What the Marathon Means to Me

This weekend will be busy with races all over- Challenge Subic 70.3, The Dream Marathon and also Tokyo Marathon 2015. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I ran in the cold, beautiful streets of Tokyo for my fourth World Major.

Amidst all these marathon posts on my feed and as I hit the halfway point of a tough London Marathon training, I find myself once again asking why I run marathons. It’s not exactly the most fun thing in the world to lace up and run when everyone else is in deep slumber. And not everyone is crazy enough to clock in 60-70 kilometers a week on foot, much more than what some friends cover, driving to and from the office for an entire work week. And yet I still choose to do it and train hard for it, traveling many miles just to run. So why do I run marathons?

The goal is clear.
The goal has different permutations over time but one thing does not change – you need to run for 42.195 kilometers. That’s clear and nothing will change that. In the past years my goal was just to finish safely. Then it was about finishing under five hours, then under four. And then it was about finishing all six marathon majors so now the goal is running it at 3:35. But every single time, the goal is crystal and this has made the experience motivating, knowing what you are set out to do and taking concrete steps to get there. Things may not be as clear in other aspects of life but in the marathon, there is nothing vague or arbitrary.

You get as much as what you put in.
It is a fair game because you reap what you sow. There really are no shortcuts. Yes you can run a marathon even if you have not trained properly but you can’t fully enjoy running it and I assure you that it will be a really long day. With the marathon you can choose to calibrate your efforts depending on what you want to get out of it. Say you want to be a faster runner. Then you train for speed, doing specific workouts that increase your threshold for faster paces over prolonged distance. This may include just running specific workouts or also incorporate strength training that’s also speed-focused.

This principle is also entirely new to me but something that I have come to appreciate as I become more disciplined as a runner. Before it was all just by feel with no gadgets and program. But to become a better runner, there are specific steps to take and methods to embrace. There are a lot of resource out there but you have to find what works for you. Before I was content to just run and build mileage but now that the goal has become more challenging, the guidance of a coach is needed.

It gives you a sense of purpose.
The clarity of a marathon goal casts an overall sense of purpose in my life as well. This does not mean that I plan my day and my life just around my training. But what it has given me is a road map that allows me to define the other aspects of my life with the same rigor and determination as I have done to running. Because of this, I have also been inspired to be passionate in the other roles that I play. It has taught me that excellence is about practice, about putting in the time and giving each aspect of life the time that they deserve.

Interestingly, marathons have also helped define our plans, well at least our travel plans. Trips are twice as fun because I am racing and races are much more meaningful because I get to see the sights and see my family at the finish line.

It makes life more interesting.
Now apart from being a mom, a wife, a daughter, an employee, a start-up founder and all the different roles that I play, I am also a triathlete and international marathoner. I really find joy in this because this is something I do to be me. It is a role that I chose to play to celebrate something that I am passionate about. I have always believed that I am happier doing all the other things I am doing because I have made a commitment to find time for something that makes my heart truly sing.

It gives me renewed confidence.
Running a marathon is no easy feat so finishing one has given me a stronger belief that I can take on a goal if I set my sights on it. It has given me grit and resilience, strengthening my resolve to do more and be more despite adversities. It has honed mental toughness amidst an uphill challenge and it has taught me the importance of practice. It is only by constantly doing that one achieves mastery. And just like in any field, it is practice that breeds confidence.

On a more superficial note, the training has also enabled me to still confidently wear an extra small size despite having two kids.

Ultimately, I run marathons because I love running marathons. There is nothing like crossing the finish line knowing that you have trained for it and that you showed up every single day.

Have a safe and fun race to all marathoners this weekend!

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