Running on Empty

There is something about running a marathon that makes people crazy. Some of that craziness came out Sunday during the Chicago Marathon.

Participants woke up before the sun rose, all for the love of running. One person, Will Cunneen of Chicago, ran 26.2 miles dressed in a chicken costume. Another, Suresh Shah of Texas, started the race even though he was on crutches due to a stress factor. A third, my brother-in-law, woke up at 4:15 a.m. to sit down to a breakfast of two baked potatoes with cottage cheese on top (which I'm told is totally disgusting) and a bagel.

Cunneen and Shah's stories were interesting enough to be noted in the Chicago Tribune.

It all seems a little bit crazy.

They may be crazy, but they are also extremely motivated and dedicated. Running a marathon isn't something you can just wake up that morning and decide to do, or even decide to do a week or two in advance. Months and months of training go into being adequately prepared for the race.

It is usually recommended that participants have been running for at least a year, four to five times a week, averaging 25 miles per week, before they even begin training for the marathon. If a person isn't at that level, a 19-week mileage buildup program is recommended. Then the marathon training, which should be spread over 18 weeks, begins.

It totals up to just short of two full years of training, according to coach and author Art Liberman. Liberman lays out his plan on the State of the Art Marathon Training Web site

The motivation to finish, or even just start the 26.2-mile race of insanity comes from different places. The motivation might even be something as trite as trying to beat the time of a younger brother, like someone I know.

Whatever the driving force, there needs to be one. How else could someone possibly put up with the stress that kind of running puts on the body?

Finishing a marathon, regardless of the time, is an amazing athletic accomplishment. So, despite the insanity we associate with such a task, the runners deserve our respect.

They might be crazy, but they have more motivation and dedication than most people. And that is simply inspiring.