I happen to be one of those runners who loves to race. Always have. And the distance I love to race the most is the half marathon. I’m certainly not alone in my affinity for the half as it is the fastest growing road race distance. In 2014, more than 2 million of us finished a half which is an all-time high and more than triple what it was 10 years ago.
There are many great things about half marathons, but one of the coolest is it happens to be the only road race distance completely dominated by women. In ’14, 61 percent of all half-marathon finishers are women.
Why? The most oft-cited reasons are the same ones most guys also have: The training isn’t nearly as arduous or time consuming as for a marathon, the taper and recovery time from a half also aren’t as long and yet finishing a half marathon is a significant and satisfying accomplishment.
But, there remains something magical about that marathon word that just isn’t the same with a half marathon. Which is precisely the problem with the half marathon. The race has an identity crisis. It’s half of something and not an entity that stands alone.
And it should.
Years ago, there was a road distance called the mini-marathon. This was back in the days when there were miniskirts, minigolf, miniwages and Minnie Mouse. I liked the distance (usually a 5-K), but hated the name. I didn’t want to run a mini race. To me, a 5-K was just that: 3.1 miles of racing and there was nothing mini about it. It wasn’t a mini-marathon to me; it was a 5-K.
Eventually, the name mostly disappeared and today, the biggest mini anything are the New York Mini 10-K and the One America 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis which is—you guessed it—a half marathon. Even though these are both huge races, a mini anything is a terrible name for such great events.
Think about it. We now have thousands of 5-Ks, 10-Ks, 10-milers, marathons and ultra marathons but the half marathon is the only distance which is half of anything. In track, there isn’t even a half-mile or quarter-mile anymore. It’s either the 800 or 400. Anyone who calls 800-meter runners “half-milers” probably still calls cross-country runners “thin clads.”
Triathlons used to have the same identity crisis as the half-marathon has. When I first started doing triathlons in the early ‘80s, there were basically two distances. There was the Olympic distance which was too short for me and the Ironman which was way, way too far. It didn’t take long to devise the perfect distance. That was the Half Ironman which triathletes loved—except for the name.
Triathletes put in way too much training time to do half of anything so somebody came up with the new, easily identifiable handle for the distance: 70.3. That is, a half IM is 70.3 miles. And that popular distance is now simply called 70.3, just like the Austin 70.3.
Could we do the same for the half marathon? Sure, why not? A half marathon is 21.1 kilometers. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue right now, but call it 21.1. Change the name of some important races to 21.1 and pretty soon it’ll catch on just like 70.3 has.
As runners, we don’t do anything halfway. That’s not who we are. A half marathon is 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers which is still plenty long. Let’s give our most popular road distance a deserving name all its own.
O When Steve Chase ran 2:44:46 at the Houston Marathon, he scored a five-minute PR at the age of 47. Pretty impressive. But he saved his most impressive run for the Austin Marathon two weeks ago. Chase—appropriate name–started the race dead last and running on tired legs from Houston, he still ran 3:13:39 to finish 92nd out of 3276. But the stat which counted the most was he passed 3184 others on the way to the finish on Congress which meant a lot to Family Eldercare. For each runner Chase passed, he raised at least a penny per runner from his fellow Rogue runners along with a healthy contribution from Conley Sports, the Moody Foundation and two anonymous donors. Chase alone raised $11,000, and then yesterday, outgoing Austin Marathon race director John Conley presented Family Eldercare with a check for a whopping $48,000.
O More Chase. Chad Bettac—a friend of Steve’s—challenged him to drink a full can of Shiner at 19 ½ miles of the marathon and if he could, Chad would throw in an extra $1000. Done. The Moody Foundation and some friends also added some more to the kitty and that single beer earned $1800 for Love-A-Bull.
O All in all, the Austin Give Miles charity portion of the marathon raised $400,000 for the 25 other local nonprofits. My friends at Team CureDuchenne (which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago) raised $10,000 in the marathon and Paramount 5-K and with matching funds from The Moody Foundation, it brought their total donation to Duchenne research to a record $20,000.
O BTW: With the Austin Marathon’s completion, the overall winners of the 2015-16 Austin Distance Challenge are in. Jim Moore, who finished the Austin Marathon as the first master in 2:57:43 (good for 15th overall), and Amy Chow, who finished Austin in 3:28:43, are the overall winners of the DC. The masters winners are Shawn Griffin and Gina McFarlen. The Half Track was won by Matt Buchhorn and Tiffanie Marley who won the women’s division of the Austin Half. Masters winners of the Half Track are Gordon Alexander and Sandy Lechtenberg.
O Former Cedar Park and Oregon star Parker Stinson has been missing in action for several months as he has struggled with an Achilles tendon sheath injury. And then just when Parker thought he was ready to roll again and get back into training for the Olympic Trials 10,000, the pain came back. “The tendon is healthy,” says Stinson who still lives and trains in Eugene, “but there’s still too much inflammation and scar tissue for it to move properly. I’ve lost five months, but I’m still hoping to run the Olympic Trials.”
O Congrats to the Mouth of the South…west…Logan Delaware and Kate Doyle on their wedding this week at Lou Neff Point, officiated by Justice of the Peace Scott (Don’t Call Me Sarge Anymore) Cary.
O Disturbing trend of the week: Three Austin bike shops have closed or are closing this month. Citing weather issues, low oil and gas prices and market saturation, Windmill Bicycles in the east side Cherrywood neighborhood is closing on Monday. In the Clarksville neighborhood, Austinbikes closed last month and so did Ozone Bikes which has been around for 23 years on Guadalupe. Even Bicycle Sport Shop—that huge store on South Lamar with such a great selection—is downsizing and will lease part of the store. Bicycle Sport has two other locations in Austin (one on Parmer and another on Research) and is planning on opening another shop in Bee Cave in May.
O Former Longhorn wide receiver-long jumper par excellence Marquise Goodwin got his ’16 track campaign off to a good start when he jumped 25-8, good for third place in the Millrose Games. He was also sixth in the 60-meter dash in 6.68 seconds. Goodwin, who is a receiver and kick returner with the Buffalo Bills, will try and make his second Olympic team at the US Trials in June. But, if Goodwin does make the Olympic team, he’ll miss all of football training camp and most of the preseason which would jeopardize his chance of making the Bills roster.
O The UT men’s and women’s track teams are off to Ames to defend their conference titles in the Big 12 Indoors, starting tomorrow. The women are ranked fifth nationally, while the Longhorn guys are sixth. FloTrack will provide live streaming of the meet on its subscription service FloPro, starting at 10 a.m. FloSports CEO and co-founder Mark Floreani is a former UT distance runner.
O Michael Budde, a native of South Africa who is one of the top masters runners in Austin, is planning a return next month to Cape Town for the Two Oceans Marathon which is actually 56 kilometers (34 miles). Budde has run this extremely hilly race twice, but his last one was in 1990 when he ran 3:52. But Budde has been hampered with a calf injury and will probably end up running the half. The cool thing is he will run Two Oceans with his father and possibly his brother and sister. Budde’s 75-year-old father has run 26 ultras, but Two Oceans will probably be his final one.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Live from The Backyard”, by The String Cheese Incident. This was the first Incident in Austin in seven years and includes three shows from their July 4th weekend run in 2013.
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