Saturday, February 19, 2011

Motivation behind the Madness

What on earth possesses someone to want to run 26.2 miles? Especially if it's in a circle? I mean, if you're going to run that far, you should at least end up somewhere different than were you started, right?

It's estimated that somewhere between 0.1 and 2% of the world population has run a marathon. The statistics for Americans seem to be all over the boards, but still just a few percent of the population at the largest estimation, making marathon finishers an elite group.

To be absolutely clear, I did NOT choose to do the marathon to lose weight. If I wanted to shed pounds, a few miles here and there would likely get me to goal; no need for such an enormous undertaking. If I had to put into words what my motivation is, it's pretty simple: I'm running the marathon because there's a part of me that thinks I can't.

Counter intuitive? Perhaps. I mean, there's a part of me that that thinks I can't cure cancer (a HUGE part of me!) but I'm not necessarily motivated to spend my life in a lab striving for this goal. So why a marathon?

I find the mix of athletic prowess and mental strength to be really attractive. It's often said that running a marathon is more mental than physical. When you're a mile from your goal and tired, it's an absolute mental game to just push yourself for ten more minutes. Your physical training has prepared your body for the effort, but your mind is the last hurdle you need to overcome.

Clearly I'm one who thrives on challenges. I've submitted myself to some enormous mental challenges in the past and I've buckled down to push myself to study and learn what I need to. Trust me, I never wanted to sit and study for 15 hours at a time, but I knew I needed to. Sometimes you just have to force yourself to get through one more chapter, no matter how tired you are. So if I have the strength and drive to get myself to push through in this regard, is running one more mile any different?

I think it's all the same principle, to be honest... so when I look at a marathon like that, why can't I complete it? As enormously cheesy as it sounds, I'm a huge fan of The Biggest Loser, and at the end of each season, the final few contestants take on a marathon. I'm always in awe of these people, many of whom have lost over 100 pounds (and often much more), who in a few months time got themselves off the couch, and just started to change their life one day. And then they finish a marathon? What an amazing milestone.

We are planning on using a run/walk program. I've done a good amount of reading that supports first-time marathoners using this type of plan to prevent injuries and increase success. The phrase "it's not a sprint, it's a marathon" has a lot of validity - this is a five hour event and endurance is everything. I think using the run/walk strategy and forcing myself to take breaks early and often will help me succeed in the end. So when I say I'm going to "run" a marathon, maybe that's unfair, but I will be propelling my own body 26.3 miles towards a goal. I have very, very loose time goals in mind (like finish before the water stations are shut down!), but I'm not doing this to achieve some set pace or time. Complete, not compete.

If you've ever participated in a run/walk, bike ride, etc, you know it's a social event. Hundreds or thousands of people joining in an attempt to achieve one common goal. The excitement and drive is often palpable. I can't wait to join 40,000 other runners at the finish line and prove myself wrong.

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