When I first started blogging it wasn’t long before somebody asked for my thoughts on marathons. It was a fair question, for the last year or so I could have been described as being obsessed with the distance. In fact since my first event at Beachy Head in October 2014, till Oct 2015 when I am writing this, I have run 11. So why has it taken me so long to address this subject? Well the truth is I didn’t really know what to say, like so many things in my life I just ended up launching into something headlong, and any reasons I had all sound like post factual justifications. To this day I don’t really know what’s going on, but let me try and skirt round the subject and see if it makes things any clearer.
I first though about running a marathon years before I ever ran. In my youth I liked nothing better than dancing non stop for 12 hours, bass bins next to my head and completely incapable of communicating with anybody else. On more than one occasion I thought “if I can dance all night then I should be able to run a marathon.” A marathon, even then in my drug addled haze of hedonism seemed like a worthy and impressive thing to do. I had never heard of ultra’s and after the 100 metres the marathon was the only race length that I even knew existed. It was long, it was hard, and marathon runners always seemed to be impressive and capable people, but it wasn’t so different to my nights of abandon. The similarities are obvious, marathons and raves involve moving without a break for a very long time. I don’t think I really seriously thought I was capable and didn’t do anything about this pipe dream until I joined a running club. There I met people who regularly ran 26.2 miles. Running a marathon was entirely possible even expected.
Before I had run my first event I wanted to do something more, a bigger challenge, you don’t take on something like that because it is easy, you do it because it is hard. There is a certain smugness I enjoy about being a marathon runner, however when you are surrounded by people who run 26 miles, and further, it looses it’s edge a bit. So perhaps the challenge was to run lots of marathons, maybe one a month? The truth is I firmly believe anyone could run this distance given enough training and time. The real question is about whether you want to put in that much of a commitment, it takes a certain kind of bloody minded determination. Training for a marathon can easily take over your life. I have often heard it said that the preparation is the hard part, the race itself is only a small part of the total achievement. Spending a whole year in a constant cycle of training and racing would be something special. I booked a load of events, and started training.
By the time I got to my third or fourth event I had never had a time under 5 hours, and that was starting to bug me. All of my training indicated that I should be able to run a sub 4, and I discovered one of the weird secrets of the habitual marathoner. After you have done a few, it’s not that hard to just plod round and finish. The first time you do it, that is an epic feat of endurance, you are covering unknown territory and it is hard. If you go on to treat a race as a social event, the achievement side diminishes in favour of a certain doomed inevitability. The body becomes used to covering that much distance and the fear of going further than most people dream of diminishes, until running a marathon just becomes a normal weekend thing to do. This is compounded, because if all your spare time is taken up running marathons, then the vast majority of people you know socially also run marathons, there is no time to see anyone else. Your body gets tired all the time, and for a lot of marathoners I know, there is no real training anymore, there is only running marathons particularly if you are doing one a week.
After my 3rd attempt at a sub 4 failed my focus changed. I would like to run 100 marathons, it’s a nice round figure and in this age where everybody knows a marathoner to have run 100 is something that marks you out a little more, however I now realize that this would not be the most difficult thing to do in the world of marathons. I would like to run a fast time, in my dreams I have a good for age under my belt. I don’t know if it is possible, but I would like to try. In a few years time I will naturally start to slow up so if I am going to push for a time I need to think about it now and that will involve training, and training hard. It means I have to stop running so many and focus purely on specific events carefully chosen to maximize their time potential, I need my body to be strong and undamaged and to get to the race line with everything focused, not just to get another number on the clock, but to actually race myself and do justice to my actual potential.