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But her 10K is the same as your marathon!

OMG! If I hear this one more time, I will snap!

I am really getting tired of people who downplay the commitment that a marathon takes by saying “but for some people 10K is as hard as a marathon”.

It is not.

I speak from experience here.

In October of 2007, I started from scratch.  I had been inactive for 18 years, and I decided that in order to continue to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes, I was going to start to run.

I had been inactive for EIGHTEEN YEARS!

One the first night of my clinic we ‘ran’ for a total of 20 minutes and I thought I was going to die. In reality, we ran for 1 minute, then walked for 2, then ran for 1, and so on, until the 20 minutes was up.  I would say we probably covered 1.5km, or less in that 20 minutes. It was hard, I admit that.

2008 Bazan Bay 5K - 30:26

5 months later, I ran my first 5K race. My time was 30:26. Not bad when you think about the fact that I had only been running for 5 months.

8 weeks later, I ran my first 10K in 1:02:00.

That 10K was the hardest thing I had ever done.  I got so sick afterwards from dehydration that I had to call in sick from work the next day.

2008 TC10K - 1:02:00

After the 10K, and some running set backs, it took me a year to reach the half marathon distance, and then another 7 months to reach the full marathon distance. But when the entire story is told, it took me almost exactly 2 years to  go from having never run in my life, to finishing my first marathon.

I decided in October of 2008 that I would run a marathon in October of 2009.  I made the decision a YEAR in advance.  At the time I decided to work up to the marathon distance, I could comfortably run 8K.  Anything more than that was hard work.  First we did 10K, then 12K, then 14. Slowly building up to the half marathon distance.  We trained through wind, rain and snow. We trained when no one else was out on the roads. We trained on Christmas Eve & Boxing Day, and any day I could fit a run in to my schedule.  It was a HUGE time commitment.  But then, in March of 2009, I ran my first half marathon.

2009 Comox Valley Half Marathon - 2:07:36

Don’t get me wrong, every step along the way was difficult, and I had the occasional set back.  It wasn’t smooth sailing & there were injuries. There were days where I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. 10K was hard, 15K was hard, 21.1km was hard.

I ran 2 more half marathons in the summer of 2009, while preparing for my first marathon in the fall.  Each one making me stronger and giving me more self-confidence.

Each of these races was a stepping stone & a confidence builder.

Each one getting me closer to that goal of 42.2km.

The summer of 2009 is really blur of training runs and changes.  I was in the midst of marathon training when I got offered my job at WeightWatchers and I had to make a decision. I could go on training and miss a long run, or skip training and lose the job.   It was a tough decision, but I chose WeightWatchers.   The summer of 2009 is also when N came back in to my life.

When N & I had last seen each other in 2001 I was over 200lbs, and my idea of exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator. (And I never took the stairs).  Now here he was, talking to this crazy chick who was training for her first marathon.

Here’s the thing though, even with a few half marathons under my fuelbelt, a marathon is a whole other beast. It may be twice the distance of a half marathon, but it is 4 times as hard.  Training for a marathon basically erases Sunday from your calendar. You get up Sunday morning and head out for 20, or 30, or 36K, then you go home and eat, then take a nap, then wake up and eat some more, then go to bed.  Most of my Sundays during the height of marathon training are spent on the couch staring blankly at some form of electronic entertainment. Mondays are spent stiff and sore, and then on Tuesday you have to run again if you want to fit in 4 or 5 runs that week!  It becomes your life.

The marathon is not about race day, although that is your focus. The real story of the marathon is the commitment. The hours spent out on the roads, pounding the pavement, the missed barbecues & parties, and the constant ache of sore muscles.  The real story of the marathon, the real accomplishment is the dedication and perseverance that gets you to race day and that is what the medal they put around your neck represents.

2009 Royal Victoria Marathon - 4:21:58

On October 11, 2009, one year, 11 months and 26 days after I laced up my running shoes for the first time, I ran my first marathon. I completed it in a time of 4:21:58, and I was ecstatic, exhausted, but ecstatic. I had done something HARD, something that not many people have the courage to do.

So you see, this is why I take offense when someone tells me “But her 10K is the same as your marathon”.  It’s not.

I’ve been there. I’ve been a beginner at every distance. I started from zero fitness and built my way up. Every milestone was hard. Every distance had challenges.  But no distance will ever compare to the marathon.

The thing is, I respect EVERY person who gets out there and runs, no matter their fitness level or ability, and no matter the distance.  Running is hard, I know this.  But please, don’t tell me that “her 10K is the same as your marathon” because it just isn’t.





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  1. Evette says:

    You are correct. A Marathon is NOT the same as someones 10K…say mine…It’s all I can run right now and yeah it took me 2 weeks to recover for the 10K I had NOT trained for. Could I do a marathon, probably if I put in the hours but I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the time I get with my son in order to train for such an event. I have watched your journey from the beginning. You are such an inspiration! Well done on your sub 4 marathon!

  2. David H. says:

    There comes a very special time in running when you realize that it doesn’t matter what others say. You do it for yourself and to get more out of life — whether you are a 5k runner or love half marathons or are a marathon maniac, none of that matters as long as you are happy doing what you do.

  3. Hollie says:

    I do agree with you – a marathon is not the same as 10K….BUT…perhaps the feeling of doing something that is so monumental for them, may be the same. I can barely run 1km and the thought of someday running a 5km is huge to me – I will probably break down in tears after my first time – as being a non-athlete, and like you, leading a very inactive lifestyle – this is something HUGE to me. Just like 10km, a half or a marathon is to others.

    1. iamthenewme says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here.

      Becoming active is a huge achievement, and running a race of any distance is a great accomplishment.

      Maybe it is the numbers geeks in me, but 10K does not equal 42.2K. Maybe I’m being a stickler for details.

      If someone told me “her 10K is as important to her as your marathon is to you”, I *think* I would be Okay with that statement. But telling me that “her 10K is the same as your marathon” just seriously rubs me the wrong way.

  4. James Koole says:

    I think there’s an element of truth to what the person was saying.

    Think about it not from the perspective of the race distance, or the training required. Instead look at it from the perspective of embarking on a journey to become a runner.

    Doing that takes courage and commitment regardless of whether it’s a 5k, 10k or a marathon that you aspire to. In fact, I think it takes more courage to go from couch to 10k…the marathon is a step on the running journey while just starting running is the *first* step and that’s always the hardest.

    Yes, training for a marathon is a far greater commitment of time and energy – believe me, I get that. It eats up a good chunk of your life and can be all-consuming for some.

    But going from couch to 5k or 10k also takes commitment and energy. For a first timer or new runner, that’s a huge accomplishment when you complete the program and the race.

    In that respect, that first race is as big an accomplishment as your first marathon is. Her 10k *is* your marathon at her point in her life as a runner.

    1. iamthenewme says:

      What this conversation has made me realize is that it comes down to my dislike of the use of the word ‘marathon’ to describe ANY road race.

      If I had a dollar for each time someone said “Oh, you’re running the 10K marathon this weekend?” or “How long is your marathon, 5K?”, I would be a rich woman.

      A marathon is a marathon. A half marathon is half of a marathon, and an ultra marathon is batsh!t crazy! 😉

      Marathon does not mean ‘road race’, it does not mean ‘running event’, marathon means “A long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 km).”

      So, “her 10K means a lot to her, like your marathon means a lot to you” *probably* wouldn’t bother me. But saying 10K *is* her marathon really pisses me off.

  5. Donald says:

    I think the journey you’ve taken with your running is fantastic and I don’t want to ‘downplay’ anything but every person is an individual and how they experience the training, the commitment, the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment after racing any distance event can be comparable to anyone elses.

    In my opinion the only difference between a 10km race and a Marathon is 32.2km – everything else can be the same.

  6. Rizzle says:

    I understand how you feel but I have to agree with the people who commented above. Your journey to running marathons is amazing and something to be proud of. You are an amazing running and an inspiration to me. Really.

    That being said, my running journey has taken me 2 years and I am currently only able to run a 10k. In fact, I run a 10k slower than your first ever 10K. I have had to give up things, reschedule my life to accomodate my training schedule. I worked hard to finish my first 10k and crossed that finish line in tears. In 2 weeks I will do that again (only hopefully faster!). When I say my 10k *is* your marathon, I mean it. That doesn’t mean your marathon is any less of an accomplishment though. But I also don’t think that my 10k is less of an accomplishment because it isn’t as far or as fast as your marathon.

  7. rozie says:

    I get the feeling that you wrote this at least in part in response to my post about the Bluenose medals which lit up several twitter streams for a few hours. I never said that anyone’s 10k was the same as anyone else’s marathon. It’s math, 10 can never be the same as 42.2, I’ve read the comments and tweets and no one is arguing that. However, the commitment to training may be similar and for someone who is learning to run 10k may feel like a marathon. This attitude of superiority is why a lot of people think distance runners are snobby self centered jerks. I don’t understand how handing out medals any race under 21.1km changes the value of any of your medals and why anyone who trains for, registers for, pays for, runs and finishes a race deserves any less recognition because they ran for 25 instead of 250 minutes.

    The thing that makes your stance the most confusing to me is that once upon a time you were inactive and had to train and fight to become the runner you are. I’d think that having had that experience you would be more empathetic and supportive to anyone making a commitment to running.

    1. iamthenewme says:

      This post wasn’t specifically directed at anyone. It was the culmination of my frustration over multiple situations.

      Having come from being inactive for all of my life, to the point that I am at now, I do understand and respect the difficulties of becoming a runner. I commend anyone who has made positive changes in their lives and I encourage everyone to try a 5K or 10K at least once, just to see that they can do it.

      That being said, even as I was struggling to complete my first shorter distances races, I would have never compared my struggles or accomplishments to the marathon. I always looked at marathon runners in awe. I admired their dedication and their ability, but I would never compare myself to them, no matter how hard a 10K seemed to me at the time.

      I don’t believe that I have an ‘attitude of superiority’, I think I have perspective. Having worked my way up from struggling to run for 20 minutes, to completing multiple distance road races, I think I have a unique perspective. And while I do understand that running your first race of any distance is difficult and that it is a time commitment, I stand by my opinion that you cannot compare a 10K to a marathon.

      One of my most distinct memories of my first marathon was being at Thanksgiving Dinner afterwards. One of the people at the table was Marilyn Arsenault. She had just won the Women’s Half Marathon at the 2009 Royal Victoria Marathon (Now the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon) in 1:15:39. My friends & I, all of us having run the full marathon that morning, were in awe of her. Sure, we ran a marathon, but she WON a half marathon. She said something that day that has stuck with me. While we were lavishing praise on her for her win, she said to us (I’m paraphrasing because it’s been a few years) “Sure, I won the half, but you guys completed a full marathon. You were on your feet for over 4 hours. I could never do that, that is amazing”. Here we were, eating dinner with an ‘elite athlete’, and she is praising us for our accomplishment. She probably trained harder, and longer, and logged more miles than we did, but she still had the respect for the marathon, the respect for the distance and the time on our feet.

  8. Mary Ann Hawthorne says:

    A 10K cannot be compared to a marathon. They are two different animals. It is definitely okay to be proud of any distance you complete–crossing a finish line is an accomplishment in and of itself. However, the marathon is the marathon. It is a grueling race set apart from any other, not to be compared to any other. Someone else’s 10K is their 10K. It is not their marathon.

  9. Donald says:

    It looks like this is all coming down to individual perception and linguistic semantics.

    Most people do not know “runner’s language”… for instance on the CTV website they started a post on the Vancouver Marathon like this “The BMO Vancouver Marathon attracted a rumble of 15,000 runners” and it wasn’t until later in the article that they mentioned that 2/3 of those runners actually ran the half-marathon. Most people, and this is especially true for those not actively involved in a community of runners, will almost always equate any running event with the word “marathon”.

    As for setting the marathon apart from any other race I personally am not a big fan of the mystique surrounding the marathon. I have run all kinds of races ranging from 400m, 10k’s, marathon’s, 100 milers, 24-hour events, and multi-day runs – each one has the capability to be grueling but in the end each is just what it is – a footrace – and there is nothing magical or special about any of the individual distances. Any distance of footrace can be a huge challenge and accomplishment for any individual on any given day.