How I Learned to Love the Marathon
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Steve Patton, and has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minneapolis Running.
Marathon runners tend to pick one or two races for the entire year, and their training plan is one long buildup to that single day. So many of us have been there. We nail all the long runs, hit every workout goal, and stay injury free. Then we get to race day, and all it takes is a bathroom line that’s a little too long, the temperature that’s just a few degrees too warm, or a little too much rain or wind, and that hope of a five or ten minute PR leaves us in the dust with that pace group we tried to hang onto. There are a dozen things that could happen that are out of your control. It would be like a professional sports team spending an entire season training for just one big game. No regular season, no playoffs, just one shot at the championship.
Many a marathoner has experienced the roller coaster while pursuing a PR or BQ. All that work and effort to shave a couple minutes. Over 26.2 miles, a couple of minutes averages out to just a few seconds per mile. It seems so small on paper, but every step in those last few miles seems so hard.
In 2016 I thought I was ready for that elusive PR. I ran a marathon in April, but missed my goal by less than two minutes. I spent the summer continuing to train and getting ready for the four marathons I had planned during September and October. Since I would be running so many races in just a few weeks, I knew it would be unwise to try for a PR. Instead, I accomplished different goals. I ran a strong race and finished well on a hot day. I ran a marathon and a 5k back to back right after each other. And to end the season, I ran two marathons in the same weekend with negative splits in each race. I loved every minute of most of those races. They may not have been my fastest, but perhaps running isn’t only about speed for us normal folk.
Regardless of the distance, when you run multiple races close together your body can’t perform at 100% every time. As a form of personal motivation, I found other ways to measure my success. When time can’t be the only goal, you either find other reasons to train and run, or you burn out and quit.
How I Learned to Love the Marathon
Here are a few ways to measure your marathon success that aren’t about setting a new personal record:
Encourage a first time marathoner, spend a few miles chatting with someone who’s going about the same pace, or help pace a stranger to a new PR for them.
Qualify for a club.
There are a number of clubs that focus on the quantity or location of races rather than the speed. Marathon Maniacs, the 50 states club, or even the 100 marathon club. And these clubs also have versions for half marathoners.
Run a series of races packed together.
In 2014 I ran the Ultra Loony Challenge as a part of the Twin Cities Marathon. In other words, I raced a 10K, 5K, and full marathon all in one weekend! Not only was it a great experience, but somehow that marathon is still my PR.
Run for others.
There are various groups that match runners with those who are unable to run for themselves. Runners are needed to push wheel chairs, guide blind runners, or just encourage others on Facebook.
Focus more on running strong than running fast.
Set a goal of running the whole race, or only taking planned walk breaks, or running negative splits.
So what’s the secret to loving the marathon? It doesn’t have to be about running as many marathons as you can. It’s about framing success using something other than time as a measure. Choose your definition of success and go get it.
How Did You Learn to Love the Marathon?
Many runners have a love/hate relationship with the marathon. How did you learn to love the distance? Share your experiences in the comments below!