Running impacts people in profound ways. The impact it has on people extends way beyond the physical. Running has a way of acting as a catalyst for undertaking audacious goals. The impossible becomes vaguely plausible, if not entirely possible.
Additionally, there are some inevitabilities associated with running. It's inevitable that you will experience muscle soreness. It's inevitable that you will find yourself markedly fatigued. It's inevitable that some friends will think you're crazy. But, perhaps the biggest 'inevitability' when it comes to running is considering the idea of running a marathon.
Tackling 26.2 miles calls out to runners like a siren. It's larger than life. It's mythical. It's epic. It's terrifying. It's sexy. But it's not a trivial undertaking.
With marathon season in full swing and the marathon siren calling out loudly to any who will listen, it's inevitable that those who have yet to run 26.2 miles may start to wonder 'if' they're ready.
If you fall into this demographic and your response to the questions below is largely affirmative, you may be ready to tackle the beast known as the marathon.
Have you been running consistently for at least a year?
Some training programs out there seduce people with a message that sounds something like, 'from the couch to 26.2 miles in six months'. It's an incredibly powerful and seductive message.
Unfortunately, it's a somewhat irresponsible message. If you've never run in your entire life and you've historically been sedentary, training for a marathon in six months could be like playing with fire. You might be able to pull it off, but you might incur a serious injury that prevents you from running for months or longer.
A much better approach would be to get into a regular running routine for a year. This gives your body ample time to adapt to the demands of the sport. If you've already been running on a fairly consistent basis for a year or more and haven't had any major issues, the time for ramping up to a marathon may be at hand. If not, think twice.
Have you knocked out a half marathon or two?
It's hard to explain what happens during a marathon to someone who's never done one. There's marked fatigue. There's doubt. There's fear. But, it's not all bad. There's joy, ecstasy, and elation to be had as well.
Like many things in life, one of the best ways to prepare for a marathon is to do a dress rehearsal. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to knock out a half marathon or two. The half marathon distance is daunting and challenging, but it isn't nearly as taxing as the full. So, you can recover more quickly, but at least get a taste of what to expect with the full distance.
Additionally, completing a half marathon or two will provide you with invaluable experience and knowledge about what nutrition product(s) will work for you during the run, how much fluid you should be consuming when you're running, what clothes you're most comfortable running in, etc.
Lastly, if you run a half marathon and find yourself feeling completely destroyed at the end of the race, that may be a sign that upping the ante and going for 26.2 miles is not the best idea. You may need more time to train.
Can your lifestyle support it?
There are practical matters to consider before embarking on the journey toward 26.2 miles. Training for a 10K or a half marathon is relatively 'lifestyle friendly'. You knock out one or two short maintenance runs during the week and perhaps a longer run on the weekend that lasts 90 minutes or so.
Training for a marathon requires additional time that people don't often consider. Maybe you're accustomed to going out on Friday nights and not having problems knocking out a long run on Saturday mornings. But, when your long runs start to take two to three (or more) hours to complete, chances are your Friday evenings will start to look a bit more sedate.
After a typical long run in preparation for a marathon, you will probably want to spend some time doing self-massage with a foam roller, spend a few minutes soaking your lower body in an ice bath, and maybe taking a nap. Doing all of the aforementioned will likely take a couple hours in addition to the time you logged on the road.
Do you have a demanding job? Do you have a spouse/partner? Do you volunteer on a regular basis? Do you have a life? All of these questions are relevant, as training for a marathon almost inevitably will impact your lifestyle in small and big ways.