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Why Run A Marathon?

A Guest Blog Post By Ambassador Brian Schembri

Brian is our first of several ambassador guest writers on our website. Over the next several months, you will get the chance to see many of our ambassadors blogging about causes that are near and dear to them. If you like Brian’s story and want to know more about him, you can follow him at @run.challenge.accepted

“Why are these people running? Do they not have a bike?”  – Brian Schembri, 2015

Yes, I was a person who did not understand why people would dedicate their time, effort and energy into running. It was simply easier to be comfortable in my car. However, being 50 pounds heavier, and having trouble keeping up with my 3 boys, I knew I had to make a change in my life. Even in the beginning of my weight-loss journey, I tried to avoid running. But eventually, the rhythmic pounding on the pavement seduced me into becoming a runner.

I love it when anyone takes up the challenge, whether it be a 1 mile or a 5K. Anyone who puts on their sneakers and gets out that door or jumps on that dreadmill, is a winner to me. But it takes a special kind of crazy to pay money to run from 2 hours and 13 minutes (Detroit Marathon record) to 6.5 hours (time limit of this event). Even Netflix would give you a warning (while you are lounging on your couch) in less time than that! So why did I run a marathon, and more importantly, why should you?

 

The History of the Marathon

The modern marathon was based on a Greek messenger named Pheidippides, who in 490BC, ran from Athens to Marathon. In a distance of 25 miles, he delivered his message and promptly died. Unfortunately, there was no record of his final marathon time or if it was his personal best. While it sounds horrible to suggest that one should run a marathon simply because the first participant died trying, it is worth mentioning that Pheidippides ran 150 miles just before that and there were no aid stations anywhere. (I highly suggest Dean Karnaze’s book “The Road To Sparta” for more info on an amazing runner, and the history of Pheidippides.) The bottom line, when you complete a marathon, you are completing something that is epic. From the first Olympic Marathon in 1896, to Kathrine Switzer proving in 1967 that women are indeed strong enough to run and compete in the Boston Marathon, and to the latest group of athletes trying to complete a marathon in under 2 hours, there are no shortage of epic moments.

Dedication

Like anything that is worth doing, completing a marathon requires dedication. There is no shortcut in getting your body ready for this journey. Most runners have been running for at least a year before attempting a marathon. The four months prior to the race, you will likely want to follow a training plan that will build up your strength and stamina. A good training plan will build you up slowly and will set you up with a solid foundation. These workouts will make you stronger, and you will learn a lot about your body (such as I never knew I had a muscle there.) Then you’ll learn about your neighborhood (the locations of every porta-potty in a 10-mile radius.) I know some of you may be reading this and wonder how can I even fit marathon training in my busy schedule called life. I know it is difficult. I have done some of my runs in the wee hours of the morning, or during small breaks in my day. Once you make running a habit, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you are dedicated to a goal.

It’s a Leap of Faith

Completing a race of any distance up to a marathon is difficult. You need to train (to some degree) for all of them. What makes the marathon distance different though, is that most training plans will limit you to a long run of 18 to 20 miles, instead of the full 26.2. With all other races, you will finish your training distance and know beforehand that you can do it. In a marathon, especially that first one, you have to trust yourself, your training, your coach, your spiritual power, your lucky charm, or whatever else will carry you through to the finish. There is something special and unique putting your faith in yourself, someone else or something. When you encounter that mythical wall at the 23-mile mark, mentally busting through it is one of the most fulfilling moments you can achieve (for a great movie that really highlights the wall, watch “Run Fat Boy, Run” starring Simon Pegg).

It Changes You

Shalane Flanagan (winner of the 2017 New York Marathon) once said, “I love the fact that not many people can say ‘Oh, I went out and ran 20 miles today.’ I love how much dedication it takes and how much you learn about yourself, your physical and mental limits. There’s just something about it.” Having gone through this journey a few times now, I can personally attest that marathon training will change you. It will feel like you have had restrictions on your life this whole time.  Once you finish that marathon, they will all melt away. Your mindset changes from “Can I do this?” to “How long will it take?” And these changes will not just occur in running, but in every aspect of your life.

I never had a desire to be a runner, but now I cannot imagine my life without running. It has changed me physically, mentally, and spiritually. To all those in the green bibs this October, I salute you. As one random racer told me after my first marathon in Detroit “You’ll be back.” Now 6 years later, I am representing the Marathon that started it all for me. Enjoy the journey!

If you’re looking for some more inspiration to run your first long-distance, check out Matthew Huff’s new book: Marathoner