One does not simply… run a marathon

Recently, running magazines, both on- and off-line, have been buzzing with articles about “the easy marathon”: The guys from published a marathon training schedule with 14k as the longest distance you’ll run in it. And then there was this Dutch student who ran the Athens marathon with close to no preparation at all (although he did “run a 30k training and was exhausted afterwards”). So this morning, before work, I decided to run a marathon as a training for the ultrawarmathon. Just like that.

But let’s add some perspective to these facts too: The student in fact, the 18-year-old Jouke Rijpkema, was quite sporty to begin with and eventually finished his marathon in about 5h30 (Dutch article here). Not exactly a time to be overly proud of with all due respect for his effort and all those who run their marathons in similar times. I’m going to guess he was close to falling apart towards the end of the race. The guys at “sportrusten” (dutch article here) can probably indeed run a marathon with little more than 14k runs in the weeks leading up to their marathon and probably found some other runners who their schedule worked for. But they probably all had a very reasonable shape to begin with and a very favourable physique. And the goal clearly was “finishing a marathon”. No more, no less (editorial note below!). And me? Well, even though I didn’t train for that Wednesday-evening marathon in particular, I think it’s fair to say that I train for it all the time and over time I’ve come to a point where I am ready for a marathon at any given time.

In the end, I’m convinced that running a marathon, like every major endeavour in sports, comes at a price. You can pay it up front by working towards it properly which will make the marathon at least somewhat enjoyable (although there’s no such thing as a guarantee here). With a decent training schedule, based on a reasonable shape to begin with, I’m convinced that everyone can run a marathon and not be sore for a week afterwards (in fact, I rambled about this earlier). This way, the marathon does not have to be a suffer fest. There is no need for tunnels with light at the end of them, vomiting parties and what not.

The alternative is paying the price on marathon day itself. There are plenty of people who claim running a marathon helped them to get to know themselves better, spiritual experiences and what not. It’s easy to mistake light-headedness, seeing black dots & palpitations for such spiritual experience. In truth, it’s just your body asking you to “please prepare better next time”.

Of course, every now and then you’ll hear one of those stories of people who kind of beat the system. Who ran a marathon with little or no training and were just fine. These people often fall in one of a few groups:

  • The ones that train more then they say
  • The ones that do a lot of sports anyway and therefore already have a very decent shape.
  • Those lucky few that just have the perfect physique and could probably do tons better if they’d prepare properly.

So don’t let anyone mess with your mind. Don’t feel bad if you worked hard for that marathon. Or don’t let them trick you into neglecting your training schedule. The marathon comes at a price. It’s up to you to decide how and when you’re going to pay.


EDITORIAL: Maarten from Sportrusten informed me that, as I presumed, the training method does require you to be in a good shape and not overweight to begin with. It’s more ambitious than “just finishing” too. As Maarten says, it’s “not for the bucket-list” runners. Maybe I misinterpreted the article, or maybe the article misinterpreted the guys from sportrusten. But the point remains and I guess Maarten’s reaction shows that we’re on the same page on this subject. Thanks Maarten! Fixed the links by the way 😉

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