If you ask a person how long a marathon is, you will get an extremely wide variety of answers. Of those answers, it is absolutely maddening to a full marathoner when someone tells you that they themselves have run a marathon, or their cousin has run a marathon, only to find out that they were referring to a random 5K that they did once. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but a 5K is only 3.1 miles. The “marathon” that these people supposedly ran can range anywhere from a friendly 1 mile charity run to an actual full marathon. I wish that when co-workers, family, friends, and strangers shared with me the tales of their tragedy and triumph, knee pain, and shin splints which resulted from their “marathon” that I could just smile and celebrate with them, but, in fact, I seethe inside. I arrogantly wonder how your 3 mile walk can compare to the 1700 miles I logged in the past 12 months, as if the marathon was my lover and you offended him.
You see, a true full marathon is 26.2 miles in distance, but it is, in fact, much more than that. The marathon is the story of a full season of dedication and preparation, discipline and dedication, fun and labor.
A marathon tells a deeply personal story.
I feel sorry for the people who have signed up for a marathon on a whim, and are just lucky enough to have youth on their side, so they finish this majestic event without giving it the proper training and respect that it deserves. Sure, if you are youthful and you haven’t let your muscles atrophy with disuse, you can stumble your way through this event. You might not be able to walk the next day, and you might curse the moment you were born, but you will receive a medal nonetheless.
To truly appreciate the marathon though, one should get a training plan, set a goal, and persevere through the entire season. The marathon won’t change you unless you fully invite it in. I would venture to assume finishing a marathon without embracing its essence is like the difference between a one night stand and a monogamous blissful marriage. They are incomparable.
As I train this season for my 10th full marathon, I am reminded to respect the distance, lean into process, and know that this journey to the finish line has very little to do with the actual event and everything to do with putting the work in day in and day out. This year, at least for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I am freeing myself from a time goal at the actual event and attempting to run each training run with the respect that it deserves. My daily and weekly mileage exists for more than an arbitrarily set time by my ego and my comparisons of myself to others, it exists to make me stronger. I have no control over many of the conditions that I will face on race day, but I can determine the degree to which I allow myself to celebrate my trip to the starting line. Even a bad run for me is a good run because I am becoming the person I never dreamed I could be and yet always wanted to be.
I am alive. I am healthy. I am strong. I am fit. I am fierce. I am free.
The marathon, with all of its agony and beauty, has made me a better leader and person, but most importantly it gave birth to my identity as an athlete.
Marathon, you might be 26.2 miles on race day, but my journey has no finish line.
I get asked a lot about my training plans, nutrition, weight loss and maintenance, and running journey. I look forward to sharing with you about this and encouraging you on your path.