Personality Requirements* for Marathoners

I’ve had quite a few people over the years tell me “I could never run a marathon!” (you’re already thinking about doing it if you’re saying that) and “OMG I registered for my first marathon – now what??!”

I’m definitely no expert on marathoning, but I have run a few myself – with varying levels of “success” – and have picked many a brains of others who have as well. From Olympic-chasing elites to Sub-3 natural talents, from lifetime runners to late adopters. All contagiously inspirational in their own way.

And, as I’ve found, similar in a few other ways as well.

The marathon may not be for everyone, but if you possess, or have the desire to possess the qualities below (or any combination of them), I believe you can successfully conquer the marathon. Keep note in my opinion, “success” can = time, level of fun had, or enjoyable masochism. You choose which measuring stick to use. Also keep in mind this is purely talking mentality, if you have all these traits but like, don’t have feet or something, you’ll probably have a tough time running 26.2 miles. I’m a firm believer though that anyone in decent health with an average-moderate functioning lower half can train themselves physically to complete the marathon, it’s the brain that’s the deal-breaker. Which I believe so strongly because I am personally a victim to a broken marathon brain.

(Self-inflicted, maybe probably.)

So! Without further ado…

marathon requirements

or, what might clue you into whether you can be fast/happy/enjoyably-pained for 26.2 miles

  • At Least 50% Legit Crazy

This can be either Crazy Dedicated (the kind your friends call you when you turn down happy hour for the 10th time for a tempo run) or Gary Busey Loose Screws Crazy. The type is inconsequential, as I’ve witnessed high levels of success from both camps and suspect they may be one in the same. Truth is you’ve got to be just a little “off” to run a marathon.

  • Balanced Daydreamer (80%) /// Disciplinarian (20%)

Oh yeah, by the time you cross that finish line it’ll seem like déjà vu because you’ve played the image out in your brain 10MILLION times in your head during training. You’ll zone out on long runs, at work, on the toilet, and 95% of those thoughts will be dreaming about your race. But when it comes down to focusing in on a tough workout? Time to throw franzypants to the sideline and get shit done. Hammer it out baby, you can lust over your race-to-be while you foam roll after.

  • Partially Type-A

This one is debatable, especially if you have a coach or training group that takes care of most of the thinking, leaving you nothing to do but put one foot in front of the other. But inevitably you’re going to be analyzing workouts and plans, timing as many spectator view spots to fit your pace plan as possible, and catastrophe-planning a poop emergency escape route (just in case – we’ve all thought about it.) Truth is, an inherent planning gene can be super helpful, but not required. Just really try not to crap your pants.

  • A Free Thinker, or severely ADD

Your iPod can only do so much for entertainment value. Eventually you’re going to get lost in your thoughts on a run, and if you aren’t a creative and entertaining mind-person to hang out with, it’s going to be like a lame dinner party with your boss and those dweebs from accounting, except the wine is electrolyte drink and the hors doeuvres are nasty energy gels. Talk about painful. Let that mind wander and see what crazy shit you come up with!

  • Borderline Alcoholic

Ok not really, but it seems to be the majority’s opinion that if you’re not chasing big miles and celebrating big races with a glass of something 21+ you’re doing it wrong.

Sarah OUaL


29 thoughts on “Personality Requirements* for Marathoners

  1. Love this! Partially Type-A is definitely me. Type-A enough to make 8,000 different spreadsheets monitoring my training. I would add though that lots of crazy-amazing athletes compete in marathons without feet or without the use of their lower bodies.


  2. I’m in the “fine as long as you don’t overthink it” category. If I think about a 50K as “31 MILES ZOMG HOW COULD I DO THAT” it’s no good. If I think of it as “a whole day in the woods doing what I love, with snacks!”, what could be better??


  3. I get wanting to have a drink after a race, but “borderline alcoholic” is really un-funny. And I’m sure many of the runners who use running in place of their alcohol (or other substance) addiction would agree. Joking about alcoholism is never funny and really low class.


  4. I agree, to each their own. And, if you want to have a beer/drink/whatever, go for it, enjoy! But joking about alcoholism is really never funny. I promise. Just don’t do it.


  5. The ADD one is so true. Whenever I’m asked what I talked about on a run with a friend, I’m at a loss since we talked about 5 million different things as they sprang into our heads. If we were only talking or thinking about the Bieber or fartleks, it would not make for a pleasant 2+ hours.


  6. My father was an alcoholic and in no way did this post offend me. It’s obvious that it was written in good humor and if you take every little thing to heart, albeit alcoholism, ADD, running with/without limbs then you’ll lead a pretty uptight, stressful and possibly boring life. Stop the P.C. Police, swallow that grain of salt and lighten up! Maybe, have a beer. ;)


  7. I have been thinking about this a lot lately! I really think that 50% of me wants to be an Olympic gold medalist and the other 50% wants to be a lazy, fat ass. Its a daily battle. Cheers!



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