The Lure of the Marathon

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The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:57 pm

[I asked this question in my log, but Mike suggested I post it here too. I hope he will post his answer here.]

Why is it that I can't get the idea of running another marathon out of my head?
Now that my injured foot seems to be under control and I'm logging about 50K/week, the marathon bug is rearing it's head again. The thing is that after my other two marathons, my body had an awful time recovering. It takes such a toll on my body, and I finished both swearing I never had to do one again. Running for two hour long runs and logging 60-70K/week while training for strong half-marathons and 10K races is great, but why does it have to be more than that?

In the answers in my log, Laura (spirit flower) wrote "Marathons are addictive! :P " (partly alluding to other thread where we were talking about what "addiction" means). Lisa (QuickChick) has said this before too, and it is true-- there's a feeling you get when crossing the finish line of a marathon that you don't get from shorter races. I've often said that all race distances have their challenges, and I am also very lured to the challenge of improving my 10K time. But it's never quite enough-- the marathon always draws me back.

I do want to qualify for Boston, and Jo-Jo suggested that maybe the lure will wear off when (if) I can actually do that. We shall see. :) When it gets to the point where it's more difficult for me, I will stop, but so far I have only two under my belt and showed significant improvement with the second.

Any other thoughts, for you personally, about what keeps you going back for more? Why aren't shorter distances, with their other challenges of speed, pacing, and placing, enough for many runners?
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby ultraslacker » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:08 pm

For me, the marathon distance (and beyond) presents a unique test of character that is not found in shorter races, or in any other activity in which I've participated. I'm not sure that I can even put it into words. Marathons are long enough that you might not finish, or you might finish but still be heartbroken if you trained for months and did not reach your goal (we've seen it here enough times!).

When I finished Powderface, I *knew* at that moment that if I could do that, I really could do anything. That has transformed more than just my running.

There's also the confidence and joy of finishing and getting that medal. :)
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby turd ferguson » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:14 pm

This was my note to Jenn. I'm afraid I don't have answers, just more questions.

This is a great question - you should start a separate thread for this.

I've struggled with the same question. Marathons are addictive. My rational mind doesn't want to do any more (the half SHOULD be enough) but I still scan marathonguide planning to go to Chicago, or Big Sur, or Avenue of the Giants. I debated doing Ottawa this year (for about a day) before I reminded myself of my promise of no marathons this year.

For the time being I've pushed the marathon out of my head by setting time goals instead for shorter distances, but its still lingering there and I don't know why.

Why is it easier to get obsessed with the marathon than (say) the 10k?

I think its a great question because it applies equally to beginning runners, who seem most obsessed with the marathon. Runners who are in C25K are planning their first marathon.


Holly - I totally hear what you're saying about a test of character, but why is it a better test of character than a short race? My 5k pb is 22:18 and my only racing goal for this season is 19:59. Isn't that a satisfying test of character? (I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just wondering why I still feel the pull of distance over speed.)
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby ultraslacker » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:16 pm

Turd Ferguson wrote:Holly - I totally hear what you're saying about a test of character, but why is it a better test of character than a short race? My 5k pb is 22:18 and my only racing goal for this season is 19:59. Isn't that a satisfying test of character? (I'm not disagreeing with you, I'm just wondering why I still feel the pull of distance over speed.)


I didn't say "better". I said "unique". ;) There is something you get from marathon (and beyond) that you don't get from shorter races.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Habs4ever » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:43 pm

I have to think about this question. I feel that same lure, but haven't figured out why yet.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Kristen » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:43 pm

Oh boy... :D

I have dedicated this entire coming year to the marathon. And I'll undoubtedly continue running marathons for the rest of my life. Small ones, big ones, quaint ones, crazy ones, ones on trails, really looooooong ones, ones in faraway destinations, ones in places where you get cool jackets you can walk around in all day reminding yourself "I did it!" (fingers crossed). And ones where, hopefully, you share in a spirit of excitement and adventure and incredible ambiance and deep personal challenge with friends, running companions, and strangers alike who are all just as passionate about it as you are...

In the past year, I wouldn't be exaggerating to say that in some respects the marathon has become my life. It's a metaphor for everything I do now. Somehow the lessons of the marathon, the enjoyment, the wonder can be used to explain everything in life. Need to get through a long day at work? No sweat if you've run a marathon! Need to dig deep when stuff gets tough? No problem! And the cool thing is that I know there are so many more lessons to be learned and so many more to take away and apply to life... I'm only just getting started.

These days, I see the marathon in everything I do. And these days, I think about it all day long. I dream about it. I wake up thinking about it! I dream about it some more, waking and sleeping. But mostly, I just don't have the words to fully describe it. I wish I did. And I wish I could explain why I'm drawn to it, as opposed to the half for example. I do really like the half distance, but it just won't ever compare.

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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby dgrant » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:48 pm

Jwolf wrote: Running for two hour long runs and logging 60-70K/week while training for strong half-marathons and 10K races is great, but why does it have to be more than that?


It definitely doesn't.

My solution would be to tune into your American side... down there they have such a different general attitude toward the shorter distances. They seem to have more respect for the fact that endurance is a function of you and your effort, not the race course and its distance. You can race a 10K or 10 miler in such a way that requires you to endure far more than a marathon or ultramarathon (at least the way 90% of us run marathons and ultramarathons).

Marathon racedays are great because you feel like you're really spending your day in a memorable way. When you're there, you're somewhere. But believe me, when you race the Utica Boilermaker or Crim 10 Miler or (from what I've heard) Bay to Breakers or The Falmouth Road Race or The Dipsea Race or The Bix7 or The Gate River Run or Bolder Boulder you feel like you're part of a happening just as much.

If there's one thing the past 10 years have taught us, it's that anyone can finish a marathon. But only people with experience/talent/tenacity who bust their asses in training can run a __:__ 10K or __:__ 5K. (Insert your own ambitious goal time.) Or for that matter a _:__ marathon... more power to anyone who can log 120km weeks and race a marathon.

marathons are great
half marathons are great
10 milers are great
10Ks are great
5 milers are great
5Ks are great

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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:58 pm

Very good points, Dave. I'll think about them as I wonder whether I should put myself through marathon agony again.


dgrant wrote:
Jwolf wrote: Running for two hour long runs and logging 60-70K/week while training for strong half-marathons and 10K races is great, but why does it have to be more than that?


It definitely doesn't.

My solution would be to tune into your American side... down there they have such a different general attitude toward the shorter distances. They seem to have more respect for the fact that endurance is a function of you and your effort, not the race course and its distance. You can race a 10K or 10 miler in such a way that requires you to endure far more than a marathon or ultramarathon (at least the way 90% of us run marathons and ultramarathons).

There is that attitude here, as well, but it seems to be an experienced runner vs. newer runner phenom. Some newer runners who set marathon goals seem to think that short distances don't really "count."

When I was getting set to race my first 5K a few years ago (race, not run), I ran into a few people from the Running Room run group that I sometimes go to. I expressed how nervous I was-- I had an idea of a time goal and knew it was going to HURT to run that fast. A friend who has also run marathons said, "What do you mean? A 5K should be easy for you..." It wasn't easy. :)

I do see your point about in the States there being more big races that aren't marathons. But that might be more of a historical and bigger-population-base phenomenon. There are also lots of people that are lured to the marathon in the same way-- just look at the big ones like Chicago, New York, and Disney and the Rock 'N Roll races with especially their huge charity-runner components.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby ultraslacker » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:04 am

Jwolf wrote:I do see your point about in the States there being more big races that aren't marathons. But that might be more of a historical and bigger-population-base phenomenon. There are also lots of people that are lured to the marathon in the same way-- just look at the big ones like Chicago, New York, and the Rock 'N Roll races with especially their huge charity-runner components.


Personally, for me the size and atmosphere of the race are almost meaningless. When I'm out there, I'm out there alone, and what is going on around me is just background noise. There were 54,000 people racing in Rome when I ran my first marathon, and it didn't matter. I was as much alone as I was in Red Deer, with only a few hundred running.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:10 am

I used those big U.S. races as examples simply to give a glimpse of the huge numbers of people doing marathons in the States. There are just as many small marathons there with their own appeals.

But I guess your point is that it's not the appeal of the big race that lures you back to the marathon--it's just the marathon distance itself. That is a good point, because some of my favorite races (including that 5K I mentioned) are very small but do attract very serious runners who know that there are significant challenges with those other distances.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Garrett » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:42 am

No matter the distance, you get out of a race as much as you put in. Marathons force you to give it everything you have, for the smaller races you have to do that on your own, and that can be very tough.

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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jo-Jo » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:16 am

Jwolf wrote:
Why is it that I can't get the idea of running another marathon out of my head?



I have no idea...it's such a personal question.

What motivates me may not motivate the next runner.

But it's a great question! Last night I was a bystander to a lively exchange about this topic. Dylan Wykes who is one of Canada's top Marathoners coached our Tuesday night run group. One of his training buddies who was training at the track last night is Emily Tallen who's not a shabby runner herself (5km times of 16:30, HalfM times of 1:16). Emily chose 2009 to run her first FullM. She DNF'd at NCM and finished the FullM in Niagara in 2:53. BUT...after Niagara she put on FB..."I'm never doing that again"
Last night when I saw her I was teasing her about that update and she said..."yep...haven't changed my mind" Dylan then said..."oh don't worry...you'll change your mind" Emily didn't look convinced and she has no Full Marathon plans for 2010.
Two talented runners....one lured by the marathon. One not so much...at least at this point.


Personally the distance that intriques me is the Half Marathon. It seems to be the distance that is "under my skin" as far as wanting to improve time wise.

I think I'd like to go back to Boston for my 60th Birthday...but I do know that I'd have to find something powerful to motivate me to train in the winter for an April race. I'm not sure that the fact it was Boston would be a powerful enough motivator for me. When I trained in winter of 2007/2008 I knew I'd have to find something bigger than me or Boston to help motivate me and hence why I ran for Spencer.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby AirForceRunner » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:55 am

Awhile back, some one on this forum stated 'they don't feel the need to apologize for not running a marathon', and I found that HUGELY empowering. I think as runners, we have this yardstick placed upon us, that the marathon is the defining race for all runners. How many of you have been reffered to as 'that marathon runner' by friends and aquaintences, even if you've only run nickel and dimes. I know I have.
I have no interest in the marathon, only because I know what it would do to me. I've got the fitness...what I don't have is the joints. They hurt to much if I run on the road that far. But you'll note I said 'road'.
This year, my goal is to completely skip past the marathon distance and run a few trail ultras. Trails seem to completely remove the impact pain I feel when on the road. Logic states you don't run ultras without a few marathons under your belt.
Logic has never been a part of my running lexicon.
If you are feeling the tug of the marathon, perhaps moving to the trails will fufill this tug, and remove the suffering you experience during and after the usual road race. Be advised that this advice is coming from someone who has exactly ONE trail race to his credit. But knowing your passion for the 'Grind', I think you would be a natural for trail ultras. The grind can make you suffer without beating you up....just like a trail ultra.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Robbie-T » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:11 am

dgrant wrote:
marathons are great
half marathons are great
10 milers are great
10Ks are great
5 milers are great
5Ks are great


Great points Dave, there is something about every distance that lures me. And I so wish they treated different distance up here in Canada like they do in the US, the race is from point A to point B it doesn't really matter the distance just get to the end as fast as you can ie Mount Washington Road Race . I think that is why I'm also intrigued by the 10.8k Egg Nog Jog , 13k Shore to Shore in Wiarton, and XC and trail races
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby CinC » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:12 am

To answer the question for me personally, the reason I ran the first one was just to see if I could. It was the next step in the progression of my running - and I guess what I found after I did it was that while it was physically very hard, and very challenging mentally, I enjoyed the accomplishment. I enjoyed running that next newest longest distance in training (I still remember freaking out about my first run that was 24k since it was farthest I had ever run before!).

But, the funny thing is that I haven't really improved on my marathon time since that first marathon - and that was 4 marathons ago now. I have seen my times improve on the half, and on the 10k and on the 5k even, but on the full - not so much (there's less than a 10min window from my best to my worst time - so I'm consistent!). Why? I guess I don't care too much since I still get the satisfaction of the finish right now more than achieving a specific time goal - and because of that, I'm not willing or motivated enough to put the specific training in.

This is where I feel like I'm in a bit of a conundrum, esp as I go forward in setting goals. In 2007, the goal was running my first marathon. Done. In 2008, it was finishing my first half Ironman. Done. In 2009, it was finishing my first Ironman. Done. Now, what? Part of it is that I KNOW how much work it took to get to those 'firsts', but why am I not really willing to set specific time goals on any of these distances as I go forward in 2010? I guess for me, the lure or motivating part is still just getting to that start line and ultimately to the finish line - because I know not everyone can. Will that continue to be a motivator - probably not, but in all honesty, and maybe it's a bit of burn out happening, i dunno - but it'll have to be.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby La » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:16 am

Jwolf wrote:There is that attitude here, as well, but it seems to be an experienced runner vs. newer runner phenom. Some newer runners who set marathon goals seem to think that short distances don't really "count."

When I was getting set to race my first 5K a few years ago (race, not run), I ran into a few people from the Running Room run group that I sometimes go to. I expressed how nervous I was-- I had an idea of a time goal and knew it was going to HURT to run that fast. A friend who has also run marathons said, "What do you mean? A 5K should be easy for you..." It wasn't easy.

I blame John Stanton. :P

Seriously, the RR culture is the one that encourages people to start with Learn-to-Run and then "move up" to 5K, 10K, 1/2M and then the Marathon. I really don't think they put any emphasis (for example) on running the best 10K you can run, it's all about progressing to the next level. And the clinics are (mostly) set up for people who are trying to run that distance for the first time.

CinC wrote:But, the funny thing is that I haven't really improved on my marathon time since that first marathon - and that was 4 marathons ago now. I have seen my times improve on the half, and on the 10k and on the 5k even, but on the full - not so much (there's less than a 10min window from my best to my worst time - so I'm consistent!). Why? I guess I don't care too much since I still get the satisfaction of the finish right now more than achieving a specific time goal - and because of that, I'm not willing or motivated enough to put the specific training in.

For me, it's tough to set meaningful, aggressive goals for the marathon because it's unlikely that I will ever qualify for Boston, so any other "standard" I set for myself is less significant (in a way). Sure, I'd really like to run a sub-4:30 marathon, but that's just an arbitrary goal I've set for myself that is fairly meaningless. Will my life change in positive ways if I'm able to do that? Probably not, so I don't know if it's really worth the effort.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Pat Menzies » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:21 am

Really it's just an arbitrary distance that has a fancy name. The significance one attaches to it is practically something brainwashed into you. It could have been 36 or 45 km and had no name at all.
It only seems remarkable because we are told it is some sort of ultimate test. It really isn't.
If everyone revisited the concept of the four minute mile and was told that it was in fact the ultimate test of human spirit , the Marathon would pale by comparison.
Particularly if you set out to achieve a four minute mile. I can assure you that running even half a mile at four minute pace is considerably more difficult than completing a Marathon.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby CinC » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:23 am

La wrote:
CinC wrote:But, the funny thing is that I haven't really improved on my marathon time since that first marathon - and that was 4 marathons ago now. I have seen my times improve on the half, and on the 10k and on the 5k even, but on the full - not so much (there's less than a 10min window from my best to my worst time - so I'm consistent!). Why? I guess I don't care too much since I still get the satisfaction of the finish right now more than achieving a specific time goal - and because of that, I'm not willing or motivated enough to put the specific training in.

For me, it's tough to set meaningful, aggressive goals for the marathon because it's unlikely that I will ever qualify for Boston, so any other "standard" I set for myself is less significant (in a way). Sure, I'd really like to run a sub-4:30 marathon, but that's just an arbitrary goal I've set for myself that is fairly meaningless. Will my life change in positive ways if I'm able to do that? Probably not, so I don't know if it's really worth the effort.


Yes - I'm in that same boat as you - will my life change if I run XX:XX time? no. So who really cares? (and no, getting a bit of 'glory' with other runners isn't enough of a motivating factor for me).
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby ultraslacker » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:25 am

I suspect that there are as many answers to this question as there are marathoners. ;)

It's all highly personal.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:27 am

AirForceRunner wrote:Awhile back, some one on this forum stated 'they don't feel the need to apologize for not running a marathon', and I found that HUGELY empowering. I think as runners, we have this yardstick placed upon us, that the marathon is the defining race for all runners. How many of you have been reffered to as 'that marathon runner' by friends and aquaintences, even if you've only run nickel and dimes. I know I have.


For me it has never been about what other people think. It's just for me. And in the past I have made the decision to stick to shorter distances, but the marathon always lures me back.

I would love to do some trail running this year. It's just not as easy to do from where I live and trying balance family time.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:28 am

ultraslacker wrote:I suspect that there are as many answers to this question as there are marathoners. ;)


There are definitely some common draws, though. Maybe not universal, but I don't think marathoning would be as popular as it is if weren't for these common draws.

I think Lesley is partially right about the Running Room, but certainly Running Room clinic members aren't the first to use the term "move up to the marathon." I even heard Kara Goucher use this expression when she and Salazar were planning her foray into marathoning-- I was actually a bit surprised.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby turd ferguson » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:33 am

ultraslacker wrote:I suspect that there are as many answers to this question as there are marathoners. ;)

It's all highly personal.


You're right about that. I'm notoriously bad at self-analysis and I was hoping I'd recognize myself in the answer given by someone else who's thought about it more or differently.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby turd ferguson » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:35 am

Pat Menzies wrote:Really it's just an arbitrary distance that has a fancy name. The significance one attaches to it is practically something brainwashed into you. It could have been 36 or 45 km and had no name at all.
It only seems remarkable because we are told it is some sort of ultimate test. It really isn't.
If everyone revisited the concept of the four minute mile and was told that it was in fact the ultimate test of human spirit , the Marathon would pale by comparison.
Particularly if you set out to achieve a four minute mile. I can assure you that running even half a mile at four minute pace is considerably more difficult than completing a Marathon.


This is part of what I'm trying to get at. I agree with you completely but I'm trying to understand why the perception is the opposite, that a slow marathon is a more impressive feat than a fast mile.
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby scrumhalfgirl » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:37 am

Turd Ferguson wrote:
Pat Menzies wrote:Really it's just an arbitrary distance that has a fancy name. The significance one attaches to it is practically something brainwashed into you. It could have been 36 or 45 km and had no name at all.
It only seems remarkable because we are told it is some sort of ultimate test. It really isn't.
If everyone revisited the concept of the four minute mile and was told that it was in fact the ultimate test of human spirit , the Marathon would pale by comparison.
Particularly if you set out to achieve a four minute mile. I can assure you that running even half a mile at four minute pace is considerably more difficult than completing a Marathon.


This is part of what I'm trying to get at. I agree with you completely but I'm trying to understand why the perception is the opposite, that a slow marathon is a more impressive feat than a fast mile.


Because the average person can go out and run a mile. It might take 10 or 12 minutes, but hey, that's only a few minutes longer than 4. (though if you've tried running at those paces, you know there's a big difference).
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Jwolf
Kevin Sullivan
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Re: The Lure of the Marathon

Postby Jwolf » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:41 am

Turd Ferguson wrote:
Pat Menzies wrote:Really it's just an arbitrary distance that has a fancy name. The significance one attaches to it is practically something brainwashed into you. It could have been 36 or 45 km and had no name at all.
It only seems remarkable because we are told it is some sort of ultimate test. It really isn't.
If everyone revisited the concept of the four minute mile and was told that it was in fact the ultimate test of human spirit , the Marathon would pale by comparison.
Particularly if you set out to achieve a four minute mile. I can assure you that running even half a mile at four minute pace is considerably more difficult than completing a Marathon.


This is part of what I'm trying to get at. I agree with you completely but I'm trying to understand why the perception is the opposite, that a slow marathon is a more impressive feat than a fast mile.


To people that know, a 4-minute mile is plenty impressive.
A 4-minute mile is something most bodies aren't capable of, so it's different. I would compare to perhaps an impressive 10K time.

But again, I could care less who I impress, I haven't been brainwashsed, and get a lot of satisfaction out of any race distance. So that's the thing-- I DON'T attach any extra significance to the marathon, but there's something about it that still makes me want to do another. Not instead of other distances, but in addition.
Last edited by Jwolf on Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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