It's Okay Not To Like Marathons

The major marathon season began on Sunday in Paris, where Kenenisa Bekele, world record holder in the 5000 and 10,000 meters on the track, demolished the field. His time was a very fast 2:05:03, especially for a marathon debut. Next Sunday is the London Marathon, where multiple Olympic and World Championship gold medal winner Mo Farah of Great Britain will also compete in his first marathon.

Most runners encounter this question — "Have you run a marathon?" — more than any other. It's easy to understand why people would focus on it. Marathons are big news, and considered by many as the ultimate running challenge. It's also easy to understand how the question can be frustrating.

While running a marathon is indeed an impressive feat, it isn't for everyone. The distance, time, energy and potential injuries involved in preparing for marathons can diminish the essential health benefits of moderate running. People with demanding work and activity schedules may compromise other aspects of a healthy lifestyle in order to fit in the training, such as proper diet and sufficient sleep. Others just don't enjoy running for two and a half to six hours at a stretch.

I love running, but I have never officially completed a marathon. I prefer 5Ks and 8Ks, and it's totally okay! It does not make one less of a runner to prefer shorter distances. One of the best runners in the U.S. right now is Galen Rupp. He holds four American records between 3000 and 10,000 meters, and is an Olympic silver medalist. And he's never run a marathon. While there is a chance that he might someday, Rupp has no immediate plans to. It's obviously not because he's lazy, but because he's focusing on the distances he knows he excels at. Runners who enjoy competing can do so more often in shorter races. Even most elite marathoners limit themselves to one or two marathons a year to reduce risks of injury.

Of the ten largest races in the U.S. in 2013, only two were marathons (ING New York City Marathon at #2 and Bank of America Chicago Marathon at #5). The rest were 8K, 10K, 12K, 10 mile and half-marathon. I'm not advocating trash-talking your marathoner friends, because some people are well suited for the distance and love doing it. But if you complete a new distance for the first time, or break a personal record, you deserve to feel just as proud of your accomplishments as any marathoner.

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, Marathon, road races

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