The decision to take up a healthier life was an easy one for me. I was climbing up a flight of stairs and found that I was short of breath after the fourth step. Two days later, I was recovering in hospital from heart problems related to my weight.
I needed to lose weight and my ultimate goal was to run a marathon. Running a marathon is one of the most gruelling events that a budding runner can take part in. A half-marathon consists of 26.2 miles (or 42.2 kilometres) and requires a huge amount of training and mental preparation before competitors embark.
Every year thousands of people sign up to compete in marathons and either don’t end up competing or pull out during the race. Running a marathon might seem like a huge ask for people especially considering the stresses of work and parenting. However, the act of running and benefits that marathon training engenders mean that it will be an excellent decision.
Confidence gained from running will extend to the rest of your life
Parenting, working and a thousand and one other chores take up a lot of time in today’s world. Sometimes, health and fitness can slide to the wayside. Personally, training for a marathon was the impetus for my body to really start burning fat. Close friends and acquaintances alike are complimenting me on my new physique and this confidence can lead to numerous benefits throughout many facets of your life too.
Living a healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with running
Personally, choosing to run and lose weight kick-started a whole new mindset for me. I started educating myself on an assortment of nutrition and fitness related topics: What food is the best energy source for runners? Does stretching after runs help? How to avoid gastric distress on a long run? And I’m not kidding about that last one.
My wife was already a running enthusiast and she quickly became wrapped up in health discussions and opinions. It’s a great way to unwind and share your passions after a hard day’s work and parenting.
Friendships are a dime a dozen in the running world
Running exposed me to a whole new little subculture in my local area. Every day when driving to work I saw runners sweating it out throughout the day and night. Enthusiastic mums who love running will find that there are other people who share your stresses, passions and love for running.
During your marathon training and even during the race itself, you might become friends with one of these dedicated souls who’ll in turn introduce you to their friends and their friends until you find yourself swapping horribly inappropriate stories about gastric distress during a half marathon.
Running a marathon is a big deal and sometimes the distance can seem like an insurmountable goal, however, you will find out that you aren’t alone and you will gain a valuable group of friends who understand and accept your running obsession in a way your other friends never will.
"When you run and train for a marathon, you realise that there is no limit to what you can really accomplish given enough time and hard work."
Learning nutrition is a big deal
In the lead-up to my first marathon I was burning so many calories running every day that for the first time in my life I began to seriously consider the energy sources going into my body. You’ll find yourself borrowing nutritional books and losing yourself online searching for recipes and super-foods.
The propensity for sugary, processed foods to dominate many people’s diets is causing a huge obesity epidemic. By educating yourself on nutrition, you will be making sure that you don’t fall back to bad habits after the success of a marathon.
My pantry has become increasingly green and lean and I haven’t looked back since. This same commitment to healthiness will trickle into your family life illustrating that training for a marathon is a whole new level of running benefits that will increasingly infiltrate your life.
Don't be afraid to hit the gym
You shouldn’t be scared of hitting the gym and building up lean muscle mass for fear that it will harm your running ability. It is true that extra mass without function will inhibit endurance performance but if you design your weight lifting program properly, strength can be developed without useless bulk. In addition, lifting movements can provide a greater range of motion than running.
If you always remember to lift weights and keep good form throughout the entire range of motion then you will gain rather than lose flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Increasing and maintaining your existing muscle mass will increase the number of calories you are burning every hour.
Unforseen benefits of running
When I was training for my first marathon, I noticed that my work productivity improved drastically. My professional life was something I had half-heartedly coasted through but now, after running, I knew I had the determination and attitude to really improve myself in every walk of life.
You might find yourself improving professionally or picking up new hobbies. When you run and train for a marathon, you realise that there is no limit to what you can really accomplish given enough time and hard work.
I appreciated running as a holistic experience
Being a parent might not give you the time to admire the beauty of the natural world during the week but training for a marathon gives you an avenue to be alone with your thoughts.
Concentrating on my breathing and gait as I ran amidst the hustle and bustle of the world in my own little bubble of self-contemplation was a holistically healthy experience for my mind and body.
The true beauty of running for the purpose of losing weight or any other reason is that it becomes something more, something that infiltrates your life in way you never planned for.
Running a Marathon changed my life
I really can’t understate the benefits that successfully training for and finishing a marathon have had upon me. Immense discipline, self-confidence and a feeling of accomplishment are among the things that have stuck with me. However, the race never ends and I am already trying to improve my speed rather than distance now for my next race.
Being a mother is a full time commitment but that does not mean that you can’t have your own pursuits and goals, you can achieve your running goals and most importantly, have fun while you achieve them!
Article written by Alex Burns, passionate marathon runner and writer.