It is, above all else, a test.
A self-imposed test to be sure, but make no mistake: When you decide to run a marathon, all 26 miles and 385 yards of it, you decide to push both your mind and body to limits most of us will never experience and likely will never understand.
If You GoIf you go
What: Inaugural Edward Hospital Naperville Marathon and Half Marathon
When: 7 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 10
Where: Starts and ends near the North Central College Residence Hall and Recreation Center at Porter Avenue and Loomis Street
Cost: Free to watch
And yet, at every marathon, there are a goodly number of first-timers; men and women willing to make the sacrifices necessary to put themselves to that test, to see if they have what it takes to battle the pain and fatigue and to go the distance.
Roughly 1,400 runners will participate in the inaugural Naperville Marathon Sunday, Nov. 10. Many have run similar races before and know what to expect.
For the first-timers, though, this is virgin territory. For the next several days they'll focus on the anticipation and strive to push any stubborn doubts into the dusty corners of their minds.
They will see the finish line in their minds and imagine the thrill, the sense of accomplishment, that comes from being able to say, "I did it. I am a marathoner."
Here are some of their stories ...
Stephanie Anderson, 37, Naperville
Stephanie Anderson of Naperville was a competitive runner in high school and college and kept returning to running for fitness. When she learned her town would host its first marathon, she knew it was the motivation she needed to get moving. Read Stephanie's story.
Jennifer Dodson, 45, Naperville
Jennifer Dodson of Naperville set out to honor her mother by taking part in a three-day, 60-mile fundraising walk. But signing up for the event led to joining a friend in a triathlon and running a few 5Ks and a half marathon. Then came the question: Would you ever run a full marathon? Again, Dodson answered, "Why not?" Read Jennifer's story.
Debbie Johnson, 47, Naperville
Debbie Johnson of Naperville started losing weight and getting fit in 2007 but hesitated -- resisted -- running her first 5K in 2011. Then registration opened for the first Naperville Marathon and she could see the race was filling up fast. Still unsure, she signed up. And she hasn't looked back since. Read Debbie's story.
Kirsten Lang, 25, St. Charles
Kirsten Lang has been a runner since seventh grade. The sport has brought her success, given her joy and taught her about herself -- body and mind. She's known for a while she wanted to take on the challenge of a marathon and she believes the Naperville Marathon is the perfect setting for her first 26.2-mile race. Read Kirsten's story.
Carolyn Pelkowski, 37, Aurora
Carolyn Pelkowski of Aurora has had her eye on the finish line of Sunday's race for quite a while. An avid runner, she's finished 5Ks, 7Ks, triathlons, half marathons and even a 20-mile race. But Pelkowski has long wanted to complete a marathon. The finish line in Sunday's Naperville Marathon will mean she's met her latest goal. Read Carolyn's story.
Brett Ward, 42, Aurora
Brett Ward of Aurora started walking on a treadmill 22 months ago to lose weight. One workout led to the next, one goal to another, and now he's competing Sunday in his first marathon knowing he's inspiring his daughter to share his love of running. Read Brett's story.