster than my training plan’s recommended pace. But if I try to sprint through my run, I burnout out way before I’m done. It’s important for me to take my time with a steady, manageable pace.
Nutrition. On my long run days I can easily burn 2 000 calories. That’s almost as much as is suggested for a full day’s worth of eating. I can also easily lose a few pounds. Whereas you might think that gives me licence to eat whatever I like,that isn’t the case. My diet is more structured and balanced than it’s ever been. I have to be conscious of when I’m eating so I can be ready to get the most out of my workouts. I also have to be conscious of what I’m eating. All foods aren’t created equal. Complex carbohydrates are my friends they give me the fuel I need. Protein helps keep me feeling full and helps repair my muscles.
Running is…fun. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying my runs. Maybe it’s because of the nice view I have of the city, or the music playing on my iPod, or because of some endorphins being released. It’s probably all that and more. Whatever it is, it has me feeling good. And it has me perpetually eager for my next run.
On May 6, I run the race of my life with 14,000 runners from more than 45 countries. I’m looking forward to it. I hope I can write about it on May 8.