A co-worker asked me this question and made me pause, in part because while I’ve had a short answer on hand the past couple of years, there’s a little more to it than that. The short answer is that I gave them up in 2013 when I went back to graduate school and I didn’t have the time to properly train for them. Training runs in the 14-23 mile range eat up a lot of your time, after all.
What I think people who don’t run marathons realize, though, is that it’s not just the time for the training run, but rather the time surrounding it. On Sunday morning I ran a half marathon, which meant that I had to go to bed early the night before, eat some fairly bland foods, and then be prepared for being low-energy the rest of Sunday. It also meant that I left one celebration early on Saturday, and then by the time I’d rallied for another one scheduled for that afternoon, it was getting too late in the day and I’d run out of “free” time before I had to start eating that bland dinner and getting ready for bed. And similarly, I knew that I would need to skip a convention I’d planned on attending on Sunday entirely because I would be tired enough that the potential stress would be magnified.
This was a half marathon. Now turn that into a 20 mile training run. It’s exhausting, only even more so. In my 20s and 30s it was tough. Now the idea of running 20 miles makes me want to just collapse. I hate missing my friends’ big moments, my own downtime, and so on. Having that happen every other weekend when the training runs get longer just eats up my life that much more. And as I grow older, I value that free time so much more. I feel bad that I missed a good friend’s birthday, that I missed seeing once-a-year visitors at a convention that I used to run, that I cut out early of another celebration. Heck, I feel bad that a lot of things I wanted to get done around the house on Sunday didn’t happen (but not THAT bad).
Every now and then I think about tackling “one more marathon.” And maybe if it was a really special race (one friend has talked about the London Marathon, for example), I’d consider it. But right now, I just can’t muster up enough enthusiasm. I think this weekend was a good reminder for me on why I had to, sadly, give them up for a while. Fortunately, the trade-off of seeing friends and having more free time is incredibly worth it. I’ll take friends over a new full marathon in a heartbeat.