Why You—Yes, You!—Should Run a Marathon

I was one week out from running my second marathon when it happened. I shit my pants. This is, of course, one of the great fears of any marathoner (and why you see signs on seemingly every course saying “don’t trust a fart”).  In the process of pushing your body to run 26.2 miles, it might push back—in some cases, by locking up your quads, or, in more devastating instances, by releasing your bowels. Fortunately, when gastrointestinal revenge came for me, it wasn’t on the big day, in front of thousands of people, but alone on what should have been a casual eight-mile tune-up, eight days before. It was also the morning after the first night of a wedding weekend, in which I’d had more than a handful of boozy IPAs.

Which begs the question: Why didn’t I just sleep it off and skip the run? I had 13 of 14 weeks of training behind me, and was already well into the “taper” (the final three-week period leading up to the marathon where, after increasing your mileage for most of training, you run less and less to let your body fully recover). It was early October, and I’d run 301 miles since July. Another eight was not going to make a difference. But the truth is that when I ran my first marathon, about three years ago, I learned a powerful lesson, which is that completing a marathon is not easy, but it is simple—and it basically all comes down to consistency.

If running 26.2 miles sounds bonkers to you, it did to me, too. Growing up, running was mostly a way to stay in shape for sports, or a form of punishment during practice for said sports. But, in 2018, on the cusp of turning 30 and feeling totally fine, not at all panicked, and in no need of proving I wasn’t washed, I decided to try to run the New York City marathon. This is when I discovered the delightfully appealing—and somewhat addicting—linear progress that is marathon training. It is one of the few things in life where you get out exactly what you put in. You find a program, you stick to it, day after day, week after week. Three months later, if you have the good fortune of staying healthy, you find yourself, miraculously, running farther than you ever thought you might. It’s a powerful experience. So when Nike reached out to me earlier this summer to ask if I wanted to be on their media team for the Chicago marathon, I said yes, thank you, I’ll have another. And when the training program they designed (specifically, by incredible Nike run coaches and delightful humans Rebeka Stowe and Jes Woods) said that I should drag my hangover out of bed that morning, that’s exactly what I did. (Though I can attest that both coaches would probably have advised me to listen to my body instead.)

Now, I know that there are few things more obnoxious than a marathoner evangelizing about running a marathon, and that being the guy who pooped his pants does not put me in a position of authority. With that aside, let me say: if you’re considering it, and maybe even if you’re not, you should definitely run a marathon. Every person I’ve talked to who has done it—and again, we love to talk about it, so it’s a rather large sample size—has been changed by it. But, as I learned my second time around, you’ll be even more deeply changed by it if you have access to proper coaching (and gear, and a training plan). So ahead of this weekend’s New York City marathon, I wanted to share some of the things that helped me in my second marathon in Chicago that I wish I’d known when I’d run my first. My hope is that they might help you, whether you want to run a marathon or not.

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