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At mile 13, I felt a little too fatigued; at 15 my body started to sputter; at 19 the wheels fell off. My calves seized up and my vision narrowed as I slowed to a shufﬂe, scraping my feet along the street. After crossing the finish line, I lay curled in a ball on the sidewalk for two hours before I could muster the energy to take the subway home.
The experience of running the New York City Marathon remains one of the most salient of my life—but in terms of marathon stories, it’s not impressive. In fact, it’s pretty boring. Just about anyone who has a marathon or two under her belt can tell a similar tale.
Racing 26.2 miles is incredibly difficult—some people say it takes a special sort of crazy to sign up. But on that start line in New York, I was joined by 40,000 other runners. Last year, there were more than 541,000 marathon finishers in the United States alone.
So aside from the promise of pure agony, what’s the big appeal? To be honest, I’m not sure. I have a hard time pinning down exactly why I enjoy marathons, so it’s tough to rationalize why half a million others would feel the same way.
However, I can more successfully explain what I gain from the race. Completing something hard voluntarily makes it easier to get through uncomfortable situations I don’t anticipate—whether that means dealing with a family issue or a challenge at work.
Even disastrous races become a source of strength. Every marathon finish for me is a little weapon I can store in my back pocket to wield when I need it most. Of course, you don’t have to run 20-plus miles to tap into inner strength. Your “marathon” could be a fast mile or a mountain climb. Still—and I know I’m biased—I think it’s a worthy goal to try at least once.
If you are interested in testing out your 26.2-mile stamina, we will help you get there with fueling plans, training schedules and racing tips. So why not give it a go? You might discover you have a few secret weapons in your arsenal—and you never know when you’ll need to be ready for battle.