Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Its either you have run a marathon, or you have done an Ironman

Sorta kinda gonna go off onto a rant here, so bear with me :)

We endurance athletes are super human and we know it; we are also super educated about our respective sports. We know our distances like we know our times tables from the 4th grade.
  • 5K, 10K, 15K, Half Marathon, 25K, Marathon, Ultras, etc.
  • Sprint, Olympic, International, Half Ironman, Ironman, that crazy triple Ironman distance.

I will give you 15 seconds to convert all of those to miles! Go! haha!

The rest of the general public, excluding spouses, signifigant others, and family members of endurance athletes (cuz they all know!), assume that if you run, you run a marathon or if you are a triathlete, you only do an Ironman.

Its kinda funny at first, really when a stranger asks. But after awhile when you are at the cusp of running your first full marathon or first full Ironman that when someone looks at all of the race bibs stapled onto your office wall, such as presented in exhibit A:

This is only "one" wall....i have another wall with more bibs....I am such a packrat....

And exclaims, "WOW! You have ran a lot of marathons!"


They say it like its a walk in the park. "Oh, you are gonna go run another marathon, how cute!"

This person has NO idea how hard it is to run a marathon and what it takes (I don't even know cuz I haven't even ran one yet!), and at the age of 27, based on what is pictured above, that would be a LOT of marathons run! And based upon the number of half marathons that I have ran, I just know this marathon is gonna HURT! Yeppers, I am officially scared shitless of the distance now :)

I no joke have at least one person stop at my desk each week and drop the "WOW! You have ran a lot of marathons!"

I used to correct them and say, "Gee thanks, but I am only doing my first this fall. These are a bunch of short distances....blah blah blah...."

Now I just say, "Thanks!" with a smile. I don't have the energy any more to explain because I am saving it for my 10 x 100 slaughter in the pool tonight...

If only they knew the pain and accomplishment it took to get all of those bibs up on that wall! I feel like I am being shortchanged with the generalization of the marathon distance even though its the longest distance before you hit ultra status?

Do they even know how far a marathon actually is? Do most non endurance folk just assume any running race is a marathon? How about triathlon? Can you really generalize triathlon into an Ironman? That is the holy grail of endurance distances, right? (not gonna mentioned the triple ironman here.....)

Well, I look past the "Wow....blahbippty blappity blah" and am VERY thankful to have all of YOU fellow bloggers around, cuz that way I can talk shop upon ears that UNDERSTAND because we have all been in the trenches gutting out a distance in pain only to quickly forget the pain once we crossed that finish line.

So do you think the general non endurance public is just misinformed or outright clueless about the marathon and triathlon? What do you think?


  1. All the non-athletes I know assume triathlon means ironman. They don't know what ironman distance is though. They look very afraid if/when I explain it to them.

    I've also noticed another contingent of women (in particular) who seem to assume that I am talking about sprint triathlons whenever I talk about training for a tri and then they react like 'why are you working so hard?' -- I think they bother me more. I don't like having to explain that actually the distance is twice or 4 times longer than they are thinking...

  2. I think most people are totally clueless. My favorite is, "How long was that marathon?" ummmm..... 26.2--like every other freaking marathon!!!!
    But you have to just let it slide... they have no concept of what you are doing, and so who cares. You have the respect and understanding of those of us who are doing the same thing as you. :)

  3. Outright clueless.

    I've had people ask me (in reference to the stickers on my car): "What does two hundred and sixty two (or seven hundred and three) mean?" (regardless that there is a dot there), "What do all those numbers mean?", and even "Why is 'try' spelled wrong?"

    Likewise, there was a Sprint and Olympic triathlon near my wife's work in July. All week, her co-workers were talking about the "Ironman" that weekend and wondering if anyone was going.

    Even further, my mom had a friend whose son was doing the annual 25K (which is missing from list of distances :-P) in town. According to her, he was doing his first "marathon".

    My biggest complaint as of late is that when people find out I am training for an Ironman, they say "Oh, is that the race in Hawaii?" To them, there is only one Ironman because that is the only one that is on TV.

  4. The general population is clueless. Trying to explain a marathon or ironman to someone who is not like "us" is like trying to explain color to someone who has been blind their entire life. I don't even bother anymore. Thank goodness we all have each other. I think a half iron is harder than a marathon. I truly believe you will have no trouble running 26.2 miles.

  5. The general public has NO IDEA, they are totally clueless.
    I have had huge numbers of people ask me how long that marathon is going to be, and when you tell them EVERY marathon is 26.2 miles they are astounded that anyone could run that far.

    And when you get started on triathlon-talk they are even more clueless. If I ever start to explain you can see their eyes glass over, so I usually don't even go into it.

    My MOM who has a daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren who are triathletes, and she has seen us race numerous times....can't even remember what order you swim/bike/run.

    Yesterday at school, my secretary asked me if I raced this summer and I told her I had just done a half ironman. She said, "What are you going to do now that you are done? You aren't going to know what to do with yourself." She had NO IDEA that we train year round, and that there will never be time of the year that I am not working out.

    Good Luck on T-man this weekend...I believe that you are ready to ROCK this race.

  6. Clueless. I have explained to the same people mutliple times and they still don't get it. "Triathlon... what order to do you the events again?"

  7. I was excited about my first race (sprint) last month and discussing it with a coworker, he asked what the distances were. I told him and he sayed "oh, I thought triathlons had like a 100 mile bike ride and a marathon run, what your doing doesn't sound so hard". I felt small.

  8. Most people are clueless. I've been asked the classic, 'how long is that marathon'. I knew there were different distances of triathlons, but I admit that until I started reading blogs, I didn't know the names of the different distances.

  9. I agree with everyone above. The outsiders are clueless but I am still naive to try and explain it all to them. Mainly because I am trying to convert them to the dark side! :)

    BTW, You will do great in your marathon!!!!

  10. Best line I ever got...

    "I could do a triathlon if I knew how to swim"

    I also get the people who say "Oh, just a Sprint" like my hard work isn't tough enough!

  11. This is exactly why I love bloggy world so much - we don't have to explain anything to each other. Last week (at a kid's triathlon!) I was chatting with one of the moms who was going on about how it would really be so much easier if the kids would swim last. Ummm, hello, it's not supposed to be EASY!!

  12. I agree 100%. Here in south Africa it goes one step further. When people hear you run they ask, have you done Comrades? That’s the only race they know and if you haven’t done it you’re not a runner in their books.

  13. Comrades is a very famous 90km race. Have a look at comrades.com

  14. Oh how I LOVE this post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I could not agree more.

    You rock.

  15. Ohhhhhhh I can go on, on, and on about this, but like you, I am just tired of it, people just dont pay attention and listen, its their fault for half caring about what we say to them. I leave it at that.

  16. LOL ... Us Texans feel the same way about liberals ... j/k (sorta)

    I don't even care anymore that people are clueless about us endurance folks. I bet their is a blog post right now written by a teenage girl (or my wife) talking about how frustrated they are when people ask to explain the love triangle of a human, vampire, and werewolf - teenage girls would just roll eyes and think that we just don't get it!!

  17. HAHAHA @Jeff.

    Great post.

    OUTRIGHT CLUELESS. No question about it. My mother in law calls 5ks marathons... even though Heather has run 5ks in highschool and does marathons now... she is clueless.

    It does bug me because I feel our accomplishments as athletes are belittled by the general public.

    And yes, we know way to much about nutrition, fitness, and athletics in general when we become endurance athletes.

  18. I agree with everyone else, people are just clueless! It used to really frustrate me, but now I just do my best to explain and not make a big deal about it b/c they just don't get it! That's why I love blogging and bloggers so much because we "get it!"

  19. I just had this conversation with our postal worker the other day. She is also a runner. I was telling her how people will introduce me like "This is Kate, she runs marathons and stuff." and the truth is, my 1st marathon is not until November. Of course I correct them because I don't deserve that much credit.

  20. Totally clueless....but I really don't expect them to know. If they don't do it or aren't interested, why should they? I can't tell you how many times I will meet someone and they will say, "Oh, you are the one who does marathons?" I politely correct them and then educate them on the difference. A little knowledge goes a long way, and perhaps they will pass on the good word!

  21. This is so true, and can I take it one step further to say IF you do say you are training for a marathon, the first response is, "So is it the Boston Marathon? Or one of the shorter marathons?" A MARATHON is 26.2 miles! The other thing is (see what you started??) is when people ask how far is the marathon I ran (see above response) then they ask, "So how far is the Boston marathon?" DRIVES ME NUTSO.

    Also, now that I have signed up for an IM, I get, "So you are going to Hawaii? How does that one compare with the one in Hawaii?" Is it the same distance? What comes first? The bike? How far is it? So you swim after you run?

    Man oh man.

  22. I get asked every single one of these questions every single day by my co-workers. I only have 4 co-workers. You would think that they would have run out of questions by now!

  23. This post is my in-laws! After I finished a 10K or a 5K they ask me how my marathon went.

    I didn't even tell them I started in on tri's because I couldn't handle explaining it to them!

    It's even more funny because my mother in-law says she did a marathon, but it was in fact a half marathon, that she walked (no harm in that but she claims to have run it), so she keeps saying "when I ran MY marathon. . ."

  24. Runner's World features some half-marathon race that bears the slogan, "It's not half of anything!". Um, yes, it is. It's half of a full marathon. Hence the name half marathon. But there seems to be a movement afoot to rename this distance the "Pikermi".

    Genesis Adventures runs the Westchester Marathon Festival, which last year featured a *quarter* marathon. (26.2/4 = 6.55 miles; 10k = 6.2 miles.)

    My point isn't to trivialize the raceability of shorter distances. My point is that if these distances are to be respectable, they must be so in their own right. Runners don't gain anything by tacking the word "marathon" to the end of an arbitrary distance.

    Race organizers, on the other hand, have probably found a magic word that increases participation by 10% or so.

  25. Amen!

    I don't even bother correcting people now. When an actual endurable athlete asks me then I'll give them the truth since they know and understand, but other than that I just let people assume what they want.
    Kinda like when I tell them I'm studying Criminal Justice and their first thought is that I'm going to be a cop. No offense to cops, but I'm not spending 10 freakin' years in college just to become a cop! But instead of blowing my gasket, I just smile politely and nod.

    So apparently I'm a cop with a PhD who has done over 10 Ironmans and over 15 marathons. What a life I lead!

    Thank god for blogs.

  26. Probably outright clueless...but they probably have hobbies of their own about which I'm equally clueless/uninterested!

    People always call my triathlons marathon or my favorite - tri-marathons. But since I'm doing IM this year they are sorta right I guess and I don't have the energy to correct them.

    The best though was the co-worker going on and on about her niece who also did Ironman and asking how my protein diet and how much I lifted and stuff like that. Apprently she thought Ironman was a body building competition! Finally I had to say, yeah, we're not talking about the same thing.

  27. I think they're clueless. The worst is when they don't pay attention to what you're doing, or how long it takes to train. My sister thought my marathon was two weekends ago.....and it's not until September.

  28. I am quick to say that they are clueless, but before marathon training and triathlon, I'm sure I was just like them. I can't stand when someone says "Oh my friend does marathons all the time - the 5 mile ones" or when they ask if an Ironman is the same distance as a triathlon, but I try to explain it or glance at their eyes and see if they will really benefit from me explaining it.

    Some people just never get it. Ever.

  29. It is just out of their knowledge base. We even fall into that trap – not the names and corresponding distances – but if the race is longer it must be harder.

    Remember (and I have done both an ironman and a marathon) that is it not how far or how fast – it is how far fast!


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