One of the questions I’ve received from friends and readers is whether I am going to train for and run a marathon in 2015. The progression seems natural: now that I’ve run a half marathon, a marathon is the next challenge in running. The marathon is, after all, widely considered the paramount of racing and the every runner should race at least on a yearly basis.
Admittedly, I briefly toyed with the idea of running a marathon after watching the Chicago Marathon and New York City Marathons. I knew the distance would pose a challenge, but I was doing so well in half marathon training that the challenge would not be overwhelming. With my half-marathon finish time of 1:46:06, a sub-4:00 marathon would not be far out of my reach.
I’m adamant though that running and training should align with personal goals, not what I “feel” like I “need” to do. Honestly, as I’ve began to plan out my 2015 goal races, I’m not interested in running a marathon. This is not to say I’m not setting some big running goals for 2015; 26.2 just is not one of those goals yet.
What especially sparked me to talk about why I’m not running a marathon next year? I’ve read several articles, most notably Lauren Fleshman’s “10 Reasons the 5K is Freaking Awesome” and Jonathan Beverly’s “The Marathon: A Race Too Far?” in Running Times website, that make a pressing case for focusing on shorter races.
I’m not detracting anything from the huge achievement of running a marathon and I’m not discounting it as an essential aspect of the sport of running. Fleshman, however, is correct when she asserts that “the prevailing mentality is to go longer and longer and longer, until one day you find yourself down six toe-nails, dressed head to toe in compression gear, contemplating your first 50-K ultra over a morning bowl of chia seeds.” Beverly echoes this sentiment, stating that “the explosion of the marathon hasn’t helped. Now that running a marathon is mainstream, many see the only reason a runner isn’t doing one each spring and fall–or even more often–is because they aren’t yet ready or they’re injured.” The prevailing mentality in running has become that the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and other distances are merely stepping stones to the full marathon, not races run for their own right. There’s the sense that it’s better to go far than to go fast. Yet as Beverly argues, “Running faster is just as hard, often harder, than running longer.”
Fleshman and Beverly both argue that running shorter races (5K, 10K, and half marathon) provides better fitness and greater satisfaction to runners. Beverly, who when this article was published in 2011 had run 27 marathons, argues that frequent marathoning can be detrimental to runner’s development. In marathon training, especially for the average runner, logging the miles takes precedence over intense speed work and lactate threshold training. Most 5K and 10K plans, and many half marathon plans, emphasize training a variety of systems: strength, speed, stamina, and endurance. Both authors also point out that running marathons beats your body up after race day and the recovery can take up to a month.
So why am I not running a marathon?
- I like relaxing on weekends with my husband. Relaxing doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the couch (although we do love Netflix marathons). I want to have the energy for us to go hiking together, the flexibility to go on vacations, and time on the weekends. This is all a lot more feasible when my long run lasts no more than two hours than when I’d be out there for three or more hours, both in terms of time and how spent I feel after the long run.
- I want to get faster. I was oh-so-close to a 1:45 half marathon at the Valpo Half and was on track for a sub-1:45 until after mile 8. I’m planning on running two half marathons in 2015 and have a high-aiming goal of running a sub-1:40 half in 2015. Eventually, I have my eyes on a 1:35 half marathon.
- On top of that, I’d love to run some local 5Ks and 10Ks and really find my speed. I have a natural propensity towards doing well at endurance, but not speed, and I want to push my limits. Honestly, a super-fast 5K or 10K sounds a lot harder to me than a four hour marathon. I would love to knock out a 10K in 45 minutes and a 5K in under 22 minutes soon.
- Along with that point, I really want to push myself in both training and racing for the 13.1 distance. I’ve read several great articles, most recently the one referenced above in Running Times, about the importance of high training volumes for your specific distance. I could run 40-50 miles at the peak of training to finish a marathon, or I could run that to do really well in the half marathon. The better base you build in training, the better the race and the quicker the recovery. Honestly, I use don’t have the desire to run 60+ mile training weeks yet.
- 3 to 8 miles is my sweet spot for week day runs. Runs in this range (which is the ideal weekday run for 5K, 10K, and half marathon runners) provide me with energy for the work day, don’t require me to sacrifice sleep, and are genuinely enjoyable for me. These distances also leave time for strength training, Pilates, and yoga, which makes me a more balanced and stronger runner.
- I don’t want to stretch myself too thin. I’m a wife, a runner, puggle-mama, will hopefully soon work 8-5 (and then plus some), still write this blog, still freelance over at Conciliar Post, and still work as a homemaker. While I thrive with lots to do, I’d rather not risk mental or physical burnout right now.
- Finally, I have the big dream of qualifying for and running Boston some day. The qualifying time for my age group is 3:35:00, but with how popular Boston has been, if I want to run it I need to realistically run a 3:33:00 or faster. Instead of just running marathons until I do that, I want to get fast at the half so I can run my first marathon as close to BQ’ing as possible. I’ve read a lot lately about how training for several marathons close together can actually hinder performances gains and I personally believe my best bet at a BQ is to build speed before running my first marathon.
The important thing is that these are all reason why I am not running a marathon this year. Running is about the pursuit of our goals and an individual search to find your own extraordinary. For me, right now, that extraordinary lies in getting fast (for me), in pushing myself to run faster than I once imagined. I think it’s absolutely amazing and impressive when people run a full marathon; but I don’t need to run a marathon to verify that I’m a runner, and a fairly decent one at that.
Questions of the Day:
Have you run a marathon?
Which is your goal: running farther or running faster?