Running Beyond the Finish Line: Solitude, Science, and the Soul of Marathons

This past Sunday I just completed the Newport RI Marathon. I finished with a personal best time of 3:28 (7:56 min/mile pace for 26 miles). Super pumped about that! I trained for it pretty much since May, running an average of three days per week. Why do I do it? I own a gym after all, and workout there 4-5x per week. Why do I run on top of that? And why do I sign up for races every year? This blog aims to explore those topics and encourage you to think about signing up for an event outside of the gym next year!

Why I Run

First, I want to explain why I run in general. I do CrossFit for strength, conditioning, fun, comradery, mobility, and the challenge of it all. I run for completely different reasons. I run for the solitude.

When I run, I don’t listen to music or a podcast or anything. I let my mind wander. How often these days can you say you’re alone with your thoughts for an hour? Or 90 minutes? I’d venture a guess for most people, it’s hardly ever. To me, this is missing part of life’s greatest marvel – harnessing the power of our brain. There is proven science about the increase in problem solving ability, the increase in creativity, and the increase in feel good endorphins that last for hours after a good run. Pretty much every time I go out for a run, I solve a problem that’s been on my mind, or I create/innovate. My wife and my co-workers can vouch for this. They know that look when I come back from a run and have something to share!

Second, running helps train your Zone 2 aerobic capacity (if you do Zone 2 runs…) Without going into all the details here in this blog, just know it’s a critical heart rate zone to train that most people skip over, and this dulls their capacity as an athlete (and human) and their ultimate results in health and fitness. Zone 2 helps improve your body’s energy efficiency, prevent injuries, improves recovery, and even helps with weight management.

Third, I run to get outside which brings many benefits versus being inside. Exercising outside in nature, can improve mood, energy levels, and all sorts of health metrics. Viewing sunlight in the morning causes ~50% increase in circulating cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine (all good things we want). These leverage healthy increases in energy, immune system function and mood. It’s one of my favorite ways to start the day! Exercising in the morning is great, exercising outside in the morning is even better!

Why I Race Marathons

Running for fitness is one thing, racing is another. Here is why I like to sign up for a race every year.

First and foremost, it holds me accountable to the process. It get’s me out there, doing the work. To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t have a race at the end, I’d probably slack on some of the training runs. I might miss one here or there, or reduce the mileage from a long run, or reduce the speed … but knowing there is a race at the end, and that I want to do my best, it holds me accountable to the process. This is critical.

Second, it shows my family the significance of working towards a goal and doing the hard work in preparation. Some of the most emotional moments in my life are when I cross the finish and my wife and kids are there watching and cheering me on. We can never know what will stick out in our kids minds as a core memory, but I like to think that them seeing me work hard for months and then cross that finish with a big smile will reap them positive benefits in their future lives.

Third, we like to make it a mini-trip. Sign up for a race somewhere fun! Newport RI is a great beach town not too far away, but you can sign up for races anywhere! When I did my Ironman in 2017, we went to Lake Placid NY. If it weren’t for the race, I’m not sure we’d ever go there, but it was such an amazing place!

What You Can Do

I tell pretty much everyone that “what you do in the gym should support and encourage you to do things OUTSIDE of the gym”. Life is meant to be lived, and to me, that means exploring and enjoying the world we live in.

Sign up for that 5k.

Make it a travel destination.

Go on that hike.

Book the adventure.

Little things like signing up for a 5k can translate, in my opinion, to a much more fulfilling and enjoyed life.

If you haven’t done it before, look to get after it in 2024. If you need help with any of it, talk to a coach or hit me up, we’re all happy to help!

The Bonus

To me, this is the secret sauce. CrossFit as a base of fitness, done properly, that means with proper scaling, modifications, and relative intensity, creates a healthy, well-rounded body capable of many things.

Most runners who don’t cross-train tend to get overuse injuries and plenty of aches and pains due to muscle imbalances and weak cores. CrossFit balances you out and strengthens your core.

Do CrossFit as your “primary” fitness, and choose something outside for your “secondary” fitness and watch your fitness and enjoyment of life see exponential gains.

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