That one extra non-selfish reason
Seasoned marathon campaigners will tell you that the final 10-12k is orders of magnitude more difficult than the first 30k. This is true for both the newbie (struggling to finish his first or second marathon) and the veteran elite marathoner (summoning all his resources to maintain the target pace on course to hit a new Personal Best).
Unless you are having a picture perfect race, which does happen to some folks I’m told, chances are some body part(s) start(s) paining during this final 10k stretch. Or you might run out of fuel. At these junctures, the power of the mind is needed more than ever before – to propel the protesting body forward. The stronger and more focused is your mind, higher the likelihood of you surmounting whatever physical difficulties have cropped up.
What I’ve learned from the four marathons I’ve run to date is that it helps to have one extra reason for running the marathon. Sure you want to keep getting faster and you want to keep adding finisher medals to your ‘bragging gallery’ at home. But if you have one non-selfish reason, it seems to make a difference – both to your post-race satisfaction and to your race performance. I did fundraising for my first and third marathons and dedicated the fourth (KTM 2010) to three individuals. My third race (KTM 2009) was the only one where I ran for me-me-me. Coincidentally it happened to be the least enjoyable and the hardest to complete.
My data mining and statistics junkie friends will no doubt tell me two things “but this is correlation, not causation” and “your sample size is too small”. Do I see myself doing an A/B test in the coming years to prove my hypothesis? No. I’ve simply internalized the lessons and am unlikely to waste any future marathons by running just for me-me-me.