The first person who ever ran a marathon died. An ancient Greek soldier ran approximately 25 miles from Pheidippides to the town of Marathon, to tell some Athenians the Persians had been defeated. Now, we do it for fun.
It seems to be marathon season at the moment. Or at least that’s what I gather from the sheer amount of times I have found my local roads closed because swarms of people have been running past. How else do you want to spend a rainy, or even sunny Sunday, than jogging through the streets of London, or whatever city you are inhabiting?
Marathons are prolific. According to Runner’s World approximately two million people worldwide successfully finished a half or full marathon in the year 2013.
Themed, charitable, and highly esteemed, like a plague of locusts the races descend upon us. Every year comes the group chat I was (presumably) mistakenly added too, “Hey guys, does anyone want to take part in the Colour Run with me this year? It’s for a good cause!”
When I first got these messages, my immediate response was to say, “Sure, but can I walk it?” (I am an excellent walker.) But recently I have started to actually consider it. What if I ran a half marathon? What if I spent the next six months training, and even though I can barely run 200 metres, I somehow work my way up to 13.1 miles and actually do it?
Ultimately, I say no because you usually have to pay, and paying to run feels a little out of my budget, and I also don’t run. But marathons seem to be the thing. Whether it is for personal fitness, or raising money for various challenges, half the population, whether they are sporty or barely active at all, seem to be training for one.
The marathon is no longer the sporting event of the fitness elite, of the runner who once raced semi-professionally. It is everyone’s game. The average Joe is more likely to try their hand at a marathon or half marathon than they are to enter a 100-metre sprint. 26 miles versus 100 metres, what a surprising cultural attitude!
But now it’s the fitness regime we all need to get ourselves active again. After a discussion with a friend about improving our trim levels her immediate thought was that we should train for a half marathon. There are no small steps or suggestions of going to a gym once a week. We had to have a goal, and a big goal at that. Our hopes were quelled when we saw the cost and realised our tight budgets wouldn’t stretch that far this month.
But the money incentives do make some sense. There’s nothing like putting a big deal of cash down on an event to make you feel committed to training. Perhaps that was our downfall, and there has been no talk of the half marathon since.
McKenzie, who runs regularly for fitness, is only attracted by the charitable side of marathon culture. “I love running so much! I have a really hard time paying so much to run races when I can just go out and run 13 miles for free any time, or place I want. That’s why I only pay to run a race if it’s for a good cause and the proceeds actually go toward that cause! But actually being registered for a race really motivates you to get your pace down!”
Of course, these are just the local marathons, and fun-run events. The kind that even amateurs like ourselves believe we can train for. But there are still some races that remain for the physical elite. The Boston and London Marathons have become truly global competitions.
For many running a marathon (or a half) is not just about improving their health, but also their character. The ability to train for at least six months, and from very little activity too, suggests traits of perseverance and determination. If we can achieve this goal we can easily apply what we have learnt to the other aspects of our lives. Is work currently exhausting and demanding? Don’t worry, you’ve made it through worse.
As we accomplish seemingly impossible feats our sense of self-worth grows. We begin to see ourselves as successful, as someone who can achieve great things.
But how should we actually train for a marathon? William, who runs for sport, shared his tips. He said, “Getting advice from a proper running coach would be the first step. Then maybe plan to enter some races beforehand like a 10km to prepare for a half marathon, or a half marathon before a marathon, maybe a month before the race. Then trying to do two intervals sessions and one normal.”
However, those still not feeling motivated to start the 26-mile journey, don’t worry, you are not alone. When asked if she would ever participate in a marathon, Mickey told 7Dnews, “A film marathon, yes I'm your girl!”