Posted by: David Stewart | August 13, 2012

Why I Run the Marathon

Prompted, I suspect, by the Olympic Men’s Marathon race, one of my daughters stated today on Twitter that running marathons is a mystery:

I don’t understand the marathon. Or marathoners. WHY would someone want to run that long? Sorry @davest #naturallylazy

I suppose there are as many reasons as there are marathoners. Here are a few of mine:

  • “Running that long” might actually be consistent with our physical structure. One of the fascinating theses of “Born to Run” suggests that our ancestors ran to chase down food as a village, as a community. Running that long, and longer, is probably one of the most natural things we can do.
  • But our ancestors also rested whenever they had abundant food and stored up fat in their bodies for lean times. If there are no lean times, then the fat just accumulates. Laziness has its downsides in the medical effects of obesity, many of which don’t show up until a bit later in life. I am #naturallylazy as well, unfortunately.
  • I heard a quote last week that to excel in the marathon you need to have a tolerance for suffering. I also had a coach who conceded that my many years of marathons proved that I had the mental toughness to run long. There is something about the marathon distance which builds in us a willingness to hang in there when things go south. Of course, there are times when it is foolish to continue (like when there is a serious injury) but simple unpleasantness or discomfort should be no barrier to succeed.
  • As a #naturallylazy person, I need the discipline of training for a long race to get myself out there. Otherwise, it’s just too easy to sleep in or skip a run.

Just a few that come to mind …



  1. I get asked the same thing about Football, especially as I coach (and used to play) a different kind of football than people are typically expecting. I don’t recall when I first heard the speech but at such times I’m always reminded of a passage in the famous speech that JFK gave at Rice to kick start the space race and the mission of putting a man on the moon.

    “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

    We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

    To organise and measure the best of our energies and abilities – at the end of the day there is a great sense of accomplishment from completing something that required the best of our energies and abilities. We learn a great deal about ourselves in taking on such challenges – that self knowledge is instructive in itself and can be a great source of strength when we get challenges not of our own choosing.

  2. Wow! I never knew that quote had the association with football. Thanks for sharing it. Guess I will work more on my personal moon shot.

  3. […] Read Dave’s blog for more details and think about how you would answer the question… why do YOU marathon? […]

  4. I love this blog entry – especially this sentence: “There is something about the marathon distance which builds in us a willingness to hang in there when things go south.”

    I am running my first marathon in December because for the first time post-divorce, I won’t have my kids for the holidays. I needed a goal with which to occupy myself. Plus, my mom passed away last year after suffering a massive heart attack though she was thin as a rail; she was a long-time sufferer of Rhuematoid Arthritis.

    I choose to live a healthy, active, happy and hopefully, long life and running is the key. It keeps me healthy, produces endorphins which help keep me positive, and affords me the time to think, process things and just enjoy the outdoors. And it helps me work off the wine I also enjoy. đŸ™‚

  5. Nice comments, Shannon! With that kind of commitment I’m sure you will succeed. And don’t discount the health benefits of red wine… đŸ™‚

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