6 Reasons Why You Should Run A Marathon

Considering committing to a marathon?  Read on for more on the health, psychological and social benefits of signing up for a marathon:

“The journey to the finish line of a marathon is like any great one – it’s long, it requires a lot of effort and pain, there will be setbacks and failures – but there will be a transformation involved, and the reward at the end directly correlates to the amount of effort you put in.”

Why Run a Marathon Anyway?

Marathon running is an epic physical endurance feat.  26.2 miles is way beyond what an average person living in modern society could cover on foot.

For practically anyone, running a marathon involves a serious amount of commitment, training, preparation and – at times – sustained discomfort.

The reasons that people run marathons vary widely – whether it be a personal goal, to raise money for charity, lose weight, get in shape. . .

Regardless of your reason for signing up for a marathon, here’s a few of the benefits that might help motivate you along the way:

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Marathon Training Is A Great Form Of Cardio Exercise

Regular cardiovascular exercise is key to a healthy lifestyle – it helps prolong life, regulate sleep and keeps your body ticking over smoothly.

Marathon training – i.e. running – is a completely natural form of cardiovascular exercise – in fact, our bodies were designed to do it.  It is relatively low-impact, meaning that compared to other forms of cardio work the risk of injury is lower.  You can do it at your own pace and length, and all that is required is running shoes, shorts and shirt.

Marathon Training Nurtures Good Habits

Training for a marathon properly means setting training targets and sticking to them.  It also means a huge commitment in terms of your own time.

This requirement for tracking your progress, and committing to training plans trickles down and can positively influence both your personal and professional life.

If you can demolish a marathon – months and months of training, pain and discomfort – then suddenly that report that’s been hanging over your head doesn’t seem like a big deal.

It’s been demonstrated that willpower acts like a muscle, and the more you exercise your willpower, the more you have available.  When you stick to a marathon training plan, you’ll probably realise you have more enthusiasm for making good habits – such as eating well, and scheduling your time more effectively.

Choosing to go for a strenuous run is basically you choosing to be in a state of discomfort for a period of time.  If you can train your mind to get used to this and not see it as a big deal, you’ll realise you have the energy to take on more and more in other aspects of your life.

A marathon lifestyle also actively discourages our favourite vices such as drinking and smoking, and encourages healthy eating.  If you’re committed to a training programme, healthy eating and avoiding smoking / drinking all contribute to your performance.

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Running Is Time Well Spent

Let’s face it – most of us have busy lifestyles . . . we spend much of the day seated, in front of a screen, and when we go home often we get caught up in the tiny distractions that are available to us, rather than spending our free time wisely.

Running is a good use of your time.  Simple as that.

In addition to the health benefits, running releases endorphins in your brain – these are your body’s natural painkillers, and they feel good.

Not only do these endorphins help put your mind in a more positive state, but distractions such as cell phones, emails and colleagues that we’re all used to disappear when you go for a run.  It’s quality time for you and your brain.  Even if you run with a partner, the benefits are still right there.

Marathons = Friends and Travel

Two other benefits of running marathons are the friends you make along the way, and the opportunities you get to travel.

Marathons can be a great way to make friends, or spend quality time with an old friend.  In practically every town in the world you’ll find running clubs, and ways to engage with other runners.  You’ll almost certainly meet someone with similar goals to yourself.

Likewise, training for a marathon can be a great exercise to do with an old friend or colleague, as you can motivate each other and hold each other accountable for your progress.

Marathons can also provide a great excuse to travel.

If your own local race doesn’t excite you, why not sign up for a marathon two hours away?  Or in a city you’ve never visited before?  Nowadays, you can find marathons in almost any exotic location you can think of – whether it’s the beaches of Hawaii or the peaks of the Alps.

By picking an exciting location for your marathon, you are helping create a buzz for yourself – another reason to get motivated on the dark mornings when a training run is the last thing you want to do.

People who travel for marathons tend to extend their stays and make a little vacation out of it.  For example if you’re going for the New York marathon, why not make it into a long-weekend city break?  Use your marathon as an excuse to take a well-deserved vacation.

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What To Expect

The journey to the finish line of a marathon is like any great one – it’s long, it requires a lot of effort and pain, there will be setbacks and failures – but there will be a transformation involved, and the reward at the end directly correlates to the amount of effort you put in.

The act of training for – and running – your first marathon is a voyage of discovery.

You are pushing your body farther than it’s been before.  Mentally, you will see how you react when faced with fatigue, zero motivation and continuous discomfort.

During training, you have to accept that large parts of your schedule are going to be committed to running.  This means a few hours throughout the week, and a long run on weekends.  The long run at weekends can be especially encumbering to your personal life, as it cuts out a block of the time you’d usually have set aside for friends or family.  Bear in mind that you’ll also be more tired after this run, so might not have the energy for that late night dinner party you were invited to.

Your lifestyle will also change in order to prioritise your training.

You might start to look at meals and snacks as ‘fuel’, and start to see TV time as ‘non-running time’.

Injuries and setbacks are also so common that you should accept that they are quite likely.  But rather than let them throw a spanner in your training, you should anticipate them, and have a plan in place to address them as soon as they appear.

Photo of author
Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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