Posted by: Ingrid | January 17, 2011

So what’s the big deal with the marathon?

Over the past five years I have often been introduced to people as:  Ingrid, who runs marathons.

At which point I inevitably say something  in a stage whisper along the lines of: Actually I’ve only run one marathon but I really like halves.  And I haven’t done a full marathon for five years.

This of course makes people look at me funny, probably because they don’t get how dishonest I would feel to claim to a actually be a marathoner (as opposed to someone who once ran a marathon years ago).  They also tend to ask why I haven’t run more full marathons since I like running so much.

In deciding to finally embrace a marathon training program I have had to ask myself the same question, since I’m finding there is definitely some resistance and a whole lot of fear when it comes to training and completing another marathon.  I also realize that in the span of five years, many many people have signed up, trained, and run stellar, mediocre, and pretty horrible marathons.  Why wasn’t I one of them?

I remember, some five-a-half years ago, when I first realized that I could do a long run.  I stepped out of my apartment early one Saturday morning, discman in hand (Yes, holding a discman!  Remember those days?!?) and ran 7 miles.  That was the longest I’d ever run before and something clicked for me.  Running long was just a matter of going slow enough if I needed to, wrapping my mind around the distance, and upping my mileage slowly.  By September I completed a 20 miler, looping around my neighborhood, and using the front porch for an aid station.  I was thrilled to have run that far and had no plans to do anything else with it.

That day, however, I got a postcard from Team in Training (TNT) in the mail.  Turns out I could run a marathon and raise money for a good cause!  This was exciting on two fronts: first, I could rely on someone else’s training program and wouldn’t have to risk doing a marathon “wrong” and secondly, I could do something I wanted to do while benefiting something worthwhile.  This fed a long-held belief that I’d grown up with that you weren’t supposed to do something you liked just because but it was acceptable to slip it in as long as it was beneficial for others.  Bingo!  I had a match.

So midway through TNT’s training season I joined the Honolulu marathon team and took on the challenge to raise $4,200.  Of course I had it all plotted out who I knew would give what (which ended up being entirely inaccurate and led to several moments of panic for me).  In the middle of doing long runs at the beach with the team every Saturday, trying to mentally prepare for the 26.2 mile distance when I had not run in any type of race before, and the financial fear that I would have to front several thousands of dollars if people chose not to donate, I vividly remember a phone call I had at the beginning of the training and fundraising.  Right in the middle of the conversation came the question: Why do you think anyone will even want to support you? Ah,there’s the rub.  I was already working against that fear along with the doubt that I couldn’t even do the run.  The nagging self-doubts and the fear that I was all alone in this were already working overtime when I’d wake up at 3:00 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep.  Doing something like this felt grandiose, ridiculous, obscenely ostentatious.  Why would anyone want to help with this?  Why indeed?

Despite the doubts I kept at it.  Despite a lovely case of shin splits I kept working towards the goal.  And that December, with $4,500 raised for cancer research, I flew out to Honolulu.  I got up at 3:00 am and at 5:00, as the fireworks lit up the still-dark sky and the gun went off all 18,000 plus of us crazy people started shuffling towards the starting line.  I had never run a race, and here I was in Hawaiian humidity running up Diamond Head crater.  In many ways it was the satisfying culmination of a semester of hard work and pushing through a host of doubts and fears.  I ran the marathon on my own, without any music, without a Garmin, and without a clue as to what I was doing.  My idealistic fantasies of qualifying for Boston (which I thought I could do based on my 17 and 20 mile running time) gave way before the reality that I’d never run with a crowd of people, had no idea how fast I was going, and didn’t know my pace.

I finished in 4:06, with the second half faster than the first and feeling good.  I didn’t hit the wall during the marathon but I did hit a sort of wall afterwards.  No one told me about the post-marathon let down.  No one told me I may not want to run for a while after the event but that maybe I should pick another goal to aim for so that I would have some direction.  No one told me that not hitting the 3:40 mark (even though I wouldn’t let myself admit disappointment) would feel a lot more demoralizing than I ever wanted to let on.

But it was, and I have never really begun training for a marathon since.  It took me a full year and a half to sign up for my second event, and that was a 5K!  The thought of putting in that much effort and “failing” again (though of course I wouldn’t call it an all around failure – and it was a stellar vacation with one of my best friends) has had me gun shy of the marathon ever since.  It felt like such a physically and emotionally draining experience that I never could drum up the motivation to sign up for another one.

But this time I really am going to do it (knee permitting).  I would like to skip all the dramatics and fundraising and self-doubt (well, may not be able to get rid of that) and just run.  No drama, just a BQ… is that too much to ask? 🙂



  1. Go for it babe! I know you can do it! I’m glad I could support you in your TNT endeavor 5 years ago…I think it actually help me score some points with you. I mean, the fist time I met you, I got to support a cause you were a part of. NOICE!!!

    • It’s true, Hon… I actually ran the marathon simply so I could meet my future husband and beg money off him. 😉

  2. LOVE the goal, go for it and enjoy the journey now you know more what to shoot for….!! Good luck!

    • Thanks, Michelle! Hopefully it will be a good fifteen more weeks!

  3. I am not quite ready to make this commitment to try to qualify yet, but I look forward to reading about your journey! What a great goal! You are going to do great in your marathon!

    Oh, I read in your other post your question about yoga dvd’s. I don’t know of any dvd’s but there are two websites and where you can download/buy yoga classes and play them on your computer. I download them to my laptop and they have some great classes if you can’t find a dvd you like.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: