What exactly does it take to run an international marathon?
The pandemic undeniably made us realize how our health should be our top priority. Coupled with the sedentary lifestyle and work-from-home situation, it made a lot of us unhealthy and gain weight during this time. This, however, prompted some to take further steps in losing weight.
For Sienna Flores, a disputes lawyer from a well-known law firm in the country, she realized she was almost borderline obese and at her heaviest during the height of the pandemic in 2021. This also took toll with her mental state.
“Though I was doing CrossFit regularly via Zoom, I couldn’t lose weight. The doctor also found nothing wrong with my health. In May 2021, I decided I needed to gain control over my life again,” she said.
Flores then met Coach Ken Mendola of We Ken Run (WKR) and reached out to him for help. Little did she know that from her initial goal of losing weight, it would lead her to running her first World Marathon Major (WMM).
Mendola told Flores that weight loss was just the effect of running. After achieving her personal bests, she decided that it was time to take a notch higher and sign up for the London Marathon.
“As a newbie, I wasn’t sure what to expect during my first marathon. All I could do was trust my training, have faith that I’ve done everything I can and gave everything I could to train hard for this, and know that Coach Ken prepared me well for the marathon,” she said.
She said her personal goal for the marathon was not just to finish strong but to also make sure that she would not be too traumatized with the experience so she would come back and finish all six WMM.
Sharing the same concern with Flores, fellow We Ken Runner Adrian Bancoro said he reached out to Mendola after finding out that a CNN host he follows on Twitter had a medical situation during the Boston Marathon in April. Bancoro, a tax director for a local building materials company, got his acceptance email notification for the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon in December 2021 after five unsuccessful attempts.
“That’s exactly when I decided I need to join a running group and have myself properly trained by an experienced coach,” he said. “The determination to do a WMM is clear; what was not is how to get a marathon slot and how my knees could cope up with the physical beating from running more than 42 kilometers.”
Trust the process
So, what exactly does it take to run a marathon? Coach Ken breaks it down to the following essential attributes: patience, consistency, desire, and confidence.
Patience, he said is for the results. But results come in, one should have consistency in putting in the work and the desire to be a better version of one’s self.
“The first three attributes come from the individual. As their marathon coach, my job is to develop in the athlete the belief in his ability which is confidence. Confidence happens when you have put in the work and embraced a growth mindset,” he said.
Mendola said the easiest part of running a marathon is signing up for a race. However, while people get caught up by the hype and fads of running, they should also understand that it’s more of self-discovery and trusting the process.
“It goes beyond the promise of success. It’s constantly delayed gratification over instant success and individuals who are invested in their journey are the ones who go far and can give themselves a short to see how good they can be when the right moment comes,” he added.
Training duration is unique to every individual. Focused marathon-specific training ideally takes around 16 weeks but Mendola said that what works well for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. The key however to a good build-up and preparation, he said, is gradual and progressive.
“The more time you build your way up the marathon distance, the better you will develop a sold aerobic foundation necessary to finish a marathon,” he said.
Bancoro’s inspiration in completing the marathon was his father’s death, specifically with a singular focus on health, particularly cardio.
“[It was] the best way to remember and honor him since he died due to heart disease-related ailment,” he said. “After the runs I had before, I was thinking it was impossible for me to do a full marathon if I were to consider my physical condition post-race. I was too drained and depleted.”
However, in October 10, he was able to complete the Chicago Marathon held in Illinois, United States, with a record time of 4:25:10.
“Six months ago, I could not have imagined that I will be able to reach this level. The structured training I got from CK and the encouragement and support from my wife and family and from my WKR teammates during the training block had prepared me quite well to execute my race plan,” he said.
Flores, on the other hand, finished the London Marathon in the United Kingdom on October 2. She said that while her first marathon was one of the most difficult things she has ever done, never had she been this laser-focused on something in her life.
“Even more [focused] than when she was studying for her Bar exam,” she quipped. “I really had to change my lifestyle—I got rid of the bad habits that would affect my training. I would be in bed by 8 p.m. and wake up at 3 a.m., and I manage my time better and work more efficiently.”
Moreover, Flores believes that with patience, consistency, and right amount of training, one can complete their first marathon.
“I still can’t believe that a year ago, I couldn’t finish a 3km run, but this year I finished the London Marathon. I look forward to eventually completing all six World Marathon Majors,” she said.
Bancoro also said that despite the doubts one has in mind, every runner should go back remembering why they have started at the first place.
“That’s when I reminded myself that I was doing the marathon to honor my father, who’s so busy taking care of our family needs he somehow was not able to take properly take care of his health, and that I need to be living a consciously healthy life for my wife and kids. Mission accomplished for my first (and hopefully not the last) WMM,” he said.
For those who are interested to join the We Ken Run community, you can follow or message their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WeKenRun.