Mondays Column – Running On Empty 5.10.09

He looked wiry, well toned and fit.  Very, very fit.  I met him through a mate who had learned that I was going to attempt a marathon, “Hey!” he had said, “I know a marathon runner!”  Not long afterwards I met up with the Marathon Man, and was suitably impressed.  He was aged in his fifties, and didn’t have an ounce of fat on him.  Unlike the person who was standing in front of him

I wasn’t sure how to start discussing the ins and outs of long distance running,   so I started off with an easy question, “I hear you’ve done a few marathons then?” 

He nodded, “Yeah, I do at least one a year.  Are you interested in running too?” he asked.  I nodded eagerly, “Yep, I’ve set a goal to do the Gold Coast Marathon next year.” 

His eyebrows shot up and he took a moment to give me the once over, then shaking his head he took another, slightly longer look.  “Um,” he said eventually, “have you done much running?” 

“Nope!” I replied brightly.

“Do you have a training plan?  A coach?  Motivation of any kind?” he continued.


“Right.  So, why are you doing this?”

“I have no idea!  But it sounds like a lot of fun, and it’s given me something to aim for.” 

He nodded his head, gave me another ‘once over’ then sighed.  “Look,” he said, sitting down, and dragging me onto a nearby chair, “marathons aren’t easy, you’ll be pushed to the extreme limits of your physical and mental endurance, training for a marathon requires persistence and dedication, because when the going gets tough, and it will get tough, you’re going to need a very good reason to keep going.  Do you understand?”

I nodded keenly, “Yep, marathons are tough.” 

He rubbed his brow then asked, “So, why a marathon, why not something…” he searched for the right words, “less demanding, I mean, do you know how far a marathon is?” 

I knew the answer to this, “Forty two kilometres.  Oprah Winfrey ran one in four and half hours a few years ago.  I reckon if she could do it, then so can I!”

He smiled, “Well, let’s see,” he said, “from what I recall, Oprah had a team of professionals training her.  She had a running coach, a fitness coach, a personal trainer, and a motivational coach.  Her dietician provided nutritional foods to help her reach optimal running condition.  Whereas you,” he waved a hand vaguely in my direction, “have no experience, no coach, no plan, vague motivation, and, I’m going out on a limb here, no dietician either.  Is that right?” 

I nodded again, but this time I wasn’t smiling, “So, what are you saying, I can’t do it?” 

He shook his head, “No, but if you really want to get through this thing, then you’re going to need a lot more help.  With the right advice, the correct running equipment, some diet tips and a whole lot of luck, you might just pull this off.  Perhaps you should set your goal a little lower, maybe try for a half marathon, and see how you go?” 

“Half marathon eh?” I muttered, “Twenty-one kilometres, hmm.” 

“Look,” he said, standing up and offering his hand, “I’ll be happy to give you some advice and training tips, but” he said, looking me up and down again, “you’re going to need a lot more help than I can offer you.  Seriously, consider hiring a coach, or a personal trainer, marathon running is a lot harder than you think.” 

We shook hands and parted ways, and as I pedaled home I thought about what he had said.  Ok, so I wasn’t a joggers’ armpit, but on the bright side, after talking to one runner, I’d manage to halve my running distance… now that’s progress!

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