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Goal Day Surprise: Jens Voigt Runs His First Marathon!

Jens Voigt running a marathon

In planning for Fitbit Goal Day, I realized that with all the running I’ve been doing lately, I have to take almost 10,000 steps to cover 10 km (6.2 miles). So when I decided to aim for 40,000 steps on Goal Day, I figured I would have to do four times the running (40km or 24.8 miles). But then I realized it would only take another 2 km to reach marathon distance. The thought of achieving two goals at once—running a marathon (my first!) and getting 40,000 steps in—was temping.

Of course I knew that would be easier said than done. I’ve run one official half-marathon and covered the same distance a few times before that race in preparation, but running a marathon is a whole different story. Your fatigue level increases more quickly as the time passes and refueling becomes very important. For my half-marathon training runs I never took food or water with me; I just had a coffee and a glass of water before I started running. I mean come on, it’s only about an hour and a half to one hour and forty-five minutes of running, so let’s not overcomplicate things, right?! But running a marathon requires more than double that time, so water and some energy gels or bananas would be needed.

In the end, I decided to go for it. I would attempt to run my first marathon.

Running a Marathon: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Style

On Goal Day, I was in California commentating a multi-day bike race, so I got up early and hit a running path two miles from my hotel at 5:45 am. I choose a paved bike and running path that sits alongside a dry riverbed, parked my car, and started running to left. I ran 5km out and back, stop quickly for water at my car, and then ran off to the right, same story: 5km out and back then stopped for water again. I repeated that until I hit my goal. 

Jen's Voigt running a marathon

At first I was all alone, but as more and more people arrived, I saw it all: riders with $10,000 bikes, homeless people sleeping in bushes, young and old people, boys and girls, runners, hikers, and cyclists, people walking their dogs. And the lovely thing was that nobody yelled at each other; we just shared the running and cycling path.

But the highlight had to be the wildlife. I saw two hummingbirds, one roadrunner, and a wild cat. I could not identify that one. It was clearly too small to be a mountain lion and had no spots on the fur, just plain brown color. Maybe it was a bobcat. There were hundreds of rabbits along the trail, so I’m sure he’d have no problem finding something find to eat.

Go Deep or Go Home

Running a marathon like I did just for fun is different than signing up for an official event. On one hand it’s more difficult, because there’s no support from fans or organizers. No one cheers you on when you struggle or when your internal motivation runs dry. There are also no free water stations.

But it’s also easier in the sense that there’s no pressure. You don’t have to hit a certain time, chat with others, or adapt your speed to somebody else’s. It’s just you and the trail, and it’s a great way to test yourself and find yourself in that way.

Running a marathon by yourself is also much more Zen than an official race—it’s a bit like meditating. As you take one step after the other, your body goes into automatic mode: your breathing becomes controlled and steady, your thoughts start wandering, and memories of moments long gone resurface.

During my marathon, moments full of joy as well as memories full of pain and sadness came up again and again. It was quite the trip, quite the experience. Pushing myself and emptying my body seemed to trigger a more intense way of thinking, a more intense way of feeling. It helped me to put things in perspective. Some of the worries I had before my run seemed so much smaller and less important afterwards.

I think I will do more of these types of runs. I loved the experience of going deep and what it does to you. But don’t be fooled, a lot of pain and suffering comes before you get to Zen zone. It’s a unique experience, but a hard journey to get there.

Just the Stats

My official marathon time was 3 hours and 42 minutes, which is 5:16 per km or 8:28 per mile. I needed to be able to work and walk around all day afterward, so I played it safe with the speed and didn’t kill myself trying to go all out. In terms of fueling, I ate one banana and one muesli bar, and drank one soda and 2.5 liters of water.

Running a marathon: Jens Voigt's Fitbit Surge stats

Running a marathon was simply the most amazing way I’ve started a day in a long time. I wanted to share my moment of peace and happiness with you. Hopefully you had an equally awesome and accomplished Goal Day.

Related Content:
An Easy-Does-It Training Plan for First-Time Marathoners
5 Ways to a Faster Marathon
What to Eat the Week Before a Marathon

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About Richard Lopez

Richard Lopez
I was born in a small town in Texas population 812. I have lived in several big cities in the mid west and on the east coast. I now live in Oklahoma loving the country living again. As I have become older I realize that it is very important to take care of yourself. So I hope the information is helpful.

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