I don't own a TV and if I am around one, I don't watch much. I'm either running or sleeping. I get my entertainment from social media. And laughing at myself. I have watched a few episodes of a certain show called The Biggest Loser. In fact I wrote about it in the spring of 2010 after watching the contestants run a marathon. On 30 days of training. To say I was livid was a understatement.
Last night I was browsing my Twitter stream (when I should have been sleeping) and saw mentions of the show. Apparently the contestants had to run a marathon.
Now before you send me hate mail, let me state these few things:
A) I applaud anyone for running a marathon
B) I am happy to see people moving
C) I am thrilled that people are getting excited about healthy living
So, with that being said, let me now explain why I have issues with the show (not to be confused with running, marathoning, eating right, etc).
A marathon- 26.2 miles- is not a distance to take lightly. It will humble a Navy Seal in a heart beat. The show gives an unrealistic picture that you can run a marathon on 30 days of "training". And by 2 trainers who have NEVER run a marathon. And from my research, not even a half marathon.
While I am a big believer in positive thinking, I am not a believer of stupidity. Running a marathon takes hard work. Dedication. Getting up when you want to punch the alarm clock. Or silently praying that your running partner won't show up so you can snuggle up on the couch with a cup of coffee & watch TV with your eyes shut.
Respect the marathon distance. There is no shame in training for it. Or making it a goal in one, two or perhaps three years. Should you put it off forever? Hell no! But if you are two days old to running, perhaps a long-term goal of running a marathon is the SMART choice for you. Have people run a marathon on zero "running life"? They have. But I would caution that this is probably not the best idea for the general public.
Running a marathon doesn't make you a better person than your neighbor. It doesn't mean that since you've run one, you can now check that off your list and eat Lemon Drop Ganache Cupcakes for the rest of your life. It means running for the rest of your life or as long you can. Or always moving and staying active in some capacity.
What is your motivation to run a marathon? Is it to be healthy? Set a positive example to your kids/others? Is it to drop 100 pounds? Or are you trying to prove to others that you can do it? For money? For fame? Run a marathon for YOU. No one else.
The integrity of the marathon is lost. While I am over-the-moon giddy that people are running and signing up for marathons, I caution people to be smart when embarking on the marathon journey. And yes, it is a journey. You wouldn't sign up to bake the next King & Queen wedding cake (yes, that is in reference to Prince William and Kate Middleton) when you have NEVER baked in your life before, why would you run a marathon when you have never run before?
Whatever your reason for tackling a 26.2 race, remember these few things.
Running a marathon won't make you shed weight like you see on TV. If you are obese, you will shed weight. Fat is easy to shed. Especially if you have been sedentary for a loooooooong time. Yes, running will help you lose weight, no question. But many people with a little weight to lose, find that they gain. Yes, that is true. You are running 20-30 miles, you need to fuel properly for it. So, you may gain weight. Use running as a weight-loss tool, not a toolbox.
Running a marathon requires dedication, a plan and a coach. And not a coach who has run a handful of 5k's. Not someone who promotes diet pills. By a certified running coach. By someone who understands running, nutrition, hydration, etc. By a coach who leads by example, not demanding, shouting, intimidating . (And yes, I am an RRCA certified running coach.)
A marathon is not a sprint, its a way of life. Work your way up to a full 26.2 miles. Run a few 10k's, a 10 miler, a half marathon (13.1 miles). Build your base! You will be more successful when you toe the start line of a marathon.
A marathon is not a pretty slice of cake. But when you cross that finish line, its the best sugar high you will ever have.
Want to run a marathon? AWESOME!!! But please be smart and don't be fooled by what you see on TV. Its not real life.
Sarah Stanley is a professional endurance athlete and runs marathons as training runs. She is passionate about running, living an active life and helping others achieve their goals & coaching new (and old) runners. Sign up for her monthly, FUN newsletter here.
Photo by: hfb