Just reading the headline may perplex you, especially if you are a runner. You may ponder my reasoning, and begin scratching your head as you process the possible whys. My reasoning actually began 23 years ago on a track in Upstate New York when I realized that that ever-fleeting feeling of personal success could be achieved more often than I thought. I had been approached about joining the track team a year earlier, and was quick to say no before the coach could even get another word out. Somehow, he later convinced my dad that I would be a great track athlete, and here I was on that very track I had initially said no to.
I was scheduled to run many 100s, 200s, and a warm-up and cool-down run around that track that night. My warm-up and cool-down runs are not what stuck in my mind. The exhilaration at the completion of each 100 and 200 meter run were what motivated me to keep going until I had completed my scheduled work-out. The feeling of complete and utter exhaustion after those same 100 and 200 meter runs was my internal sign that I had given my workout all I had. The combination of this exhaustion and exhilaration is like a different euphoria that you wouldn’t know unless you are a runner. The epitome of a runner’s high hits when you know that you have given a run, a race, a workout your absolute best and hardest efforts.
The thought of saying no to a marathon came to me after a particularly miserable marathon earlier this year. I realized that I had nothing left to prove. I had completed my tenth marathon, on my own two feet, alone, and I wasn’t happy. I was glad the damn thing was over. I’ve lost count of the number of races I have run, but it’s up there in numbers, and I have never felt so relieved after a race simply because it was OVER. I didn’t relish the medal. I didn’t enjoy the finish line celebration. All I was happy about was that I no longer had 20 mile long runs on Saturday mornings; I no longer had to give up a significant chunk of my time to training, resting, fueling, stretching, and crosstraining.
Training for a marathon is not something that comes easy to any person, even if you have previously been or currently are an athlete. It is 20+ grueling weeks of training that involves long runs, short runs, potential bridge repeats or tempo runs, crosstraining, extra sleep, extra food, finding out what fuel works for you, and time away from friends, family, and other commitments. Choosing to do a marathon is not something to be taken lightly. If you commit to doing a marathon, you have to commit to doing all of the aforementioned activities that go along with it. You will be running when your friends and family are sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday mornings. You will be running when your colleagues are going to happy hour after work. You will be running when the weather is hot, cold, wet, windy, and just miserable. When you are done training, yes, you will be able to say that you have completed the marathon distance. However, you will not have the immediate gratification of the feeling of success or a runner’s high until AFTER you have completed the marathon.
If you choose to run a different distance, where the outcome still allows you to cross a finish line, you can have that same immediate gratification I felt after completing my workouts on the track all those years ago. I have found that the marathon is not for the faint of heart. It can be done, but it is not for everyone. Even as a seasoned runner, I feel that I am incredibly more satisfied with a shorter workout. I can compare workout to workout and physically see improvement on my times. I can document how I felt before, during, and after each workout and see the fluctuation of progress or backsliding. In a marathon, you continue to build mileage from week to week, with the occasional cutback week, which allows for lesser mileage and more recovery. It is challenging to see progress immediately made from run to run. You can still document each workout, how you feel before, during, and after, and compare and contrast, but it doesn’t have the same, quicker turnover in progress that shorter distances do.
My reasoning behind dialing back from the marathon is not because I have given up on the distance, but because the 10k distance is more satisfying. It’s like a tempo run that challenges your ability every step of those 6.2 miles. Unlike running a marathon, a 10k can be run where your muscles feel pushed just beyond their limits at a manageable, but slightly uncomfortable pace. I have been taught to run a 10k as a negative split run where you run each mile slightly faster than the last one. The training for the 10k involves lots of ladders on the track, reminiscent of my time on the track all those years ago. The same Cheshire Cat grin I had at the end of each of those workouts was the same grin that was plastered across my face when I completed my ladders on the track recently. My joy for running was back, and the 10k was the fuel to my fire!
With this said, I encourage all runners to find the distance that fuels your love for running. Each individual is different, and each individual will have different goals. Find your sweet spot that allows you to have that instant feel good moment that feeds your passion for the sport. I reignited my love for running when I started doing those same track workouts on the track just a few short months ago. I rediscovered those moments of the instant feelings of success. In my honest opinion, find your distance, fuel your passion.