By Joey Lee
You. Can. Complete. A. Marathon. I firmly and passionately believe this. You can, if you’re willing to put in the work. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fun. But it can be done, and it’s most definitely worth the effort. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of crossing the finish after 26.2 miles!
Marathon Makeover is a group that not only can get you to experience that thrill, but they can help you change your life at the same time.
The brainchild of Mark and Robin Simpson, the program started in 2003 with an innocent comment from a local runner who mentioned that nobody wanted to run marathons anymore. Mark told him he didn’t believe people didn’t want to run them, but that nobody knew how to train for them. So this runner threw out a challenge, if Mark could get at least five people to commit, he would train them for a marathon. They ended up with 22 people training and 20 of them completing the Chicago Marathon in the fall of 2004.
From this beginning, Mark and Robin created Marathon Makeover and since 2004, they have trained people for more than 4,000 marathon and half marathon finishes.
Marathon Makeover offers two different programs, a 40-week and a 20-week plan. The 20 week is for those wanting to complete a half-marathon and the 40 week is for those wanting to complete a full marathon or two half marathons. But they are both designed for beginners, for those who would never consider themselves runners.
People often ask, “‘Can I walk, or do I have to be a runner?’,” Mark explains, “I tell them that we define running as anything moving forward. Our programs start out with people walking and working their way up to running.”
The great thing about their program is that it doesn’t just focus on people finishing a marathon or half marathon, the programs that do that tend to have people finish, but then go straight back to their couches and never run again. Marathon Makeover focuses on changing participants’ lifestyles and keeping them active after completing the race.
The first 10 weeks of the training program consists of Saturday morning meetings followed by a group run. In the meetings, participants receive important information they need to know about running from gear and nutrition to form and safety. They also learn how to deal with the mental battles they will probably face throughout their training.
“If all you do is get a medal and then stop, we have not succeeded,” Mark said.
We all have those little voices telling us how much easier it would be to sit on the couch than to go for a run. Marathon Makeover teaches how to effectively tell these voices where to get off!
Following the initial phase, the Saturday meetings are replaced with longer runs where participants meet at various locations around the Jackson metro area. These runs are fully supported with hydration and nutrition stations and Marathon Makeover alums who provide encouragement and assistance. Mark stressed that this is not a group where elite runners will show up and leave everyone; it is a very supportive and encouraging atmosphere.
“We focus on getting you moving and educated first,” Mark said. “We like to focus on building a positive, powerful community; we want to transform you.”
But you can’t finish a marathon just doing one long run on Saturday. During the week, runners have a moderate training schedule and receive support and information through the Marathon Makeover website, Facebook page, emails and streaming videos. But the anchor of the training is the Saturday group run.
Although participants can pick which race they’d like to do, most of the participants go to a marathon selected by Mark and Robin. This year’s groups will be training for the Wounded Warrior Half Marathon in Dallas and the Rock & Roll Marathon St. Louis in October. “We choose marathons that have generous time limits (typically seven hours) and those that are really well supported,” Mark explained.
Registration is open for this year’s Marathon Makeover from January 24 through the end of February.
If you’ve ever thought about doing a marathon, or you’re looking for a way to change your life, become active and healthy, this group is a great way to do just that.
“Marathon Makeover is like a group therapy session built around a really long run,” Mark said. “It’s a transformative experience, not just a running group.”