I’m one of those crazy guys who just loves to race. Always have. Although my favorite distance has changed over the years, the one I love the most these days is the half-marathon. I’m certainly not alone in my affinity for the half as it is still the fastest growing road race distance. Last year, 2,046,600 of us finished a half marathon. That’s almost double what it was four years.
There are many great things about the half, but one of the coolest is it happens to be the only road race distance completely dominated by women. More than 60 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 hard or as time consuming as it is for a marathon, the taper and recovery time from a half also aren’t nearly as long and yet finishing a half-marathon is a significant, satisfying accomplishment.
Still, there’s something special about finishing a marathon in a way that a half marathon can’t quite equal. Obviously, 13.1 miles is a long way to run but it doesn’t have the same magic sauce as the marathon.
Which is the problem with the half-marathon. It might be the most popular race distance, but the half has an identity crisis. It’s half of something and not an entity that stands alone on its two feet.
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, and Minnie Mouse.
I liked the distance (usually a 10-K), but hated the mini-this name. I didn’t want to run a mini anything. In my mind, a 10-K was 6.2 miles of racing and there was nothing mini about it. It wasn’t a mini-marathon to me; it was a 10-K.
Eventually, the name has 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 (the Indy Mini is the biggest half-marathon in the United States with more than 30,000 finishers), it’s still a terrible name for such great events.
Think about it. We now have thousands of 5-Ks, 10-Ks, 10-milers, marathons, ultras and assorted other distances but there’s only one half of anything. In track, there isn’t even a half-mile anymore. It’s the 800. 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 ‘80s, there were basically two distances. There was the Olympic distance which was too short for me and the Ironman which was way too long. 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 before you could say Hawaii Ironman World Championships, 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 simply called 70.3.
Could we do the same for the half-marathon? Sure, why not? A half-marathon is 13.1 miles or 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, much less any race. So let’s give our most popular road distance a deserving name all its own. I can just see it: The Austin 21. Or the Decker 21. To me, it just sounds better.
O The Grandma’s Marathon (and the Garry Bjorklund 21-kilometer race) are Saturday in Duluth, Minnesota and some of Austin’s best road runners are heading up there in search of Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers. The guys shooting for sub-1:05s and a Trials qualifier are former UT teammates Will Nation and Rory Tunningley who continues to be bothered by a sore knee. Also scheduled to run are former Vista Ridge HS stud Zac Ornelas and occasional Austinite Scott MacPherson who already has his Trials qualifier. Jeff Sadler, a former Baylor University runner, is also up in Duluth but he’s running the marathon and will need a sub-2:18 to qualify for the Trials.
O Craig Lutz, finished fourth in the NCAA 10,000 in his final race as a Longhorn, but he’s keeping busy. Lutz is running the Lutz Distance Camp (July 6-10) up in Flower Mound for middle and high school runners. He hasn’t announced his post-collegiate running plans yet, but expect an announcement soon.
O John Hayes, the former UT coach (who recruited Lutz and coached him for two years), has been coaching several top post-grads for the past year, including Leo Manzano. He has now formalized his business and named it ATX Elite Coaching and has a new website (atxelitecoaching.com). Hayes will be heading to Eugene next week with Leo The Lion for the USATF Championships (June 25-28) which is the qualifier for the World Champs later this summer.
O Very sad news out of San Antonio this morning. Gerard Chauvin, who was one of the mainstays at Soler’s Sports, has died. Chauvin, who was the community out reach coordinator for Soler’s, was found unconscious yesterday and rushed to the hospital. But they didn’t find any brain activity and Gerard died yesterday.
O David Fuentes had PowerBar work duties last weekend at the XTERRA Richmond, Virginia races and figured as long as he was there, he might as well jump into the half…er, 21-K trail run. Good decision. The race was more of an urban course with lots of obstacles, staircases and boulders to climb. Still, Fuentes won the thing by five minutes in 1:20:28.
O Didn’t quite get over to Mueller last weekend for the Fit Foodie 5-K. Scott Kimbell, the road racer turned triathlete, won it in 16:52 and Cate Barrett was second overall in 18:40 with her hub Jake Barrett third in 19:18.
O Paul Terranova, the triguy turned ultrastud, is being touted as one of the favorites for a podium finish at this year’s running of the Western States 100, starting on June 27th in beautiful Squaw Valley, California (no snow to worry about this year). In the past two prior WS, Terranova has finished eighth (’13) and last year was 13th. But, this year with greater experience, Paul was second at the Bandera 100 and third at Rocky Raccoon in Huntsville in 14:05. Another flatlander–Nicole Studer of Dallas– who dnf’ed last year at WS with a calf injury is also being mentioned as a possible threat on the basis of her Rocky Raccoon victory in 14:22 which broke the course record by 35 minutes.
O My friend Bill Horton took a nasty spill on his bike last Friday when he hit a rock and went flying over the handlebars. A retired engineer, Horton ended up in Brack with eight broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. Fortunately, Bill’s head and neck are OK but he won’t be running (or cycling) anytime soon.
O The world of running has lost an icon: Ron Clarke. One of the greatest runners of all time, Clarke died on Tuesday at the age of 78. The Aussie set 17 world records and was the first man to break 28 minutes for 10,000 meters. I didn’t know Clarke well, but I was friends with his son Marcus and I spoke with Clarke many times. Ironically, Clarke was better known in Australia for lighting the torch at the ’56 Olympics in Melbourne and he was prouder of that of moment—he was just 17—than any of his world records. He epitomized the Australian ethic of running: Tough, hard racing, modesty and once a race started, there were no excuses. Despite being generally acknowledged as one of the greatest distance runners of all time, Clarke only won one Olympic medal—a bronze in the epic 1964 Tokyo 10,000 won by Bill Mills.
O Belated congrats to Katie Ryan who married Steve Epstein last month.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Live Bullet” by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Absolutely one of the best live albums ever recorded. I never get tired of listening to it.
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