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Are Marathons No Longer Challenging?

Are marathons no longer challenging? Has the marathon distance gone the way of the 4-minute mile barrier? Is it no longer noteworthy to run a marathon? I’ve been hearing this line of questioning about marathons for several years now. I think it’s baloney. That’s because it 100% depends on who you ask. With these kinds of issues you’ve always got the purists on one end of the argument and everyone else on the other. Purists will point out that the median marathon finishing time for men has slowed by 44 minutes since the 1980s. They say the marathon is no longer a measure of how far the human body can be pushed. I think there’s some merit in that statement. The marathon is not the benchmark to gauge human potential on a biological level. Ultra-distance races are the new frontier for that business. But, the marathon IS still a benchmark to gauge personal potential. To make a statement like “marathons are no longer challenging” discounts the relative Herculean effort that fitness newbies put forth to finish 26.2 miles. I don’t care what anyone says, 26 miles is far. No matter how well-trained you are, or how many miles you’ve run, any distance over 15 or 20 miles will hurt at least a little. I’ve been running for over 30 years–since I was 10 years old–and I still see a lifetime of challenges in the marathon distance for me. Now, that’s not to say I don’t have my sights set on longer distances to see how far I can push myself, but I think there will always be a place for the marathon in my future. In fact, I’ll see you at Colfax in a few weeks!

Steve Lemig

Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Communications Director at Road Runner Sports for the last 13 years.