Modified Marcothon Madness

Canal towpath beckons, the default option.

For some years now once a year I have run every day for a month. I was inspired by what is known as the ‘Marcothon’. Started in 2009 by a Glasgow ultra running couple Marco and Debbie Consani the premise is simple. Run every day in December for 25 mins or 3 miles  (4.8km), whichever is shorter. Over the past 12 years it has gained huge popularity far beyond its Glasgow origins**. It may not sound like much but doing it whatever the weather and weaving in whatever else you have in a day and it’s effect on you grows as the month progresses. December is also often a busy time of year. My normal running habits are 3, maybe 4, times a week. For me an annual shift to daily running adds some helpful variety. 

To achieve this quirky goal I find myself playing mind games. The strategy is usually to do the daily run before breakfast. That way it is out of my mind. I don’t need to think of it any more during the day. You may say why do it at all! Early morning in a Scottish winter is not always that inviting. Often bitterly cold, windy, wet and sometimes snowy an extra half hour in bed is extremely attractive. When I succumb to this temptation it becomes necessary to do it at another time of day, like late afternoon. If this doesn’t work I resort to the ‘wild card’. Warning, this is to be used sparingly. The wild card is to go out at 11:30pm and run for an hour. That way I have covered 2 days in one run and don’t have to get up early in the morning. The downside is it plays havoc with sleep patterns and you could be awake most of the night! Reality is whatever way you try to do it there is a price to pay. 

In regards to routes some years I have tried going a different way each day. That involves extra creativity if always starting from home. Nowadays I tend to do shorter runs on the canal in the mornings and if possible do the longer runs off road on a trail or in the mountains late afternoon. I really don’t like street running or being on tarmac. Too stressful with traffic and very hard on the joints. 

Longer run on the trail. Dumgoyne in the Campsie hills in the distance.

One year my wife and I were both doing this self imposed effort. Late December we were flying to see family over Christmas. How to run 25 mins or 3 miles when the whole day we would be travelling? Solution was a 25 minute run in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. Like to think this was a creative solution. It actually happened out of necessity. Our inbound flight was extremely late for our ongoing connection and Arlanda is a big airport. Carrying luggage also made for an extra workout. 

This year I have altered the challenge and am doing a modified version in November instead of December. The observant will notice this is written near the end of November. So far I am in hopes of achieving it and am looking forward to a more relaxed December thinking of other folks out running everyday. For some reason this year I have also inexplicably decided to modify the ‘rules’. Instead of 4.8km or 25 mins. I have upped the distance to an average of 7.5km/day. In effect I still do 4-5km majority of time but every few days then have to up to a longer 12-15km run. The added element of distance means a bit more planning but gives more variety than just ‘getting out the door’ each day.

Why do runners do these things? What is it that makes runners so obsessive? The other day I went a pleasant 18km country hike with friends which took us several hours and had a fair bit of climbing. Surely that would count for the day. No, on getting home I went out for a 4km run. A run is a run. A hike, however strenuous, is a hike.

Running every day in a month might sound inspiring until you read of those who do so for several months, years or even decades! Few will follow or even want to aspire to what the Marcothon did for Mike Wells’…

“10 years ago today, I discovered Marcothon 2011 and as I’d never run more than 3 days in a row before, I decided to try running every day for a week. That week became a month and then somehow, 3,653 days, 6,176 runs & 36,889 miles later, I’ve somehow ended up running every day since.”

Part of Mike Wells’ 22 Nov 2021  post on ‘Marcothon 2021’ Facebook group.

Each to his own (you may say that about me). I don’t see myself in Mike’s category. Today I am counting down the 4 remaining days of this month of my modified Marcothon. Looking forward to a few days break from running. For me this annual project has been a means to stay motivated as winter in the northern hemisphere starts to bite. I get weary of the short daylight and there is the temptation to stay more indoors. At least once a day I do something that on the surface has little or no perceived productivity. In that sense it is counter cultural. I live in a world where doing something ‘productive’ is what is deemed valuable. 

For many of us who run the benefits are not only physical but also psychological. Other aspects of life are enhanced. Running may or may not be your thing. However the rigour of committing to doing something you know is good for you for 30/31 consecutive days might be just the prescription needed.

What will I now do in December? I have given some thought to eating my way daily through a chocolate advent calendar. However I have no inclination to eat just a little chocolate a day apart, why would I do that? The temptation to eat several in one go is just too great – definitely not my thing. Advent though is another thing entirely.

** You can read the Consani’s story of the Marcothon here. Their son has created the ‘mini Marco’, run 1 mile (1.6km) every day in December!

PS- a postscript written on 30 November, having actually completed the month. The sting in the tail in the last week was realising I had slipped on my goal of a daily average of 7.5km for the month. It meant several days of longer than planned distances in order to achieve this. Just 1 km below average converts to an extra 30 km for the month! Note to self- if I ever do a mileage related ‘run every day’ thing again it is very important to be consistent from the beginning if I am going to keep up the average.