My personal experience with doing a marathon was pretty eye opening in learning how my body reacts to different types of training, and how my mind and attitude react to different types of challenges.
Here in the first part, I'm going to talk about my personal experiences. In "Part II" I'm going to discuss some misconceptions about endurance training and suggestions on how to kick up your runs a notch.
I've always been something of an anaerobic athlete. My solo dance performances were never longer than about 3 minutes, judo matches were on and off (like interval training). Same with capoeira. The closest thing to endurance I had ever done previously was run three miles (once, just to see if I could) and rock climbing occasionally.
Then I Moved to California
I signed up for Team in Training for 3 reasons:
1) A friend at work wanted to do it (but bailed on me later)
2) I'm super competitive and wanted to prove that any shmoe can do a marathon.
3) Team in Training is a good cause
As to number 2: I got tired of hearing people talk about marathon running like it's some mecca of fitness and something to inspire awe. As though endurance runners are bastions of health (Have you seen Olympic marathoners? Really?), and being the jerk that I am, I was going to prove them wrong.
First thing I learned: when I get into the competitive mindset, even if it's just against myself, I can push myself through things that, frankly, suck. I have always hated running. I'm heavy and dense, it pounds on my joints, and I find it horribly, horribly boring. Despite the constant pain (seriously, constant pain), I would push myself through 5 to 10 mile runs over hills and rough terrain. Because that's what coach said to do and I'll be damned if these other sissies do it and I don't.
I also learned that my body does not lose weight with aerobic endurance training. Some people seem to do great and are happy with the results of running or cycling, those people also seem to like those activities. Which makes me question, are we naturally inclined to like activity that our bodies are best suited for?
In the end, I completed the marathon. My physique was still somewhat athletic because I never gave up the weights (I was a CrossFitter back then), but I weighed somewhere around 160 lbs and softer than I was as a judo player. Now I'm 165 to 170 lbs (depends on where I am in training and competition) and leaner than I was running.
If you can lose weight and look great running, more power to you. I'm gonna stick with the weights.