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Why the marathon?

You don’t take on 26.2 miles without a reason. Everyone who runs a marathon has a ‘why’. And everyone else asks “why”?! So why is marathon distance so iconic? We asked elite On athletes for their answers.


History, pain and glory: 5 On athletes on why the marathon is the ultimate race.


Rachel Cliff, Canada – The record holder 

When Rachel Cliff’s track coach saw she was taking a 25km tempo run in her stride, he knew she was ready to up the distance. And so it proved. In only her second marathon race, Rachel broke the Canadian marathon record that had stood for six years, finishing in 2:26:56.



Why keep pushing the distance to new limits with the marathon?

I like the challenge of pushing myself and am constantly searching for new ways to improve. I continue pushing partly because I believe I still have another gear to give. But I think most of it boils down to the fact that I’m still in love with the sport.


Whats your favourite marathon race to date?

The Nagoya Women’s marathon in Japan in March 2019. It’s where my personal best is from and the race played out really well for me. But it was also a really great experience to race in Japan – where the marathon has a lot of prestige – and to race against so many talented women!


What keeps you going in the latter stages of a tough marathon?

Focusing on the positives, notably, how far I’ve already gone and that what’s left is only a fraction of the race.

The Cloudsurfer
The shoe that combines training shoe comfort with racing flat speed. Or, as Rachel puts it: “So soft and supportive but equally responsive and fast.”
See the Cloudsurfer


Chris Thompson, UK - The experienced competitor

Chris Thompson is one of Britain’s best-known long distance runners. He boasts the third fastest 10km time of any British runner in history (27:27.36) and competed at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Today, he focuses on topping podiums at half and full marathon distance. 


Chris, why did you first start racing at marathon distance?

I ran my first marathon in London in 2011. My time was 2 hours 11m 19 secs. I finished in 11th place. The whole event from the first day I started training for it, until the moment I crossed the line and the weeks after was a journey unlike any other in my whole running career. 

What is your favourite marathon race and why?

Currently I've raced London three times and New York once. Both were exceptional in their own way, but London gets the nod purely as it's my home race and you feel like every member of the crowd is behind you, and I needed it. Plus it's very cool to be running the streets of a big city like London when you regularly see the roads full of cars and hustle and bustle. Instead, it's full of runners and supporters. For that one day the city is closed and overrun by a marathon race. 


What keeps you going in the latter stages of a tough marathon?

'How you're feeling?' tends to be a question you ask yourself constantly during a marathon, more so than fighting for your performance. You're trying to manage your own effort from start to finish as you're dealing with energy availability rather than lactate build up. That feedback to your brain increases the mind games going on in your own head and finding coping strategies is very important. Having a strong mind and belief is as important as having a strong body. Breaking down the race into bite-sized goals is a big part of this for me. 


For those readers that are thinking about it: Why should they run a marathon?

Because the sense of achievement is like no other event I've ever run. I thought the whole time I was preparing for my first marathon is was all about the result and how fast I ran. Nothing else mattered. I was very wrong. The sense of achievement and sense of community on a marathon day is incredible. There may be elite athletes, but everyone shares in their own story and incredible achievement. The buzz around town after –  of satisfaction, pride and pain is shared among everyone. Win, lose or draw we all came, saw and ran a marathon. 


For that one day the town or city where you ran the marathon belongs to you and to everyone else in a bond that doesn't need words. It already has blood, sweat and tears. 

The Cloudflow
Long-distance cushioning meets lightweight responsive design. The Cloudflow is Chris’s choice for logging fast miles.
See the Cloudflow


Andy Vernon, UK –  The track star turned marathoner

With national titles from 1500m to half marathon, plus two medals at the 2014 European Championships: silver in the 10,000m and a bronze in 5,000m, Andy’s had a pretty stellar track career. Now he’s stepping up to compete over marathon distance for the first time at the 2019 London Marathon. So we ask the obvious question: why?  



Andy, why did you decide to step up to marathon distance?

I'm getting into the latter stages of my career and I thought if I don't step up to marathon distance now, I might never get the chance. I'm also starting to lose a bit of that raw track pace too so it seemed like the right time for a change. 


Why did you choose London for your marathon debut?

London is one of the biggest marathons in the world. It's my home marathon, I don't need to acclimatize for weather conditions because I live and train here, and it's an hour on the train for me to get to the race, so it was an easy choice for my first one. 


What will keep you going in the latter stages of a tough marathon?

I've actually just recently lost my Nan. She was one of my biggest supporters and was really looking forward to watching me race in London, so when it's getting tough I'll be digging in, knowing she's cheering me on from above.


The Cloudflash
The racing flat Swiss Engineered for explosive speed. Andy’s choice when every second counts.
See the Cloudflash


Nico Montanez & Margo Malone, US – The international contenders

Nico Montanez and Margo Malone are up-and-coming long-distance stars at the Mammoth Track Club based in California, US. They will compete internationally for the first time when they run the marathon in On’s home city at the 2019 Zurich Marathon, Switzerland. 



Why did you first start racing at marathon distance? 

Nico: All through high school and especially in college, I always performed better in longer workouts (tempo runs, long runs, two-mile repeat sessions) as opposed to short interval workouts. The longer workouts were my bread and butter. It wasn’t long after that I wanted a true challenge –  to see if I was indeed a marathoner or just blowing smoke. At my first marathon I ran a 5:12 per mile pace (3:13 per kilometer) for a time of 2:16:24. That’s when I knew I was born for this.


Margo: Zurich will be my first marathon. I am really excited to try the distance because I have always enjoyed the longer workout days in training. Living in Mammoth Lakes, California, I am surrounded by endless miles of trails and inspiration for the marathon. Coach Kastor and I thought it would be an exciting challenge for the spring. 


Why are you looking forward to racing the Zurich Marathon this year?

Nico:I am extremely excited for many reasons. The first being I’m racing for the first time internationally. The first time is always memorable regardless of the results. The second is that the course is flat and fast! It’ll be really fun to test my true fitness on such a fast course.  


Margo:It is an amazing opportunity to race in Zurich with the support and hometown feel of the On headquarters. I have never been to Europe and am looking forward to exploring!  


What keeps you going in the latter stages of a tough marathon?

Nico: My mindset. When the going gets tough the tough get going. I love being tough when the real pain starts to set in during the late stages of the marathon. 


"There’s no way around the pain during the marathon so I decide to accept it and try to be the toughest athlete in those hard times. Life is much harder, so I also keep that in mind. I’m doing what I love and pain is a part of the process."


Margo: When the marathon gets tough, I will remember the many miles of preparation with my teammates and have confidence in the build up. Also, the imagery of the Mammoth Mountains helps put everything into perspective when it gets tough.


For those readers thinking about it: Why should they run a marathon?

Nico: I believe humans were born to be active. We were born to move. What better way to express your movement or your style than through a marathon? It’s truly a challenging event but the fulfilment that comes with crossing the finish line triumphs any challenge no matter the difficulty. So express yourself by conquering the distance of a marathon. (Oh, and if the thought of running 26.2 miles scares you, you’re on the right track). 


Margo: No matter what pace you run, completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment! It's a test of human endurance and to me, the distance teaches life lessons of resilience and strength. Also, marathons embody community and the energy of the city of Zurich will be perfect to carry runners through the  26.2 miles. 

The Cloud X
The lightweight shoe for road running that can also handle mixed-sports workouts. Nico and Margo’s choice for race day.
See the Cloud X

Inspired to take on the marathon? Check out our marathon guide for beginners. Then hit the road.



Can you run 26.2 miles in a month?
Not quite marathon ready, but up for a challenge? Run 26.2 miles over the course of April and you can win big thanks to our friends at Polar. 
Cover the marathon distance in a single session or combine several shorter runs, it's up to you. Complete the challenge during this marathon month for a chance to win the ultimate runner's prize pack.  
Sign up on Strava now and get running for a chance of winning. Oh, and don't forget to join the  On and Polar  Strava communities for support, tips and kudos! 


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