Five short years ago, I had not begun a vegan diet, nor had I run more than an occasional 1-2 miles on the running machine (staring at the wall at the fitness club, it felt like a death sentence). Growing up, I had been a miserable athlete, skipping all PE classes from 9th grade onward to avoid humiliation.
Just as a plant-based diet often begins with small steps, such as avoiding meat one meal a day (or one day a week) or eliminating a single kind of meat from your diet, until you’ve actually begun running, it’s totally natural for you to believe you’re not capable of getting in shape to run a marathon.
Only after you have run around the block or survived 5 minutes on the dreaded running machine do you start to recognize your true potential. After settling into a training routine, you get a few 5- and 10ks under your belt, and start to realize that a half-marathon is within your grasp.
I don’t mean to understate the preparation and commitment you need to run a marathon. But while you shouldn’t expect to get there overnight, it’s not as difficult as you might think. There are unlimited resources available to develop your marathon training plan, and first time runners should generally allow from 4-6 months, depending on your condition.
It’s OK if it takes you several months, or years to develop the confidence to sign up for a marathon, as long as you keep moving in a positive direction. Whether preparing for a marathon or starting a plant-based diet, you’ve got to expect occasional setbacks and self-doubt along the way. The key is to not allowing yourself to be deterred from reaching your goal.
Although I ran Tokyo Marathon, my first, in March 2009, after 1 1/2 years, I began to doubt whether I could do another marathon, and whether I would be able to make it to Honolulu, owing to time, finances, as well as minor injuries including knee pain and a sore achilles tendon. There were last minute surprises, too, like discovering I had forgotten to pack my 5-fingered grip socks just before laying down to sleep on the eve of the marathon!
Once you make your mind up to run a marathon, you need to decide your specific training goals. Avoiding injury, more than a running a fast time, was my first priority throughout training the past year. In addition to running (cardio), I have been doing core exercises and yoga for strength, balance and flexibility. Although I was sucking wind at the end, I had finished the Honolulu Marathon, in a time that even surprised me.
After finishing a marathon, you’ll feel like you can accomplish anything. If you have prepared well, I guarantee you will enjoy it, and want to do it again. Scheduling another running event in the future will give a purpose to continue your training, too. Like a healthy vegan diet, running benefits your physical fitness and your mental outlook.