Overheard In Central Park

The scene: A bustling Central Park on Saturday morning. The sun is shining and temperatures are hovering in the 40s. Runners are flooding the paths (and taking over the bike lanes — come on runners, wise up and move in or don’t complain about the riders!) and cyclists are speeding by.

As I cruise (crawl) around the southeast corner of the park and begin to head north, I overhear — even over the blasting volume coming from my old-school Sony headphones — two very excitable women on the run having what seems to be a heated conversation.

“Runners are so snotty!” the runner woman on the outside says.

Inside woman does not respond.

Ali slows her power crawl to a normal crawl, taps down the volume of the Beyoncé and decides to do a bit of investigative eavesdropping.

“Everyone’s like, ‘A marathon is only a marathon if it’s 26 miles!’ Since when? A marathon is a marathon, whether it’s a 5K or a loop of Central Park! People think it’s about the distance, not the work you put into it.”

Last I checked, the word marathon is actually DEFINED as being 26.2 miles. But I mean...definitions are open for interpretation, right?
Last I checked, the word marathon is actually DEFINED as being 26.2 miles. But I mean…definitions are open for interpretation, right?

Ali smiles and picks it back up to a power crawl.

She’s got a marathon to finish up, after all.

Happy Monday! I hope you all had awesome marathons this weekend!



52 Responses

  1. I ran my first Half Marathon this weekend. The Nagoya Half. It was an amazing experience. Right up there with climbing Mt. Fuji. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the last year. I’m starting a Cto5K with my husband this week since he has caught the running bug too. I’m already searching for my next half. I love running!

  2. When training for an actual marathon, my LEAST favorite question (and one of the most common) that I get is “How long is it?” With trying to put on a non-annoyed smile, I patiently explain that a marathon is a measure of distance of 26.2 miles.

  3. A marathon can be defined as any contest, event, or the like, of great, or greater than normal, length or duration or requiring exceptional endurance.

    The woman was obviously using the word “marathon” as a test of endurance. For those who are new to running and fitness in general, doing 1 mile, a 5k, or even a walk around the block can be a sincere test of endurance, both emotional and physical. At least this woman was crediting the efforts of those who try, rather than completely dismissing them.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I think this post and the subsequent comments just proves this womans point; runners can be snotty.

    1. Running any distance is a test of endurance. That’s absolutely true. However I don’t believe it is technically true that a 5K is a marathon, when a marathon in running terms is defined as being a 26.2 mile race, and a 5K is defined as a 3.1 mile race. I don’t think that believing only a 26.2 mile race is technically a marathon makes me snotty. I think it makes me accurate. It also doesn’t mean I don’t support runners of all paces, distances and abilities. I sure do. (And remember, the sentiments expressed in the comments on my blog are those of the people writing them — doesn’t mean I agree with all of them or feel the same way.)

  4. I once met a mad who did cross country in college in the 90’s, and he told me, “We ran marathons every day for training.” When I asked how long they were training to run, he said, “Between 3.1 and 6.2 miles.” 🙂 *polite smile*

  5. I though a marathon was 26.2 miles, but then again I’m not a runner, so what do I know. I did however jog/crawl/fast walk a mile this weekend. My first in years and years so huge pat on the back for me, but calling it a marathon feels just wrong.

  6. Hahahhah. I love listening to people talk while I’m running. On the way home from my long run yesterday, a group of pedestrians was overheard saying, “Carbs are SO bad for you.” “I know, NEVER buy bread.”

    Carbs are wonderful, you silly UES pedestrians.

  7. Obviously it is a very confusing term. I mean the distance of the race is not CLEARLY stated in the name so of course it can’t POSSIBLY mean something specific. A 5k is always a 5k, and a 10 miler always a 10 miler, maybe we should just start calling the marathon the 26.2 mile race and everyone would start to understand!

  8. Hahaha… when I ran my first 5k, my friend kept telling everyone I was running a marathon. I had to say “No! No no no no no no no no no no no. Nowhere NEAR that yet!” A lot of non-runners think “marathon” means “foot race.” 😛

  9. Ahahaha! That is awesome. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked how long the marathon I ran was, or mentioned that so-and-so is running a marathon when they really mean a 5K. Too funny.

  10. These comments are so timely. This morning as I’m standing next to the water cooler (naturally), an acquaintance/colleague walks by and says, “hey, Marathon Woman.”
    I was confused since I haven’t run a marathon (yet), but remembered I tweeted about an 8k I ran this weekend. Maybe the assumption is – you run, so you’re probably running marathons? I’ll take it! 🙂

  11. This is hilarious.

    I remember when I was in high school and I told my dad I ran a 10k. He thought I was talking about ten thousand dollars.

  12. I would definitely have been way more annoyed about the runners are snotty comment….Especially because they correctly defined the definition of a marathon.

  13. My mom consistently calls every race I do a marathon regardless of distance. My entire extended family (At least those NOT friends with me on facebook.) thinks I run marathons every other weekend or so. I just smile and correct them when I can. Of course my mom also has zero ability to read a map (we live in central Iowa, she once drove us to Minnesota trying to get to Missouri) and no sense of distance (Yes, I hit the Iowa border mom, but it is still a 4 hour drive to your house. Do not warm up dinner yet!) so those things could play into it.

  14. Hahahaha! I ran a six-mile marathon yesterday! AWESOME. I think this goes along with non-runners who ask how my marathon was when I actually ran a 5k.

  15. My grandma calls everything a marathon. “How long is this marathon?” is the question she asks before every race. It doesn’t bother me at all.

    I think sometimes we get so into our own world that we get annoyed when other people don’t understand the basics about whatever it is we’re “into.” But there are tons of sports I know nothing about (What is the individual medley? What the heck does “icing” mean?) and tons of other things I know nothing about (umm my boyfriend is a doctor and I haven’t taken science since high school). I appreciate it when people who live in those worlds take the time to explain things to me, so I try to do the same. Just my .02.

    1. I wasn’t annoyed by her thinking a marathon is whatever distance you want — I was sad that she finds runners “snotty” for using the definition of marathon correctly! I’m all about the effort and the hard work.

      1. Oh no, I didn’t think you were annoyed–sorry for not making that clear! I thought it was a cute story.

        I was mostly having a rambling conversation with myself, based on the post and some of the other comments.

  16. This is a pet peeve of mine. So much that when I was teaching, I worked it into our math lessons. I taught decimals and fractions, so I’d give extra credit for being able to write the distance of a marathon and half marathon in numbers and words.

    My small contribution to running society. 😉

  17. Hahaha, I love how some people just don’t grasp the concept of a marathon. Although I guess if it gets her out there running she can believe her 5K is a marathon

  18. Haha! Favorite non-runner question: wait so how long was your marathon?

    …It’s not my marathon. It’s every marathon.

    As silly as it is though, the idea that “It’s the work you put into it” is definitely worth something, and it’s a concept I’ve thought about through recent injuries just 5 weeks out from Boston. Would I have put less effort into my training knowing that the last month was going to be all messed up and probably negate a lot of the fitness I’ve gained? Absolutely not! We don’t train for the time we will earn in the race, we train because we love training. I could never run another race in my life and I’ll still take 20 miles with 10×1-mile pickups at 6:30 pace at 5:30AM on a Saturday morning over sleeping in until noon.

  19. I like the sentiment (it’s not about the distance but the work you put into it), but let’s not get all fast and loose with definitions. The English language is already getting relaxed enough in everyday conversations.

    But I do smile when I’m talking about races of other distances, and a friend asks “how long is that marathon?” and I’m like “oh, 10 miles.” Makes me sound more badass that way …

  20. I’m going to refer to everything I do from now on as a marathon, that way people know I’m working waaayyy harder than they are. 🙂

  21. oh god, THIS. Those are the same people that start in the incorrect corral and then get mad when people basically run them over. RAGE.

  22. BAHAHA! This just made my evening.

    Now…I have to walk to the MRT (subway) in a few minutes. If I walk really fast, and work hard, do you think that could count as my marathon for today? 😉

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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