The list of problems that plague runners is long and somewhat trivial. Up there among blisters, an uncharged GPS battery, and thighs chafing, is the very real condition of “FOMO,” or fear of missing out.
It goes a little something like this:
You just started running this past year. You trained hard for your first 5k, and you were so proud of yourself when you finally crossed the finish line (as you should be!) Soon thereafter, you began eyeballing your first 10k, because suddenly a 5k didn’t seem far enough.
But then you see your friend, who started running around the same time you did, has signed up for her first half marathon. You think you should skip the 10k and do the same, because if she can do it, you can do it. The next thing you know you are considering marathons, or even ultra marathons, simply because everyone else is doing it. You are suffering from the fear of missing out.
It’s okay, I’ve fallen prey to the FOMO myself more than once.
But the truth is, jumping from couch-to-ultra marathon is simply a bad idea for most of us, and may result in injuries that will cut your running career short. Gradually progressing from beginner to more experienced running distances takes time, multiple years even, as your body adjusts to the rigors of the increase in training.
Now, I’m sure you are wondering, “well, how DO I know when I’m ready to move on to the next distance?” and the truth is, there is no cut and dry answer. Each person adapts to the increase in distance differently, based on a number of factors, such as fitness levels and recovery times.
But that said, there ARE a few questions you can ask yourself to see if you are truly ready to move on to the next race distance, and aren’t simply suffering from the effects of FOMO.
1) How are you handling your current training schedule?
Are you consistent with your training? Is your body recovering well? Are you struggling to meet your specified distances, or have the workouts been a breeze? Keep in mind that stepping up to the next racing distance is going to only increase the demands of training. Don’t rush to jump ahead if you still aren’t comfortable with your current regimen.
2) Do you have the time?
Because the longer the distance race you are training for, the more time you are going to have to spend training. Half and full marathon training plans will have you running weekly long runs, some (or most, for a marathon) will be upwards of double digit mileage. Toward the end, you will feel like you spend all of your free time running. Are you ready to make that sacrifice?
Which brings me to a sub topic: make sure you have the support of your loved ones. Sure, you can certainly train for longer races with zero support, but trust me when I tell you it’s not easy. If training starts negatively impacting your family life or the lives of loved ones, your training and personal life may go downhill, fast.
3) Are you SURE you want do it?
And you aren’t just saying you want to train for a marathon because all of your friends are? Or because you feel like you should do it? Is the FOMO driving you, or do you truly feel the desire to move onto the next distance race?
I will be the first to admit, sometimes it’s really hard to make that distinction. But training and racing for YOU—and not simply because you think you should—will make all of the difference in the world when it comes to your running experience.
One of the greatest pieces of racing advice I’ve ever received was when someone close to me told me to not stress about jumping up to the next distance race, because that distance race is not going anywhere. Those races will be there when I’m ready to run them, and I will enjoy the race that much more when I am properly physically and mentally prepared to tackle it.
And the same goes for you.
Take your time, enjoy the process as you grow into a stronger runner, and most of all…fight the FOMO!