26.2 miles is a long way. When I first started running, I couldn’t even estimate how long a mile really was. All I knew was a marathon was a lot of miles, and anyone who ran one must be super fit and super crazy.
So that’s not true. Or not completely true.
If you’re thinking about running a marathon (or running, period), don’t let myths like these deter you from going after your goal. You’re not too out of shape to start running, and you’re not too slow to be a runner. I think you’re in great shape to be a runner just as you are, and guess what? If you start today, you’ll be in even better shape to be a runner tomorrow. The finish line of a marathon just got that much closer!
Some common marathon myths:
Normal people can’t run marathons. So, I think the issue here is that normal people don’t think that they can run marathons, when they actually can. A marathon is like any other goal: you start small, and improve slowly. If you’re training for your first marathon and are able to run about 5 miles easily, pick a race 20-25 weeks away from your start date. Find any beginner’s training guide, and chip away week by week. The miles will melt.
A normal person can’t wake up and run 26 miles any given Saturday, but a normal person can when they ran 20 miles the week before. I remember when I was training for my marathon, I was so fascinated with myself when I hit 20 miles. Totally something I thought I could never do, but also totally reasonable given that I had spent 13 weeks working up to that point! So, just like working toward a final exam, a job promotion, a weight-loss goal, a savings account, you just have to wait it out and be patient. The miles will come.
Look at all these people! At least half of them have to be normal just like you.
Running is boring/lonely. This can be true, but can also be completely false. If you’re going out for a long run, ask a friend to join you! When I trained for my first marathon, I would ask friends to join me for 3-4 mile portions of longer runs. Since then, I’ve joined a running club which provides 50-60 new runners for me to chat with every Saturday! The company and conversation is not only good for your mental endurance, but also for your physical strength: a good indicator of a sustainable long run pace is the ability to hold a casual conversation without running out of breath. Running partners hold you accountable, support you, and make running anything but lonely self-torture.
Running doesn’t have to be a lonely sport.
If you’d rather go solo, but start getting bored, try choosing a new route (like the ones here), making a new playlist, or changing up your pace. When things get really tough for me, I’ll play some mind games (okay, this is admittedly where the crazy myth might come true): make up stories, say a prayer, imagine I’m somewhere else, daydream about a vacation”¦just like all distance runners do! I think this mental exercise is just as valuable as the physical.
Marathon training will take up my life. Marathon training will take up your life if you let it do so. But, you don’t have to. If you schedule your runs in just like any other outing, you should be able to manage both a normal life and a marathon. Most serious runners I know run in the morning, over their lunch breaks, or right after work. When I first started training, it felt like something I had to do; once I got better at it, and realized how happy running made me feel (hello, endorphins!), running became something I wanted to do. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, try making public commitments to hold yourself accountable. Start a Google spreadsheet and share it with friends; tell your coworkers you’re running tomorrow over lunch; ask a friend to schedule dinner 30 minutes later because you have to run. Little “promises” to others about your schedule will help keep you in line!
And yes, training may make a small dent in your schedule. But, do you really need that last glass of wine at 11 pm on Friday night? Do you really need to watch that Real Housewives marathon? Do you really need that 10th hour of sleep? For me, marathon training has only impacted my schedule in positive ways.
I never even really knew how far 26.2 miles was, and still think it’s pretty crazy that I, or anyone else, can run that far. But who wants to go through life being just “normal,” right? Surprise yourself and do something you always could, but just thought you couldn’t. All you need is a little patience, dedication, and support from friends. Don’t let the myths fool you!
See you on foot!
mary @ minutespermile
Mary Doman is a distance runner living in Washington DC. She has completed four marathons and is currently training for her next!