The marathon is one of the most frequent fitness goals that exist.
There is a mythical vibe to conquering the 26,2-mile range.
For some people, there is a lot of weight to whether you have run a marathon or not.
Almost like there is a life before, and after, this achievement.
As a side note, did you know, that the marathon originates from Greek history?
The first marathon was run by a soldier called Pheidippides. He reported the victory over the Persians in 490 B.C. by running approximately 25 miles from the battlefield near the town of Marathon to Athens. After arrival, the only thing he managed to do was to say “Niki!”, which translates to “Victory!”. After that, he collapsed and died.
This heroic story later inspired the Olympic committee to integrate the marathon as the supreme discipline into their programme.
Even though this is an inspiring story, the fact that Pheidippides died right after declaring victory, really puts a marathon into perspective.
Especially, for moderately fit people.
In this article, I will go over the advantages and disadvantages of running a marathon, hoping to get you thinking about resetting your fitness goals or to ensure you that this might be the right path for you.
Trust me, it’s not for everyone.
Reasons not to run a marathon
Before we look at the potential upside of running 26 miles, let’s take a look at why it may not be the best idea to do so.
Risk of injury
While it is true, that there is a lot of prevention you can do to avoid injury.
Generally speaking, the more miles you run, the higher the risk of injury.
In order to minimize the risk, you expose yourself to, here is a science-based table, that will give you short advice on what to do based on your current condition.
Consequently, it is easy to draw the conclusion that running fewer miles, but trying to improve your time in those disciplines, is a safer way to enjoy running, while still opening up the possibilities for improvement.
Now that you know this, you have to ask yourself, whether it is worth it.
Are you willing to take on the extra risk? Is running a marathon really what you want to do?
For some, it might, for many it is not.
Anyhow, if you end up deciding that the higher risk of injury is something you can live with, make sure to take your time for proper preparation.
- Be sure to stretch enough
- Take your time with increasing intensity of training and distance.
- Prepare not only physically, but mentally as well.
- Get good running shoes, and inform yourself about their expected lifetime
- Try to adopt a healthy and sustainable running style.
Besides injuries, that immediately jump to mind, like a knee injury, there might be additional risks from you did not think about so far.
One of them is Over-hydration, also called hyponatremia.
Although you need to drink huge amounts of water in order to suffer from symptoms of hyponatremia, it is more common amongst marathon runners, than for other people.
This is due to some marathon runners, having the desire to restock on water after the run. While the idea is correct, and it’s definitely important to drink enough water, especially after a period of high physical intensity, some runners tend to overdo it.
In fear of drinking not enough water, they end up drinking too much.
Because your kidneys can only get rid of 0.8-1.0 liters of water every hour, there is a threshold to how much you should drink within the hour.
As a tip, distribute your water intake more evenly over the day, or over multiple hours.
A second risk you might not be aware of is the friction of your shorts and shorts.
Whereas it might not seem like the biggest danger at a first glance, it should not be underestimated.
Remember, we are not talking about one hour of exercising, a marathon is, depending on the fitness and condition of the individual, a 3,5 – 5,5-hour activity.
The most commonly known injury caused by friction, are chafed or bloody nipples.
Sounding funny at first, you really don’t want to find yourself in a position in which you see your nipples bleeding.
Moreover, this is an issue men have to worry about more than women. Since sports bras prevent a lot of friction.
In order to prevent this, you can choose to tape your nipples for the race.
To start things off, if you have a passion for running and you are determined to fulfill your goal of completing a marathon, this is not a severe disadvantage for you.
However, if you don’t have a burning desire to do it. This might be a serious concern.
Because practicing for a marathon needs time. A lot of it.
Depending on your physical condition when you start the marathon training, the first few weeks might not be as time-consuming.
But, after you start ramping up the distances, a run will stop taking you 1 hour to complete, and start taking 2-3 hours of your day.
Additionally, you will have to run multiple times a week, to be sure you can safely run a marathon.
There are even programmes that suggest running every day.
Partly because it’s important to get used to keeping up the running, even though you might feel exhausted or tired.
To put it in perspective, as a moderately fit person, you would have to put in around 10 hours of practice a week if you want to be sure of success.
Adding to that, this stretches out over several months.
Compared to your job or family obligations, this might not be the highest number. But I don’t think I have to tell you that finding an additional 10 hours a week is not on the easy side of things.
In fact, relationships, family fortune, or your productivity related to your work, can suffer from an intense training schedule drastically.
Make sure you have an environment, that supports your decision to run a marathon.
If that is not given, and you would have to make sacrifices to fulfill your weekly training, start thinking about what your priorities are, and where the marathon fits into those.
Another important note to take, if you cannot manage to practice enough and struggle to get more than 3 hours of training every week, consider not doing the marathon. It bears injury and health risks. Potentially making you regret the run.
Because a marathon is a physical and mentally exhausting thing to do, you have to make sure you do it for the right reasons.
Otherwise, you will see yourself going into it underprepared, or find difficulties to complete it in general.
One example of bad motivation for a marathon is extrinsic motivation. Which is motivation based on external influences.
You should not do it because your brother challenged you to do it. Or because you want to impress people.
The best motivation is a desire, a passion for doing it. Doing it because you want to achieve this milestone.
So that you yourself are happy with the endurance and strength you showed during before and during the marathon.
This will ensure, that you have a long-lasting, powerful motivation, that will drive you to make your dream come true.
Compared to running shorter distances up to 13 miles, basically up to a half-marathon, the full 26,2 miles are an entirely different beast.
At some point, for most people, it stops being fun. It drains your body and mind way more than you would have imagined.
Physically, it is obvious why it would be hard to run 20 miles and more. Mentally, it needs a lot of willpower and concentration in order not to give up.
To prepare for these conditions, the training and your knowledge about nutrition and the human body have to step up.
Preferably, you should follow a specific training plan.
Hence, your training will not only consist of running various distances, but it will also change in pace and frequency, too.
On top of that, you should read about how your water intake should change, and how you can optimize your nutrition.
It will take a lot of discipline to do this, and there is a lot of learning to be done.
If you aren’t super fit and don’t want to put in the time to get to know the theoretical part, think about sticking to shorter distances for now.
Running a marathon is not free of charge. First, you need to qualify for it.
The qualifying run will already cost you 50-300$. The same applies to the actual race.
To add to that, there are traveling and equipment costs you should be aware of.
Proper running shoes are one of the most important things, and their life expectancy is not as high as many people think.
Reasons to run a marathon
If you are still feeling the motivation to do the marathon, and the aforementioned reasons that speak against doing it cannot convince you not to do it than it’s time to look on the bright side.
Your passion can be the engine to achieve great accomplishments.
It fuels you in a way nothing ever could.
Now if you find yourself in a situation where you developed a passion for running, and for beating your personal records over and over again, a marathon might be exactly what you need.
It will give you a sense of pride, something you can add to your list of achievements. Something you can cross from the list of things you have to do in your lifetime.
Moreover, it might lead to you, having such a great experience, that you want to run another one in the next year. Sparking a new hobby.
As you gather more and more knowledge and experience, doing another marathon won’t be as difficult and uncertain as the first one.
At that point, you kind of know what to expect, and how much you have to work for it.
Therefore, if you have a burning desire to do a marathon. If you simply cannot get the idea out of your head. Do it.
Don’t let people tell you it’s dangerous, unfun, or too time intensive.
Joining the club
Once you have completed a marathon, you have something in common with everyone else who did.
Immediately providing a topic to talk about and to build a connection on top of that.
Even during the training and the marathon itself, you will meet many like-minded people you can connect with!
To add to that, people who have always considered running a marathon, but contrary to you haven’t found the time, or motivation to do it yet, will look up to you and admire your willpower and discipline.
Saying you have completed a marathon already tells a lot about you.
For example that you are a fit person, that you are dedicated, and that you chase your goals and complete them.
While a marathon bears risks and restrains your life in certain ways, there are attractive benefits to be had as well.
The obvious one is getting in shape.
Even though there may be more effective and efficient ways to get in shape, running huge distances over multiple months will simply burn a lot of calories and build the necessary muscles.
Additionally, as mentioned before, you are forced to build discipline during the training and in your dietary choices.
This discipline can be used in other fields of your life, potentially making you more productive, fit, and successful.
Also, it might improve your relationships. Seeing that your loved ones support you to reach your goals can set you up to feel more gratitude and appreciation towards close friends and family.
Concluding, if running a marathon is worth it? There is no definitive answer to this.
It is a decision no one around you, nor this article can make for you.
I still hope that I provided a framework for you to measure for yourself, if it is worth it for you individually, to run a marathon.
To recap the disadvantages of a marathon, remember
- Increased risk of injury
- Huge time consumption
- Potentially wrong motivation
- Very knowledge-intensive
- Comes with costs
On the other hand, here are the advantages
- Following your passion
- Sharing experiences with others, finding friends along the way
- Getting in shape
- Building discipline
- Possibly improving relationships
Now it’s up to you to make a decision for yourself.
Is it worth it for you to run a marathon?
Let me know why or why not in the comments!
Thank you for reading.