23rd April 2017 - Running a marathon, in trainers or just in life
Marathons appear on bucket lists worldwide. Boston Marathon draws crowds of over a million spectators, and over 800,000 people have completed the London Marathon. If there is a sporting event that’s captured our imagination, the marathon is it.
If you’ve ever thought about it, know anyone who has, or wondered what it’s all about, check out Totally Runable co-founder Natalie Jackson’s take on running 26.2 miles, what you learn running your first, and why she’s all about you giving it a go…
Running a marathon, in trainers or just in life…
Forget the months of training, forget the planning to squeeze training runs into busy schedules, forget the race and training plans, forget the rest days and forget packing your bag for the race. They are all the things that go into running a marathon. The race itself is where the magic happens.
A Crazy Distance
First, it is a ridiculous distance. Not just a long way, but ridiculous. Silly even.
26 miles and 385 yards
Whichever way you break it down, there is something mysterious about it. That in itself makes it just a bit magical. Some people think it’s crazy to run that far. Some people can’t imagine what running that far might feel like. There is no way of knowing until you’ve tried it. But why that distance? Why not 20 miles? 40km? Why such a crazy distance?
An Epic Tale
The romantic tale of the marathon starts in ancient Greece with a soldier called Pheidippides running from the battlefield near the town of Marathon in Greece to Athens around 490BC. Legend has it he ran all that way to pass on the message to the Athenians that they had won the battle - the Persians had been defeated! He promptly collapsed and died.
The less romantic truth is that Pheidippides probably didn’t even run 26 miles, let alone 26.2 - the route between Marathon and Athens being somewhere between 24 and 26 miles. And we have Queen Victoria and her Royal Box at the 1908 Olympics to thank for that 385 yard bonus tagged onto the end of our run.
A race with its origins in the untimely death of its first participant and a royal reason to run that last 385 yards.
Now that’s worth considering.
Women’s Rights Ambassadors
Then there’s the women’s rights movement, and its marathon journey. As recent as 1967 Katherine Switzer inadvertently became the first woman to “officially” run the Boston Marathon - with a race number – but only due to an “oversight” in the screening process and in “flagrant violation of the rules”. The race organiser’s physical attempt to retrieve her numbers mid-race seems unbelievable and in today’s conscious, where civil rights is so high on the agenda, it seems ridiculous that anyone would assume that women were physically incapable of running a marathon distance. But they did.
A race only recently thought to be too tough for a girl to complete.
A race which women were physically attacked for attempting only a generation ago.
Now that’s worth considering.
A Memorable Day Out
With a backdrop like that, a marathon is always going to have romance about it. But what they don’t tell you, and what you won’t know until the day you run your first, is that what you learn from a marathon is not anything you can learn from the history books. It is so much more than a magical tale, with a kick ass women’s rights angle. Although yes, it is that too.
What you learn from a marathon is personal. And it is something no one can take away from you.
A marathon takes you to a level of grit, determination, pain and commitment to something that you are very rarely required to ask of yourself in every day life. It is artificial in that sense, but is every bit a real test of your character and what you are willing to go through to reach a goal.
Wherever the distance came from and whatever beliefs have been held about what is and isn’t possible, it is a test of your character. Those who complete a marathon learn something great about themselves. They know that at the right time, they will step up and do something magical.
So what does it feel like?
As daunting as it seems there is actually a simple (although maybe not easy) way to look at the marathon. The simple act of taking one step is all you need to do.
And then another.
And then another.
If you think about all 50,000 it gets a little overwhelming. But at every point over that grueling 26.2 miles, what if you just focus on taking that one next step…
That’s what marathons have taught me. That it isn’t just about a good story. It isn’t just about a fight for equality. Those elements are part of it. But what running a marathon is really about is getting to know a part of yourself that you might not otherwise meet. The part that stands up and says I will not let this beat me. That sees the bigger picture and knows that 50,000 steps might be what it takes, but that by concentrating no further than the next few steps, the goal becomes achievable.
The simplest, and what seems like the silliest, thing about it is that it is totally doable. Yes it hurts. Yes it takes a lot of planning, hard work and dedication. But all you actually have to do is put one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving, and you run a marathon by default. And isn’t that all life is about?
It doesn’t matter what you do, or what ‘marathon’ you’re running. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other in the right direction, you’re trusting in the process and the outcome will follow.
Marathons have a lot to teach those who run them, watch them or support those running. And each one is a personal journey. Pheidippides probably thought his message about victory in Marathon was pretty significant. But maybe this marathon message is more important.
Making life Totally Runable…
We believe everyone has the potential to be great. We’re all about sharing the ways running teaches us about life, and about helping you to break through your own personal barriers to reach your goals. Whether you’d like to run a marathon, or you have your own personal targets on the horizon, it’s your head that’ll get you there. And we’ll be the first to tell you that you can totally do it.
We work with schools raising the profile of PE, sport and physical activity for pupils, staff and parents. We also work extensively with girls and female school staff to create equity, not just equality, empowering and inspiring them in sport, exercise and life.
If you need some inspiration, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org