My usual training method is somewhat ad-hoc:
- Run a few miles a week
- Run a few more miles each week
- One day, notice I’m running a lot of miles
- Sign up for a 50k race that’s three days away.
This somewhat contrasts to my new Wharton MBA classmates plans. Several of us are running the Philadelphia Marathon; my classmates are following quite rigorous training plans, which involve increasingly long weekend runs: 18, 20, 22 miles. Out of laziness with regards to my own training plan, I’ve latched on to their long runs.
Behavioral Contagion is a fascinating type of social influence. It explains why members of a social group tend to do similar things , like all face the same direction in an elevator or all order diet-busting dessert at a restaurant. It also explains why I seem to be following a training plan for this race – everyone else is doing it.
Behavioral contagion played a part in my decision to run a solo marathon this weekend. Here’s how:
- Hogfest. On Saturday, Wharton hosted an inter-collegiate rugby tournament. I know I would be celebrating with the team that evening, and I also knew they’d be glowing from post-tournament exhaustion. I felt like I would be missing out if I weren’t also athletically drained and able to celebrate with them.
- 20 miles is almost 26.2 miles. I also knew that my runner colleagues would be running about 20 miles this weekend. But, in my mind, 20 miles is just an hour short of a marathon. It seems silly to not just tack on an extra 6.2 and get the marathon.
Perverse logic. But, there it is.
I thought about all of this on Thursday. True to my historical training regimen, three days later, I woke up and ran a glorious, easy, solo marathon.
The weather was amazing – just around 50*F. I ran along the river, with a very slight breeze and the sun low on the horizon. There were a few stretches of gravel path with green branches arching up on either side. It wasn’t a redwood forest, but it was gorgeous nevertheless.
The geeky runner information: My goal was to run a 4-hour marathon without feeling terrible afterwards. I was trying to run at a consistent pace – one that didn’t feel frantic, but also that was a bit of a push. I ran my first 13.1 in 1:59:53 (just under two hours), then finished the entire run at 4:04:22 – pretty close to goal. Legs were a little wobbly around mile 16, but a Gu helped with that. Overall, this wasn’t terrible – and I think I can improve on 4:04 for Philadelphia, especially since I hadn’t tapered at all for this particular run (the total mileage for the week was 56.2).
In summary: I was “contaged” to run a solo marathon. But it was the best kind of contagion – the kind that pushes you just a little farther than you would have pushed yourself.
Also – this happened to be my 30th marathon. Yay!