The biggest health benefits of marathon are that they keep you on a strict schedule, so you’re more likely to stick to training. Not to mention, they’re a great way to stay healthy and fit over a long term basis.
The marathon is a distance that puts you in a small minority of the population. Less than 1% of the population will run a marathon (some figures put this at 0.5% for the United States). And while the marathon is not for everyone, we truly believe that it’s do-able for most anyone who has the desire and is willing to work hard. But the marathon is also challenging enough that it’s important to put the time and energy into training properly. So, why run a marathon?
Why Run A Marathon?
The start of a New Year causes many of us to think about health and fitness related goals. And if you’re listening to this podcast there’s a good chance that one of your goals is to become a long distance runner this year or take your current level of running to the next level.
For some people running a marathon has been a long time goal and for other people it has been a natural progression as they’ve increased their fitness and want to challenge themselves. I’m sure many listeners have done a marathon at some point but then life got in the way and now they’re starting from the beginning again.
The reasons to run a marathon vary because each of us are different. We each have a unique set of life circumstances, personality traits and dreams for the future. Training for a marathon provides a big “payoff” or fulfillment factor. You will experience positive changes physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Whether you are a seasoned jogger who wants to work towards a new goal or a novice runner who is inspired by a friend’s accomplishment of winning a race, there are many personal reasons as to why you would want to train for and run in a marathon.
Sure, there are plenty of excuses not to run a 26.2-mile race. You may tell yourself it’s too hard and too far. You may be scared of getting injured and don’t want to lose toenails, deal with swollen feet, or experience constant soreness, so you talk yourself out of realizing your marathon dreams. But somewhere deep down you always go back to wondering what it would be like to put the effort into training for a marathon.
Although running a marathon can be a scary and painful endeavor, training for and running a race can offer a number of benefits for the body, mind, and soul. In fact, there are many reasons why you should run. Below are 26 reasons, one for every mile you’ll run in a marathon, for why you should start training now.
Marathon running offers both physical and mental health benefits. The physical benefits include losing weight, becoming fitter and eating better. Your heart beats more efficiently and in time you manage to achieve a reduction in basal heart rate that translates into less work done more efficiently by the heart. In a nutshell, with all the above benefits of marathon you will lead a longer and healthier life.
The Health Benefits of Marathon Training
Increased Cardiovascular Capacity
Training for a half marathon requires gradual building of mileage and speed, prolonged running and commitment to fitness. Constantly improving fitness will improve the body’s ability to take on greater mileage, lower blood pressure, and improve overall heart health. The training runs required for a half marathon push the body to the perfect limits for maintaining a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.
Weight Loss And Calorie Burning
Training for a half marathon requires logging a lot of miles, which will turn you into a calorie-burning machine. The distance of 13.1 miles is not one that should be undertaken without preparation – it requires at least 8 weeks of training once a strong base is established. This will definitely burn calories and improve muscle tone.
Motivation To Train
While some runners can race a short distance like a 5K with little or no training, most would have a tough time trying to get through a half marathon with no preparation. So having a half marathon on your calendar will keep you motivated to stick to your training schedule.
Cardiovascular And Immunity Increases
Exercise is one of the best ways to naturally reduce your blood pressure if it’s above normal and it can help keep high cholesterol in check. Running also improves your immune system, so your body functions are more effective and efficient at fighting off germs.
Your Heart Is Younger Now
Running a marathon for the first time can reverse some of the key markers of ageing by four years, according to a study by University College London (UCL). Novice runners who tackled the distance experienced a significant reduction in artery stiffness and blood pressure, which cuts their chances of heart attacks and strokes. ‘Our study shows it is possible to reverse the consequences of aging on our blood vessels with real-world exercise in just six months,’ said senior author Dr Charlotte Manisty, a senior lecturer at UCL.
You Will Become A Calorie-Burning Machine
For most people, the biggest reason why they start training for marathons is to become fitter. If you feel unmotivated by the confining walls of your gym, running in the open air can be just the fix you need. Running a marathon can burn up to 2,600 calories in a single race! Training for a marathon can be strenuous, but when you have beautiful views surrounding you, it becomes a lot easier to bear.
Benefits for Your Physical Health
- Improved overall health: Running regularly strengthens your heart by increasing your VO2 max (aerobic capacity) and helping keep your blood pressure and high cholesterol at healthy levels. It also improves your immune system and increases muscle strength. In addition, longer runs push your body to strengthen fast-twitch fibers in the muscles to combat fatigue and build strength and power.
- Better sleep: Marathon training can be exhausting. Your body will crave sleep, since it repairs itself while you’re resting. You’ll find yourself getting to bed earlier and sleeping more soundly.1
- Better fitness: Marathon training challenges even the fittest athletes. If you’re not in good shape (or the best shape of your life) by the time you reach the starting line, your training may have been lacking.
- Toned legs: Weight loss is often a goal of marathoners-in-training but, as many discover, it doesn’t always happen. Although you may not lose a lot of weight, logging all those miles will absolutely increase your lean muscle mass and tone your legs.
- Guilt-free massages: Marathoners-in-training tend to get tight muscles, and regular massages can help you feel comfortable and stay injury-free. Treat yourself to a massage or two during your training to help relieve some of that tightness.
- Room for extra calories: During your very long runs, you’ll be burning thousands of calories, so it’s OK to be a little indulgent after. You will be hungry, after all. You can run hard, and celebrate hard.
Benefits of Marathon for Your Mental Health
- Stress reduction: Research suggests that running in times of stress helps you better handle life’s challenges by increasing your mental resilience.3
- A new outlook: This well-known maxim says it all: “The person who starts a marathon is not the same person who finishes a marathon.” You are sure to be a different person at the finish line because you’ll forever know that you have the mental and physical strength to persevere, even during times when you think you can’t and won’t succeed.
- Inspiration: Whether it’s the double-amputee wheelchair racer, the 73-year-old grandmother running her 35th marathon, or your own kids holding “We love you!” signs, you’ll find some inspiration around every turn.
- Improved motivation: You can’t get away with not training when it comes to a marathon, so having one on your calendar will keep you motivated to stick to your training schedule. On days when your motivation is lacking, you’ll think about how you’ll feel if you’re undertrained, can’t finish, or have to cancel and find the strength train anyway.
Personal of Marathon Benefits
- Self-confidence: Tackling the training runs and eventually the marathon distance helps put other challenging things into perspective. You’ll come away knowing that you can achieve a lot more than you previously thought. Long distance running can start feeling like a secret super power.
- Head space: Running long increases resilience and improves mental clarity. Running can become a passion, not just exercise. It can be a place where you find peace, solitude, have time to think, and are able to work through negative emotions.
- Improved health: Some of the many benefits of marathon training include a stronger heart and lungs; more defined leg, glute and stomach muscles; better posture; possible weight loss; increased strength and endurance; better fitting clothes and more energy. Many people find that as they train it’s a catalyst for reducing or eliminating negative behaviors like smoking, excessive alcohol intake, and overeating junk food. You might add years to your life. But you’ll most certainly add life to your years.
- New heroes: You’re very likely to come across some amazing people during training and the marathon. There are runners overcoming some huge challenges that just might put a lump in your throat, tears in your eyes and a smile on your face. Many of the people I admire the most are those who I’ve come in contact with through running.
- Integrate: Become more at home where you live. Running has taken me down streets, roads and trails that I would never have explored if I wasn’t a runner. The quest to find interesting and unique running routes for trail runs, speed work and long runs really opens up the area that you live to exploration. There’s a special high to discovering a “new” (to you) running route.
- Running gear: For people who like to accessorize you’ll now have a great excuse to purchase that GPS watch you’ve been wanting, stockpile some awesome running shoes, and buy attractive and functional sweat wicking running clothes.
- Goal achievement: As we get older many of the “firsts” in life are behind us. It’s not like we can (or want to) go back to our high school graduation or the birth of our first baby. Going the marathon distance for the first time is a very special moment and something you’ll probably remember the rest of your life. It will help you realize that there are probably other “firsts” or hobbies that are now within your reach as well.
- Emotional payoff: People who run are often happier because of the release of endorphins (or feel good chemicals) in their brains, also known as the runner’s high. This results in a feeling of well-being, lowers stress levels, increases self-esteem, and improves mood.
- Heightened senses: There’s something about long distance running that sharpens your senses. Smells, sights, sounds and tastes become all the more distinct. As I run I often take vivid pictures with my eyes (but you can do this on your phone too). The scent of a forest or bacon cooking really gets your attention. Plus, the food you eat post-long run or marathon is going to taste so amazing.
- Because you can: The most important reason to run a marathon is for you. It’s all about challenging yourself and personally experiencing all the benefits that long distance running has to offer. When you train for a marathon for yourself it enables you to become more proud of yourself.
Social Benefits of Marathon
- Friendships: Make new friends whether in person or online. Running puts you in contact with a community of active, healthy and goal oriented individuals and breaks down the barriers between people. Even some of the short-term interactions I’ve had during marathons are special memories that I cherish to this day.
- Inspiration: Taking on the marathon challenge is very likely to inspire other people in your life to get healthier and challenge themselves.
- History: You get to tap in to an amazing history of long distance runners. Our bodies are uniquely built to accommodate long distance running. When you run long distance there’s a sense of tapping into something truly primal.
- Travel: A marathon can be a great way to explore new places. That may be a trail system nearby, a country road, or a state or country you’ve never visited before.
- Explore: Be a tourist on foot. There’s a unique perspective that you get by running through the streets of a city, or past unique architecture, or through amazing natural settings. Somehow this just can’t be replicated by whizzing by in a car. Plus, during a race the streets are often closed down so you don’t have to battle traffic.
- Supported exercise: How frequently in life do we get to have complete strangers cheering for us, or handing us water, gels, candy, and petroleum jelly? Plus, the end result is getting a medal placed around your neck. A marathon is a way to feel like a mini celebrity for the day.
- Do good: Raise money for a great cause. Training for a marathon can be a wonderful way to shine light on a charity or cause that is important to you.