A marathon is 42.2 kilometres. Why such a random number, you ask? Well, it's based on an Ancient Greek story about a guy who ran 42.2 kilometres from the city of Marathon to the city of Athens to announce they had won the war. And after he made that announcement, he promptly dropped dead. Yup. So it's no surprise that deciding to run a marathon seems like a near-impossible goal. But when you accomplish that goal and see you've survived, well, that... that feels pretty darn good.
We wish we could say training for and running a marathon is easy, but it isn't. And let's face it: No challenge worth doing is easy. You're going to get blisters. There will likely be some chafing. And yes, you might lose a toenail or two. But pretty soon you'll find your friend looking at your purple toenail or your bandaged heel with horror, and you'll just shrug it off. Because training for a marathon puts your body through some pretty intense tests. After you've run for two hours in freezing cold rain or felt like your blisters have grown blisters, you'll really start to reconsider what physical pain is and what you're capable of.
OK, now don't get us wrong. We think we all should give ourselves permission to eat what our bodies want and need, regardless of our training regimen. But with all the images and messages that constantly surround us, it's pretty hard to give yourself a complete guilt-free pass to eat half a pie. But we guarantee you, when you've completed a 30-kilometre training run on a Saturday, baby, you've earned that ice cream sundae! And that slab of lasagna. And that batch of homemade snickerdoodles. And whatever else your body says it needs to refuel. So dig in, and enjoy wholeheartedly!
When you choose to run three to five hours non-stop, your body and your mind can do some pretty hilarious things. Some people poop their pants. Others sit down after their marathon and are physically incapable of standing up again without assistance. And just about everyone will walk around like Charlie Chaplin for several days afterward. Now, maybe none of that sounds immediately appealing, but the beauty of it is that marathon runners have no shame in admitting to one another that these things happen. Because we all get it. And although it might seem painful or embarrassing at that moment, it makes for hilarious stories for years to come.
Communities of any kind are powerful things. And the marathon community is pretty incredible. Complete strangers will stop to help someone who is injured, they'll give away food to a fellow runner who loses their race gels and they'll cheer on anyone who seems to be having a rough go. And the spectators often either have someone in the race or have done one themselves, so they're rooting for you big time. The support on race day is truly something special. It's incredibly empowering — and that's a feeling you'll keep with you forever.
These days, as women, our bodies come up against a lot of scrutiny, whether it's from others or from ourselves. It's easy to get bogged down comparing parts of your body to others' and feeling down about the way you look. But when you're on kilometre 35 of a race you never dreamed you'd finish, the last thing you'll be thinking about is the size of your waist or the dimples on your thighs. Because our bodies are magnificent things, capable of meeting all sorts of incredible challenges. When you challenge it to carry you through something your brain can barely comprehend — like a marathon — and it accepts that challenge, well, you'll start to see its beauty in a whole new light. And that kind of appreciation and wonder will stay with you forever.
We all know exercise is important, but getting yourself to the gym on the weekend simply because you know you should isn't easy or fun. On the other hand, thinking about all the excitement of race day and what you have the opportunity to accomplish? Now that will have you lacing up your running shoes. Sure, there will be days when you feel like the last thing in the world you want to do is hit the pavement. But when you know that doing so will get you that much closer to your goal, you'll be way more likely to choose to tough it out. And when you're done, boy, will you feel the satisfaction of accomplishment for the rest of the day!
Although you certainly hope to enjoy most of your marathon — as much as one can enjoy running for over 40 kilometres consecutively, anyway — there will undoubtedly come times along the way when you will either feel like you might die or just plain wish you were dead. And when you look back on those painful moments, you won't be able to help being overwhelmingly grateful you made it through and overcame that pain. This creates the "at least I'm not running a marathon" rationale that you can happily resort to for months after completing your race. The elevator's out and you have to walk up several flights of stairs? At least you're not running a marathon. Moving an unending number of boxes to your new apartment? At least you're not running a marathon. It's fabulously therapeutic.
If the rewards of the actual day you complete the marathon aren't enough to get you to do it, then think about this: Once you've run a marathon, you get to brag about it for the rest of your life. And aren't a few hours of pain a small price to pay when you think of the decades you'll have of knowing and being able to brag about the fact you once ran a marathon? Plus, you'll get a snazzy medal just for finishing. And you can show that baby off for years to come!
Yup, we said it. You can do it. And the very fact that you can is the perfect reason to try. The concept of running a marathon might seem incredibly out of reach, but it isn't. There are, of course, certain conditions, health or otherwise, that make running a marathon something your doctor or other health professional would advise against. And if that's the case and a marathon is out of the question, the value of setting your sights on something that seems out of reach still very much applies. But for the majority, running a marathon is simply a matter of believing you can — or even if you don't yet believe you can, opening yourself up to trying. You might have to walk part of the way — you might even end up crawling over the finish line — but if you want to test your mind and body and see what you're capable of, then boy, will it be rewarding!
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