The Ironman Distance and Marathons — What is the Appeal?

There are lots of questions out there that I struggle with — why do bad things happen to good people? How do dishonest people always seem to get ahead? And the classic, why is it that people sit on their couches for their entire lives and then complain about their deteriorating health as they edge closer to death?

I really am not sure about the answers to any of those. The question I get the most from people who are sedentary and even those who dabble in running and triathlon is “How do you go 140.6 miles in one day?” It is usually followed up with the classic, “Why do you do it?” They want to know what the feeling is like when you finish a tough workout or even when you cross the finish line at a long distance race — think marathon or Ironman.

These are two very different questions with two very different answers. No matter how sedentary you are and your level of inexperience in endurance sports (I don’t care if you can dribble a basketball or not), with the right amount of training, education, and experience you can complete an Ironman distance race. There are those who medically probably should shy away from them, but I know plenty of people who began their Ironman journey with heart problems and other health issues that should have stopped them from training. It may take you several years to train and get to the point that you build your fitness base to the point that Ironman training is a healthy endeavor for you, but you can do it.

The “How you go 140.6 miles” has a simple answer: You train. You follow a training and nutrition plan that either you have put together or you have gotten from a reputable source and you follow it so you can peak at the right time and go into your race injury free. The “How” is something that everyone has access to. You really don’t need any special tools outside of somewhere to swim, a bike, and running shoes. I think you could even get by without the running shoes if you play your cards right.

The “Why do you do it,” is a whole different question. I have talked about this in the past (HERE), and for me it is in the journey of arriving at a destination. As I have thought about this post and what I wanted to write, I began to think the why has more to do with trying to find what there is deep, deep down in my soul. When the going gets tough during a workout or race, do I have what it takes to regroup, recover, and restart? Can I find another gear when I am hurting from fatigue? When I am alone, do I like the company? If you really want to know the answers to these questions, you should schedule a race in 2011 that will test you and your meddle.

So if you run 5K’s or marathons, start thinking about a race or goal that will challenge you in 2011 now. The best time to do this is right now, at the end of the 2010 season. You know your fitness levels and your race results from this year and will know where your fitness levels will be in May 2011 if you train through the winter. Using the vision of the future you in 2011 and keeping in mind your goals, you can stay motivated to train through the winter.

So what is the appeal of endurance sports? For me it is having the ability to dig deep in my soul and like what I see there. The process of developing my inner self so that I like what is there is ongoing — I am not sure I will ever be satisfied with what I see. As there is always room for improvement, I like to think that my addiction to endurance sports and training will be lifelong.

To go from this guy on a cruise to Alaska in 1999 (240 lbs.) to…

This guy at the finish of Ironman St. George 10 years later in 2010 (170 lbs.)…

What is it that drives you to train? Why do you race?

About the Author

I have been participating in running and triathlons for 10 years and love the feeling that training provides. You may not agree with me, but you know you just can't look away...