I had always dreamed of running a marathon, but never knew if I'd really be able to make the commitment. Although I'd always been a long-distance runner, I had only completed a 7-mile race before deciding to participate in the 2008 Chicago Marathon.
It seemed like an unattainable dream when I first registered, and I had a long road of training ahead of me. But by the time I'd crossed the finish line, I realized it was one of the most rewarding things I had ever accomplished.
Here are my top 10 reasons to run a marathon:
1. Help a Charity: Almost all races give some percentage of their proceeds to charity. If you sign up for a city marathon you can choose to raise money for a specific cause that's important to you. Becoming affiliated with a particular charity gave me an added support group and more motivation to finish strong.
2. Join the Elite: Running a marathon definitely makes you stand out in a crowd and gives you major bragging rights. It's a challenge that few are willing to face. I love distinguishing myself and joining a small percentage of people who can say they've accomplished such a remarkable feat.
3. Learn to Love Carbs: While you're training for a marathon you're burning a substantial amount of calories every day. Even if it's your resting day, your muscles are working like never before. I realized quickly that my body needed to be refueled with foods like pastas, breads, grains and fruit. It was great to stop counting carbs and eat for the nourishment!
4. Gain Confidence to Conquer Anything: You know how great it feels to finish one workout, right? Imagine finishing months of training, gaining mental strength, and crossing the finish line of a 26.2-mile race. The determination that I gained was unlike anything else. I knew I could excel in other areas of my life once I had the knowledge that I could achieve so much.
5. Get Disciplined: Training for a marathon is not to be taken lightly. I took it seriously and gained organizational and time management skills, became more committed, and made my health a priority.
6. Clear Your Head: When you go for a run, you're making time for yourself and offering relief to your daily stresses. For me, it was a great time to enjoy nature, listen to my favorite play list, and just enjoy the runner's high.
7. Get in Touch with Your Body: By training hard, you'll naturally learn more about your body and its physical limits. You'll start to know when you're being lazy during a workout or if there's something that just doesn't feel right. Learning to listen to my body's symptoms put me in better touch with my health and ultimately made me more self-motivated.
8. Kick Your Bad Habits: If you've ever wanted to quit smoking or remove junk food from your diet, deciding to do a marathon can help you focus on your priorities. Logging a 10-mile run on Saturday morning will be pretty hard if you're still smoking a pack a day. It was so rewarding to replace my bad habits with more healthy alternatives that helped me cross the finish line.
9. Meet New Active People: There's no better way to train than with the support of a partner or group. If you don't already have friends to run with, consider joining a local runners' group to boost your weekly mileage. During the training process, I made new friends who are still positive influences in my active life.
10. Flatter your Figure: Running is one type of exercise that gets real results -- giving you the chance to lose weight, acquire lean muscle, and improve your confidence. While training, I felt so strong and really enjoyed the muscle tone.
*Abby McMillin is a lifelong runner, participating in both cross-country and track -- earning several awards and scholarships for her dedication. She enjoys the thrill of finishing a race, with the 2008 Chicago Marathon being her proudest accomplishment.
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