Do you think anyone ever asked Bob Seger whether the night moves he was working on were for deployment during the day or the night?
Or do you think anyone ever asks Usain Bolt how long the 100-meter dash is?
Probably not, right? Bob Seger’s night moves were for the night. And I wish I’d come up with that 100-meter dash question first, because it’s more applicable to what I’m getting at here.
This is the longest way I could come up with to say this: When someone says they’re running a marathon, they mean a run of 26.2 miles.
Or, maybe it’s the longest way I could say this: Why, when I say I’m running a marathon, do people ask how long it is?
A marathon is a specific distance. 26.2 miles. There’s no such thing as a 10-mile marathon. That’s a 10-miler. Perhaps this has been confused because someone will do a “Movie Marathon” and that doesn’t have a specific length. Maybe it’s because all these other things have co-opted the term “marathon” to just mean “really long.”
In fact, maybe I should just outline the different terminology here.
Fun Run: This can be, basically, anything. Any run of any distance. Ostensibly fun, but that’s really more up to the runner than the race holder, and it’s pretty presumptuous that EVERYONE will have fun.
5k: This is a 5 kilometer race. Which is 5,000 meters. Which is 3.1 miles. This is the favored distance of most races, probably because it’s pretty easy to find a course that fits the distance, plus someone could walk the whole thing and still finish in a reasonable time. It also seems to be somewhere in the sweet spot of human endurance where an out-of-shape dad type can run it and not die, so it’s lucky we hit on that distance.
10k: This is 10 kilometers, twice as long as a 5k. So it’s 6.2 miles. I think the 10K exists primarily because it’s an Olympic event where people who are out of their fucking minds run 25 laps around a track.
Half-Marathon: Exactly half the distance of a marathon, which is 13.1 miles. You’ve probably seen those stickers on the backs of cars, those white ovals with the numbers 13.1 in them. Now you know why. It’s not some weird Bible thing. I hate those stickers, by the way. I mean, running that far is pretty hard, but having done it a number of times and also having moved apartments three times in as many years, I can say that if there was some sticker that signaled “I moved my apartment and didn’t cry every day!” I would be more excited for THAT person. That’s harder.
Marathon: 26.2 miles.
Ultra Marathon: This is a marathon of any length that exceeds 26.2 miles. So, technically, if I took a victory lap around the portable shitter at the end of my race, I’d run an ultra. Now, some traditionalists will tell you that an ultra is 50 or 100 miles. These are also people who are likely to run the kind of races where someone has to have their shoes cut off because their feet have swollen so badly, and this is not an unusual thing. I know this is the delightfully red-colored ceramic pot calling the expensive ceramic kettle a tasteful red (I use colorful cookware now because I’m Fancy, so the pot calling the kettle black isn’t how I roll), but I’m training to run a marathon, not making myself a better person. I still reserve the right to be a hypocrite.