Not Running A Marathon

Isn’t the marathon dead? A runner I know hates half marathons because there are just too many people. He likes the mystery of the marathon — that anything-can-happen factor. There’s more respect.

But there’s still the bucket list approach. To have completed a marathon. To have beaten Oprah (that’s 4:29). For myself, if I ever get around to running one I really expect to beat 3:30, but that’s getting way ahead of myself. That first marathon, conventional wisdom has it, you just survive.

One runner caused a bit of a stir with this statement, a few years back:

It’s a joke to run a marathon by walking every other mile or by finishing in six, seven, eight hours,” said Adrienne Wald, 54, the women’s cross-country coach at the College of New Rochelle, who ran her first marathon in 1984. “It used to be that running a marathon was worth something — there used to be a pride saying that you ran a marathon, but not anymore. Now it’s, ‘How low is the bar?’

I’d like to complete a respectable half marathon before I attempt a marathon. I still haven’t decided what that threshold of respectability is though. 1:30 seems a bit ambitious, for me. 1:40 I’m pretty sure is doable at the moment. Maybe 1:35? So I have been thinking about the marathon, but in an appropriately far-off fashion, strictly long term, and sketchy.

I found a very thoughtful piece at Endurance Base Camp “A look at the long run and marathon training” that caught, and held, my attention. The premise — the 20-mile run need not be part of an effective marathon training program.

My cousin, recently thwarted from a New York marathon, recently said something to me that fell in line with this argument. She said that she found 2 hour runs to be great, but that 3 hour runs were problematic. In fact, she went so far as to say that she thought they are unhealthy. (But when I expressed my doubt about running one, she responded, “you have to run one!”) I would imagine a training plan that includes more than a handful of 20-milers would take a toll. My own longest run, which was terrific fun, was 2:27, a 16.5 mile jaunt at 8:56 min/mile pace that left me exhausted but happy.

At roughly that pace it would have taken me 3 hours to complete 20 miles. Just another half-hour, but the body was feeling quite taxed at that point. The risk of injury is high. Not getting injury has got to be a huge part of a successful marathon training program, no?

In any case, I recommend the Endurance Base Camp piece, especially if you’re pondering a marathon, it makes several interesting points.


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