What drives people to run a half marathon?
When you’re mad enough to run a half marathon…
Tomorrow I will participate in the 33rd edition of the Cordoba half marathon. Crazy I know, who actually pays money to go through pain?? Well, tomorrow alone, a mere 8300 people. Thousands will form behind the start line ready to run their own story. What on earth drives people to voluntarily wake up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning, get into some sparse and flimsy racing gear (though it will be freezing cold) travel into the city centre, where of course it will be impossible to park. Head to the racing area, in a semi- trance as if hypnotised and hand all their most precious personal belongings (phone, purse, house keys and car keys) to a complete stranger who promises to store it carefully in an improvised locker room? Because honestly it sounds more than a little crazy to me and yet, despite knowing how loopy this sounds, I’ll find myself doing it in less than 24 hours.
Not only will I quite happily hand over my latest model on the market smart phone to a person I’ve never met before in my life, I will actually find myself talking to complete strangers too as if they are my life long buddies. We’ll share racing stories as proud as if they were war stories and compare injuries as if they were battle wounds. We’ll even end up talking about our loved ones as if we’re in a foreign land, miles from home…
And the more I think of it, if it was just me, I would admit that I’m more than a little peculiar, but 8300 people?? There has to be more….
- Running races can be a motivating and confidence – boosting experience.
- It will be thrilling. Crossing the finish line to a half-marathon (or any race distance) will give you a buzz of achievement and accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!
- Runners high is real. When you run, your body pumps out two powerful, feel good chemicals: endorphins and endocannabinoids.
- You’ll have a lifetime of bragging rights: While the half-marathon is growing in popularity, the number of people who’ve completed a half-marathon is still very small. Once you’ve crossed that half-marathon finish line, you’ll be joining an elite group of runners who can call themselves a half-marathoner. And you’ll have a medal to prove it too!
- Signing up to a race helps you stay motivated to run. There’s nothing like a dead line to keep you moving.
- You can support a cause. Many races benefit charities. Running for something bigger than you is a great way to stay motivated and can make your races even more meaningful and fulfilling.
So how about it, fancy giving it a go? With some structured training, completing a race can be a possibilty for many. (For some easy training tips, remember to sign up to my newsletter ). In fact most people that start the race tomorrow won’t actually be there to win the race (just as well really otherwise there’ll be 8298 very disheartened people crossing the finish line). They’ll be there to prove a point to themselves and perhaps to others that they could do it. Because, though it’s not a full marathon (and anyway who in the name of God would feel the urge to run the distance that killed the first person who ran it) 13.1 miles is not a distance to be sneezed at.
I for one consider myself a middle distance runner, someone who feels comfortable over 800m or perhaps 1500m. Tomorrow’s race is 21 x my comfortable running distance, so why push myself 21 times over?
My own personal story is that over the last two years, I’ve suffered from severe stomach cramp whenever I’ve gone for a long run.For the last two consecutive years I’ve finished this half marathon race bent double with pain. After several tests, I’ve been informed that I’m lactose intolerant and if it hadn’t actually been for these races I would perhaps never have realised this. As I have no intolerant symptoms in my normal daily routine, only when I push my body that little bit more, which only occurs in long distance running. So after seven months of being on a lactose free diet I will run tomorrow and if I just finish without pain, I will have actually won my own personal race.
So tomorrow on the start line, though I will get a sudden urge to pee just before the starter’s gun goes off, I will proudly stand, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people, of different ages, with different abilities, different ethnic back-grounds, different religions, but we will all be joined together under our communal passion to run. And this powerful unity at the start of the race only grows throughout the competition, as the miles fall away and we all get emotionally and physically drained we’ll end up giving comrade hugs, sharing out water and energy gels. Too exhausted to speak, letting actions communicate more than a thousand words ever could. The miles will humble you. Tomorrow, thanks to the support of the hundreds of volunteers, to the thousands of people who will flock to the streets to cheer us on, to the support of fellow athletes, 8300 dreams will come true tomorrow.
Unity, and peace to achieve a common goal. It doesn’t have to be running, but perhaps more people should try it…