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20 May 2011

“You Didn’t Run the Marathon” and Other Casual Controversies

Last week I asked a simple question on Twitter: “When people “run, walk, run” a marathon do they say they “ran” it, “ran part of it,” or “completed it?”” There were some interesting and somewhat “brisk” responses. I hadn’t intended to offend anyone, but it seems as though there are some pretty passionate feelings about […]

Last week I asked a simple question on Twitter: “When people “run, walk, run” a marathon do they say they “ran” it, “ran part of it,” or “completed it?”” There were some interesting and somewhat “brisk” responses. I hadn’t intended to offend anyone, but it seems as though there are some pretty passionate feelings about word choice when it comes to describing how you participated in a run, or even which distance you ran.

The question was honestly more of an English question than any kind of statement on people’s achievements or abilities. It seems that for some it is a passionate discussion, and I unwittingly became a villain in my own discussion. Before you write me off, commit to reading through the whole article. Undoubtedly if you’re offended by the question, you’re not going to like a few of the things that are written, but I think the conclusion is worth reading the whole article.

The reason I asked in the first place is because I’ve been doing some copy writing lately, and so I’ve been thinking a lot about word choices and grammar. That said, if I were to answer the question myself, I would say, “I completed the marathon,” since I’m a bit of a stickler for that kind of thing. That’s not a statement on how well it was done or anything like that, just my honest way of describing how I finished. I wanted to get that out there right away.

“You didn’t really run the marathon”

The problem with this sentence is that it starts with “you.” When someone takes it upon themselves to evaluate another person’s performance it usually doesn’t end well for either party. Somehow it seems as though it’s trying to downplay the others accomplishment in order to seem a bit better. When all is said and done the thing to think about is your own performance. You need to feel good about how you did. Whether a person comes in at 2:15 or 5:30 shouldn’t really be the issue. The reality is that there will always be someone faster than you, and there will always be someone slower than you. You should always be running against you. That’s my opinion. I agree with many people who chimed into the conversation: it shouldn’t matter.

“I’m so tired from running that marathon!”

I overheard this immediately following a half-marathon I ran. I do have an issue with this. While your performance is relative, distances are not. As my friend @danluton said, “races are predetermined distances.” It’s not like the words are arbitrary. I realize that the word can mean “of great distance or duration” – but not in the context of a footrace. I do think that when people talk about running distances that they haven’t actually run it takes away from the reality of preparation and accomplishment from those who’ve actually gone the distance.

In the end, though, it shouldn’t affect you. You know your accomplishments, and worrying about such trivial things as how someone else prefers to talk about how they completed a race, or if they misquote the distance they ran is just something that’s going to get you hot-under-the-collar and won’t do anything to help your running. People who worry about such things generally are worried that they don’t measure up and so they need to make sure their accomplishments are better than others.

That said, I’m tapering next week to get ready to run a half-marathon. Or I could say, “I’m going to move at a speed faster than a walk, never having both feet on the ground at the same time for a total distance of 21.975km (13 miles, 192.5 yards)” – but that would take too long.

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