Fun fact: the ever so popular marathon originated from the Greek hero Pheidippides, who in 490 B.C. ran 26.2 miles to Athens from the Plains of Marathon to announce the victory of Greece and its allies over the Persian army. Since that event, it’s been recognized as an Olympic sport to test athleticism and endurance. The glory of completing a marathon has since then survived hundreds of years and has evolved from an Olympic sport only achievable by the fittest of athletes to an event that millions of regular people can participate in across the globe with the right amount of training. In the modern era, most people don’t wake up one morning and find an urgent need to run 26.2 miles across the city, so why is it that so many people train for one?
For those who have not trained for a marathon, it’s hard to understand why people do it. If you think about it objectively, there’s no physical benefit to running a distance that long. After a while, your body will begin to lose muscle and most people actually don’t burn that much fat training for a marathon due to the amount of surplus carbs you need to consume to keep your body running. Plus, your overworked bones and joints can start to interfere with everyday tasks, like walking. I, like many people, never saw the value in doing a marathon, until I started training for my first one in 2014. So, why the change in heart? Believe it or not, there are many reasons, both physical and mental, and I’ll explain why.
Training for a marathon teaches you self-discipline. Unless you plan on running a marathon cold-turkey, which I highly discourage, you’ll soon find yourself following a weekly schedule to whip your body into shape for 26.2 miles. Heck, you may even turn down the last 5 beers of the night because you have to wake up at 8am the next morning to run. Now that’s discipline.
Finishing a marathon makes you understand how resilient your body is. You never know how much you can push your body until you take it over the edge. Crossing that finish line will be a mix of “Oh my God, I actually ran for 4 hours straight without dying!” and “I’m literally going to collapse into a fetal position and no one can stop me.” Either way, you’re unstoppable!
Hitting “the wall” symbolizes real-life obstacles that you eventually push yourself to overcome. Every runner has experienced “the wall”; it’s the point where you don’t think your body can run any longer, but once it passes, you feel invincible. The “wall” will eventually manifest itself in other aspects of your life, like work and personal relationship. You live, you hurt, you conquer. If you can run 26.2 miles, then you can sure as hell deal with an irritating co-worker.
After training for a marathon, you will have lungs of steel. Cold, hard steel. Most people don’t realize it, but your cardiovascular system will be out of this world! Not only is the extra pump of oxygen through your body therapeutic, it’ll also help improve your resting and active heart rate, which helps your body become more efficient at energy expenditure.
Yoga and stretching become an integral part of your life. If you’re running 10-20 miles a week, you’re going to need to stretch out your joints and muscles. Otherwise, you can expect increased tension or injuries. Yoga is a great activity to incorporate in your weekly exercise routine. Become one with your zen while also protecting your body.
Running 20 miles on weekends means you get at least 3 hours alone with your thoughts. If you’re an introvert, running will do wonders for your mind. You’ll have plenty of time to dig through your creative core or think through ways to solve problems that are currently bugging you. If you’re an extrovert, find a running buddy and use the time to catch-up for 3 hours!
The marathon is a gateway to other sports like triathlons and volleyball. While marathon training won’t automatically give you athletic skills, it does give you the endurance to learn new sports more quickly. Before I got into running, I was always too out of breath after a couple of volleyball rallies. When you take out the necessity to catch your breath every 5 minutes, you can concentrate more on improving your skills.
You’ll gain the ultimate bragging rights and inspire others to fight their fears and take up the challenge of a marathon as well. Whether you post your finish line picture on Facebook or put a “26.2” bumper stick on your car, you can proudly let the world know that you worked your ass off to run a full marathon. You’ll also inspire spectators at the finish line to get up and sign up for their first marathon, which is how I got into running in the first place. After watching the Austin Marathon, I told myself that I would one day achieve this milestone, and 4 years later, I’m writing a blog about it. 😉
Whether it be a marathon or a desire to move to a city you love, I hope this blog has inspired you to test your limitations and try something new. If not, I least hope that it’s given you some food for thought.
Thanks to my sister, Michell Nguyen, for always agreeing to be my running partner:
And, of course, photo credit to my amazing parents, Dong Nguyen and Thuy Le: