Marathon participation numbers leave no doubt. Running has become a huge trend throughout the world. Finishers of races – including five and ten kilometer runs, half marathons, and marathons – exceeded 13 million in 2012; and that in the U.S. alone! There are over 500 marathons held in 69 countries on all seven continents with the majority of competitors being recreational athletes. What is it that motivates these masses to run the incredible distance of 42.195 kilometers?
“I had run for three years, two months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” Forrest Gump’s decision to go for a run turns into an across-the-United-States-marathon. Of course, this is a very extreme and unrealistic – and probably somewhat unhealthy – form of running. However, Forrest simply cannot stop. He admits that the coast-to-coast marathon was his way to literally leave the past behind. Even though this is a pretty philosophical view on the reasons why Forrest ran, millions of people can identify with the fascinating and addictive nature of running. And they probably do not run to commemorate the distance covered by Greek soldier and messenger Pheidippides from the battle of Marathon to Athens.
According to the Berlin Marathon’s official website, 34,377 runners reached the finish line last year. The world’s most popular race – the New York City Marathon – had an increase from roughly 36,000 applicants in 2005, to more than 47,000 runners, who signed up for 2012. Due to Hurricane Sandy, however, the race was cancelled for the first time in its 42-year history. But where do these enormous numbers come from? College graduate and Inaugural Ashville Marathon runner Taylor Coughlin (23) from Colorado remembers: “I needed to set a big goal for myself, and a marathon was the perfect thing.” As recreational runner you more or less run for yourself – and maybe for some squirrels you encounter on your way. Setting a goal and having the feeling of accomplishing something that other people do not, is probably the number one motivation to sign up for a race.
Recreational runners dedicate their free time to the sport for different reasons. Some might have started in order to lose weight; some simply want to support their already healthy lifestyle. Whatever the reasons are to lace up, in this sport each individual has their own goals they can build on. And the good thing is: running does not require special conditions. Your talent, your gender, your age, or physical appearance do not matter – besides influencing your speed. Once you start running you will notice your progress. And building on progress has no limits.
Runners often say that they have become addicted. That they just have to run – no matter what. Coughlin, who runs 24 to 40 kilometers per week, says that “running has given me an identity I am proud of. It has taken my confidence and self-esteem to new levels, which have improved every other aspect of my life.” The urge to go for a run presents a healthy balance to people’s daily routine of work, or university schedules, you name it. Their addiction to hit the road is a healthy on: research shows that running helps to decrease the risk of a heart attack, is a stress-reliever, and increases bone density. Other surveys also reveal that adults who run on a regular basis are generally happier than those who do not exercise. This explains the addictive potential that runners often experience. For university graduate Coughlin the health factor is a significant motivator: “When I think about people who are unable to exercise, it makes me appreciate my ability and my health. I usually feel ‘guilted’ into working out after that.”
To participate in a marathon requires thorough preparation. During peak training for races, Coughlin runs 48 to 70 kilometers per week. This is double the distance of her usual exercise. To further strengthen her muscles she added cross-training, like yoga and cycling, to her work-out. Training schedules offered by specialists are a good way to help you get started with the exercises. There are numerous books, websites or running magazines that offer a great deal of tips and recommendations on a basic program for you to prepare for a marathon. The 23-year old, who is training to run her second marathon, suggests: “A book on marathon running gives you insight into diet, stretches, and how to train overall.”
Getting started with running is not easy. You will feel everything from happiness to frustration, excitement to disappointment; it is exhausting and sometimes even painful. However, once you notice that your hard work starts paying off you will experience what experts call the “runner’s high”, a euphoric, calm, and clear state of mind after a long run. And if you really do want to run a marathon, here is the best part: unless you are one of the top three, the medal you receive at the finish line is identical for everyone. It says “finisher” on the back and leaves competitors as happy and emotional than in no other sport. So lace up and run.
Vorschau: Zusammenfassung der ersten CL-Halbfinal Begegnungen und Vorschau auf die kommenden Partien