To be perfectly honest, I am not a hardcore runner , although I sometimes pretend to be by doing things like crazy all night races with a bunch of strangers. And while I’ve been known to run in my fair share of snow storms, and have had runs that’re so cold my camelbak freezes, most of the time I don’t actually take delight in being extreme. On nights when it’s cold and dark and windy, I admit that I often find myself retreating indoors to face an old familiar friend: the much dreaded treadmill. It’s not the best option, but it’s a tool …and a means to an end when you plan on training through the winter.
And this winter, I have big goals. I am currently training for the National Marathon in Washington, DC on March 26th. This race is exciting for several reasons:
I am going for speed. I’ve been running marathons in the high 3:20 range for too long and I think it’s high time to get below (watch out Dad, I’m gunning for ya!)
My awesome family will be there to see me do it. They haven’t all come to see me run a marathon since my very first one.
A big group of bloggers will be running the same day, which will definitely be a lot of fun.
A few months ago, Becky suggested signing up for the National Marathon because of its destination and supposedly flat, fast course. Pretty quickly Jen , Evan , and I all jumped on board. Not only was I excited about the course, but I was also thrilled to have the opportunity to run a race with some pretty cool people. Even though we all run different paces and don’t actually run together on a regular basis, we would be virtual training buddies, keeping each other motivated through the long, cold winter.
And now it appears as though many other bloggers have decided to race that weekend as well. A large group of us will be descending on the city to run the half marathon the same day. Never before have I experienced this sort of accountability when training for a marathon! Running a race with so many bloggers and training with these three marathoners will give me the chance to swap training plans, winter horror stories, and training victories. To know that we will all be facing the same ups and downs of running through cold and snow is extremely motivational.
I think this sense of support and connection is a pretty amazing thing that the blog-world has to offer. Whether you’re a blog writer yourself or simply like to read, being able to share experiences with individuals who are going through something similar is invaluable. When you know that you’re not facing a challenge alone, it can be much easier to overcome obstacles and stick with it. I know this winter I’m going to be a lot more likely to stick to my training plan just knowing that these guys are doing runs right along with me. Motivation (or positive peer pressure) at its finest!
But — can there also be a negative side to all this? As with anything else in life, when we see a bunch of people doing something together, our natural tendency is to want to be included. While I realize that not everyone is going to think a marathon/half-marathon sounds like fun no matter who is doing it, I do fear that there is a chance it may encourage people who really aren’t ready to train for a race of this distance to sign up anyway. As a runner, a weekend race with a bunch of bloggers I admire sounds pretty exciting — and could definitely pressure me into signing up even if I didn’t really feel as though I should be doing it.
To be honest, I’ve done my fair share of friendly peer-pressuring. I’m currently trying (in vain) to convince a co-worker and a super fast runner to jump on the bandwagon and do the full. And I think I might be making headway in convincing my own mother to run the half. When it comes to running, I usually tend to think “the more the merrier!”
But I know this approach shouldn’t be taken lightly. Training for a marathon is a huge undertaking. One that requires commitment and a whole lot of time. It can be especially challenging during extreme weather, and rumor has it this winter is going to be a harsh one. Furthermore, running a marathon isn’t exactly fun. There, I said it. The marathon is a challenge, an accomplishment, and a potential source of great pride. But it certainly isn’t a bed of roses (don’t believe me? Read about my experience running Cape Cod , or read about Jen’s heartbreaking DNF at Asbury Park .). I continue to sign up for these races because I enjoy the structure of the training, and I love being able to push my body and my mind to new limits, finding strength I never knew I had along the way. That doesn’t mean I actually enjoy every step of the marathon itself.
I say all this not to discourage anyone from running a marathon. If you have your heart set on doing one someday, I think that’s pretty amazing. But not everyone has to run a marathon . And you certainly shouldn’t do it because all your friends are.
So if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, my only caution would be to take a step back before signing up and evaluate if this is something you truly want to do. Because otherwise, you might end up resenting it when the training gets tough and the weather gets rougher.
And then if, after doing this, you still find the thought of running a half marathon or a full incredibly exciting and you want to do a race with a great company, then I encourage you to sign up for the National Marathon in DC. It’s a great course, and is really shaping up to be a festive weekend!
I’m curious, have you ever signed up for a race because a friend/friends (real life or virtual) were doing it? And did it end up being a positive experience?