Running is one of the most well-known ways to get fit, and marathons are on the bucket-list of many. They’re a great way to break through mental and physical barriers and create feelings of positivity, high-energy and passion for life.
Running also requires habit in order to maintain fitness, which is another benefit of running in that it helps you build the right mindset of consistency. And this is a metaphor for achieving anything in life… it takes time, consistency, belief and commitment over the long term.
In this article you’ll discover some more of the benefits of running, and I’ve listed a few runs in Australia that you can compete in. Taking part in fun runs or running races are a fantastic way to validate the fitness you’ve built and the commitment you’ve made to your health and your life.
As a Triathlete with a family and work commitments I understand how hard it can be to get out on the road for a run. But I believe, with the right mindset, running can become a habit, just like any other daily habit you commit to.
Let’s do it…
Co-Founder Exercises.com.au, Personal Trainer, Triathlete, Qualified Chef, Father of 5
Is Long Distance Running Good For You?
Long distance running is one of the first things that people turn to when they want to lose weight or improve their cardiovascular fitness. It is a great way to build fitness, develop a healthy heart and improve endurance.
Running also has a wealth of less known benefits and drawbacks that you should consider if you are regularly running or considering long distance running.
Improved Memory and Learning Ability – Scientists have shown that marathon runners have an improved ability to learn and remember things. A protein called oestrogen-related receptor gamma that is responsible for increasing the blood supply to muscles and improving running speed also improves the speed at which neurons are fired in the brain making you more ‘switched on’.
Reduced Chance Of Cancer – 30 minutes of running per day has been shown to be one of the best forms of exercise to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers.
Better Cholesterol Levels – Long distance running not only decreases the total amount of cholesterol in your blood but also increases the amount of HDL (‘good’) cholesterol, reducing your risk of developing heart disease.
Improved Bone Density – Running is a weight bearing exercise and the impact of your feet on the ground forces your body to become stronger to withstand the stress. Running 20-30kms per week has been shown to improve bone density, reducing the chance of developing osteoporosis.
Improved Mood – Ultra-marathon runners have described feeling surges of serotonin when covering very long distances but even running shorter distances can reduce stress and anxiety levels.
Kynurenine, a substance which has been linked to depression, accumulates in the blood during times of stress and running has been shown to help the body to filter it out, positively impacting mood.
Increased Sex Drive – By increasing testosterone, endorphins and adrenaline running has been shown to lift the sex drive of both men and women.
Having a more positive body image from regular exercise can also make you feel more confident and sexy in bed.
Joint Injuries – The repetitive nature of long distance running places an enormous amount of stress on your knees, hips, legs and back. Poor technique is responsible for a lot of long distance running injuries and overtraining can cause shin splints and muscle tears that can take months to recover from.
Weakened Immune System – While 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day can boost your immune system, the amount of time spent running long distances exposes the body to high cortisol levels. This reduces the immune system’s ability to function effectively and can do so for up to three days following a run of 90 minutes or more.
Hormonal Imbalances – It is easy to over-exercise when running long distances and doing so can wreak havoc on your hormones. The functioning of the thyroid gland can be impaired from long distance running leading to a host of health problems including severe weight gain or loss, an irregular heartbeat and mood disturbances.
Testosterone and oestrogen levels can also be decreased from excess exercise resulting in a lower sex drive, muscle loss, a need for increased recovery time, amenorrhea in women and an increase in the risk of osteoporosis.
Damage To The Heart – Running is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness but the stress placed on the heart when running very long distances can increase inflammation, lead to a build-up of plaque and cause scarring on the heart muscle.
Although rare, long distance running has also been shown to weaken the right ventricle and can even contribute to cardiac arrest. If you love long distance running, don’t let the cons deter you!
Listen to your body, rest when you need to and make sure that you are eating enough nutrition-dense calories to support your activity level. Add additional exercises and therapies that will help offset any negative effects too. These should include Yoga and Massage at a minimum. Other activities can include Pilates, Meditation and Tai Chi.
Take time to learn about proper running form, wear well-fitted shoes and always warm-up and cool-down appropriately. Long distance running will affect everyone differently.
As long as you know the risk factors, you can then consider scaling back to enjoy the benefits while minimising the downsides so you stay fit AND healthy for longer.
Could a Marathon Be The Hardest Thing To Tick Off Your Bucket List?
You’ve probably heard people boldly proclaim their intent to run a marathon as part of their bucket list. But how many people actually do it?
Chances are, most will pass on without having done a marathon. Running a marathon is not an after-thought. You have to prepare your mind, body and spirit to run for more than 2 hours under the heat of the sun and on hard ground.
But it should be on your bucket list. Why? Read on and be convinced!
It Will Keep You Healthy And Fit
Running a marathon is not an activity you will do in a whim or on a dare. It is an event that will take months of preparation. If you’ve done a Half Marathon or 21 kilometers, you could probably get ready in 18 to 22 weeks.
If you’re planning for your first full 42 kilometer marathon, you may need 24 to 32 weeks. You will have to build up your endurance by running a number of races over the course of your preparation.
The training and nutritious meal plans will definitely keep you healthy and fit.
Not Everyone Will Run a Marathon
Statistically, only 1 out of every 200 people will ever run a marathon. That is less than 1% of the entire global population. Ask your friends, associates and even acquaintances if they’ve ever run a marathon. It will probably take you a while to find one.
So while others’ bucket list would include “To swim with whales” or “To cross the intersection at Abbey Road”, your goal of running a marathon will set you apart from everyone else!
Everything Else In Life Will Be Easier
Running a marathon is one of the most challenging events you can ever do in your life. If you haven’t run a marathon, start by watching one on TV. You can see the pain etched on the faces of the runners with every stride they make.
Their lean bodies exemplify the hard training 4-6 months earlier. Their legs are toned; waists are firm and trim. But at the finish line, many collapse. Their legs have grown numb from the pounding. Many are out of breath, dehydrated and hungry.
Many will swear never to run another marathon. Yet, within a month they are back pounding the pavement; ready to take on another marathon! Once you’ve gotten through and completed your first marathon, all the other challenges you face in life will be much easier!
It Will Build Mental Toughness
You’ve heard of “Runner’s Wall”. It is a term which describes a stage in the race where the runner appears to have reached his or her physical and mental capacity. How does it feel to hit The Wall?
Your legs will feel like they were made of cinder blocks. Your once gazelle-like stride has become a Penguin-shuffle. Your breathing has gone out of pace. Your mind has started its own race of finding the best reasons to quit.
Every runner goes through The Wall. But the best ones are able to bite down and find the will to shut out the noise and storm through The Wall. If you are able to overcome these moments of weaknesses, you can and will finish the marathon.
Marathon Is a Metaphor For Life
You’ve heard the phrase so many times before it has become cliché: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. The fact of the matter is, yes, life is a marathon! Every journey we take in life starts out with the first step.
From your first day in school, your first job, first venture into business or parenthood, all of these start out slowly and eventually pick up pace. Along the way you meet different challenges. Some will make you want to quit. Some may take you off-course.
How you deal with these challenges will determine whether you succeed in achieving your goal or finish the race. And when the goal has been accomplished, what do you do next? Find another goal and plan the next race!
The marathon is without a doubt a grueling race. But in the middle of the race or when you’ve hit The Wall and your dream appears ready to fall apart all you need to do is to look around you.
You see all the faces smiling and cheering you on or you notice the beautiful scenery and realise this is the greatest accomplishment you can do in your life!
How To Know You’re Ready For a Marathon
Considering your first marathon? If you’re ready to push yourself to the limit and are prepared for intense training, then marathons could be your thing.
Many people every year complete their very first marathon and in the process get hooked for life! This said, it’s important that you ask yourself a few key questions before you sign up. Let’s go over those five questions so that you can ensure you are fully prepared.
Do You Have The Time To Train?
The first question to ask yourself is whether you have the time to train. If you are planning on running a marathon, you will need to devote many hours each week – in fact, in some cases, it will be several hours each day training for this event. For someone with a busy schedule, marathon training just isn’t a wise move.
Be sure to look over some marathon training plans and determine whether you really have the time to commit. Remember that it’s also not just about having the hours to run each day, but in addition to that, also about having time for rest, recovery, food prep and so on.
If you just don’t have the time, don’t get discouraged, try a 5-10km run instead. That’ll be far more doable with a busy schedule.
Do You Have The Mental Fortitude To Push Through?
Next ask yourself whether you have the mental strength to push through. Often it’s less about the physical when it comes to marathon training and more about whether you can push through mental barriers.
There are going to be days where fatigue sets in and your body wants to quit. Will you be able to mentally push yourself to keep going? Be honest with yourself before you get started. This can be a real eye-opening experience to look at yourself with this, but it’s something that you must do.
If you aren’t sure, begin with a 10km and if you can push yourself through that, you might be ready to master a half or full marathon from there.
Are You Suffering From Any Nagging Injuries?
The next thing to consider is whether you are suffering from any nagging injuries at the time of signing up. If you are, there’s a good chance they’re only going to get worse as times goes on.
With the repetitive pounding of running on a hard surface, any knee, ankle, hip, or back injuries may start getting even more aggravated, so it’s important that you are considering what you will do to manage them.
If you feel that they’re not too severe you may take a wait and see approach. It may help to speak to a doctor or physiotherapist about this first before moving onward. They can help you devise a game plan to overcome those injuries so that you can train pain-free and enjoy yourself.
What Are Your Primary Fitness Goals?
Also think about what your primary fitness goals are. Are you looking for weight loss? If so, it’s best to achieve that first and then take up marathon training. You’ll need to add more calories to your day when training for an endurance event, so it’ll make fat loss efforts harder.
Some people sign up thinking it’ll be the perfect way to prompt weight loss and then are very disappointed when they come to see that they aren’t losing weight. You should focus on performance during this time, not weight loss, so be sure that’s your goal.
These are just some of the key questions to ask yourself prior to starting a marathon training program. A marathon is a big commitment so be sure that you are fully prepared before you get started so you can enjoy success with your marathons.
Challenge Yourself With One Of These Aussie Marathons
If there was one thing you could do in your life that would surpass all the other physical challenges you’ve faced, the marathon should be it. All you need to do is look at the expressions of the runners during the marathon.
Agony is etched across their face. It seems every step adds to more excruciating pain. But at the end of the race, the feeling of joy and accomplishment is never in doubt. Their faces tell the story.
Australia offers many great marathons and Aussies by nature are very active and love their sports. Many naturally gravitate toward the marathon. Here are the top marathons in Australia…
The Australian Running Festival
The Australian Running Festival is hosted in Canberra, ACT. It features a number of races to suit the experience of every participant:
- The Ultra Marathon – 50km
- The Marathon – 42km
- Half Marathon – 21km
- 10km Run
- 5km Run
This is a course that has been measured and certified by the IAAF. More than 6,500 competitors make the annual trek to Canberra to join in this illustrious marathon.
The Gold Coast Airport Marathon
Held annually at one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations, the Gold Coast Airport Marathon was the first marathon to be awarded the IAAF Road Race Gold Label. This is usually scheduled during the first week of July and attracts an average of 27,000 participants. Among the events are:
- Gold Coast Airport Marathon – 42km
- Wheelchair Marathon
- ASICS Half Marathon – 21km
- Wheelchair 15km
- Southern Cross University 10k Run
- Suncorp Bank 5.7km Challenge
- Zespri Junior Dash 2km and 4km Races
The Gold Coast Airport Marathon boasts one of the flattest and fastest courses in the world. If you want to best your record time, this is the marathon for you!
Australian Outback Marathon
Ever thought of running bare feet? The Australian Outback Marathon which is situated in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, will have you running on the iconic red earth. Of course, you have the option to use running shoes! Among the featured races are as follows:
- Marathon – 42km
- Half Marathon – 21km
- 11km Fun Run
- 6km Fun Run
When running the Australian Outback Marathon, you will have a great view of the Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
The Melbourne Marathon
Following in the iconic footsteps of marathons named after a city such as Boston and New York, the Melbourne Marathon was launched in 1978. It is now one of the biggest marathons in Australia drawing more than 6,000 runners every year.
Overall, the Melbourne Marathon attracts an average of 35,000 annually to compete in the following events:
- Marathon – 42km
- Half Marathon – 21km
- 10km Run
- ASICS 5.7km Run
- 3km Walk Events
If you want to explore the city center without any cars to worry about, the Melbourne Marathon is it!
The Cadbury Marathon
This is one of the most anticipated marathons of the year. The Cadbury Marathon starts and finishes at the Cadbury Chocolate Factory at Cadbury Estate, Claremont. The distance of the race has been measured by the International Association of Athletics Federation or IAAF.
There are 5 races available with this event:
- Cadbury Marathon – 42km
- Cadbury Half Marathon – 21km
- JMC – 10k
- The Running Edge – 5km
- Caramello Mini-Marathon – 1km
The Cadbury Marathon is held during the Tasmanian summer where the temperatures are usually in the low 20s. There many other marathons to consider when you are running in Australia.
Unless you are an elite runner, running a marathon is really more about the journey and less about the placing. Those who have run a marathon will tell you it is the closest thing to dying and being reborn.
Great Ocean Road Marathon: One Of The World’s Best Marathons
When you hear the word “marathon” usually the cities that come to mind are New York, Boston, Paris and Athens. These are the destinations that are most popularly associated with this grueling road race that tests mind, body and spirit.
But a survey by Daily Burn listed Australia’s own Great Ocean Road Marathon Australia as one of the world’s best marathon races at number 23!
There are over 700 marathons scheduled in different locations worldwide each year. What is the fascination with a race that has a median finishing rate of 20%?
What Is The Great Ocean Road Marathon?
The Great Ocean Road Marathon ran its first race in 2004. It is considered to have one of the most visually stunning, panoramic views of all marathon races. But despite the beauty of the Southern Ocean, the course offers serious elevation levels and a much longer distance at 44 kilometers!
The Great Ocean Road Marathon runs its course from Lorne to Apollo Bay; one of the most breathtaking coastlines in Australia. This makes the Great Ocean Road Marathon a must – run destination with runners from all over the world.
The Daily Burn described the Great Ocean Road Australia as a “true beauty; traveling along one of the world’s most iconic coastlines but it can also be a beast!”. According to the Daily Burn the race from Lorne to Apollo Bay is closer to 45 km but because of the scenery, you can achieve times better suited for a 42 km race.
In 2016 the event will feature an Ultra – Marathon which is a 60 km road race! It is literally running one and a half marathons! The Ultra Marathon will run the same course from Lorne to Apollo Bay but will include two detours at Sunnyside Road and Hickey’s Cutting.
Sunnyside Road and Hickey’s Cutting will have a 10km and 5km run back respectively plus treacherous elevations.
In addition to the marathon and Ultra – Marathon, the Great Ocean Road Marathon also includes the following:
- Half Marathon – a 23 km race from Kennett River to Apollo Bay
- Paradise Run – a 14 km race that starts and finishes at the Apollo Bay Hotel with the Paradise Picnic Reserve as the turn point.
- Mizuno Run – a 6 km run that starts and finishes at the Apollo Bay Hotel with the Barham River Road as the turn point.
- Kid’s Gallop – a 1.5 km run that starts and finishes at the Apollo Bay Hotel and passes through Breakwater Road and Trafalgar Street.
What Does Running The Great Ocean Road Marathon Feel Like?
The Great Ocean Road Marathon is widely acclaimed for providing the best scenery and panoramic views for runners. But no amount of scenery or view will cover the fact that the marathon remains a very challenging event.
However for those who have run the Great Ocean Road Marathon, having all of these beautiful sights and surroundings definitely helps because it takes your mind away from the pounding taken by your knees and lower back. These wildly amazing views is just one reason why the Great Ocean Road Marathon is such an incredible experience.
The second reason is the competitor. Yes, just like other marathon races there are the world class, highly acclaimed runners who are the consensus favorites to place among the top 10. After all, the Great Ocean Road Marathon is reputed for having a fast course ideal for recording fast times. But then you have the runners who just want to have fun!
You will not miss them in the line-up. They are not the ones wearing the typical runner’s outfit. Some are dressed like their favorite comic book or cartoon characters. You’ll see a few runners wearing the most outlandish get ups which will make you think, “Can they really run in those?”
In truth an event like the Great Ocean Road Marathon brings together a collective of individuals with terrific and inspiring back stories. If you must know why a person would subject himself or herself to a two hour run, the motivation runs very deep inside their core.
A marathon represents more than a physical race or a test of endurance to a runner. It is an event that helps them overcome fears, self- limiting beliefs and an opportunity to regain confidence. For many runners, running a marathon isn’t a test of endurance. It is a test of character.
If you must run a marathon once in your life, run it at the Great Ocean Road Marathon. While running a marathon will never be easy, you will always remember the race not by how you finish but by the experience.
While running for general health and fitness is a huge positive step towards a better, healthier life, running a marathon takes you to the next level of mental and physical strength.
I’d encourage you to aim to complete one marathon in your lifetime. I know from experience that the mental and physical training you have to go through to complete a marathon will provide so many benefits beyond running. It’ll set you up to overcome any of life’s challenges.
Get in touch with me if you’re looking for any additional guidance or have any questions.
Dmitri Simons is a Master Personal Trainer, Head Trainer and Co-Founder of Exercises.com.au.
Dmitri is a qualified PT of 15 years, a qualified Chef, Father of 5 and competes in Triathlons in his spare time. His passion is helping people achieve their health and fitness goals by taking control of their health, eating healthier and engaging in different forms of exercise such as weight lifting, stretching and cardio.