Last year at about this time, I got it in my head that I should run a marathon. The idea popped up suddenly, the plan fully-formed: I’d slowly accumulate more and more mileage in my Vibram FiveFingers, building a base of endurance á la Arthur Lydiard – and then ramp up using a tried-and-true training program like Hal Higdon’s. I could shoot for the San Francisco Marathon, or maybe enter the lottery for the New York City Marathon. My head quickly filled with grand plans.
And then, I remembered: I find long-distance running boring as hell. (I'm not the only one, right?) And I hate the interminable post-run recovery period.
I have nothing against runners. I admire their perseverance, sacrifice and drive. And personally, I still enjoy running short-to-moderate distances. I'll still pull on my FiveFingers and log a few miles every now and then, when I feel like it. But long-distance training takes a toll on my body that just ain’t worth the hassle. And frankly, with CrossFit workouts scheduled every other day, I’m not sure my aging legs could take the extra pounding. And so, after chucking the marathon goal out the window, I stopped doing my occasional long mid-afternoon runs. I didn't see the point.
Nonetheless, every once in a while, a devil perches on my shoulder, enticing me with whispers about the benefits of marathon training. Wouldn't it be an awesome accomplishment to run 26.2 miles? Don't you want a nice, shiny finisher's medal? Aren't pre-race spaghetti dinners yummy? Don't you miss slurping down Gu? And wouldn't it be fantastic to have saliva smeared all over your face?
Thankfully, I now have more than enough ammo to shoot that little fucker down. Namely:
- Marathon running increases the risk of heart disease.
- In fact, research shows that marathon can damage your heart for several months post-race. During a marathon, "over half of the segments of the heart lose function... The reason turns out to be an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow through the muscle."
- Long-distance running also causes damage to your brain, blood cell counts, spine, muscle fibers, connective tissue, liver, kidneys, gall bladder, testosterone level and cholesterol ratios – and it elevates markers of cancer, too.
- Chronic cardio is inefficient for weight loss/management. Instead, it makes you hungrier. For carbs. Sugary bingeing ensues.
- Even if I don't get chubby from running, I'd still rather work on building power and speed through intense (but brief) sprinting sessions. It's hard to believe, but I actually have better things to do with my time than to run for hours. And to be honest, I'd rather have the body composition of the sprinter on the right than the marathoner on the left:
- Compression pants -- even my favorite ones -- make me itch.
- You may very well shit your pants.
- Lastly, marathoners – beginning with the very first one – keep dying mid-run. And not just the couch potatoes who push themselves too hard -- we're talking about ostensibly “healthy” runners (like this guy and this guy). Yes, only about 1 out of every 50,000 marathoners die of heart attacks during races, but almost half a million people finished marathons last year, so statistically, we're seeing roughly ten or more fatal mid-race heart attacks per year. And how many more die during training? (Incidentally, how come CrossFit -- which hasn't yet experienced a single reported fatality -- is invariably described as "controversial" and "dangerous," but long-distance running is viewed by most people as normal and healthy?)