Enough already! Has your Twitter feed been flooded with #tcsnycmarathon news? Have your Facebook and Instagram accounts been dominated by finish line photos from the Chicago marathon? Why do runners feel the need to share so much?
Runners are a bunch of over-achieving, energetic, positive thinkers who want nothing more than to recruit you to become a better version of yourself by becoming more like them. Wait. That didn't sound very good, did it? Let's try that again. Runners know the rewards of becoming a fit and healthy and want to help others find the same joy in living an active lifestyle. That's better.
We love to share our running goals and achievements in hopes of finding encouragement along the way, or possibly inspiring others to chase their own dreams. Nothing shines brighter on the mantel of running rewards than the marathon finisher's medal. It is the pinnacle of racing achievement for the road runner. (There's the ultra crowd, but let's face it, they're fanatics that live on the lunatic fringe.)
Let's consider the road to the marathon. It begins with the gateway race, the 5k. It quickly escalates in terms of both time and money to the half marathon. After a few successful races at 13.1 the average runner starts to consider the remote possibility of someday running in a full marathon. You think your hear condescension in the voices of your friends when they say, "Congratulations! That's a long way."
Soon, you begin to notice all the marathon articles, the marathon training plans, the marathon mentions on your social feeds, and you take the critical next step. You visit the website of a major marathon. Now, you've crossed the line. There's no going back once you have started to plan out your travel logistics, race expenses, and the feeling of crossing the finish line with your arms raised in victory!
If you decide to enter one of the big marathons that dominate the headlines in the fall and spring seasons, you have an added layer of comfort and security, the marathon lottery. You can sign up and maybe not get in. What? You're committing to running a marathon, but at the same time, leaving it up to fate. It kind of takes the pressure off.
Lottery day! You wait anxiously as announcements are sent to the lucky runners. Just when you think fate has determined you're not worthy, your bank account gets hit and an email arrives with confirmation of your marathon registration. Yes! No! Aaaagh. It's time to have a serious conversation with your spouse. Life as you know it is about to change. Your hobby is about to become a lifestyle. Tweet about your goals and let the world applaud your decision.
Months of training and more miles than you can count come and go over the next 16-20 weeks. You learn more than you ever wanted to know about blisters, hydration, fueling, foam rolling, stretching, carbohydrates, and your own mental fortitude. The long runs tax your mind and body to the point of fatigue almost every weekend. You miss your child's soccer game to complete a training run. You pass on late nights with your friends. Pick-up basketball games are suddenly too dangerous. You've become a running diva. Let the world know by posting your workout details to Facebook.
Race day approaches and your training plan calls for a reduction in mileage. This period is known as the taper. It's designed to build strength and confidence while topping off your body's reserves in preparation for the upcoming race. But, taper madness soon sets in causing you to question your readiness, sanity, and level of fitness. Now, more than ever, you need the encouragement and wisdom of your peers. If only you knew the right hashtag to get their attention...
The week before the race is a time for research and planning. What to wear? What to eat? Where to go? The Internet will answer all of your questions. In fact, if you look around long enough you'll find the answer you were hoping for, if not the correct one. Time to scan the feeds and click on any promising links that might help you in your upcoming race. Run with a penny under my tongue until mile 7? Yes, I think I will. Thank you, Internet.
Race day arrives. You take pictures of the hotel room, pictures at the start, and of course pictures at the finish. You document everything so that you can relive this glorious achievement in vivid detail. Surely, your friends on Instagram will be impressed, and the pictures will make your race recap come alive!
The marathon is a humbling experience. Every runner knows that they have accomplished something truly significant when they complete their race. During the last few miles of the race, when the walls close in and your world becomes very small, it's just you vs. you. Finishing the race is proof of your spirit and grit, your willingness to suffer and persevere through physical exhaustion unlike anything you've ever known. When you cross the finish line, you are a changed person. You are a marathoner.
Now, isn't that worth at least 143 characters?
You can read more from Jason at SaltmarshRunning.com.