The Pressure to Run a Marathon (And 5 Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Run One)

I should preface this post by saying that marathon running is awesome and great and I'm so supportive of everyone who runs marathons because it's an amazing thing to do. Completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment and teaches people about mental endurance and pushing themselves further than they believed they could go. I fully believe that running marathons is life changing. But...I have to talk about something controversial, even though it shouldn't be: I have no desire to run a full marathon. And I'm still a real runner.

Let me explain.

If you've spent any amount of time around other runners who live and breathe running, you will likely experience the pressure to run a full marathon. If you don't ever run a full marathon, you may feel as though you're not a "real runner" and like you're somehow less of a runner than your marathoning friends. I am here to tell you that this simply isn't the case.

The pressure to run a full marathon is a little awkward and uncomfortable sometimes. Runners, and athletes in general, are a special breed of people who love pushing their personal boundaries and testing their mental limits. I am one of these people and the mental fortitude it takes to run long-for-me distances is one of the reasons I love running.

Naturally, long-distance runners typically decide to conquer bigger and tougher distances as they progress in their running careers/relationships. I personally went from running three miles to five miles to eight miles to 13.1 miles several times! However, running a full marathon isn't "my thing." I applaud runners who run marathons and ultra marathons, but I just don't have a desire to do that. It's not because I'm lazy or because I don't think I can - I just have other goals.

If this is resonating with you or if you think I'm completely nuts, here are five legitimate reasons why you might not want to run a marathon, and why you're still a "real runner" even if you never conquer 26.2+ miles:

1. You don't have time: Marathon training is basically a part-time job. Long training runs are 20+ miles and your weekly mileage is going to be pretty high, which means lots and lots of time spent on the trails, streets and treadmill. If you have a lot of commitments outside of running that are important to you - whether that's your family, volunteer work, your hellish but rewarding work schedule, building a business, etc. - you may want to consider holding off on marathon training. Of course, constantly defaulting to the "I don't have time" excuse for not exercising is a bad habit, but marathon/ultra marathon training requires much more time commitment than training for a 5K, 10K or half marathon. If you're going to run a marathon, make sure you have the time to put into the training.

2. You have other fitness goals. This is the number one reason I don't want to run a full marathon in the foreseeable future. My fitness goals have nothing to do with adding distance, but have everything to do with getting stronger, faster, leaner and more flexible. I love running and have time goals, but those time goals are for the half marathon, 10K and 5K. I'm working on reducing my half marathon time now, but I want to run faster 5K and 10K times too. I also want to build muscle by spending time lifting heavy in the gym and get more flexible by incorporating additional yoga sessions. Marathon training will not allow me to pursue all of these goals because 98% of the time I have for working out will be spent running. If you have other fitness goals that you want to make a priority, you should probably hold off on training for a marathon.

3. You want to lose weight. Funny enough, a lot of people gain weight during marathon training. Don't believe me? Just Google "weight gain during marathon training." I'm not saying you will absolutely gain weight during marathon training because plenty of people shed a lot of weight training for marathons, but there's a good chance you won't lose much weight because of the additional calories needed to keep up with running all the miles.

4. Your body has trouble with long distances. Some people might disagree with me, but there are people who don't handle super long distances well. I'm one of those people (at this point). Besides injuries, which I'm confident I can overcome, my digestive system reacts poorly to really long distances to the point where I'll spend hours in the fetal position. This is the worst part of running for me and I'm still working to figure out how to combat my intestinal woes. If your body isn't ready to run a marathon, it's smart to stick with more manageable distances and focus on cross training to become a more well-rounded athlete.

5. You feel pressured to run a marathon. You should decide to run a marathon because it's a personal goal you have that has nothing to do with other people's expectations. If you never run a marathon, you are still a real runner. You are a real runner because you run (however, you're not a marathoner if you don't run a marathon, which is okay!). 

Obviously, completing a marathon can completely change someone's life because it's a physical and mental feat most people never experience. However, for everyone else who loves running but doesn't want to run a marathon, it's important to know that it's ok to stick with shorter distances and still call yourself a runner. I have freaky fast runner friends who've never run a full marathon OR a half marathon, and they are incredible runners. I also have friends who have run one marathon and decided they were done with that distance because they didn't enjoy it. I also have friends who love running marathons and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives. So, whether you are a sprinter, a 1-mile racer, a 5K conqueror, a 10K queen/king, a half-marathon connoisseur, a marathoner or an ultra-marathoner, you're a real runner and that's that.

So, will I *ever* run a full marathon? I don't know. Right now, I don't want to or feel the need to, but I'll still keep running all the miles and pursuing my other running goals!

Have you ever felt the pressure to run a marathon or been made to feel like you're a less-than runner because you've never tackled 26.2 miles? If so, share your experience below!