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The Triska- Deca- What?

Posted by Filed Under: Fun & Jokes

13.1The half-marathon is one of the most challenging and most enjoyable race distances many runners will ever experience. And yet, for years it has suffered a reputation as the Rodney Dangerfield of road racing: it doesn’t get any respect.

Despite its growing popularity, the half-marathon struggles to overcome a significant identity crisis. It doesn’t have the aura of the marathon, the popularity of the 10K, or the excitement of the 5K.

The marathon enjoys widespread fame and prestige. Major races like New York and Boston receive network TV coverage, and almost every regional marathon enjoys several days of newspaper coverage before and after the event. The 5K, 10K, and 1500 meters are the premier distance running events at every Olympics—where the heroic efforts of Billy Mills and Steve Prefontaine became the stuff of legend and repeat winners like Haile Gebrselassie forged their reputations as the greatest runners of all time.

Here’s a quiz: who won the half-marathon at the last Olympic Games? Can you name any Americans who made the Olympic half-marathon team? If you can’t think of anyone, don’t worry. It’s a trick question. The half-marathon isn’t an Olympic event. In other words, in the vast pantheon of athletics, the half-marathon ranks below badminton, fencing, and team handball.

The half-marathon is the only race that is identified by comparison to another event. Nobody ever calls the 5K a “Half-10K”, or the 1500 meters a “One-third 5K”. Yet, the half-marathon goes through life as a diminutive variation of its longer, better-known relative. And if that wasn’t bad enough, in some parts of the country, 13.1-mile races are called “mini marathons”. No wonder the race has an inferiority complex.

My local half-marathon (the Big Sur Half-Marathon on Monterey Bay) is like one of those nerdy kids in school named Reginald Archibald von Finkelstein. Saddled with an unwieldy name, it’s doomed to chronic snickering. It’s also identified by the bigger race (Big Sur Marathon) it’s associated with, but has to include the location to remind everyone that it isn’t actually in Big Sur.

Monterey’s half-marathon gets its own day, but many in other cities don’t. They’re forced to share a day as the undercard of a full marathon held on the same morning. Most of the race shirts from these events say “marathon” in huge letters at the top and “half-marathon” in much smaller font below the logo. At the expo, half-marathoners feel like outcasts when picking up their bib numbers, often lowering their voices in embarrassment when the volunteer asks them which race they’re entering.

The sad part is that the half-marathon is a wonderful race. It’s long enough to be a true test of aerobic endurance, but doesn’t require the 4-hour training runs that are necessary prerequisites for the marathon. It’s short enough to allow a strong finish over the final miles, but only if you use a smart race strategy to position yourself well in the final 5K. It’s attainable enough to welcome a variety of runners and challenging enough to seriously test the most elite runners.

Clearly, the half-marathon needs a more distinctive, more distinguished name. After much consideration, I can humbly propose a suggestion. From now on, I’m referring to the half-marathon as the “triskadecathon”.

That’s right— the triskadecathon. You heard it here first. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The root is Latin for the number 13. It is just long enough, Latin enough, and obscure enough to sound serious to anyone who doesn’t know what you’re talking about. If you tell your sedentary friends or family members that you’re training for a triskadecathon, they’ll think you’re planning something pretty impressive. It’s an independent identity for an independent race. It has a cool, slightly intimidating sound to it, which runners can say with pride when they pick up their race packets.

The 13.1-mile race clearly deserves its own designation to set it apart from the other road races, and that’s what “triskadecathon” provides. It’s a word that accurately reflects the race’s positive attributes. Besides, it’s kind of fun to say, isn’t it? Go ahead and try it at your next race. Who knows? Maybe the name will actually catch on.

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About Donald

A protégé of Dr. Dre, Donald emerged on the blog scene as one of the most unusual writers to ever grace the genre. Using questionable wit and mediocre skills to ramble about everything from his childhood to a compulsive fascination with popular culture, he became the biggest crossover success since Eminem emerged from Eight Mile. Born on the hard streets of Inglewood, CA, Donald began writing blog posts in his basement, and gradually won over larger audiences by becoming a battle blogger against hip-hop MCs in underground clubs. His meteoric rise to success proved too much to handle, however, and Donald cancelled a planned US tour due “exhaustion.” He entered rehab to battle his Diet Pepsi dependency, then resurfaced on the Monterey Peninsula, where he lives with a wife and three kids. Having shunned the big city and the media spotlight, he now runs and blogs on his own terms, and he has finally found happiness.



7 Comments
  1. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on February 11th at 11:58 am

    Heh, triskadecathon…

    I think I’ll stick to the half marathon, as it’s measurement is derived off of taking a marathon, and splitting it in half…

    A 5K is derived from taking a measurement (the kilometer) and then quintupling it.

    If you are going to insist on calling it a triskadecathon, then that means that you are now accepting 13.1 miles as a unit of measurement. As such, you should probably call the marathon a dutriskadecathon. The problem is that extra tenth or two of a mile – it isn’t really a triskadecathon because it isn’t actually 13 miles.

  2. Mark Iocchelli on February 11th at 12:18 pm

    In one corner, we have the emotion conveyed by a word/phrase. In the other, the logical, numerical approach.

    I tend to like the former so I’m with ya, Donald!

    It is certainly a challenging distance worthy of more respect than saying, “I JUST did the half” like a lot of people say at full and half marathon races.

    I should point out that, among Running Blog Family members, triskadecathons are the most popular distances to race.

  3. Topher on February 11th at 12:41 pm

    However you say it, 13.1 is a great distance, and this is was a great post.

  4. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on February 11th at 1:05 pm

    Yeah, Mark, damn me and my numerical, logical approach! Heheh.

    I wish that there were more half marathons in my area. It’s one of my favorite distances, but I don’t get to race them too often.

    Hopefully New Bedford in mid-march – I’ve got 4 guys committed from my team to racing, so as long as I can find at least 1 more we’ll be able to field a team and will actually drive down and compete in it.

  5. Mom On The Run on February 11th at 1:30 pm

    LOL – I can’t wait to start my training for a triskadecathon!

  6. crossn81 on February 11th at 4:51 pm

    How in the world do you say that?? We should hold up judgment until we see a phonetic spelling!

  7. Niels on February 13th at 12:40 pm

    Two problems:
    1) It is too much like decathlon, suggesting you have to do ten things with a triska
    2) The rest of the world measures in kilometers (hence 5k, 10k), so I doubt whether it will catch on internationally.

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