I’ve always been envious of the motivation and ability of people who run marathons and half marathons. While I grew up playing soccer and enjoy going for a jog (much more than going to lift weights), I’ve never been able to motivate myself to run that far of a distance. In the back of my mind I’ve figured at some point I’d give it a try yet have not found the inspiration to sign up for a long race. One of my deepest regrets from my time in Thailand is when myself and a couple of other people signed up for a half marathon in Khon Kaen, Thailand (I spent a year teaching English there). The American who had taught at my school the year before did the half-marathon and 3 other people in my program decided they wanted to do it as well. We signed up for the late January race in early December. About a month before the race 2 people dropped out leaving just myself and one other person.
I was running relatively frequently but the most miles I had really done was just over 6 so I was starting to get nervous. The week before I ran the longest and furthest I had ever run at the time which was 8 miles for about an hour and 15 minutes. I felt good but was still nervous I was short more than 5 miles for the half marathon. The day before the race the one other participant informed me he wasn’t going to race. I convinced him to pick up our race packets regardless just in case. That night we were staying at my house which was about 30 minutes away from the race location in the middle of nowhere and I felt obligated to stay since I didn’t want to leave my friend alone or at least that is how I justified backing out of the race at the time. I used the convenient excuse to not run a race that I wanted to which was an immature decision on my part. It is one of the biggest regrets I have is that I didn’t run that race for fear of not wanting to do it alone.
I learned a lot about myself from that experience and my need for social inclusion and the desire to share experiences despite a half marathon is very much an individual physical challenge. In 2015 I failed but this brings me to the end of 2017 when a group of friends decided to run a 5-mile Tough Mudder. This is a run with muddy obstacles combining jogging through trails with light army-style drills and American Ninja Warrior type obstacles. This was my chance to get into running races and capitalizing on my want for running a physical race but also for the social aspect. The race was incredibly fun and afterward, I wished we had signed up for the 10-mile course!
I immediately signed up for a Spartan race (a competitor to Tough Mudder). The Spartan race was a 12-14 mile race with more obstacles and penalty burpees if you failed to complete an obstacle. I was only able to convince one friend to sign up for it. Leading up to that race I wanted to have run 12 miles so I know what it felt like and ended up running (just around my neighborhood) a half marathon. It was tough but I felt much better afterward than I had thought I would. The Spartan race was more challenging for 2 reasons.
- The Length – it was longer and the Spartan Races take it more seriously
- The weather – it was quite chilly which made it different than the Tough Mudder
The Spartan race was more mental and physical grit than the Tough Mudder each of which was rewarding. For those of you looking to get more physically active or are trying to find new ways of inspiration, these Obstacle Course Races (OCRs) a great place to start. You can much more easily invite your friends and run in a group or even have them come out merely as a spectator (the races place the most interesting obstacles in walking distance for those not running to see). I’ve already signed up for another Spartan race (simply due to location and timing) and will continue to utilize these types of races as a point of motivation for physical activity.