Thought for the Day

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Anyone can run a marathon

That's right. I said anyone can run a marathon.
Well, I'm exaggerating just a little bit. At Pat's Run this past Sunday, I competed with several people with various fractions of the usual complement of limbs. I saw the same thing at the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon.
Sarah Reinertsen made the cover of Runners World with only one leg.
So almost anyone can run a marathon, or at least complete a marathon somehow.
The same is not true for Ironman. And I may not be saying this for the reasons you would think.
You see, there are thousands of marathons. There are big ones and little ones all over the world. No matter where you live, there is probably at least one within easy travel distance.
And there are reasonable entrance fees. Some marathons are more expensive than they seem to have any right to be, but some are down-right cheap, even free.
And the required equipment is negligible. Not even shoes are a necessity. Abebe Bikila won the Olympic Gold Medal barefoot in the 1960 Olympic Marathon.
Although training, and knowing how to train, will help a marathoner, all you need to know is how to run.
In contrast, there are few Ironman competitions, and they are expensive to enter. (I'm not saying you don't get your money's worth, just that it's a lot of money.)
They require a bicycle. The better the bike, the better a triathlete's chances of finishing. Mechanical considerations can make or break the race. An ability and willingness to spend money matters on the bike.
It goes without saying that knowing how to ride and swim, and hours of training in those disciplines, are required.
The Ironman, in addition to being very difficult physically, is financially exclusive.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it's not worth the money. I'm not saying that it isn't a tremendous physical challenge.

One of the things I love about running is the simplicity and commonality of it. Running is universal.
Triathlon, and especially Ironman, while it has a lot of other things going for it, does not have that.


Anne said...

there are a lot of cheaper triathlons and Ironman-distance events out there if you don't need to go with name-brand. But I agree with you that many if not most are expensive and are becoming so expensive as to become quite exclusive. There are some good reasons to explain a higher cost for a triathlon (such as more difficult logistics, road closings, traffic police etc.) but on the whole, the most popular races are exorbitantly priced!! But if you don't have to have the latest and greatest gear, it can be done for much cheaper. But I agree that one of the most beautiful things about running is the simplicity of it. All you need to pack are your shoes and some ratty clothes (and about 200 g of backup carbs).

jpnairn said...

I compare triathlons to golf.
I have a set of yard sale clubs and when I golf, it's usually at a cheap nine hole course.
Yes, you can golf cheaply, but that doesn't change the fact that golf is an expensive sport.
It is very expensive to possess, set aside, and meticulously maintain acres of land for the typical course. So from the start, it's clear that this is not going to be a sport for the common person. Everything else follows from that.
It is expensive to tee off. It costs a lot to stay up to date with the latest clubs, balls, gloves, etc.
Golf lessons are expensive.
Triathlon is similar.

Mike Fraser said...

That's why I really like trail marathons vs road - quite often they're cheaper and far less people to run into during the run. I'm not one to enjoy or voluntarily do an event with 10's of thousands other runners, but hey, give me a small marathon with some scenery and now we're talking. It takes more fuel and investment to go for a bike ride or swim then it does to throw the running shoes on and walk out the door to your favorite neighborhood run.