Running can cause excitement leading up to your big race. Yet you can be filled with anxiety, too.
You can put in hours of speed and hill work. Yet the result on race day might be less than you expected.
Greensboro runner Dorothy Hans experiences her own paradox with Marcothon, which originated in Scotland and which she has helped introduce to runners in the Gate City.
"I'm getting back into my ultras again," she says, "but whenever I would talk about doing an ultra, people would be like, 'I could never do that.' I'm always like, 'Well, you probably can if you want to.
"And it's kind of the same thing with Marcothon. People are like, 'Oh, I could never do that; it's crazy.' But then suddenly realizing you can do these things."
"And for me personally, I fail a lot at Marcothon," she says, with a laugh. "I like that in a way because it's kind of giving myself permission to fail at something."
We'll come back to that point in a minute. But here's what you need to know about the 31 days of Marcothon, which starts Thursday, followed by a Q&A with Hans, who continues to attract new participants every year and would welcome you trying it, too.
What: Running 3 miles or 25 minutes every day during December, which is, of course, filled with the start of winter and the busy-ness brought on by the holidays.
Origin: Glasgow, Scotland. In November 2009, ultra runner Marco Consani decided to run at least 3 miles each day of the month, having had a difficult summer of running but lacking plans for that month. In December 2009, his ultra-running wife, Debbie, upstaged him by doing likewise in December – "when it's harder," she told the Glasgow Evening Times in 2020 – and calling it "the Marcothon."
Where and when you can run: Anywhere, any time. If you want to connect with other Marcothon participants in Greensboro, consider joining the Greensboro Marcothon group on Facebook. Among those will be members of RunClub, a group that includes Hans.
What they're saying: “It’s not about speed, it’s not about pace. It’s just about getting out there and doing it.” – Debbie Martin-Consani to the Glasgow Evening Times in 2020.
Q&A with Dorothy Hans
RS: How did you get interested in Marcothon?
Hans: "I have this deep-seated love for Scotland. I studied abroad there as an undergraduate, and I have a lot of friends still there, even though that was over 20 years ago. I found out about it because of friends in Scotland (Karen and Al) who were doing it. ... I kept seeing him post about it the first year, and I thought, 'This is interesting.'
"I started doing it own my own over here. It's been a while ago, at least nine years, maybe 10. Probably like 10 or 11. It took me a while to get people on board to start doing it. But a lot of times people just thought I was crazy."
RS: And how have you gotten Greensboro interested in Marcothon?
Hans: "Slowly but surely, some RunClubbers started to do it. And particularly my friend Susan Lee Skipper, who's in RunClub. She's really taken it to heart and has completed it many times.
“I guess we started before COVID, probably in December 2019. That's really when I think more people were like, 'Oh, this is interesting.' And I don't know why then. Maybe more challenges kinds of things were becoming more popular then.
“I made the Greensboro Marcothon group. I thought, 'This will be a fun way to see if anybody else wants to go out for a run at a different time or if we're struggling.' That way, if you really did want to run with somebody, you could try to find somebody who was doing the same thing.
“It has spread out from there to other runners in the community, people who knew people. Now I look at some of the names in the Greensboro Marcothon group, and I'm like, 'I don't know them, but they're into it, so that's cool.'"
RS: What has Marcothon meant for you?
Hans: "My dad (Jim Hans) died on Christmas Day nine years ago. I always think about it as a time my dad had Stage IV cancer, in between Thanksgiving and Christmas that one year; it was a quick decline. For a lot of people, too, it's 'I'm doing this for myself, but I can also do it with other people. And if I can't do it, that's OK, too.'"
RS: In these 10 or 11 years, how many times have you successfully completed Marcothon?
Hans: "You're going to crack: I think like two or three times. I can do really well through Christmas. Christmas Eve is also my birthday, and then having a child (Nuala), I opt for family time, to go see my family or travel some place with them. So I've done it two or three times. Definitely two."
RS: What tips can you offer to help runners get through Marcothon?
Hans: "I like to get stuff over early. Not everybody likes to wake up early and run. Plan your week, plan your day, to realistically think of when you can get it in. I always say get it done earlier because you never know what's going to come up during the course of the day.
"That said, I know a lot of people in the big group, and I've done this, too, do the double dunt, where they run at night, starting at 11:30, then 12 to 12:30, or 12:25 I guess.
"Maximize or double up. 'Oh, I need to go get milk from the store; I'm gonna go run and do that.' Or if there's an errand I need to do, if I can run it, I do it. Just throw my backpack on, my little vest, and make it into an errand.
"Finding friends to run with is definitely important as well. To have people who will run with you but also people who will encourage you. Tell your family you're doing this, and maybe let them encourage you."
RS: What are favorite Marcothon memories for you?
Hans: "In 2019 when I started the Facebook group with the Greensboro people, that was really fun for me because we had a kickoff run. A lot of us ran together for the first run. And then we had an ending celebration, and a lot of us completed it that year. We all got together at one of the breweries and hung out and talked about it, told funny stories about our different runs. For me, that was kind of, 'Oh, look at this, the community of Marcothon is alive and well.'
"And as a mom – this is hard, too – but to go out on Christmas Eve to do one of the double dunts. We started running at 11:30 on Christmas Eve and finished at 12:30 on Christmas Day. We also brought canned goods and dropped them off under the balls (in Sunset Hills). We also brought little treats, chocolates or maybe a bottle of something, and left them on people's porches that we knew. Little elf-like acts. Those are things I think about a lot with Marcothon."
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