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50 Marathons in 50 Days is Not Impressive

Posted by Filed Under: Elite Running, News and Opinion

opinionKnuckleballer Wilbur Wood started 49 games for the 1972 Chicago White Sox, the most games started by a pitcher in the major leagues since 1896. For those who don’t keenly follow baseball, few pitchers, if any, start more than 35 or 36 games in a single 162-game season. What, then, is the point and just who is Wilbur Wood?

He’s a nobody, of course, a quirk in the long statistical history of quirks in baseball. Odds are that starting 49 games and pitching 376 innings in a season is not impressive to anyone. Baseball fans from that era likely remember Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and Catfish Hunter as being some of the best pitchers of that era.

So far, so good, but I bet starting 49 games in a season isn’t as impressive as running 49 marathons in a year in 49 different states. I also bet that more readers of this Web site have heard of Dean Karnazes and Sam Thompson than Evans Rutto, Felix Limo or even Paul Tergat. More readers, I imagine, have heard of the twin schemes of running 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states than of Haile Gebrselassieis’ intention to run the Berlin Marathon, or have even the name Haile Gebrselassie.

Far, or Fast?
Popular running culture values doing something far more than doing something well. There is no doubt that running 50 marathons in 50 days is a very athletic accomplishment, but how impressive is it really? Running 182 miles a week at 9-minute miles, the speed at which Sam Thompson reportedly ran his marathons, is not exceedingly impressive. Running 5,000 metres in less than 13 minutes, on the other hand, is infinitely harder. Those who do the latter can no doubt do the former, but the former could not do the latter.

Two days before this article was written, a man named Kenenisa Bekele beat a man named Isaac Songok over 5,000 metres. Both ran 12:48 (Bekele won by less than half a second), a pace of 2:33/km or 4:07/mile. Ignoring the mainstream media (which would never mention this feat), likewise it receives no breathless mention on message boards or running blogs in the way that “marathon maniacs” like Thompson or Karnazes receive.

The habit of recreational runners is to run progressively longer races until they reach the supposedly ultimate goal of completing a marathon and proudly become marathoners, apparently the second-highest honour accorded a runner short of “Boston qualifier”) the third-highest being the obscure title of “Olympic champion,” awarded to no-names like Ezekiel Kemboi, Kelly Holmes and Stefano Baldini).

Running one marathon or a dozen is not that impressive. It takes very little ability to run a marathon in the 21st century, and even less training, it seems. It would seem pedantic, petty and pointless to ridicule recreational runners for pursuing the goal of running a marathon. I myself would like to hike to the base of the Grand Canyon and back though I care very little for hiking in general.

However, the orientation propagated by the running industry (yes, there is such a thing) is that running far is better than running fast. Most runners, I will generalize, are more impressed by a poorly-run marathon than a well-run mile, more in awe of a succession of so-so marathons than a single really fast marathon.

There will be no line-up commending the toughness of a running blogger who, feeling as though he was giving birth while simultaneously having a heart attack, ran a 4:30 fifth kilometre to dip under 23 minutes for 5k. A few will congratulate him for being “super speedy,” sure, but by and large, the first-time marathoner who casually ran for four or five hours will be inundated with praise.

Pushing the Limits
Training hard and pushing the limits of human performance are not on the agenda of the happy-go-lucky running blogosphere. In this hyper-sensitive environment and others, such as message boards, where the aim is to be so inoffensive as to distil all writing to virtually nothing, everyone wins for doing anything. The only performances considered impressive are the freakish and the insignificant. Septuagenarians, ambulatory circus acts, arbitrarily defined “continuous” runs and the like constitute impressive athletic achievement. A rare afterthought are those considered fast by any conventional measure, known euphemistically in a single unified blob as “the elites,” “the Kenyans” or “the Africans.”

The lack of emphasis on performance is, of course, welcome for those who put into the sport what their lives allow and harbour no aspirations of competition, friendly or otherwise. However, that running fast is by and large a taboo topic in popular running culture except when done by “the Africans” no doubt limits the achievements of many ordinary runners, not to mention an appreciation of the wonderful achievements of world class runners.

If the most impressive running achievement of which many runners are aware is running 50 marathons in 50 days, not a single one run in 2 hours and 4 minutes, the loss is truly and certainly theirs. Look around and follow high-level competition, be it local or global, on the road, track or elsewhere, for the incredible performances of real, live human beings. Watch a local road race to see who the winners are, turn out to high school or collegiate track meets and definitely catch a major road race or city marathon to see who wins and how fast they ran. Be a fan of the sport, it is yours in the end.

About Adeel

Adeel is a 21-year old student living in Canada. He has been running for eight years and has personal bests of 17:44 for 5k, 36:38 for 10k, 1:26 for a half marathon and 3:10 for a marathon.



36 Comments
  1. Mark Iocchelli on August 28th at 7:11 am

    I think the only way us mere mortals can come close to understanding the accomplishments of world-class athletes is to race the various distances available to us. Not to merely run them in such a manner to allow us to comfortably finish — but to race them so when we are done, we are left utterly spent.

    Having put the amount of training my life has permitted me to dedicate, and raced, my best marathon was a 3:42, and my best 5k was at (I think) about 21:30.

    So, as you can see, my best isn’t anywhere NEAR the elites but my “shortcomings” have left me in utter awe of elite accomplishments at all distances.

    Although praise is warranted for the person who runs a 4, 5 or 6 hour marathon, even greater praise is warranted if their time was the fastest they were capable of running the race in.

    Training is what you put in prior to race day. Guts, determination, and ability to conquer pain is what you put into it on race day. If you do all those things and you are left laying on the ground without an ounce of energy, you have the beginnings for appreciating what it takes for the elites to do what they do!

    So, if your point was to get people to pay more attention to, and appreciate world-class athletes, it worked for me.

  2. jeff on August 28th at 7:13 am

    this is probably one of the most well written and articulated critiques of the running community that i’ve read to date. it seems that any fringe sport that gains popularity suffers this same fate. the elites aren’t respected for their true ability, and the mundane is celebrated so that the masses can embrace it.

    there are several people that are working hard to get the news out about the fast in the community and push that information out, like alison and crew over at eliterunning.com, but when sites like the usatf website don’t offer rss feeds, it makes it all that more difficult to get the news out.

    i like your idea about following the local fast runners and supporting their efforts. i hope that crn can begin to profile local races and the amazing people that work hard at the armature level to be as fast as they can.

    thanks for the thought provoking and spot on article.

  3. Joel on August 28th at 8:20 am

    In today’s world we are inundated by world-class, natural-born-and-well-trained athletes who make the impossible seem effortless. We watch well-paid athletes in every sport break world records and then break their own records on an almost daily basis to the point it is somewhat commonplace.

    You are right that distance running doesn’t have the star-power and media attention other sports have though.

    However marathons get attention because it is one of the most accessible sports for participation by the general public. As an average runner who trains regularly but not full time I stand a pretty good chance at placing in the top 3 of my age class in one or more events in my lifetime. Everybody knows a halfway-decent distance runner. Few of us know talented athletes in other sports personally.

    So when runners like Thompson put a lot of miles under their belt in a short period of time it makes running slow marathons look easy and gives hope to the couch potatoes who can barely run a mile that maybe if they put on their shoes and start running everyday maybe they can run a marathon too.

  4. Donald on August 28th at 10:00 am

    I consider myself a true track and distance running fan, and sadly, it feels like there are about 20 of us left in America anymore. So thanks for spotlighting the true heroes of the sport. It’s funny, because 50 years ago, any kid in America could tell you the race times of Roger Bannister or John Landy – guys who weren’t even Americans. Jesse Owens and Rafer Johnson were like Michael Jordan back in their days.

    Having said all that, I also have a lot of admiration for guys like Karnazes who test the limits of human performance in a different way. Yes, the 50/50 thing was primarily a well-funded publicity stunt, but he’s still a very amazing guy. I just appreciate him differently than I do the elite racers.

  5. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on August 28th at 10:03 am

    I very much disagree with your assessment, but a comment is not enough space to state why. I’ll let you know when I’ve had a chance to organize my thoughts and respond.

  6. 21stCenturyMom on August 28th at 10:38 am

    I also disagree with this position but it’s your opinion and you are entitled to it. I do however, feel compelled to tell you a story that might change your mind about one thing.

    I used to work with a guy named Wayne Collett who was on the 1972 Olympic team in Munich. He was slated to win the 400m. He took silver because Vincent Matthews unexpectedly (from Wayne’s perspective) smoked him.

    Anyhow, I was a novice runner back then (in the late 90s) and I was talking to Wayne about strategies to increase my pace. I said something about how many minutes per mile I ran and how I could only do it for x miles and asked him if he had any advice for how I could improve. He gave me a very blank look and said, “I have no idea. I’ve never run that far”. So – it’s not necessarily true that a world class sprinter could run a fast marathon. Lack of desire, among other things, would probably keep that from happening.

    I’d also like to point out that to a person these people who run a zillion marathons in a row raise quite a bit of money for cause. There isn’t much arguing with that.

  7. A Passion for Running » are you easily agitated? on August 28th at 11:03 am

    […] Go read this and see if you can knock some wind out of Adeel’s sails. […]

  8. Aaron Engelsrud on August 28th at 11:30 am

    Isn’t their room for both fast and far? I look at the two as different. Some people run to see how far they can go, while others try to do it faster and faster. Who says their can’t be both.

    Over the weekend, I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles) in 1:48:30 – this was a solid effort for me. However, there were about 100 people who finished before me – should this make my personal accomplishment less important to me? I don’t think so. Of course, I constantly strive for improvement, I will try to find ways to run farther faster. But I will never be at the elite level.

    If your argument is to hold any water than the person who can run the fastest wins – distance means nothing. Running a 100m in 9.77s like Asafa Powell is way more difficult than running 5000m in less than 13 minutes – right? I doubt that Bekele can run a 9.76s 100m – he should probably quit all together, someone is faster…

  9. Jessica on August 28th at 12:10 pm

    Kudos to a well-written critique/commentary. I would agree with you that not enough attention is paid to speed vs. distance. However, I think both are equally great achievements. After all – how many people can really run 50 marathons in 50 days?

    Yet on the same note there is probably not enough attention paid to “smaller” races and feats of speed. I for one am excited to go to a local college track meet next Saturday for UC Irvine. I work with a girl who runs the 5K for the team and while she probably couldn’t run an ultra I am very impressed with her ability to run fast and look forward to cheering her on 🙂

    I say lets enjoy the every day accomplishments that any runner achieves no matter how fast, or slow or far they are going.

  10. runr53 on August 28th at 1:04 pm

    Well… I guess that means that all of us out here in “average” land should just quit and go learn to knit or repair cars or something because unless we can win nothing we do will count. Do each of us realize how much of an effect our words can have before we speak them? Just sayin… Run Good!

  11. warren on August 28th at 3:36 pm

    This was a well-written, thought provoking article. I heartily agree with you that performance should be recognized.

    I once heard a young man say that “anyone can run a 40 minute 10k”. I really have no idea whether or not this is physiologically true. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a ring on his finger. I know I’ve never seen him playing with his kids at the park. It makes me wonder if his definition of what anyone “can” do matches mine.

    I’ve never run a 40 minute 10k. I have little doubt that I can, and figure that I will someday. I’d go so far as to say that, if someone were willing to pay me to be a runner, breaking the 40 minute barrier would be a sure thing. Alas, no sponsorship, endorsement or scholarship will ever make me a professional athlete. With luck, I’ll always have a full time job, and a family, and commitments to friends and the community at large.

    Really, this is where the comparison between Bekele and I is unfair. I admire Bekele and El Guerrouj, and love watching them run. As a runner, I admire their form, their speed, and their overall excellence. I would hardly get excited about reading about Tergat or Baldini running a four or five hour marathon. The same standard hardly applies, however, to a teacher and mother of two, or to a construction worker, manager, or computer programmer.

    Rather than comparing the amateur athletes who comprise the bulk of the blogosphere to Tergat or Radcliffe, compare them to the median. Does the average construction worker run 30 miles a week? Is the average accountant even active 3 times a week, or are they glued to television and recliner in their free time? We’re probably quite prepared to praise a father who comes home from work early to play with his children, but if he gets up early the next morning to run, is his running unworthy of praise?

    We’re not runners, or teachers, or champions; we’re people. Our lives are not dictated by one facet, but by the complete symphony of our lives. Once upon a time, there was a venue to praise those who excelled at running, and at sports in general, but were not afforded the opporunity to work on their excellence full time. The highest calling of the amateur athlete was the olympics. Now, professionals make millions while training for their shot at gold, all the while entertaining us.

    So yes, I will praise El Guerrouj. But I will also praise the blogger who has just run a 5 hour marathon, because I know, even though they haven’t mentioned it, that their lives are about far more than running.

    Far and fast are as different as apples and oranges, and both taste sweet when attained. But amateurs and professionals are as different in their own way, and both are equally worthy of adulation.

  12. Mark Iocchelli on August 28th at 4:20 pm

    Nicely said, Warren. There is a lot in your response. Great comments overall!

  13. Adeel on August 28th at 6:21 pm

    Thanks to everyone for the responses.

    21stCenturyMom, I never said a sprinter could run 182 miles in a week at 9:00 apiece, but someone who can run 5k in less than 13 minutes, which is not a sprint by any means. I don’t think any world class sprinter could run a world class marathon.

    To Aaron and runr53, the point is not to to see who runs fastest or whether or not you are elite, the point is to do something well rather than to do something. Running a marathon isn’t as impressive as running a good marathon, just like singing isn’t as impressive as singing well. I don’t think running a world record at any distance is harder or easier than another, for obvious reasons.

    Warren, you make a fair point about fitting running into an ordinary life and the accomplishments of those people (myself included in that category), but I don’t think they’re equally worthy of adulation. Again, I don’t want to de-emphasize praising 5-hour marathoners in favour of faster runners as much as I want to emphasize someone who gives it everything they have. If Aaron trains hard and makes sacrifices to run a 1:48 half marathon, that’s far more deserving of adulation than someone who jogs a marathon in Wyoming to cross that state off their list.

  14. Why 50 Marathons in 50 days is impressive « Run to Win » on August 28th at 6:34 pm

    […] Today, I am going to use those 50 marathon events as examples of why doing something like that is impressive. The reason that I feel a need to mention this is because Adeel at Complete Running thinks that 50 marathons is not impressive at all. Adeel has a very well thought out article, and I recommend that you read it in full. However, I think that he is interpreting the news in completely the wrong way. To keep this (somewhat) brief, I am going to only concentrate on one facet of why I disagree with Adeel’s stance, since some of the other reasons are appearing in the comments of that thread and I do not want to write something that will take 30 minutes to read. Popular running culture values doing something far more than doing something well. There is no doubt that running 50 marathons in 50 days is a very athletic accomplishment, but how impressive is it really? Running 182 miles a week at 9-minute miles, the speed at which Sam Thompson reportedly ran his marathons, is not exceedingly impressive. Running 5,000 metres in less than 13 minutes, on the other hand, is infinitely harder. Those who do the latter can no doubt do the former, but the former could not do the latter. […]

  15. Kilo on August 29th at 7:52 am

    I do see the point here. I ran my first marathon last year and I can’t say that I have much for running abilities. I run slowly. My genes do not predispose me to winning events, not even age class wins. I ran that marathon with very little ability, it’s true. Just a lot of training and perserverence.

    But I’m still proud of it. The blogosphere was proud of me, too. That’s my biggest problem with this article — that the blogosphere congratulates the mediocre. Well, yeah. We bloggers are average people. Middle-aged, middle-class family people for the most part who live our lives and enjoy running, too. Running often lends itself to good blogging and philosophizing. We write about ourselves and comment to others who are like us. We are happy when a fellow blogger succeeds at something that was a challenge for them.

    Elite runners really never enter the picture. That’s a whole different world. They run at their own elite level where fractions of seconds matter and doping makes all the difference. They do this as a profession. They are sponsored. They have almost nothing in common with me, and I have nothing to say about them in my blog.

    So my beef with this article the condemnation of the blogging community. Since when did I become a reporter? I write about what interests me and nothing else. Let the real reporters figure out a way to make elite running exciting and interesting. Not my job.

  16. a.maria on August 29th at 8:38 am

    my response to this article is summmed up well by warren and especially kilo so i won’t repeat them with my own comment, but..

    it seems to me Adeel has completely missed the point of why most of us blog.

    which is *his* misfortune, and not the fault of the blogging community.

    so to quote Kilo.. “..my beef with this article the condemnation of the blogging community…” and i disagree/sort of take offense to/with the article’s sentiment.

  17. DREW on August 29th at 8:49 am

    Try this: find three or four blogs written by fast runners, the runners that win their age groups or come in the top few overall. Find a writeup of one of their faster races and count the number of comments praising their accomplishments. Then, do the same with 3 or 4 averages folks. The ones more intent on completing the distance than finishing fast. Dollars to donuts there will be a greater number of congratulatory comments on their posts. Adeel’s wish is that we would fully recognize the far greater accomplishments of those who have sacrificed and suffered to run fast. We shouldn’t ignore the accomplishments of others, but we should measure our praise in light of the amount of effort and hard work that went into the accomplishment. He’s got a point.

  18. A Running Gag » Blog Archive » on August 29th at 8:54 am

    […] I wrote earlier about the difference between dedicated and hardcore and last night found a post on Complete Running that questioned the “acomplishments” of Dean Karnazes and Sam Thompson and compared their goal of running 50 marathons in 50 consecutive days to the mediocre jogger who sets out to complete 26.2 miles in 5 or 6 hours. The point of the poster was that doing something well should be valued more than simply doing something to get it done. He believes that here in our little blogging world we tend to praise the accomplishments of those who simply do something to a greater extent than we do those who do it well. Try this: find three or four blogs written by fast runners, the runners that win their age groups or come in the top few overall. Find a writeup of one of their faster races and count the number of comments praising their accomplishments. Then, do the same with 3 or 4 averages folks. The ones more intent on completing the distance than finishing fast. Dollars to donuts there will be a greater number of congratulatory comments on their posts. Adeel’s wish is that we would fully recognize the far greater accomplishments of those who have sacrificed and suffered to run fast. We shouldn’t ignore the accomplishments of others, but we should measure our praise in light of the amount of effort and hard work that went into the accomplishment. […]

  19. RunnerGirl on August 29th at 8:55 am

    I agree that Adeel has a very well thought out and presented article here… however I feel that what he is presenting is with regards to media glorification/sensationalization vs. telling a 10 minute per mile runner that they do not deserve praise, if 10 minutes per mile is their true ability.

    At first I truly disagreed with this article, and yes took offense even. But then I realized that this article was not an attack on slower runners per say.

    I am a VERY average runner who is both mystified that a human body can handle running 50 marathon lengths in as many days in as many states, and that the human body can run a 5k in less than 13 minutes. But I do not think that the same human body can do both.

    Praise be to both, as both are testaments to what we can accomplish when we push ourselves- HOWEVER, endurance and speed are not interdependent and this does not mean that both endurance at a slower pace should not be revered with as high praise as a speedy mile.

    That goes back to goals.

    There are two master groups of runners – racers and fitness. Of those two master groups there are multiple groups such as elites and average Joes.

    So many people had it right – we are judged by our own criteria, and there are two different worlds of running… endurance and speed.

    Yes media takes things and sensationalizes them… that is what the media is for as of late. But I personally only know one elite runner, and everyone else is competing against themselves, not him.

    I think if someone “jogs” a marathon then maybe that is what they are capable of in order to endure the 26.2 miles. Maybe they can run a killer 5k. Who knows. Who cares.

    I think that every person who gets up and laces up their shoes should be commended. THAT is what makes us runners. We run far… we run fast… and in my case neither! But we sure do run.

    Adeel, you have brought a wonderful topic to the table! Thank you!

  20. a.maria on August 29th at 9:06 am

    the entire point, though, of blogging, (for some of us, at least me), is to read about people going through the same experiences you’re going through.

    when im struggling and wanting to quit and read about someone else thats struggling and wanting to quit, but that they DIDNT quit.. i’m reminded that i can keep going to.

    when i read about someone who runs an 11 minute mile like i (sometimes) do, and that they had some sort of super fantastic day and ran a 10K in an hour… i’m proud of them because i can RELATE to what it is they’re feeling. and what it is they’ve gone through.

    blogging isn’t just reading about running. for pete’s sake, if i wanted to read about running i’d go to the pros, sure.. blogging is about connecting with other people you have something in common with. its about inspiring one another.

    i’m not inspired by a 4 minute mile. i’m in awe.. sure. thats dang impressive. great.

    but i. can’t. do. that. i don’t aspire to run a 2 hour marathon, thats completely outta my limits.

    but when i read about someone that ran a 4, but is now running a 3:45.. *that* i am inspired by. *that* i can relate to and *that* is what i’ll read and leave a comment for…

    not a professional athlete going out there and doing his/her job by running really fast. kudos them. they earned their paycheck.

  21. jeff on August 29th at 9:21 am

    i’ve been taking some heat about saying the article was spot on, and i feel a follow-up is necessary. my comment could have been better written to target the specific areas of adeel’s article that resonated with me, rather than saying the whole article was spot on. i’m short on time these days and don’t have the luxury of getting wordy. i guess as i read through the article and walked away from it, the last paragraph that was all that stuck in my mind and i glossed over the area where adeel discounts the back-patting that goes on in the blogging community.

    read back over my comment and you’ll see that i was refering specifically to the points he makes about following the leaders of the sport and encouraging people to take an interest in running as a sport, more than just an activity. ask any swimmer who the leaders are in their sport and they’ll know, ask any baseball player who is a good pitcher and they’ll go on for hours about the history of the game. i like that he’s encouraging people to find out who is who to bring about a
    better understanding of the sport and remove it from the fringe activity and the odd news coverage that it gets.

    i take offense at him saying that people shouldn’t run just to run, as that’s just giving people more ammunition to shoot down physical activity. i also take issue with him bashing the back-patting that goes on among our blogs and the back-of-packers. that said, one of the reasons i encourage people so much is because i see the potential that they have. i have come from the back-of-packers and i see what focused training and determination can do to your fitness. i also see that i couldn’t have arrived at the point i’m at in my running without the back-patting of my fellow bloggers and support of my loving wife and family.

    you know i cheer and rejoice for every person that gets out and does the left, right, left
    shuffle. slow, fast or indifferent, i love the sport, the participants and the unbelievable support that we receive from those around us all in this same struggle.

  22. RunnerGirl on August 29th at 4:52 pm

    a.maria – RIGHT ON!!!!!! Now that is what I can relate to!

  23. Adeel on August 29th at 6:03 pm

    Once again, I would like to point out that, no, I’m not picking on slower runners. The point is not that the blogs of slower runners or slower runners themselves should be ignored in favour of faster ones, but simply that there’s a difference between doing something and doing it well. The example I used with respect to blog comments was not of a slow runner and a fast runner, but a runner who ran a hard 5k and someone who jogged a marathon. It has nothing to do speed, but seriousness. As a result, Jeff’s comment about fitness running is a fair one, though my focus here was on which is the greater achievement.

  24. bex on August 29th at 7:23 pm

    Adeel, I hear what you’re saying, and I agree. If you bust a gut running a 5:00 marathon, I will applaud for you much louder than if you had merely done that distance at an easy jog.

    When you do something, whether it be running, playing the piano, skateboarding, whatever, do it to the best of your ability.

  25. Jessica on August 30th at 9:59 am

    Doing it well is all a matter of perspective. I agree with bex that “whatever, do it to the best of your ability.”

    I don’t think you can say one is a greater achievement over the other. A 24-year-old running a 4 minute mile in a 5000 meter race vs. a 35 year old pregnant mother of 3 running her first marathon in 5 or 6 hours? Or how about a struggling food-addicted overweight runner just hoping they can finish their first 50K vs. a skinny high school runner breaking a 4 minute mile?

    I for one am not prepared to make that comparison; however, I do think both achievements should get the attention and the kudos – and we should all be a fan of the sport of running which covers a wide range of speeds and distances!

  26. CB on August 30th at 1:42 pm

    Who’s to say that Sam’s 9 minute miles aren’t impressive? Certainly for Sam, Dean, or any other conditioned athlete to run a just under a 4 hour marathon for a single effort would be woefully subpar.

    But this is not what we’re talking about, Adeel. Your opinion of the 50in50 is based on what you think is fast or slow- all determined by a perception formed by your experiences (whether they be actualized or picked up along the way).

    We’re talking about a massive amount of miles. Do you really think it feasible to run a 2:40 marathon everyday, for 50 days?

    Or perhaps, the individuals who chose to undergo these races of “quantity” are still, nonetheless, going after “quality.”

    We all have our limits. Can you sprint a 10k? Of course not. You have to pace yourself. And that is what Sam has done. It undoubtedly takes a great deal of effort to run 1310 miles in 50 days (which I don’t believe Adeel is arguing).

    The shorter the distance, the faster the pace will be. A poster wrote of why Adeel will praise the 2:40 (figuratively) marathoner, when a 5k athlete can still run faster per mile. Along these lines, how can Adeel discredit a 50in50 runner for running more, but at a slower pace?

    Bottom line, just because Sam’s min/mi may be slow compared to that of a elite competitor during a single race, keep in mind that the race contestant is doing just that: running one race.

    I think we are seeing far AND fast. It’s a matter of keeping the perspective of just how far we are talking, and just how fast one can go to accomplish the mileage.

  27. Run Momma Run on August 30th at 3:19 pm

    Adeel, I wholeheartedly agree that there is a difference between just doing something to do it and doing something well. But, that is NOT how I interpreted your article and I think you could’ve made your point a little clearer and stronger.

    I felt taken aback when you wrote against the “first-time marathoner who casually ran for four or five hours will be inundated with praise.” First of all, who is to say that MY efforts in completing that marathon were casual? What if that really IS the best that I can do? Shouldn’t I be praised just as heartily as the person who ran the marathon in 2:20? As long as we both ran our best raise, that is worthy of any and all praise and is indeed impressive.

  28. chris on August 30th at 7:43 pm

    ha, adeel branching out

  29. Yvonne on August 30th at 8:19 pm

    Ditto, ditto: extremely well written argument. But I too disagree with your conclusions. You and I must exist in two very different ‘running communities.’ From my perspective, in my club, among everyone I talk to who runs in any way seriously, the most awe is definitely bestowed upon the ‘fast.’ Yes, people of all speeds are encouraged and praised for their acheivements, but it is the ‘fast’ who are regarded – almost worshipped – as the true heroes, the gods of our sport.

    That Dean guy just annoys me. Just because he’s good at getting himself a lot of publicity doesn’t mean any he’s worth the attention he supposedly gets.

  30. John on August 31st at 11:48 am

    The article seems to differentiate between doing something and doing something well. Not everyone that is fast does something well and not all those that are slow do not. Is someone that is doping doing something well? Is someone that wins races but doesn’t train hard to do so doing something well? Is a 60 year old cancer survivor that finishes a 10K doing something well? I think the answers are obvious and I disagree entirely with the premise that those going the fastest are running “the best”.

    In addition, I think it’s pretty clear that those that run the fastest are recognized. They win the trophies and the prize money. Their names are listed first with their times. When two runners talk and one discovers another is significantly faster the slower runner generally shows more respect and appreciation for the faster runners ability. I’m not sure what it is the author feels should be done for these people?

    The metric that really matters is the one that is impossible to measure. The metric that matters is who is accomplishing something of merit. Speed is as much a function of genetics as how hard you work. As a measure of who is accomplishing something noteworthy it’s only one small part of a larger and more personal story. To most bloggers it’s an unrelatable part of the story because they are not competative at that level.

  31. Alekat on September 1st at 6:30 am

    “Most runners, I will generalize, are more impressed by a poorly-run marathon than a well-run mile, more in awe of a succession of so-so marathons than a single really fast marathon.”

    Think in a different paradigm… Rather than just about the virtues of running, this issue seems more about personal accomplishment and growth – an individual’s journey. Sounds pretty “new age” but really, if an individual can train for and run a marathon or multiple marathons – that is growth of the individual. Many people will not be able to run those super fast miles… So when people are in awe of a slow marathon over a fast mile, it’s not the running that they are in awe of, it is the personal growth and accomplishment.

  32. Simon on September 2nd at 10:50 am

    Thanks Adeek,
    I agree with almost everything you say.
    People are obsessed with marathons. Not with racing them, just with finishing. As if putting one foot in front of another for 26.2 miles is the equivalent of climbing Everest or something.

    Don’t they get it? Humans are designed to cover long distances on foot. There’s nothing special about it.

    Those that have done a few soon get to realise that. They’re left with two options: train properly and do a marathon in a decent time, or run longer: run 50 miles, or 100 miles instead. In the context of a world marathon record of 2:04 — that’s 13 mph for two hours — the second option is a lot easier and much more likely to get you noticed.

    Dean Karnazes has got himself on Oprah following this strategy. His latest gimmick, the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days thing, has got him on a ton of sponsorship and full-colour 8-page (yes eight) advertising spreads in the running glossies. Amazing. The hype, not the performance. The ‘amazing feat’ has already been done or bettered (Sam Thompson, Chuck Engle). But just as you say, people are not interested in quality, just quantity.

  33. John on October 30th at 9:42 am

    3100 miles, 42 days. I suppose this is missing the point of the article, but check out the name “Wolfgang Schwerk”. This guy averaged 72.8 miles a day for 42 days. If 50 marathons in 50 days isn’t impressive, maybe this is.

  34. ShanMac on May 21st at 12:48 pm

    Sigh…..well, part of me sees the point, the other, I just don’t get it. I understand that it is important to not just do something to do it and that effort is needed, but I guess I am not really sure how a person could judge that. I myself really want to run and enter as many events as possible, my next goal was 25 before I turn 25. So I guess, by some standards, i am just running to run. But am i? Maybe that 25 is a stretch for me, maybe I am doing it because I can…..if I were in other parts of the world I may not have that opportunity, and so for me the shear fact that I am allowed to run as many as I want at any pace I want is a gift in itself that I am thankful for. No, I do not know the names of all of the fastest runners out there, but I do read about them, I have watched track meets and admired the people who can accomplish things I can’t even imagine doing. I think of running as a celebration of life. We were all given one body and one life to do what we can in that body. I think what makes running so great is that it is the freedom of the individual to set the types of goals that we want to have. Each achievement we have is worth celebrating, sometimes that is a PR, and sometimes that is 25 in 25. I am just glad and thankful for the opportunity to be able to do it all.

  35. Sheamus on August 30th at 12:54 am

    It’s a bit of an apples and oranges argument – you can’t compare world record runs in the 5K with a pretty normal guy average 9-minute miles in his marathons.

    However, as you did, I’d argue that more 100-mile ultrarunners can run a 3-hour marathon than 3-hour marathon runners can run 100 miles.

    I’d also argue I’m not sure it really matters. What’s important to you is what’s important. It is very impressive to break 13 minutes over a 5K but as has been mentioned above, is it any more impressive than running a 9.69 100m? What about a 0.968 10m? 0.0967 over 1m? 😉

    I’m being a bit silly, of course, but it’s a logical progression from your argument.

    I’d suggest it’s more impressive to get faster over the *longer* distance. Breaking the two-hour marathon barrier is far more of an accomplishment than going under even 12 minutes over a 5K (IMO). Being faster for longer is, I would suggest, always going to win out over being faster for a shorter period of time. Moreover, it’s a truer test of endurance, which for most people is what running is all about.

    Sheamuss last blog post..Do You Listen To Music While You Run?

  36. James on March 4th at 2:00 am

    What the extremely and transparently jealous article writer fails to grasp is that when we’re talking about accomplishments like ’50 marathons in 50 days’, slower but still running times in the 4 – 5.5 hour range are probably far more mentally and perhaps also physically challenging on the runners than if those same marathons were done in less time. While the author of this article seems to be impressed by ‘doing it well,’ by ‘it’ he means ‘running fast.’ I, on the other hand, am more impressed with the mental and physical toughness of somebody who may not be a perfect physical specimen and may have come into sport later in life but still takes on a daunting task.

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