Why do another marathon?

When I finished the Philadelphia Marathon last weekend I said that I would most likely not do another. This lead to many people saying that you never decide immediately after, and to give it a week and you’ll be planning your next.

While I understood that you may change your mind I maintained that the best time to make the decision was right there and then – after all, that’s when you can best remember what you felt like afterwards (and during those last few miles).

Of course, as time has passed, as expected, I find myself thinking that maybe I should do another. I’m still thinking it will not be next year, but my mind is definitely coming round to the idea. However, should I stick with my initial assessment?

I’ve compiled a list of reasons that, I believe, lead you to think about going through it again, in no particular order (feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments):

  1. Seeing the race photos. This, in particular, seems to trick your mind into remembering only the good parts. In my finish line photos I actually look happy. I don’t really recall it quite that way, but pictures don’t lie do they? Admittedly, they also got a few shots of me near the end where things weren’t going so well, but that’s only a couple of photos, and that finish line one was soon after that, so it couldn’t have been that bad.
    Don't I look happy there?

    Don’t I look happy there?

    That's definitely a grimace as my calf muscle tightens again.

    That’s definitely a grimace as my calf muscle tightens again.

  2. Simply missing going out for a run in the recovery period. With all that extra time where you’re not running, you start thinking about running things. Those running things somehow seem to include marathon running.
  3. After all the hard work that went into training for that one event, you begin to think about how you could have done it better, and along with that, you realize that you would have to do another to see if you are correct. In my case, it’s how to stop the cramps (if it wasn’t for the calf cramping the marathon would have been easy).
  4. Other people will tell you that you will do another one. This is hard to ignore. Everyone is saying it. Stop it and let me make up my own mind.
  5. There’s always going to be a new time goal. This is true at any race distance so why shouldn’t you want to beat your previous time in this too. My only consolation here is that I’m already pretty old, so I may start slowing down before I get a chance to actually beat my time.
  6. “The childbirth effect” – someone likened running a marathon to childbirth in terms of the hard work and beating your body takes, along with the positive outcome (before anyone gets annoyed, I, and they, were not implying that a marathon is as painful as childbirth). In the moment you may vow to never go through that again, but all the negativity is somehow wiped out by some sort of psychological process.
  7. We’re runners. This is just what we do. We’re always on the lookout for a new challenge.

Going back and reading the start of this blog post I stopped to consider the first sentence. I may not have actually said “last weekend I said that I would most likely not do another”; what I think I really said was “last weekend I said that I would never do another”. Apparently it’s impossible to resist that pull back to try again.

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5 Responses to Why do another marathon?

  1. Gresy Johhnson says:

    I still feel the same way that I won’t run a marathon… personally i don’t have a reason enough to put myself to all that training and work to just ” have the bragging rights” to say I did one… All cuddos to ALL of you who have done one or more… but my mind is made…

    • runnj says:

      Never say never. I was the same – was never tempted, and I’m still not sure how I ended up doing this so soon. I am glad I did – I think it’s the most I have ever asked of my body and I’m very proud to have done it – however, I think that also contributes to being unsure about doing another.

  2. dorseyml says:

    I ran my first marathon in 2009. I loved it so much, I had to sign up for it again, so I ran the same marathon again in 2010. In, 2011, I ran half marathons and 10 milers, trying to get faster. In 2012, I switched my shoe to a minimalist. I worked on form and speed, running again half marathons and 10 milers. After 2 years of running shorter races fast, I got bored. I began to crave really long runs. It was then that I knew it was time to sign up for a marathon again. Although, you may not want to right now, never say never, because there will be a time when you are going to have a desire to start marathon training again. And if that doesn’t happen, a running buddy who is nervous to run their first marathon alone might sucker you into running another one. Can’t wait to hear which marathon you sign up for next. 😉

    • runnj says:

      I have no doubt it will come – I had already decided that next year would be about improving speed in distances up to the half (that sub-19 minute 5k is only 16 seconds or so away). If I were to guess right now, I would say doing one 2 years from now is reasonable.

  3. You COULD sign up for another marathon and still improve your 5k time…just sayin! 🙂 You just went through a long marathon cycle and it seems like you PRed every race and distance at every stage throughout your training. You’re still in the phase where you’re a relatively new runner who is likely to continue to improve in ALL distances since you’re putting in the miles, changing up the speeds, running on different terrains, and cross training as well.

    I’m surprised no one has focused on this section you wrote: “My only consolation here is that I’m already pretty old, so I may start slowing down before I get a chance to actually beat my time.” I guess that makes me one foot in the grave then, but won’t take it personally! Instead I’ll point out that many running “expert” types have noted that newer runners tend to have an average of a seven year period where they will continually improve their PRs until they plateau. That data goes well past the age you may consider “old” 🙂

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