The Lone Runner Series: Why Would You Train for a Marathon?

The Lone Runner Series: Why Would You Train for a Marathon?

Runners have many reasons they train for marathons, but many do it because it is rewarding. Today I want to explore a few of the rewards of marathon training.

 Training for a marathon demands serious effort. But it also has serious benefits. Moreover, marathon training rewards runners in ways that go far deeper than the obvious benefits. Despite the challenge of it, or in part because of that challenge, marathon training is a gift.

Mental Health:

This benefit seems especially important in light of the events this past year. Long-distance running can improve psychological health and help ward off the blues.[1] Running has positive hormonal effects that go far beyond the mythical “runner’s high.”[2] The daily discipline of training gives structure to your day. And even on your worst days, if you managed to run, you still accomplished something.  

The human body was made to move and to spend time outdoors. Running accomplishes both. The absence of movement and sunlight can harm mental health, while exercising outside every day can help prevent the blues.

Running can help you manage prolonged periods of forced isolation, such as those we have experienced this past year. Many people find that running teaches them to tolerate solitude, or even enjoy it. Running can even help you process tragedy.  

Marathon training gives you a goal to work towards. The race gives you an event to look forward to. Having a goal that requires hard work and discipline, and having a marathon to look forward to, can help you through tough times.

The Challenge:

Marathon training may seem daunting at first. But its rigor makes it a worthy challenge. The harder you work, the more satisfaction you will feel at your accomplishment. Both the marathon, and the training itself, are accomplishments. You can take pride in working hard to reach the starting line.

Physical Health Benefits:

Marathon training can help you lose weight. Many runners training for marathons gain weight,[3] but if you put the same discipline into your diet that you put into your running, you can easily shed a few pounds and race faster.

Contrary to popular belief, running does not hurt your knees. Running can actually decrease your risk of arthritis,[4] partly because it can help you to maintain a healthy weight.

You may have heard the saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” The human body requires movement in order to function effectively. Regular running can help prevent loss of muscle or joint function.[5]

Marathon training can improve your cardiovascular and aerobic health. While you may feel sore and tired during the hardest weeks of training, once you have rested, you may notice that walking, hiking, and climbing stairs all feel easier. The aerobic endurance you develop will translate into other sports, and into daily life.

Conclusion:

I cannot cover every benefit of marathon training in this short article. But this partial list should give most runners an idea of what makes marathon training worthwhile. Some of the hardest days of my life, and some of the happiest, have occurred during marathon training. I think many other veteran marathoners can say the same.

[1] https://www.coachmag.co.uk/mental-health/8602/how-running-can-improve-your-mental-health

[2] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-tomorrow/202004/the-myth-the-runners-high#:~:text=It’s%20supposed%20to%20be%20the,it%20is%20not%20one%20thing

[3] https://runnersconnect.net/weight-gain-marathon-training/

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23377837/

[5] https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/exercise-and-your-joints

 

Ben Connelly is a freelance writer and an experienced runner. He has written multiple e-books on running and general fitness, including a marathon training guide, which you can purchase here. You can find him at his Amazon Author page, or at his website.

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