Need motivation? Watch this!

The marathon is inspiring. Training for a marathon, on the other hand, can be arduous and time-consuming and even monotonous. Grinding out the miles, day after day after week after month, can cause any runner’s enthusiasm to occasionally wane.

If you need a little inspiration for your marathon training — or any running regimen, for that matter — you have my permission to skip today’s run (as long as it’s not your weekly long run — NEVER skip the long run!) and Netflix instead.

From the company that introduced me to marathon sessions of “Breaking Bad” and “Dexter,” comes an actual marathon movie, an inspirational (yes, I know I’ve used that word three times in the first three paragraphs) documentary entitled “Spirit of the Marathon.” I’ve watched this on DVD more than once, but I’m already looking forward to watching it again on Netflix. How did I not know that this was available?

I just learned this morning. Thanks to Beth, who blogs at Shut Up and Run, for the tip. Beth offers 6 Ways to Recapture Your Running Motivation. Among them:

Go to Netflix – Movies can motivate. Seeing and learning about someone else’s story and how they persevered is relatable. Use the energy and inspiration from those who have worked hard for their goals. The Spirit of the Marathon is a favorite of mine because it highlights the elites, but also us normal Joes and Josephines.

“Spirit of the Marathon” follows six runners as they train for and race the Chicago Marathon … from Olympian Deena Kastor to veteran marathoners to a couple of first-time marathoners. You can read about them here. Their stories, their perseverance, their personal triumph will kick-start your own running.

The film’s website offers this summary:

The film is a must see for anyone thinking about running a marathon and anyone who has run one or more. It’s also a must see for anyone wondering why thousands of people spend many months training for such an event. It celebrates the history and heroes of the sport and examines the personalities and training methods of the participants.

Here’s the trailer.

Not planning to run a marathon? By the end of this movie, you’ll change your mind.

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Whatever it takes …

Janae, who blogs at The Hungry Runner Girl, launched a fun contest on her site today. She invites readers to vote for their favorite finish line photos. My favorite among the photos, submitted by followers of her blog, is at the top of this post. 

I voted for this finish line photo because it captures the mash-up of determination and desperation that is marathon running, made even more poignant because he is striving to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I can relate!

The runner (not identified) explains:

This came at the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL in September of 2012, and will definitely be one I never forget. It was my very first Boston Qualifying time, and it came in dramatic fashion. About 10 feet from the finish line, my legs gave out, and I fell hard. Honestly, it’s all kind of a blur to me now. But my girlfriend (MARY!!!), who was at the finish line, explained to me that I managed to crawl the last few feet and get across the finish line. After a short stint in the medical tent to treat the scrapes on my hands and knees, I went to the timing booth to get my official time. Somehow, it was a 3:05:00, the exact time I needed as a 24-year-old guy. It was easily one of the most exhausting days of my life, physically, and emotionally.

This experience has given me the confidence to push myself in the latter stages of races, and through difficult training runs.

Rock the Parkway

Rock the Parkway

Nothing is more frustrating than being stuck in a slow porta-potty line when the race is about to start … nothing, that is, except knowing that it’s your own blame fool fault.

But today was such a gorgeous day for a race, and the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon (in Overland Park, KS) is such a great event, that not even my pre-race stupidity could mar the day.

Let this be a lesson to you.

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Running is healthy, if it doesn’t kill you

Missouri Medicine cover

Exercise – it might not add years to your life, but it adds life to your years.
Amby Burfoot (1968 Boston Marathon winner)

My family history includes heart disease and early cardiac-related death, so running literally has been a lifesaver. Since I started running, I’ve lowered my (bad) cholesterol, lowered my triglycerides, lowered my blood pressure, lowered my heart rate and lowered my weight. I’m healthier, right?

Not so fast, some doctors now say. All of that running may not be so healthy, after all. Splashed across the front page of the The Kansas City Star was a headline warning that too much running – as in, the amount of running I routinely do on a weekly basis – can kill you.

This is what, in my newspaper days, I would have called a “man bites dog” story. It’s newsworthy because it’s paradoxical and surprising and counterintuitive. And, I would add, sensationalistic and misleading.

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Euphoria doesn’t mean easy

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I admire folks who not only excel in running, but find the time and talent to write about their experience. And when they not only write about their experience, but write well and engagingly, I’m doubly impressed. So let me introduce you to a couple of running writers (or, writing runners?).

And while I’m at it, let’s restore some balance to the universe.

My running pal Russell Wenz, who recently started blogging at RussellWenz.blogspot.com, admits, “I’m not gonna lie, I just might be crazy.” Like we didn’t already know that. But it’s a good kind of crazy.

Russell writes about our shared insanity with running, and this resonates with me.

People ask, “How can you run that far?” …….. I ask, “How can you not?” I question how a person can run one mile and stop. Didn’t that mile…..a mere 6-15 minutes……give you a sense of accomplishment? Wouldn’t another 6-15 minutes only double the pleasure?! Did you not feel more in tune with the world around you? A feeling of being closer to Mother Nature? Wasn’t it great to remove yourself from the daily hustle, shuffle, busy-as-a-bee lifestyle and just slow down without all the distractions? I don’t enjoy running……I LOVE it.

Russell concludes:

“Running shouldn’t be effort … it should be euphoric.”

That’s one perspective. Here’s another.

Beth Risdon has been blogging for awhile at Shut Up and Run, but I only recently stumbled upon her hilarious blog. Really, I was laughing out loud. She is way too honest, painfully blunt, comically compelling. One of her recent posts, “9 Myths About Runners,” offers a different perspective than Russell.

First Myth: “Running’s easy for us.”

I can’t tell you how many people tell me they don’t run because it is “hard.” The funny part is, they also think running must be easy for me because I run all the time. No. Running is stupid eff’ing hard. I think you just get used to being uncomfortable.

Truth is, it’s even hard for Deena Kastor and she sets records left and right. There is always someplace to go with your running. If it feels easy, then most runners will pick up the pace or run on hills. Then it just becomes hard again. For me, expecting running to be hard is the key. Then you are not so surprised or pissed off.

So, who is right? Russell or Beth? Is running euphoric, or is it hard? The answer is, yes.

Running is euphoric. Running is hard. I think Russell and Beth both would agree.

Perversely, I think the fact that running is hard is inherent to its attraction. Running draws folks who want to push themselves to go faster, to go farther, to set goals and break personal records. Running challenges us, then it possesses us.

Because even when it’s hard, running is also fun, and life-affirming, and therapeutic.

Anything worth accomplishing is hard. But the feeling of accomplishment? Euphoric.

So running is hard and euphoric.

Because euphoria doesn’t mean easy.