Running towards happiness – how I became a marathon runner
It is roughly over 10 years since I started running – or at least something close to running. Initially it was all about losing weight. So I started for 5-10 minutes at a time. Before I would run with my brother for about 30 minutes, but would feel like about to die afterwards.
By running 5 minutes at a time I made sure I was not overtraining. Only when I was comfortable making it, I would increase the time or distance. At some point I was able to run around the campus at Jacobs University. I would even go down the river and run from campus up to Vegesack and back. Then, in my 3rd year at Jacobs Uni, I ran the 5 km run organised by Krupp College.
After enjoying the competitive feeling of running I wanted to come up with new challenges. So I thought of running a marathon. When I told my parents, they “wished me good luck”. They were always very supportive of my ideas, however they saw me more like “surviving” my runs.
After my graduation from Jacobs University Bremen in 2010, I moved to Amsterdam to pursuit a Master’s degree in Communications. I did not give up my desire of running a marathon. I found out that there was the Amsterdam Marathon 2010 – perfect. By then I was able to run at least 10 km and still enjoy it. I only – or let’s say still – had two months to train for it. Luckily I met my later running partner Christiaan. He was a field and track runner and he was fast. Not as brave as me though. I had to convince Christiaan to train with me and run the full marathon instead of only the half.
We would train every second day by running multiple regular runs and one LSD (not the drug but Long Slow Distance) run. It was good to have a running friend with whom to encourage each other. We would sometimes wake up at 6 am and end up running for 2 hours before breakfast. Only when I was able to run 30 km were my parents convinced that I could actually run the marathon.
The whole marathon experience was amazing. Back then I did not understand what a marathon expo was. Marathon Expo – is the exhibition of multiple races and running related brands. We also had to get our Bib numbers (the chest number or running number used to identify the runners) there. It was incredible to see so many enthusiastic runners and even more runner wannabes like me. Oh yeah – we also had a pasta party the night before – the all important carb loading dinner.
It was a rather crisp but sunny morning of my first marathon ever. Me, Christiaan and our friend Etana (our main supporter) went to the race village in the Amsterdam Olympic stadium. The atmosphere was uplifting and I was so excited to start. When I started, I was very excited to finish. After all, I have already told everyone I will finish the marathon. There were easy and hard parts, but the best part was when I saw my friends at around the 30th kilometre. And of course the last lap around the Olympic Park before crossing that finish line.
No matter how hard it was, I was already thinking about my next marathon.
My second marathon was the one in Prague for which my parents came to watch from Lithuania. It was fantastic to have my parents along the course.
Paris was the marathon I ran with my brother. Or at least the first kilometre after which he sped far ahead of me.
In 2012, I was lucky to get a lottery ballot entry to take part in the ING New York City Marathon. However, that year it was the first year the New York Marathon was cancelled. It was due to Hurricane Sandy. It was a shock at first. However, the cancellation proved that it is not easy to stop runners from running and showed the positive spirit of resilience. I ended up joining the mock up marathon – Run Anyway NYC 2012. The whole Central Park was filled with runners, supporters and spectators.
When I signed up for my next one – Rome Marathon – I had no idea there will be another hurdle that might cause to cancel this marathon – Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Luckily, only the Vatican was cut from the course and the race was given a go. Rome Marathon was the first marathon I finished under four hours.
I was lucky again to have won a new marathon ballot for New York Marathon in 2013 and was finally able to run the famous ING New York City Marathon. It is still my fastest and my favourite marathon. It was however saddened by the horrible terrorist attack at Boston Marathon Finish line.
Since then, I ran in Madrid, Lisbon, Napa Valley, Bristol to Bath, Dusseldorf and Berlin. My last marathon was in London which I ran for NSPCC charity – the charity that fights against child abuse. You can support my fundraising by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Justas
For me running marathons is a hobby that no matter how many times you do is still very tough. It is also a bit of an addiction. Marathon running is an amazing challenge that helped me understand that everything is possible if you put your mind to it. Additionally, the camaraderie among runners is unbelievable. I end up meeting people I met and people I never met before. Oh, it is also a fantastic conversation starter.
Every marathon is a different story. Even the same marathon can be completely different because of the weather or even how you feel personally. All you have to do is make sure you are prepared as much as possible. Personally, I increased my distance from running 1 km in 10 minutes to running 9-10 km daily. It was not easy and required discipline. I ran 5 times for about 7 to 10 minutes and then would slowly increase this. I would then run 2 kilometres for few times, and not a minute or meters longer. I made sure I am comfortable with the distance before increasing it. It was also essential to have a goal in mind – a marathon.
Anyone can run a marathon. Even I did. It is a mental strength more than anything. You need to be able to power through the pain during the practice and sometimes during the race. But I always feel it is worth it when I cross that finish line. I have always been stubborn when trying to achieve my goals, but I still think marathons is my one of the biggest achievements.
Physically, marathons helped me lose weight and become healthier. It also gave me a reason to travel. I have been to 8 countries and ran in 12 different cities just to run marathon.