Pre article note:
This article caused quite a stir when I first printed it. As with every thing one reads, it is best to read the entire piece before jumping to conclusions. And if you need clarification - ask! That said, I still stand by the main point that I personally feel that, for the most part, if you are in an actual race, you should be racing. That is my opinion. It is not law;it is not the absolute rule; and there are obviously exceptions to this statement.
A friend of mine recently said “Today, I signed up for a marathon that will be run next January. I've probably got a while before I need to get serious about my training.” I thought about it for a second and told him, well, that depends. How long is a while? What does he mean by serious?
This nation of runners has become marathon-crazy. This is both good and bad. One of the bad things I see is how many runners just seem to be clamoring for ways to pad their stats, especially when it comes to the simple number of marathons they have completed. Never mind the time those marathons were run in as these runners are just looking to complete the race.
Believe me, simply completing a marathon is a big deal. (Read that again.) But then, as a runner, the desire to move on, to go faster, to challenge one’s self should be burning deep inside you. It is not necessarily about how fast you wish to, or can, run but rather the desire to run faster in and of itself which is the crux of the issue.
Often claims are made that those who feel certain standards for entrance into some marathons are elitist. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to racing, everyone wants to get faster. Denying this is just an outright lie. If someone does not wish to get faster and only runs “for fun” then that is wonderful. But why sign up for a “race”? The free road is open 24/7/365. Hit it up!
I truly love that more and more people are pushing themselves to take on marathons and halfs and all sorts of running adventures. But in the case of my friend above, six months to get serious about training for a marathon is not all that long of a time. Granted, he is a relatively fast runner to begin with and is shooting for a sub-3 hour time. He has a base and he has fitness. Six months may be a little too long of a training cycle for him specifically to get ready for this next race. But not by much. Not if he wishes to get, as he says, “serious” about training.
I can honestly say I have not trained the “proper” way for many marathons. In fact, I can count on one hand the few I have even remotely done something that I would tell others to follow. However, this year, at the St. George Marathon, I will be attempting to set a new personal best for the first time in nearly two years. (N.B. A blow-up Achilles problem caused that not to happen.) The race lines up with my work and race schedule, allowing me to take a relatively brief respite from racing (only doing 13.1 mile races the month prior) and I have finally recovered from my 202 miler last year. Will life probably intervene and throw roadblocks in my way on the way to this new personal best? Of course! That is what life does.
But the time is far since over for me to simply complete in marathons. I want to compete. With others, with myself, with the clock. And I will beat the clock (in the sense of setting a new personal best) unless something goes completely awry. But the fact remains, even if everything does go wrong, I set out that day to push myself, to strain and struggle for more. Not just to collect a shiny medal and the accolades of others. Competition is a wonderful thing which should be embraced.
Go give it a hug.