I run a lot. As such, I get a lot of questions about running and even more comments about it. Any runner can attest to the various cliches and trite phrases we hear over and over again.
- “I only run if someone is chasing me!”
- “You run how far? I don’t even like to drive that far!”
- “Running kills your knees, you know.”
- “My dad ran a 5k marathon this weekend.”
- and my personal favorite – “I could never run a marathon. I’m not built like a runner.”
Every time someone tells me that they can’t run because they aren’t “built like a runner,” I have to resist the urge to audibly growl. If there is anything I have learned during the 25 marathons I have run, it is that there is no such thing as “built like a runner.” Built like an elite runner? Sure, I’ll buy that. But runners come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They are fast and slow, young and old. And if you think you can tell how fast someone is based on what they look like, think again – I’ve been absolutely destroyed in races by people much older, heavier, and “slower looking” than me.
But the point of this post isn’t really to talk about how many different types of runners there are; instead, it’s to talk about the one thing every marathon runner has in common – the runner’s brain. I’m going to speak specifically about marathons here for a moment, but I believe this applies to endurance training of any variety.
I truly believe that anyone can complete a marathon. No, not everyone can complete one fast. No, not everyone can run the entire thing. But pretty much everyone can train their bodies to complete 26.2 miles, whether it be running, walking, or wheelchair-ing (there’s got to be a different word for that, right?).
If you complete a marathon, you have what I like to call the “runner’s brain.” What does that mean? Well, in my opinion, it means the following:
- You have the ability to commit yourself to the pursuit of one goal for a long period of time – about 4 months – and not waver from it until you accomplish the goal.
- You have persevered even when you were tired, unmotivated, sick, or stressed.
- You have realized you are tougher than you thought.
- You’ve had the best run ever one day and the worst run ever the next.
- You have given up nights out, mornings slept in, happy hour, or maybe even a vacation because you had an 18 miler to do – and you were glad you did it.
- Although you probably wanted to rip up your training schedule every once in awhile, you didn’t.
- When everyone told you that you were crazy, you just smiled.
- When race day came, you put one foot in front of the other until you saw the finish line – and no one can take that moment away from you.
I have a very good friend who has talked pretty consistently about training for a marathon. She has run several half marathons, but she doesn’t really train for them – she does just enough running to survive them, never really working towards her potential, and she is content with that. When she approached me and said she wanted to run a marathon with me, I knew with 100% certainty that physically, she would be more than capable of completing the distance and doing it in a fairly respectable time. However, I was about 90% certain that this burst of enthusiasm and dedication to training would end about as quickly as it started, but I hoped she would prove me wrong.
As it so happens, I was right. She skipped 3 of the 4 scheduled runs during her first week of training because she had something else to do – a party to go to, Crossfit at the gym, a trip to the beach. Are all those things fun and valid? Sure. But it occurred to me that examples like this are what separates marathoners (or any distance athlete) from the rest of the population.
It’s not that we’re super human athletes. Most of us aren’t genetic freaks. We’re just dedicated to the pursuit of a sport we love. We’re committed. We have the Runner’s Brain.
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