Deconstructing The Marathon

how-to-run-a-marathon-finish-it-and-live-to-tell-the-taleEver wondered why 26.2 miles is the standard by which most runners measure their ability? What is it about this race that captures our imagination and incites a ridiculous passion within that causes to us to defy everyday expectation? Why do we seek to stretch ourselves beyond average human endurance to achieve a moment of glory to which we come back to time and time again?

I submit it is the intrinsic desire of every person, runner and non-runner alike, to matter; to live a life of meaning where what we do matters to someone in some way. It gives our lives purpose and direction and motivates us to put our best foot forward in spite of the challenges we face. The Marathon for many runners is a benchmark by which we judge our performance, our competitiveness and even certain aspects of our character such as perseverance and tenacity. Often, it becomes “The Challenge” that is the driving force behind our careers, our passion, our purpose and/or our life’s mission.

Running, I’ve always maintained, is a natural ability that we are all born with, some more so than others. While the advent of time and the changes in pop culture have surely impacted our desires, it has no more made a runner of you than it has me. We’ve always ran to some degree, some are just no longer satisfied with the average 6-13 miles. For most of us who’ve honed and sharpened our skills, a half marathon is no longer enough to satiate our hunger for more challenge, more adventure, more competition – even if we’re competing with ourselves. It’s now a warm up. Mind you, it didn’t start out that way. We have graduated to a secure place in our running from 5 mile short runs to 10 mile tempo runs to 13-15 mile training runs to 18-20 mile long runs to where 26.2 is now “The Run.”

Running a marathon is a dream, goal or, bucket list event for many runners. The actual race however, is no easy feat. No one gets up one day and decides to run a marathon, it involves lots of training and racing prior to “The Run.” While it is a challenge; hardwork, sacrifice, commitment, and perseverance, it is doable. As is often said, the man with a plan can. This is true for many things but it is especially so for running a marathon. A plan is needed for training and for race day. In previous posts I have discussed both butI want to reiterate how important it is to have a race strategy. Obviously, we cannot know exactly what will go down on that day but knowing how you intend to tackle the challenge it is will make for a better run.

The Marathon is easier run in parts. By this I mean that it appears more doable if it’s broken up into segments. The first 5 miles is pretty easy running -nothing we haven’t done time and again – running at a steady easy pace, it can be looked at as your warm up. Miles 6 through 12 takes us into training mode, we have been here; it’s comfortable and so we can up the ante some bringing us up to miles 13-18. Here is where we begin to feel our leg muscles working, pushing, reaching, stretching. Every part is now working in unison; legs pounding, arms pumping, in and out we breathe taking us further and a tad bit faster through to miles 19 through 24. Here the challenge is real to focus on the finish line, the medal, that moment of glory over the pressure to slack off and ease up just a little. Muscles are oftentimes screaming at this point because its breaking down. All the extra cross strength training comes into play here to give the extra push fueling those muscles and propelling you forward into the final leg. The final 2.6 miles is strictly mental. Pain, discomfort, exhaustion exists somewhere on the periphery of reality, one that is filled with the sounds of cheers and shouts of encouragement. You dig in for that reserve of strength and speed that was awaiting this moment.. here it comes.. You can see it now, taste it even, the roar of the crowds give wings to your feet and you’re in. You did it. Aside from the chunk of metal hanging around your neck, take a breath and a minute to absorb it all. This, right here, is why you’ll be back soon.

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Let running ‘Greats’ inspire your run

Camille Herron,  Guinness World Record, 2012 Women's Route 66 MarathonEvery child needs a hero, one who can either fly, is super fast, super strong or has some eye-boggling gift that defies human ability.  As  we grow older, that hero takes on different qualities and / or definition and plays a different, but no less important role in our aspirations and dreams. Who doesn’t love a good hero? Someone who does what we dream of, only better.  For runners, it’s no different. We derive inspiration from many of either our fellow greats or those who’ve gone before us and put their indelible stamp on running history.

Some of the greatest runners have used the running platform to raise awareness for causes, to speak out against various ills in society or to garner support for a personal dream or idea that has impacted the world.  Still, there are those who inspire us because of their determination and drive to overcome their physical, mental or psychological limitations.

Here are a few who inspire me.

83-year-old, Bob Dolphin and Lenore Dolphin are running proof that age is just a number. They are race directors of the Yakima River Canyon Marathon; Bob has completed more than 500 marathons while Lenore volunteers at most of these events.

Six year old, Keelan Glass, is a world record holder. With a time of 2:46:31, she is the youngest half-marathoner in the world.

Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon in 1967. Amidst much controversy she finished and later went on to win the NYC marathon.

American Sprinter Allyson Felix, an Olympic gold and silver medalist, she fights against the physical inactivity epidemic.

Paula Radcliffe, world record holder for women’s marathon and mother, she has run while pregnant -training for the 2012 London marathon, and as a new mother.

Jason Smyth, a Paralympic runner, who was likened to Usain Bolt in the 2012 games. He is visually impaired with 10 percent vision because of an hereditary, degenerative eye condition and the fastest disabled runner of all-time.

There are many others such as Usain Bolt, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflegizhi among others who carry the running torch that advances the sport of running and inspire us to dream big, to never give up and to set our sights on making a difference doing what we love one step at a time. However, whomever and wherever they are, because of them the world is a better place and we salute them as we aspire to become an inspiration ourselves.

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