Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The lure of the marathon

I've been feeling the lure of the marathon.

How amazing, I've thought, would it be to be able to say that I've run a marathon?!

I've done a half marathon race once, have gone just a bit further once as a training run, and am scheduled to run my second half marathon race in less than two weeks.

"How was your marathon?" more than one person asked me when I returned home last month.

"Oh," I'd respond, "It was just a half marathon. But it went great!"

Just a half marathon.


Maybe it's the terminology that has led me to believe that a half marathon isn't quite enough. When something is referred to as "half," it seems somehow incomplete.

But why should 13.1 miles...on foot...feel like it's less than enough? I've found myself wondering, if the term "half marathon" was replaced with a "stand-alone" title (like a 21K, since 13.1 miles is just over 21 kilometers), would I even feel the need to train for a marathon?

I admire those who do full marathons. I think it would be cool to be that fit. But honestly, training to run 13.1 miles has been hard on my body.
  • I've gone through expensive physical therapy for running-related issues.
  • I have to spend a lot of time keeping my muscles loose so I can continue running.
  • My long training runs are still very challenging. I'm happy that after last Saturday's 10.65 mile training run, I'm doing pretty well. But on the day of that run, my body was sore and exhausted.
If these 10-plus-mile distances are still so challenging for me, and if it's still hard to keep myself uninjured, I don't think it's time to try to work up to doubling my race distance. Instead it makes sense to me to try to "master" this distance, to get to the point that 10- or 13-mile runs don't completely wipe me out. When I'm at that level, I can decide whether or not I want to go further.

And even if I decide to never run a full marathon, that's okay. Because I've had a very important realization:

A half marathon is still a complete run, despite the "half" part of the name!


SurvivorBlessing said...

I think that 13+ miles is a WHOLE lot of miles to run! I am proud of you that you can do that - at least to me it seems it comes 'easy' to you.... I am still trying to get to the 5K-distance.

Keep going - you are my inspiration!!!

Call Me Cate said...

I think the terminology is a BIG part of it. The last half my husband ran was called a "mini" marathon, which seems to be gaining popularity. I don't know, somehow that sounds worse to me than a half. Either way, you're right that the sound like a "lesser" achievement, which they are certainly not.

I agree that the half-marathon distance needs its own respected title that acknowledges exactly what an amazing accomplishment it is to complete it. However, I'm at a complete creative loss for what that could be.

Unknown said...

They really need a new name for the half marathon. It doesn't seem fair to make 13.1 miles sound small in any way! It is a major accomplishment, especially for someone who just starting running a little over a year ago.

Charlie said...

Beth, I've found the key to distance running is a slow build up of your base miles. When I just started out and ran my first half, I couldn't walk normal for a week and the same thing after my first full. I was injured a lot and even fractured my leg because of my intense training...too much too soon. With a slow build up, your body gets use to the longer mileage and time spent on your legs. Now I can run a marathon one day and be back to running the next day. Build slowly, do some cross training and you'll be fine!


Lena said...

i feel you. my daughter and i are training for our first "full" 1/2 marathon in march. 13.1 miles is the max distance on our radar, for now.
we pray to take it slow and enjoy the journey.

Christina Barkley said...

First, any person's athletic accomplishment(s) should never be diminished!
To see where you (Beth) have come from (not a runner) to seeing where you are now (a definite runner!) and the complete transformation you've made in regards to your health & fitness is down right AMAZING!
Think about the gravity of it! You have boosted your fitness by literal miles & have made yourself so strong.
So, regardless of whether being able to run 13.1 (or more) miles is half of anything, just doesn't matter. In my opinion, it is all about perspective.
We need to judge our own personal progress and just continue to improve upon our fitness level daily.
For some, maybe that means ultimately running a full marathon. For others, maybe that is simply spending 5 more minutes off the sofa everyday.
The goals should always be personal & the only true competition should be with oneself.
Oh, and by the way, speaking as someone who has run a couple marathons, I can tell you that unless you are an elite runner, running those long 10 or 13 mile runs DOES NOT EVER GET EASIER! They will not ever cease to "wipe you out"! I think they will only just wipe you out a little bit less that when you first started running long.
Keep up the great work, Beth! Your "living life outside the box" is helping to inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle!

Bobbi said...

There is nothing wrong with Half Marathon distances! Nothing to sell yourself short of. :)

Speaking as a woman who has run a fair share of half marathons, but never went "the distance" to the full marathon, I was always saying the same thing to people. "How was the marathon?" "Oh, it was just a half, but thanks for asking, it was good!"

There are many upsides to running half marathon distances. You don't lose 5 months of your life to vigorous training. Your family and friends will thank you! Most importantly, for the general public, I honestly don't think marathons are not good on the body. Yeah, its a cool thing to say you've done, but is it worth it? Probably not. :)

Of course, if you WERE running in the Austin Marathon, I would totally be able to cheer you on! The race course for the second half goes right by our house.

mdf356 said...

I just run 26.2 on 10 miles training these days. :-)

I too wish the "marathon" didn't have a magic name, because it makes things like 50K and 50 miles sound absurd. If we just called it a 40K (a distance used for two of the Olympics) then no one would think oddly of running 20K or 50K. It would solve both of our problems.

Amanda said...

We were visiting my husband's grandparents one day and I mentioned I had an 11 mile run to complete that day. His grandpa responded, "11 miles! I don't even like to drive 11 miles." lol

It depends on who you're talking to if they think it's a big deal or not, but when we get sucked into the world crowd, those marathoners have a way of making us feel like we've done nothing.

I figured out along the way that God's kept me slow to be with those who struggle on the course, he's kept me average so I can identify with others, so I'm not unreachable or intimidating.

Sandra said...

Beth -- I can see what you mean about a half marathon. And I think it's a great idea to call it a 21K run. But don't let what it's called diminish even slightly your pride in having run those races -- they are impressive in and of themselves. Good job!

LEstes65 said...

I saw this blog title and though you were going to talk about the marathon eating of Thin Mints I'm planning. Oh well...

Drew Benn said...

I've never done anything physical like a half marathon - I think it's an amazing feat to conquer to be honest, I walk up the stairs and I need to sit down, you've put me to shame hehe - Great blog :)

Drew Benn said...

Hmm my last post didn't seem to take - but I think a half marathon is a great feat to achieve - quite inspiring to be honest - great Blog :)