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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest article.....When is a Marathon not a Marathon?

You may have noticed that from time to time, I have some material written by other people on this blog. So, with that in mind, I have already published some articles by David O'Dwyer of East Cork AC here on a regular basis. David covers various topics from a personal point of view and if you agree, disagree or would just like to add a comment, click on the Comments link below this post. I would just like to say thanks to David for allowing his articles to be published here on this site. Hope you enjoy it.............John Desmond.

The Marathon is currently enjoying somewhat of a revival in this country. The now well established Dublin Marathon attracts in the region of 10,000 participants each year and the recently revived Cork City Marathon is also attracting strong numbers. Marathons are also held in Connemara and Longford annually.

There are many reasons for this revival and the healthy number of participants but one of them is surely the welcome increase in the number of female participants. The womens “Mini Marathon” has no doubt helped in the promotion of the sport and has been hugely successful with huge numbers taking part each year. There is now a number of such events held throughout the country with the main events taking place in Limerick, Cork and Dublin.

The marathon distance of 26.2 miles is steeped in mythology and history as to how the exact distance has been established. Starting with the Greek soldier who ran from the town of Marathon to Athens(a distance of 26 miles) to announce that the Persians had been miraculously defeated in the Battle of Marathon. It is said that he ran the entire distance without stopping, but moments after proclaiming his message "Nenikekamen" ("We were Victorious!") to the city he collapsed dead from exhaustion. The current "official" distance of 26.2 miles for the marathon came from the marathon at the 1908 Olympic Games in London. The race was due to start in Windsor Castle and finish in White City Stadium. In order to facilitate the starting of the race by King Edward VII who had a cold and was under Doctors orders not to venture out the start was moved 385 yards to the courtyard of the Castle. Hence we now have the official race distance of 26.2miles for the marathon.

The term “Mini Marathon” is a relatively recent term and has been used to describe any distance from 4 miles up to a Half Marathon. The term should be banned! To complete a marathon is a significant achievement and as anyone who has done so it is not something that can be described as “easy” or completed without a significant amount of training. It takes hours of dedication and hard work and is not something that can be undertaken lightly or over a short period of time. To say that you have completed a marathon is a claim that should not be diluted in any way. It is a small step to claim to have completed a “Mini Marathon” to dropping the “Mini” when in fact all that has been achieved is a 4 mile event! 4 miles or even 10k is a distance that can be completed with a relatively small amount of training over a short period of time. Anyone who has completed a “Mini Marathon” and claimed to have run a Marathon is not only kidding themselves but they are insulting the millions who have completed the Marathon worldwide. I am not suggesting that this claim is a widespread phenomenon but it is something that does occur.

As I understand it the Womens “Mini Marathon” is some distance between 4 miles and 10k. What’s next 5k? How can one justify using the word marathon with such a short distance? Why not call it what it is? If the use of the term “Womens Mini Marathon” achieves anything it is the implicit suggestion that women are not capable or should not be allowed to complete the full Marathon. In other words leave the full Marathon to the men and let the women have their “Mini” Marathon is the implication. Let me the first to say that I think this is ridiculous. Women were not allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until the early 70’s even though in the few years prior to this some women ran the race but had to hide in the bushes near the start as they were not allowed an official entry. It was only in 1984 that a womens Marathon was added to the Olympic Games.

Why are we regressing to the period before this when it was felt that women wouldn’t be able to manage the full Marathon distance? Women have had to fight for years the right and opportunity to run a Marathon. What was the point if we are now holding women only “Mini Marathons?” By all means hold “women only” races but please call them what they are! Having said that I’m sure there would be a few objections if there were “men only” races, but I digress, this is a topic for another day…………
following spring made her the first official champion
Women have added hugely to the success and status of the Marathon in the past 30 years. Let’s not dilute this by the use of this silly term the “Mini Marathon”. you agree or disagree with David O'Dwyer's article?? Click on the comment link below and have your say.


Anonymous said...

I Agree with David! If one more person asked me, when I said I was doing the Blarney half-marathon 'oh, yeah, is that the mini-marathon?'... The result of calling it a mini-marathon has led to me saying, 'no no the mini-marathon is ONLY 4 miles.' Even this as a description is an injustice to the women training hard to complete 4 miles, or, perhaps more importantly, fundraising hard to walk or jog the 4 miles. Credit is due to all who train and run and walk, whatever the distance. So call a spade a spade. A marathon is a marathon. A four mile charity run is a four mile charity run. This does not make it unimportant. Putting words like 'mini' detract from both.

Thomas said...

While I agree with David, this subject has already been discussed to death.

These days I merely roll my eyes whenever my mother-in-law asks how my most recent "marathon" went, which to her is any road race from 5K upwards.

Glenn said...

I totally agree with David (and not for the first time!). A good article with his point made perfectly.
A few years go I answered the door to a woman who was collecting money for a 'marathon' she was running the following day, after chatting to her I realised her so called marathon was a 4 mile fun run...I gave her the money anyway but boy was I annoyed!!

Anonymous said...

It is called the mini marathon. The work mini means "Something that is distinctively smaller than other members of its type or class". Placing the adjective mini in front of the noun marathon transforms its meaning much like the adjective half. Would people prefer if it was called the 0.15 marathon. I am quite happy to see people getting off their asses and doing some exercise. The word marathon is just used to draw them to the event. The marathon is just an arbitary distance, something we made up. Why not race over 30miles or 40. The human body doesn't know what a mile is, all it knows is pain. Some of the people on sunday will be inconsiderable pain.

Anonymous said...

Fully agree Dave. Having done 6 marathons myself the term mini-marathon drives me nuts!! Especially when I hear women around the place saying "Are you doing the marathon ?" when they are in fact talking about he mini-marathon. I don't see what's wrong with calling it what it is. It just leads to confustion. What really drove me nuts when I started doing marathons was something like. Question : What marathon are you doing ? Answer : Paris. 2nd Question : Oh right, how far is that ???!!! Grrr!

Anonymous said...

I always wanted to send in an Irish Times style letter, so "imagine my surprise" when I logged on to see David's article!, " I am alone" in seeing the irony of the Mercy hospital advert just to the right of his first paragraph?
"Something must be done" about these 'wimmin' claiming to be running a marathon.

Enough of that,
I 100% agree with this article,
let's call a spade a spade.
Furthermore when people run the real-thing in aid of charity they mighn't get the recognition and subsequently the desired donation for all their trouble & time spent training for 26.2.
Best of luck to all the ladies for the upcoming 4-Miler
(and I hope they raise lots of cash for their childrens wards, cancer care etc etc charities which all sadly need funding, could we divert some funds from NAMA?)

See you in Cobh,

Niamh said...

I have to agree with David on the whole 'mini' thing alright..its absolutely silly word to have in front of the word marathon.Its gone from a 5 mile race to a supposed 4 miles but is actually a 3.8 mile race(even thought its advertised as corks premier 4mile road race).A few people have said to me 'am I doing the marathon'..what marathon i ask and I have to tell them that they mean the 'mini marathon', and when i tell them the distance they go,oh right. As I know all so well So much dedication,time,blood and sweat is involved in doing any distance of a race, but i cannot imagine how much is involved in a marathon as I have not done one.

But It seems that the 'mini marathon' in cork is a big mess anyhow, especially after last yrs fiasco trying to get to the start line. Dont get me started. If its like that again this year I may not do it next yr. Its all based around the charities and walkers and never mind the cork athletes. Yeah call it what it is..its a 5k road race for Women!!!

Anonymous said...

Don't see much uproar in London with their mini marathon ..

The Virgin Mini London Marathon course is 3 miles long, running from London’s Old Billingsgate to The Mall.

Anonymous said...

It is incorrect to say that "marathon is just an arbitary distance, something we made up". If you read David's article you would see that many many years of history have contributed to the fact that a marathon is 26.2 miles - no more, no less. Anything more is an ultra marathon any thing less see previous comments!

Anonymous said...

I agree totally with David, it's not a marathon. Why can't it be renamed as "Munster's Premiere 4 Mile Women's Charity Race"?! The word 'marathon' should be dropped.

Already I've had many women bragging to me that they're doing a marathon this Sunday. When I ask which one, they say the race in Cork. When I then say; "It's ONLY 4 miles", they look at me with disgust. Come on, 4 miles is an awful lot different to 26.2!

As for calling it the premiere road race in Munster, that's an insult to all the races that are held throughout the year!

Anonymous said...

Great article, well put. As a female training for the Dublin Marathon at the moment, the points made resonated with me.
I don't see why this race is for women only, if the whole purpose is to raise money for charities aren't they omitting a significant percentage of the general population that could also run and raise funds?
As devils advocate though if the phrase "mini Marathon" serves to attract more people to the event and in turn generates much needed funds for many charities then maybe it's not such a bad thing!!

Unknown said...

Excellent article David. The race is not even 4 miles in Cork but 3.8. If women want to be taken seriously as runners I suggest they boycott this glorified charity walk and concentrate on some real racing.
Paul Cotter

John said...

You say that it requires "significant amount of training" to complete a marathon.

I would not agree with you there. I know that plenty of people could run a full marathon with little or no training. They might not finish with a winning time but all it takes is a bit of determination on the day. I personally know of 2 guys who ran the Dublin marathon with next to no training. To simply run for 26 miles a base level of fitness is all that's required. No big deal, just keep putting one foot in front of the other for about four hours! If it's so difficult to complete what are 10,000 people doing entering the Dublin city marathon every year?