As I'm writing this, my legs are still recuperating from the Sundown Marathon in Singapore. Together with thousands of other runners, I braved the heat, heavy rain and thunderstorm to complete a 42km race from midnight to dawn.
The experience was not entirely pleasant but tremendously satisfying.
After not running a full marathon for six months, last weekend's race was a great reminder of how gruesome a marathon can be.
As I endured the pain in my legs on the final few kilometres, consuming every single drop of energy that I had left, one phrase echoed in my head: "Respect the distance".
Although I enjoy all my marathon experiences, I am not going to lie. The distance - 42.195km - is indeed a long way to run and tough if your body is not ready for the task.
Never underestimate what those kilometres can do to you and the demands they place on your body.
I am, by no means, a good or an experienced marathoner. In fact, I'm just an average middle-packer who's not in any position to provide marathon guidance to anyone.
Nevertheless, I feel obliged to convey one important message to those who are thinking of attempting a full marathon for the first time: Respect the distance. It is the best marathon advice I have received.
Prepare to run
PREPARE TO RUN
The marathon distance is daunting enough to mandate disciplined preparation and commitment. When I decided to take on the challenge of running my first marathon, I spent a considerable amount of time thinking about a few important things, some of which I would like to share with you.
1. How long have I been running?
The last thing I wanted to do was jump right into marathon training when I was not ready as I could end up injured or burned out. By the time I decided to commit for a marathon, I had been running for more than a year and maintaining an average of about 30km per week for several months. I believed that a good base was a requisite to prepare my body to handle my marathon training.
2. Do I have time to train?
Training for a marathon is a very time consuming task, especially in the last month. Most training plans are four to six months long and suggest that we run three to six times a week, gradually building your mileage up week by week.
As I would be dedicating several hours a week for long runs and making it a norm to spend my Saturdays or Sundays running 20km or more, I had to make sure that time commitment was something I was prepared for. That included saying goodbye to Friday night parties, as I needed to be fully awake on Saturday mornings.
3. Why do I want to run a marathon?
About one year before I signed up for my first full marathon, I had lost someone who was very close to me. Running my first marathon was my way of paying tribute to our friendship. I wanted to run the race in his memory. That very reason kept me going all the way to the finish line.
Ask yourself why
ASK YOURSELF WHY
I suppose the greatest question to ask yourself before deciding to run a marathon is, "why?" The answer can be the key motivator to your marathon training. The bottom line is, you can't be indecisive when it comes to a marathon. You've got to truly want it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, running a marathon is not something you decide out of the blue. It is not to be done on the spur of the moment.
You must be willing to commit yourself to months of hard work, dedication and patience. If you're overwhelmed by work, studies and other personal obligations or are currently suffering from an injury, then signing up for a marathon is not a smart move.
It is also important to understand that running marathons is not for everyone. Some runners enjoy running shorter distances and may never have an interest in running a marathon.
Everyone has a preference and that's perfectly fine. After all, it is much more rewarding to keep on running regularly for the rest of our lives, than to run one marathon and then never run again.