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The joys and challenges of long distance running

Posted at 4:30 PM, Mar 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-09 16:30:30-05

I’m three days away from running the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in Washington, D.C., my second full marathon. I have a cut on one of my left toes, a black toenail on my right foot and I’m wondering if those mojitos I consumed over the weekend were a good idea (H2O is a distance runner’s best friend!) I still couldn’t be more excited to tackle 26.2 miles again, though I might wonder why a few times throughout the course of the race.

Running is a time-consuming, sometimes painful past time, but I am addicted.

While I’ve always tried to stay active, I never thought of myself as an athlete. I was a small kid who was usually picked last in gym class and had no interest in team sports.  I started running on the treadmill to stay in shape once I got older, but didn’t consider myself a real runner until I signed for the Annapolis Ten Mile Run on a whim a few years ago.

I trained all summer, got up really early on a warm August day to race 10 miles, and figured if I didn’t die doing that, I could totally do a half-marathon (13.1 miles). After a few half-marathons, I decided I was ready to go the full distance, which I did during the Pittsburgh Marathon last May.

I enjoy the physical accomplishment of running long distances—running more than 26 miles is no easy feat, and there really is no feeling like finishing a marathon. Everything hurts, but you feel like a champion. Or at least I do.

Runner’s World’s list of 11 thoughts every runner has after finishing a marathon says it all.

More than that, though, I appreciate the mental benefits of running.

Because running is as much mental as it is physical. You get to a point when you’re running 17, 18, 20 mile training runs on the weekends and sometimes you just want to quit. It’s up to you to push yourself forward anyway.

(The same can be true for shorter distances, by the way. There are days when six miles can feel like 15.)

As cheesy as it may sound, distance running can be a good metaphor for life. Sometimes it really sucks and you want to give up, but you keep on going despite that. I like to think that the mental fitness—not to mention the discipline it takes to follow an intense training plan for five months—has benefited me in other areas of my life as well. 

While this blog won’t be completely devoted to running, I plan to share my tips and experiences training for races as well as other ways I attempt to stay fit. And I’d love to hear yours! Drop me a line at allison.bourg@wmar.com.