Running a marathon was pretty much the worst running experience of my life.
I realise that’s probably not a popular thing to say, but there it is.
I remember being told before I attempted the marathon that it would be an amazing experience and I would “feel so euphoric” after I finished.
“Euphoric” is bliss, elation or glee. None of these words describe how I felt at any point during or after the run. My feeling at the end was more like, “oh thank fuck that’s over!”
I’ve been running for 25 years and completed my marathon four years ago. These days it seems like everyone is aiming for longer runs and more people are attempting the marathon distance. A quick Google search finds links for statistics that show that the past decade has had record numbers of marathon and ultra marathon participants. I have friends that are finding it more difficult to enter the major world marathons due to the limited entries filling more quickly, and it seems like most people at our running club are striving for their next marathon or ultra marathon.
As a competitive person, I certainly understand the appeal of the challenge to push yourself further and further. I love the challenge of a new goal and set them for myself to keep me motivated.
In my mid-twenties, I decided that I would run a half-marathon. It sounded like a good challenge and I really enjoyed it. I ran another half marathon or two, then somewhere along the way my fiancé, having joined me for one half marathon, said “Let’s do a marathon!”
I think I was somewhat sceptical, but needing a goal to get back into shape (we’d gotten pretty comfortable on the couch the previous year) decided to tag along. It was nice having a common goal and even though we didn’t run together (he was always well in front of me), we started together and spent the rest of our Sunday afternoons together drinking protein shakes too tired to do anything else.
As I said, I’m goal orientated. My goal was to finish and I visualised myself doing so. So, when I crossed the finish line, I wasn’t elated because I was always going to get there. The last eight kilometres or so are tough mentally for most people, but I never expected my femur to hurt. I’m sure it was my actual bone that was in pain. And yes, those last few Ks are an incredible mental challenge, but I had pushed through the mental running wall before so getting through felt more like another day on the job rather than an accomplishment. Though, it was probably made worse by the fact that our course was a double-loop and I had literally run past the finish line with eight kilometres to go! For whatever reason, completing this particular goal did not bring me any satisfaction other than to be able to say that I’ve done it and I never want to do it again.
I get so much more satisfaction from reaching new personal bests in a half marathon or 10k run. I think I feel like I have pushed myself more in these runs, rather than survived the long distance of the marathon.
While I am glad I can tick the marathon off my list, I think it’s important to pick the race distance that is best for you. I enjoy the 10km and half marathon distances. I can recover quickly and try again for the next race, whereas the marathon took me six months to mentally and physically recover. Marathon training is time consuming and not every has or wants to give up three hours on a weekend to train (which I’m sure is also part of what makes it a challenge). With the shorter distances, I am able to add more cross-training into my schedule and I find that in the past few years I actually feel stronger than I did when I was training for the marathon.
If the idea of completing a marathon gets you excited, then go for it. But, don’t feel like you need to get caught up in the trend. I think it’s more important to pick the distance that is most suited to your goals, time for training, and that is a challenge that excites you.