Definition of a Marathoner

in All Posts

I was craving soup, salad, and bread for lunch!


So that’s what I had.  🙂


Wolfgang Puck’s Roasted Red Pepper soup and a salad with goat cheese:


And an inappropriately appropriately large slice of Garlic Bread:


Plodders Have a Place, but is it in the Marathon?


A few people have sent me links to this article in the New York Times.  The article discusses the “cut-off” time in marathons and whether people who walk or walk/run a marathon should call themselves “marathoners.”

When I first heard about this article, I thought to myself, “I can’t believe so many runners are being such elitists.  Running is a sport for everyone to enjoy.  Racing is a great activity, and walkers and walk/runners are at least getting their asses off the couch.”  But… then I read the article, and it made me reconsider my initial knee-jerk reaction.


Fun Facts About Finishing Times:


  • Runners in the Honolulu Marathon have no limits. Race rules state, “All runners will be permitted to finish, regardless of their time.”  Last year, 44 percent of the field for that event finished in more than six hours — with some marathoners stopping for lunch along the course.
  • In last year’s New York City Marathon, about 21 percent of the field finished in over five hours.
  • From 1980 to 2008, the number of marathon finishers in the United States increased to 425,000 from 143,000.  The finishing time has dropped considerably.
  • In 1980, the median finishing time for male runners in United States marathons was 3 hours 32 minutes 17 seconds, a pace of about eight minutes per mile. In 2008, the median finishing time was 4:16, a pace of 9:46. For women, that time in 1980 was 4:03:39. Last year, it was 4:43:32.


Stopping for lunch in the middle of a marathon?  Seriously?  That DEFINITELY does not make you a “marathoner.”  🙁


The article draws a distinction between “participating” in a marathon and “racing” or “running” in a marathon, which I think is a good way to define the different approaches to 26.2 miles.  


There are logistical reasons why there must be a cut-off time, and I think asking the participants to maintain a 15-minute/mile pace (6.5 hours total) is reasonable.  After all, marathons raise money for charity, encourage healthy living, and give people a sense of accomplishment.  The more people that do it, the better!


Many people have written to me and said they felt nervous about doing a 5K or 10K because they felt “slow” and thought people would look down on them.  Don’t ever feel like that if you’re a new runner. I think all runners (except perhaps the snobby ones quoted in that article) really respect new runners or people tackling new distances.  Running is HARD, and you deserve kudos for crossing a finish line, period.  Truly, the only race is against yourself, unless you’re an elite runner!


But at the same time… I really don’t think you should call yourself a “marathoner” unless you run the majority of the time.   I have a lot of respect for the marathon distance, and I think the title of “marathoner” should be reserved for someone who ran the distance, even if they ran it at a slower pace.   In my world, walkers are more than welcome to participate in a marathon (just don’t stand in front of me in the corrals at the starting line, please!). 🙂


I guess my opinion about the New York Times article falls somewhere in between.  I don’t think you have to run FAST to be a ‘”marathoner,” but you do have to actually run.   :)   However, I think everyone should be allowed to participate in the marathon, with reasonable time limits.  I DO wonder why the people in the article are getting so worked up – someone else’s finishing time doesn’t take away from your accomplishment. 


The New York Road Runners disagrees with me in some ways.  They said, “We don’t encourage people to walk the marathon or to take 8 hours to complete it. It is a running event after all…. [However,] a marathoner is a marathoner regardless of time. Virtually everyone who tries the marathon has put in training over months, and it is that exercise and that commitment, physical and mental, that gives meaning to the medal, not just the day’s effort, be it fast or slow.”


What do you think?  What is the cutoff time for being a “marathoner”?  Or should there not be a time limit at all — 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles, whether you run, jog, or walk it?


Oh, and on another note – Am I a “marathoner” after one race, or do I have to do two?   I was thinking about this the other day!  🙂


Another side note:  Here’s an article about Cheating Marathoners.



  • caronae November 2, 2009, 12:02 pm

    I actually kind of disagree — i think anyone who completes the distance is a marathoner. For example, the handicycles: no one would accuse them of not being marathoners after completing the grueling race (using their arms!) but they certainly did not run it. And many people simply are not able to run. My mom, for example, is a very healthy, fit person, but due to spinal injuries, she can only walk and hike. She is very dedicated to it, and I’m sure she is more fit and maybe even more dedicated than the slower runners. I think the NYRR President was right, a marathon is for everybody. Although logistically, I think it’s a good idea for some marathons to have cut-offs. But there should be others that are open to anyone!

  • Mama Pea November 2, 2009, 12:03 pm

    I agree with you to an extent (i.e. not stopping for lunch) but because of my back injury, I’ll never RUN a marathon like I’d always dreamed. I may someday WALK one though, and when I do, I’ll be putting that 26.2 sticker on my car proudly!

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:04 pm

      now i feel like a bitch. 🙁

      • Nikki T November 2, 2009, 12:13 pm

        You aren’t a bitch, Caitlin! Everyone is entitled to thier own opinion!
        I agree that stopping for lunch is a bit extreme…I would think that in entering a marathon, a person is essentially challenging themselves and thier ability to get to the finish line as quickly as thier body will allow and I wouldn’t think that stopping to eat a meal should necessarily be on the agenda! I do, however, agree with Mama Pea that no matter how you get to the finish line, you have just completed a marathon and that is AMAZING!
        I also think that you can call yourself a marathoner after one marathon- running (or walking) that far is a BIG deal and anyone who gets there should wear that MARATHONER title proud!

        • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:14 pm

          haha Mama Pea is just so sweet that I felt bad for writing that.

  • Meghan@traveleatloveq November 2, 2009, 12:05 pm

    As a 3 (soon to be 4) time marathoner, I don’t mind if someone who walked the whole thing called themself a marathoner. More power to them! I know what I did,ran about 90-95% of the time and finished at 9:40/mile pace, but if someone else wants to do it and can only walk, thats cool. Stopping for lunch= ridiculous though.
    I have always loved the community aspect of running,it makes me sad when people get elitist about it (though reasonable time limits are understandable, logistically and for the safety of staff and runners!)

  • Sarah @ The Foodie Diaries November 2, 2009, 12:05 pm

    very appropriately large 🙂

  • Runeatrepeat November 2, 2009, 12:08 pm

    Running one marathon makes you a Marathoner. I decided on this after reading my fave running poem that ends, “No one is a marathon runner, until they actually run one.”

  • Michele November 2, 2009, 12:09 pm

    I agree that stopping for lunch is unreasonable. However, I can’t say I agree someone doesn’t deserve the label – marathoner – if they don’t run most of it. What should someone label themselves if they walk a marathon in 6 or 6.5 hours? And the Galloway method alternates running and walking throughout the marathon — anyone who finishes within the time the course is open is a marathoner in my book. Stopping for lunch is out of the question though.

  • Adi ( November 2, 2009, 12:09 pm

    I feel like no matter how you do the distance, fast or slow, you’re still a marathoner if you complete it. The distance doesn’t change whether you run at lightning speed or walk as fast as your body will allow you. And on that note, how can anyone really differentiate between someone who’s running really slowly and not giving it their all, and someone who’s walking fast and is pushing their body – and mind – to the limit to finish?

    Thanks for an interesting post. Definitely lots to think about!

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is November 2, 2009, 12:10 pm

    I can’t run for the life of me, so I would probably never try a marathon. My husband has finished quickly, but his friends have been 6 hours+. I am really not sure how I feel about this, but I don’t think you are a

  • Cindy November 2, 2009, 12:11 pm

    I agree that it’s wrong to set a time limit as to which someone is considered a “marathoner” By that logic, the elite would consider someone that runs a 4:30 marathon too slow to be considered a true marathoner?

  • Julie @savvyeats November 2, 2009, 12:12 pm

    As a beginning runner, I’m still pretty proud when I finish a race in a 11:00 pace or lower. For my 15K, I was the second-to-last person to finish. Partway through the race I felt discouraged because I was so far behind, but I was so proud of myself when I finished! 9.3 miles in an 11:01 pace, running the whole way? Heck yes!

    For logistical reasons, I think it is fine to place a time limit on the marathon… 15 min miles or so makes sense. However, stopping for lunch should definitely be a no-no…that’s just ridiculous!

  • Shelly November 2, 2009, 12:16 pm

    I tend to look at running and walking as different sports and to run or walk a marathon is a big accomplishment. (Although I think it would be intolerably tedious for me to walk a marathon- my biggest problem with my half marathon training right now is boredom on my longer runs- I don’t have the mental stamina to walk for 6-8 hours, haha.) But I do think that stopping for lunch is kind of unsporting. I think if you are going to go out there, go to compete- even if it’s just against your walking time. I do think that it was pretty needless for the article to use an 11 minute mile as the definition of “slow.” I think someone who runs 11 minute miles throughout a marathon is definitely a marathoner!
    One thing that bugs me about walkers in the local races I run though (which tend to be pretty crowded) is that the walkers get in front of people who are running at the start line (they’re not supposed to but it inevitably happens), and then the runners have to dodge around them. It slows down people who are competing for time, and it is dangerous for both the walkers and the runners- it can be pretty hard to avoid clipping people sometimes. So if you are a walker, more power to you, but please start as far back as possible!

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:18 pm

      oh dont get me started. i could do a whole blog post on this issue. someday i will.

      • Shelly November 2, 2009, 12:19 pm

        It is such a pet peeve for me! Especially the power walkers who swing their arms wildly, forcing everyone else to dodge them to avoid getting smacked. Drives. Me. Nuts.

  • gen November 2, 2009, 12:16 pm

    i think it should be ok if someone walks/runs a marathon. I for one am sure I wouldnt be able to run a full 26.2 miles. im not a hardcore runner but im trying and if the run/walk method makes me not a real runner, then that’s just a bummer.

  • michelle November 2, 2009, 12:16 pm

    First, having an opinion does not make you a bitch. Don’t apologize for having an opinion on a controversial topic even if it differs from others. On topic-I think finishing a marathon makes you a marathoner. Stopping for anything other than to tie your shoe, hydrate, or jump in the porta potty is unacceptable (like lunch, shopping, whathaveyou). I think putting a 15 minute mile pace on it is a good thing. That’s just me though- I haven’t finished a marathon YET- I’ll be attempting my first in January in Miami! 🙂

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:19 pm

      dude, if i saw someone go off the course to go shopping, i would die.

  • Evan Thomas November 2, 2009, 12:16 pm

    I think so long as you set off with a goal of going 26.2 miles and not letting anything stop you/distract you until you get there, that’s what makes a marathoner

  • Jessie (Vegan-minded) November 2, 2009, 12:17 pm

    I love eating bread, soup, and salad together, what a yummy lunch.
    In terms of being a “marathoner”, I don’t think there should be a time cut-off. Some people are more slow than others, or may have to walk more of it which leads to a longer finishing time. Stopping for lunch is crazy though!

  • Amy November 2, 2009, 12:17 pm

    I am a marathoner. But I am not a fast marathoner. I finished in 5h02 mins.

    They were the hardest 5 hours and 2 minutes of my life. That being said, the proudest moment of my entire life.

    Its not a matter of how fast you get there, its the fact that you travelled 26.2M.

    Great post Caitlin. Loved it.

    ps- you’re totally not a bitch! 😉

    • Amy November 2, 2009, 12:28 pm

      One more thing: the pressures that are associated with times, are a huge reason why I don’t run a lot of races anymore.

      I mean, yes, the thrill that comes with crossing an actual finish line is amazin. But you can go out and run that distance any day and be happy with your end result: the fact you completed it.

      I find I get very wrapped up in the numbers, and forget about why I started running to begin with: to get healthy.

      10k in a race format or 10k on a beatiful Sunday morning is still 10k right?

      • Shelly November 2, 2009, 12:36 pm

        That’s awesome that you feel that way. I find it hard to enjoy a training run as much as I enjoy a race run though. I don’t really put a lot of pressure on myself regarding times (I’m always going to be a middle of the pack kind of runner, which is fine with me) but I find that I get so much energy from being around a lot of other runners- I like my training runs, but I tend to race with a big silly grin on my face. I wish I could feel that way during every run!

      • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:39 pm

        i have noticed that the time pressures of races are really starting to get to me mentally as well.

  • Matt November 2, 2009, 12:19 pm

    I think you need to run most of the race to be a marathoner. Most people can walk 26.2 miles without training. I think marathons are more for people who are serious. If you want to walk, stick to a lower distance like a 5k.

    • haya November 2, 2009, 1:28 pm

      i disagree with the statement that most people can walk 26.2 miles without training.
      that is over 7 hours of continuous walking at a pretty brisk walking pace. that is a whole lot of walking. i don’t think i would be able to just wake up one morning and decide to do that without any preparation, and i am a runner. i am not sure about others.

      • Ashley November 2, 2009, 1:43 pm

        While you are more than entitled to your opinion, you’re statement that “most people can walk 26.2 miles without training” is blatantly inaccurate. You’d better believe those that walk marathons are out there training just as much as/more than the runners! I am currently training for a marathon (run/walk), and the walkers walk faster than a lot of the run groups!

        • Matt November 2, 2009, 2:01 pm

          Wow sorry!

          I think what I was trying to say came out weird. I respect anyone that trains for a marathon regardless of how fast they do it, but I don’t think walking a marathon really counts as “running a marathon”. There are races where people “power walk” the whole time and there are races meant for running. Just my input and I am completely entitled to my opinion.

  • Susan November 2, 2009, 12:23 pm

    Saw you tweet this, glad you blogged about it! (I can only say so much on twitter 😛 )

    I think it’s important for each race to distinguish themselves. Boston for example has time requirements, and thus is a real “running” race. But if the Honolulu marathon wants to create an image that’s open to everyone – including walkers – then that’s fine too. And I agree that if you want to say you ran a marathon, you should spend the majority of your time running!! I guess the pace thing irks me a little, because I’m the type of runner who takes one-minute walk breaks every mile. Some would scoff at that, but it’s what gets me out the door to run those long distances. That’s what counts.

    Also, a marathon is a commitment. It’s something you have to prepare for. It’s something you should struggle and suffer for. Stopping for lunch doesn’t fall under that! 😛

  • Molly @vegandorm November 2, 2009, 12:24 pm

    I did a post about that article when it first came out.
    As a D1 college cross country and track runner, I would be really offended if people who were entering my races weren’t planning on running the whole way.
    I do think that someone who dreams of doing a marathon should have the chance, but what makes a marathon a great accomplishment is how HARD it is supposed to be. I think a slow runner is fine, but why enter if you’re not planning on running the whole way?
    In teh end, I think everyone should have the opportunity to run a marathon, but I think marathons could have divisions or even separate races for competitive racers and non-competitive runners.

  • MelissaNibbles November 2, 2009, 12:25 pm

    I’m not at the level where I can run a marathon yet, but I’ve had many eating marathons.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:26 pm

      that made me LOL

  • Meg C. November 2, 2009, 12:27 pm

    you should also check out the nytimes article from yesterday that talked about people cheating during the marathon by taking shortcuts or giving someone else their chip tracker. INEXCUSABLE!!

  • Mandee Lei November 2, 2009, 12:27 pm

    I think it is an amazing accomplishment to finish a marathon no matter what time you make. However, I completely agree with you Caitlin. Stopping to eat lunch or relax for an hour is a far cry (IMHO) from being a marathoner. Yes you can always say you finished, but I think the point is that it’s SUPPOSED to be hard and challenging. That’s why it feels so good when you finish!
    My favorite place to wear flip flops is around my apartment and in the car while driving. It’s the next best thing to being barefoot!

  • Samantha November 2, 2009, 12:28 pm

    When I first read that article, I was upset. I have not been running for long, and it is a dream of mine to run a marathon. The way I took this article was that if you can’t run fast the whole time, we don’t want you. After reading your post, I understand this wasn’t the point. If they could designate half the road for strictly runners and half for walk/runners maybe it would make the competitors feel better, but again it would make things difficult on everyone.

    PS~ Promise to always be behind you at the starting line, or at least next to you!

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:30 pm

      that is something that upset me about this article, and i think the response by the NYRR was trying to clear up. i think most runners respect all other runners. the few people they quoted in that article seemed like assholes. so, they are faster than 85% of us – who cares? they aren’t even elite!

      • Shelly November 2, 2009, 12:53 pm

        Yeah it seemed like they were trying to make a point about walkers and especially people who stop or at least don’t go as fast as they can, but they were illustrating it with examples that aren’t that bad and it just made the writer and the people that the writer quoted sound snotty. I see why extending a marathon to 8 hours is costly and that is a genuine issue but the guy saying that if you don’t run it in 6 hours you didn’t really run it just sounds like a bully!

  • Lee November 2, 2009, 12:28 pm

    I’ve done one marathon and it was in 6 hours or so. I ran for the first 18-19 miles and then had to walk basically the rest. We were having some freak heat wave where it was 90 degrees out and I’d been training in 60 degree weather. I got extremely dehydrated and threw up several times afterwards.

    I still consider myself a marathoner.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:29 pm

      that is HARDCORE. you get the marathoner medal in my book.

  • ida November 2, 2009, 12:29 pm

    you should read about this guy- he prides himself on being ‘slow’

    He never pushes himself beyond his physical limits and is always one of the last to finish. “Amateur runners who race just for time need psychotherapy,” says Nishi, whose “worst” marathon time is 3:45, and “best” is 10:32. “What is the purpose? Ecomarathon is beyond competition, but with connection.”,7120,s6-243-297–11907-0,00.html

  • Allison November 2, 2009, 12:30 pm

    I think the definition of “marathoner” is very subjective. If you complete 26.2 miles and you feel like a “marathoner” go ahead and call yourself that. I think time limits are necessary though because of the logistics and cost of races, but I think it’s mean to tell someone they aren’t a marathoner just because they didn’t run.

  • Julie @ Peanut Butter Fingers November 2, 2009, 12:30 pm

    interesting!! i have actually wondered the same thing – am i a half-marathoner if i’ve only done one… or do i have to do two? i think more than one makes you a true marathoner, but running one is AMAZING and a wonderful accomplishment.

  • Megan November 2, 2009, 12:30 pm

    I wrote about this article when it first came out too! I totally agree that it’s absurd to stop for lunch (or shopping haha), but I think that different people run at different levels, and some people walk. If a marathon is what is motivating you, I say go for it, even if it means walking.

    And you’re totally a marathoner after your first one, although I felt like a liar calling myself that at first one But I DEF did it anyways! Made me feel hardcore…:D

  • Marissa November 2, 2009, 12:34 pm

    The way I look at it…running is an incredibly personal sport, which is one of the many reasons why I love it. I finished my first marathon a few weeks ago and while I didn’t finish as fast as I wanted (it took me 6 hours, 33 minutes) I knew when I crossed the finish line that I had put everything I had that day into the marathon. I feel great about my accomplishment because I pushed myself as far as I could go that day (everything that could have gone wrong did) and every other day of waking up at 4:30 am to get in my training runs.

    I’m currently training for the Goofy’s Challenge at WDW in January and I’m happy if my long runs come in under 12 minute miles. For me, it’s finishing the distance and not the speed.

  • Carrie H November 2, 2009, 12:36 pm

    Another super interesting running conversation, albiet way less controversial:
    “Why Runners Like to Feel the Burn”

  • Gwen November 2, 2009, 12:36 pm

    That’s a sticky one indeed! I definitely consider myself a marathoner, and I’ve only done one, and it wasn’t fast either! Maybe the fact that I know I will do another and can do it faster makes me feel more comfortable with the term! I agree that time limits are necessary and serve an important purpose. I run to finish, but that always means beating a time limit too. In the end, it doesn’t hurt anyone if someone walks a marathon or runs slowly. Doesn’t mean the winner isn’t any less fast!

    My favorite running shirt says “In my dreams, I’m a Kenyan”!

  • annah November 2, 2009, 12:37 pm

    I have never posted before but am a long time reader. I’m disappointed in the people that think 26.2 miles, no matter how you get there is not an accomplishment. I have never ran a marathon but would love to someday. I have ran several 1/2s. My first one was 3 mths after knee surgery. My avg pace was 12:40 and if someone would have told me that I didn’t deserve to say I ran because I ran slow, that would have been horrible. One thing I have always loved about the running community is the support for one another no matter what your ability. It’s sad that people want to take away from that.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:38 pm

      major kudos on running a half 3 months after surgery!!! thats amazing.

      i also love supportive runners. 🙂

  • Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat) November 2, 2009, 12:39 pm

    I am not sure how I feel because I don’t consider myself a runner yet. I run 5 times a week but I’ve never ran under a 10 min mile and I can’t run longer than 3 miles at the moment. I think I agree with you though, a marathoner is someone who ran most of it. It’s hard work to accomplish that goal!

    • Susan November 2, 2009, 2:05 pm

      Dude, if you’re running 5 times a week, you’re a runner in my books – no matter how far or fast!

  • kristen November 2, 2009, 12:43 pm

    I read that article when it first came out and I definitely agreed with some of the points. It isn’t a person’s “right” to participate in a marathon if he or she can’t participate within the rules or guidelines of the event- so I definitely think that the course cut off times are fair. Roads can only stay closed for so long and there are only so many people that will volunteer to hand out water for 6 or 7 hours.

    If the marathon has a “walking” category, then I think it is fine to walk a marathon- but at that point, I doubt the marathon walker would call him or herself a “marathon runner”- he or she would say “I walked the Honolulu marathon- MAN walking for 8 hours is tough in that heat”.

    Someone who finishes in 6 hours but takes a break to relax and have lunch for 30-40 minutes while in the middle of a marathon is not a marathoner in my mind.
    Someone who fights through walking and running and cramps and bad patches to finish in that same time? He or she is a marathoner.

  • Joelle (The Pancake Girl) November 2, 2009, 12:47 pm

    Okay so I have slightly mixed feelings on this topic… I say a huge KUDOS to anyone with the guts and courage to complete a marathon, period, no matter how long it takes you. I do think that you should run the majority of it, to be considered a true marathoner, and def no lunch breaks (wtf?!). I have never, ever run a marathon, so I’m most def not an authority here, but I sort of feel that you’re not a so called “marathoner” officially until you have more than one under your belt. Til then you’re just a (very cool) person who has completed a marathon. Does that make any sense? Either way, I think anyone with the ambition to get up off their couch and even attempt to run a mile is amazing and should be respected by the running community for their efforts.

  • Emily November 2, 2009, 12:50 pm

    I seem to agree with most people who have commented – if you have committed time and trained (be it walking, running, or handicycling, etc.) – and then you have actually completed the distance, you are a marathoner. But I do think it is ridiculous to stop for anything more than a sip of water or a bathroom emergency. And maybe some races should be reserved for only serious and elite runners.

    In college, I raised over $3,500 and WALKED 26.2 miles in a marathon in Bermuda for Team In Training and I definitely am proud of that accomplishment! I trained for months to get conditioned for the long distances. And I respectfully disagree with Matt who seems to think that “most people” could go out and walk more than 26 miles without training. That statement is absurd to me. Even after training for a couple of months, I was still super sore for several days after walking that distance (in around 7 hours).

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:51 pm

      yay for TNT!!! thank you!

      also, i could not walk 26.2 miles before i started to train, either.

    • Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat) November 2, 2009, 1:22 pm

      I have to agree. I think “most” people would need proper training to walk 26.2 miles

  • Jamie November 2, 2009, 12:56 pm

    First, you are a marathoner as soon as you cross that finish line Caitlin! 2+ is just icing on the marathon cake 😉

    I definitely have the same thoughts about walking the whole marathon. Kudos to getting off the couch and doing something but it’s not the same. I’ve trained to run (most of it as sometimes a walk break can’t be helped) and I’ve watched training of a previous roomie who walked the whole “race”. So not the same effort/dedication to/respect for the training… I do consider those who run/walk (Galloway method), run slower are as much a marathoner as someone who ran 6 minute miles. Someone else’s 13 min/mile is just as difficult for them as my 9 min/mile or someone else’s 7 min/mile. Just have some race courtesy and line up appropriately!

    Cutoff times are there for a reason. You can’t have major roads closed all day long and you would need that many more volunteers. I can’t even imagine a race like NY or Chicago staying open longer than 6. What a logistical nightmare!

  • leslie November 2, 2009, 12:56 pm

    so this opinion is coming from someone who never raced and doesn’t run anymore – so feel free to take it with a grain of salt. 🙂 i think that running can be so hard on the body (and the mind!) and it takes an incredible amount of dedication to train to really run (or mostly run, if someone uses the galloway method, for instance) 26.2 miles. so, to put someone who not only finished the race, but trained for months in the same category as someone who decided to walk most of it (and stop for lunch!?) is not ok in my book. i’m not saying people shouldn’t go out and walk – i’ll always support people being active, and i think it must be a great experience to participate in (and walking 26.2 miles is hard too!). but for me, comparing someone like that to a runner who trained is like comparing apples to oranges.

    when it comes down to it, caitlin, you’re a runner who will have dedicated months to training, and when you cross that finish line, you’ll be a marathoner. at least in my view! 🙂

  • Rachel November 2, 2009, 12:57 pm

    I am a proud marathoner too–I have run 4 and am close to qualifying for Boston. I love watching marathons because I think it is so cool to see the different types of people who run marathons–from the guys with 0% body fat at the front to the people in the back who you never would dream could do it. It’s inspiring. But I also think it should be taken seriously–no stopping for lunch.

    Another thing that drives me crazy–people who think that a marathon is any long race and tell me they are training for a marathon when really its a 10k. A 10k is awesome, but its not a marathon.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 12:59 pm

      HAHAHAH i have had people do that too! like, “oh im trainin for the disney marathon.” and they they said “i’m doing a marathon too, the Celebration 10K” uhhhhhh. no buddy, not the same.

      congrats on almost BQing!

      • Carrie H November 2, 2009, 1:09 pm

        omg, I HATE that too! I’ve completed two half marathons and some 10+ mile races, but never a marathon … and family/friends sometimes innocently ask “How was your marathon?” I ALWAYS correct them — I can’t IMAGINE someone who runs/knows the difference saying something like that!

      • Rachel November 2, 2009, 1:37 pm

        Thanks–and to further brag on myself, I just ran the Marine Corps, 6 months after having a baby. Slowest time yet (4:06) but I’m still proud!

        • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 1:38 pm

          dude – you are awesome. AWESOME.

    • Meghan@traveleatloveq November 2, 2009, 1:14 pm

      Uhhhh my sister in law walked A HALF MILE race called a mini marathon and kept referring to it as their marathon. MADE.ME.CRAZY!

      • Amy November 2, 2009, 1:18 pm

        bahaha… my Dad does that too. Thinks everything is a marathon!

  • brandi November 2, 2009, 1:03 pm

    that is an interesting discussion.

    I don’t think there should be a time limit, simply because people run at all different speeds. Some people’s fastest mile may never go below 10:00, so I don’t think anyone should be punished to not finish by having a time limit.

    But people stopping to eat lunch during a marathon? Not a marathoner, I don’t think. I don’t understand that at all.

  • Kelly November 2, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I said this on twitter, but I thought I’d repeat because I’m not sure if you even follow me on twitter. I think it doesn’t matter what people call themselves, they know what they did and what is an accomplishment for them. For some people walking 26.2 miles would be easy, for others it would be a serious struggle that would require training and effort. Only we know ourselves and our bodies…we do what we can.

  • Diana November 2, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I agree with you, I think it’s basically between. You don’t have to run 8 minute miles but stopping for lunch is a BIT ridiculous. That’s not taking it seriously, so no, not a marathoner.

  • Allison November 2, 2009, 1:06 pm

    I know many, many race walkers who put in the time and miles to train for marathons. Do they not deserve the medal?

    On my running message boards, there is a girl who races marathons in a crank wheelchair. Does she not deserve to call herself a marathoner?

    I run 2 and walk 1. My pace is usually 12:30. Am I no longer good enouch to say I am a runner?

    This is an attitude I wasn’t expecting of you. I don’t know that I’ll continue to read your blog after reading your views on marathoners. In one breath, you encourage everyone to better themselves but then hold it over their heads that you are better than they are. Doesn’t seem like your usual attitude.

    • Rachel November 2, 2009, 1:14 pm

      I think the distinction between RACING, RUNNING and PARTICIPATING is different. I think it is admirable and amazing to make it 26.2 miles, no matter how you do it.

      I’ve run two marathon and raced two marathons–the training and mindset for me was very different. And I walk a little every so often–I don’t think that means I didn’t run it.

      • Dawn November 2, 2009, 3:07 pm

        Just a few more things to ponder.

        Even the distinction between “RACING, RUNNING and PARTICIPATING” is open to interpretation. Who are you racing against? The entire pack including the elites? Other runners? Yourself in the hopes of making a PR?

        Where do you draw the line at what qualifies as running? When I was a runner I was slow, never breaking 10 min mile. In one 5k, I was running at the back of the pack and I was passed by a racewalker (those guys can cruise). He was definitely walking and I was definitely running, but his speed was greater than mine.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 1:15 pm

      i think you should re-read my post because you jump down my throat.

      • Jamie Horne November 2, 2009, 2:37 pm

        Amen! I hate when people don’t take the time to read an opinion thoroughly before belittling it. There is also a difference between disagreeing with an opinion like the mature adults we are supposed to be and belittling the author of the opinion in an attempt to make them feel bad for their opinion.

    • Amanda (Two Boos Who Eat) November 2, 2009, 1:24 pm

      did you read the entire post? She definitely isn’t bashing anyone!

      • alyssa November 2, 2009, 1:29 pm

        seriously. read the post before you make false claims.

    • Jenny November 2, 2009, 2:08 pm

      Lesson numero uno in flying off the handle:

      Make sure there’s something to fly off the handle about. You really need to go back and read.

  • Stephanie November 2, 2009, 1:10 pm

    Ahh I know! I always have to correct people on what a marathon is! They always throw it around and think that I run them all the time. I have never run a marathon, but one day will!

  • Jess November 2, 2009, 1:13 pm

    I have mixed feelings on this and it definitely speaks to why labels can be so contentious (vegan, marathoner, liberal, what have you).

    On the one hand, my mother has severe arthritis (she just had a complete knee replacement) and has spent years unable to walk more than a few blocks. For her walking a 5k would be a huge accomplishment, a marathon is out of the question. I think if she finished a race of any kind, even if she had to crawl across the finish line, it would be worthy of mention.

    On the other hand, for some reason when a person self-identifies as something I feel it should be a defining part of their personality. I train many hours a week and have complete two sprint triathlons but still don’t quite consider myself a ‘triathlete’ because I’m not quite there yet. Whenever I’ve heard someone call themselves a ‘marathoner’ in the past I’ve always assumed that it means they regularly run marathons, no matter what the speed, not that they walked one once. I don’t mean it to be judgmental, I just think these terms mean more explanation than what they sound like.

    Of course, people are free to call themselves whatever they want to, it doesn’t mean I have to call them that 🙂

  • megan November 2, 2009, 1:13 pm

    I don’t have too much new to add (haha but i’ll comment anyway). Definitely think that if you complete a marathon, you are a marathoner. I don’t think I would call myself a “marathoner” if I walked the whole thing. But if I gave my all and ran really slow, heck yes, I would be proud to call myself a marathoner – even if I had to walk more than I wanted to. It’s the effort you put into it i think. that being said, I never plan to run a marathon, so not sure what my opinion is worth 🙂

  • Stephanie November 2, 2009, 1:17 pm

    I have run 4 marathons so far for charity, averaging around a 10 minute mile pace. So, I am kind of in the middle of the pack for time purposes. I think a time limit is only necessary for logistical purposes. i.e. at some point the roads need to open, police need to end their details, race volunteers need to go home etc. As long as people are corralled (sp?) according to their speeds, no one is disrupted. Personally, I think the people who take the longest to run the marathons deserve the name as much if not more because it is likely a monumental and life changing task to them. I think it is amazing that people who may have never run before are willing to try it. And the bottom line? Who cares who calls themselves a marathoner as long as they say it proudly!

  • healthy ashley November 2, 2009, 1:30 pm

    This is definitely an interesting article and concept. I think you said it well- everyone should run, but there should also be some boundaries.

  • Ali November 2, 2009, 1:32 pm

    Why is our society so set on labeling people? You just ran, walked, wheeled, hobbled, skipped, etc. 26.2 miles. No matter what someone calls you, you completed something amazing. More power to ya.
    And Caitlin- you are not a bitch. As others said it, you are making your opinion known. We all respect it, that’s why we continue to read 🙂

  • Betty November 2, 2009, 1:32 pm

    I actually wonder if the stopping-for-lunch phenomenon was more of a fun reflection of Island Time, and the pace of Hawaiian living in general — I’ve been to the islands several times, and it can take twenty minutes to check out at the grocery store with no one else in line (which I love). Makes me wonder if the lunching during the race — and the lack of a finishing cut-off time — was more of a reflection of the “we do what we want, you mainlanders!” attitude, which is not rare over there 🙂

  • Kara November 2, 2009, 1:34 pm
  • Angharad (Eating for England) November 2, 2009, 1:34 pm

    I just had loads to catch up on with your blog – I’ve been MIA a while! Mainly I wanted to say CONGRATS on the 17 miles. That’s seriously awesome work. And FYI, I am actually the sweatiest person you’ll ever meet. I’m a hot mess after exercise!
    Also, I love the get back on track month idea. This time of year is killer for that and I hadn’t really thought about that but I have been crazy overindulging the past few weeks (since not running due to injury) with a week’s vacation, work travel and too many sweets. Coupled with not a lot of aerobic exercise I am feeling it…so thank you for inspiring me to get back on track!

  • MegaNerd November 2, 2009, 1:35 pm

    I don’t think I could ever walk a marathon. That would be uber-boring! Whatever floats your boat, running is just more my thing.

    They should have time limits, I mean think about how annoyed you would be if your entire city had to shut down b/c you were a slow poke! I would feel bad for the volunteers!!

    I read the article about cheating… that’s just retarded.

  • penguin November 2, 2009, 1:35 pm

    I completed a marathon last year in 6.5 hours using the Galloway Method. It literally took everything I had. Should I have left my finisher’s medal on the rack because despite my months of training and physical/mental commitment, I didn’t run every single step? Of course not, right?

    Then why argue semantics? If the NYT doesn’t want to call me a marathoner, that’s just fine. For what it’s worth, I don’t call myself that. But I was there logging the same training miles as my teammates (Joints in Motion), and they still smoked me. Just because I didn’t do it as fast as they did doesn’t mean that I didn’t accomplish a pretty amazing feat. Discussing whether or not people who walk partway are “marathoners,” or whether there is a place for plodders in marathons, only serves to make some of us feel like we didn’t work hard enough and I can assure you, that is not true.

    That being said, I did not stop for lunch. I was way too stinky. 😉

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 1:37 pm

      thats true. labeling is pretty silly, when it gets down to it!!!

  • Stephanie November 2, 2009, 1:40 pm

    I don’t think there should be a cut-off for a marathoner. If someone was able to run it, that’s awesome but if another person still finished but didn’t run the majority of the time, they still finished. Even walking 26.2 miles is a great accomplishment. That’s a long time! And you said so yourself, “someone else’s finishing time doesn’t take away from your accomplishment.” I don’t think letting a walker of a marathon call themselves a marathoner degrades your feat of running a marathon.

  • Jessica (Mile High Jess) November 2, 2009, 1:49 pm

    I think if you finish a marathon (except for people who stop and eat lunch) you are a marathoner. I had several race walkers on my TNT team last season, one of which has completed a marathon in under 5 hours, race walking. In my opinion there is a place for walkers and runners of all skill levels in marathons. Did it take away from my experience running my first marathon, nope. Hey, even in the last 2 miles, I’m pretty sure there was a walker that passed me as I tried to jogg uphill with barely bending knees. I passed them on the way to the finish line, but more power to them! Most people will never complete a marathon, so for those who were brave enough to sign up and complete it, no matter how long it took, it’s a huge accomplishment.

  • RhodeyGirl November 2, 2009, 1:51 pm

    There will always be snobs in every sport. This article just happened to highlight them. In my eyes they are both right and wrong. They are right to want the integrity of their sport valued, but they are wrong for not wanting it to be accessible to everyone.

    And time limits? Absolutely necessary.

  • Allie November 2, 2009, 1:53 pm

    I know many other people have said this, but defining an 11 minute pace as slow is so ridiculous! As someone who regularly runs 10 minute miles for short distances (3, 4, 5 miles), I would definitely consider myself a marathoner if I finished a marathon at an 11 minute pace.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 1:57 pm

      i agree – i definitely have long runs were i ran 11 minute/miles the entire time and felt like i was flllllllllllying LOL

  • Amanda @ Cakes and Ale November 2, 2009, 1:58 pm

    I think that reasonable time limits are necessary. However, I also think you are still a marathoner even if you walk the entire way. It’s the distance that defines it as a marathon! As long as you get there on your own two feet (walking or running or crawling whatever) you still completed a marathon.
    Oh, and yes, you are definitely a marathoner after completing just one marathon!

  • Kate November 2, 2009, 1:59 pm

    Agreed for the most part… 🙂 For esteemed marathoners, a comparsion of time is going to be the most important thing, so therefore the distinction between them and someone who got a sticker to whack on their car, is different. Just because a sport has got more and more popular doesn’t mean a true marathoner needs to find ways to take the marathon title off those who enter and perhaps take their time a bit more (NOT for casual naps/lunch/drinks/tourist activites!)… if a true marathoner comes in faster than someone who walks/runs at a time over 6 hours, then that should make them feel good, and more esteemed, not annoyed.
    Also there are some people who train for a marathon and on the day find they peter out more than they would have imagined. At least they’re giving it a go, and perhaps next time they’ll do better.
    Great post Caitlin 🙂

  • Kim November 2, 2009, 2:02 pm

    It’s an interesting article for sure, but the attitude of most of the runners made me sad and frustrated. I’m okay with cutoff times in races – they’re pretty generous – and they need to be able to move on with the day at some point. But to start getting crazy about telling people they’re not a “marathoner” because they walked some… Running should be about being healthy, pushing yourself, and being in tune with your body. When it starts becoming all about if you’re better than someone else and if you can call yourself something they can’t, I think you’ve lost the point and the joy of the sport. Can’t we be happy that in a culture of obesity and bad habits there are some people that are still trying to exercise – even if they’re walking a lot of it, or going slow?

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 2:02 pm

      i do feel like they sought out the most crazy intense runners to quote!

  • Lele November 2, 2009, 2:02 pm

    That is for sure an appropriate size of garlic bread!

  • colleen November 2, 2009, 2:03 pm

    What’s amazing about marathons (and road races in general) is that, for most of us, it’s a competition with ourselves. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to set a lofty goal, train for 4 months, lay it all on the line and accomplish it. If you do that, call yourself whatever you want. You earned it.

  • Jenny November 2, 2009, 2:06 pm

    Long time reader here! First, you are certainly NOT a bitch and the girl that jumped down your throat needs a little lesson in reading comprehension (i.e. always read thoroughly!). Respectfully sharing an opinion in a thoughtful and well-written manner is part of having adult, interesting conversations!

    I used to be a runner- distance. I LOVED to run and I can no longer do it- I have autonomic nervous system malfunction and cannot run without passing out. It’s kind of a bummer. Running was the way I dealt with a lot of things- it was cathartic. But I digress. If I was ever able to do a marathon- whatever way I crossed that finish line(at the back of the pack, of course 😉 ), I’d proudly call myself a marathoner. It’s a personal choice- and I don’t really give much thought to what others think.

    While I’m finally out of my shell- I recently did a challenge inspired by Operation Beautiful for myself. It’s made such a difference for me. Thank you.

    Jenny (Colorhungry)

  • Teacherwoman November 2, 2009, 2:06 pm

    I am kind of right in the middle of the two extremes. I don’t think it’s acceptable to stop and eat during a marathon, and to me that is quite rediculous. However, I have never done a marathon before. I know for sure, that if I ever do a marathon, I will be doing a lot of walking, and that would be to prevent further knee injury. But, I still think I could finish in a sub-15 minute mile time.

    When I started training for triathlons, I wasn’t ready to call myself a triathlete even after my first triathlon. I needed to do another one to secure the label! But, that’s just my personal opinion of myself. I think that if YOU do a marathon, you are more than able to call yourself a MARATHONER!

  • Maggin November 2, 2009, 2:14 pm

    I haven’t run a marathon yet but plan to do one in February and plan to run it at a comfortable 11 minute mile pace – that slower pace is the only way I could finish 26 miles. To me running 11 minute miles feels fast – to me I’m flying! So it’s not fair to say that someone is not running a race just because they aren’t as fast as everyone else. Running 11 min miles to ME is just as hard as running 6 min miles is to someone else! 🙂

  • Amanda (modernation) November 2, 2009, 2:20 pm

    What a great conversation this has started, Caitlin! Everyone has an opinion and that is what makes the world go round. I think cut off times are important to keep the race course safe and fully staffed with volunteers. I don’t think many volunteers would be signing up to wait around at the mile 22 aid station for someone who stopped for lunch. That’s not fair! But, I do think anyone who completes 26.2 miles in a row (whether walking or running) is a marathoner – as long as they don’t stop for lunch, shopping, etc.

  • Dana ( November 2, 2009, 2:28 pm

    I def. agree that stopping for lunch is a bit ridiculous. But I think anyone who can accomplish 26.2 miles at once deserves some recognition whether they run, jog, walk, or crawl it. Makes me think back to last season of BL and how one of their last challenges was a marathon. A couple of them blasted through it and some needed some help. But the point is THEY DID IT.

    I just read the article on Cheating…how sad. What’s the point of even signing up if you are going to cheat? I mean really you can’t feel that good about yourself knowing that you didn’t actually finish in that time! So sad!

  • ellie November 2, 2009, 2:29 pm

    where does it say that a marathon has to be run? The definition is that it is a race, by foot, with a distance of 42.195km. People enter marathons for their own reasons and more power to them- whether it’s a lifelong goal of completing the distance or to race against elite athletes, does it matter? NOT to undermine those who do run the distance, but for a lot of people, walking is the best they will be able to do and they deserve equal respect for that. Everyone has their own personal situations and their own circumstances- one person’s “best” might be completing in 4 hours. Another person’s “best” might be completing in 7. I’m not a runner so perhaps it’s wrong of me to hold these opinions, but I am someone who had to give up a sport I loved for health reasons and am looking at this through the eyes of someone who would LOVE to do a marathon to raise money for charity, but will never be able to run it. Does that mean I shouldn’t enter? Maybe so. But I really don’t understand why anyone would have a problem with people walking. Stopping for lunch, yeah, a bit much- maybe more suited so a sponsored walk or something?

  • Jess November 2, 2009, 2:30 pm

    I think if you cross the finish line in the time limit, as long as you kept your body moving forward somehow (run, walk, crawl, I could care less) continuously, you are a marathoner. If you stop for lunch and then keep running, you’re not. There are tons of people out there for injury or other reason aren’t capable of running 26.2 miles, but may be capable of running it. My mom finished her first half marathon in under three hours and she walked the entire thing and was exhausted at the end. And she passed tons of runners. I don’t think that just because she walked it, that she’s not a half-marathoner. She is and so are all the people who walk or run or wheelchair or whatever.

  • Paige (Running Around Normal) November 2, 2009, 2:31 pm

    First off, I love that you posted all of those marathon stats over the years. That’s truly eye-openingg.
    It’s somewhatlike their trying to take the “sport” away from running. I started running races because I missed the competition I used to get when I played club and collegiate level volleyball. In a way, it’s like people who walk take away credit from the months and months of training people do to “run a marathon.”
    On the other hand, who am I to say who should or shouldn’t walk/run/crawl/do cartwheels to the finish line – 26.2 miles is a great accomplishment.
    Now, I can see if someone who maybe thought they could never walk again to walk/run a marathon, or if someone has back or leg problems, but for a perfectly healthy individual to walk for 8 hours and be considered a marathon is kind of disheartening to me. I can even see if they walk/run it – as long as they really challeneged themselves and they trained hard for it. Maybe they should separate those who are doing the “race” and those who are just participating?

  • Anna November 2, 2009, 2:37 pm

    Caitlin, I was wondering what your goal finishing time is for your marathon in January?

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 2:38 pm

      i don’t have a goal time – i just want to finish alive and uninjured (and hopefully RUN the majority of the time so i can call myself a marathoner, LOL).

  • kelly November 2, 2009, 2:41 pm

    That soup, salad, and bread looks SO good!!!

  • Jason @ Cant-Coach-Desire November 2, 2009, 2:43 pm

    My take on this is that simply clearly post the cut-off time or pace so people can determine if they can maintain the required pace for the indicated cut-off with a little buffer room. Some races have greater contraints than others so I get it that shutting down roads in a busy city for 8 hours is an issue or volunteers will get tired. All we can ask as participants they state the requirements upfront. This way anyone who wishes to walk can signup for a race that will cater to them. Its kind of like BQing without the proof before you run the race.

    There is nothing wrong with walking a marathon as long as the race is setup and takes into account the longer finish times. Anyone stopping for reasons other than injury, for nutrition, aid, or some other emergency isn’t taking the event seriously. In fact, they are disrespecting the event and those who are there to challenge themselves for the duration.

    I haven’t ran a marathon yet, and I’m still working on my base and trying to covince myself to do it. Once I do take the plunge I plan BQing the first time out (I know its ambitious). I’m hoping with my previous half experience this will be possible based upon my half PR.

  • Matt November 2, 2009, 2:45 pm

    My two cents – As soon as you finish a marathon, you will want to call yourself a marathoner. I can’t explain it; it’s something you will experience when you finish Disney.

    As far as who belongs or doesn’t belong, I would say that effort defines the achievement. Stopping for lunch during the race = not much effort. Run/Walk the entire time at whatever speed when you’re in pain and would rather quit = effort.

    I’m not fast (4:15 PR) but I damn sure call myself a marathoner – even if the 3:00 PR’s feel otherwise.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 2:46 pm

      i think 4:15 is pretty fastttttttt!!!!

  • Kelly November 2, 2009, 2:46 pm

    I actually have never even thought about this topic. I think regardless you are a marathoner if you complete the marathon. However, I do completely agree with you that there is a big distinction in Running the marathon and participating in one. I do not think that someone who walked the entire way could say that they were “racing”. Both accomplishments are amazing! Walking 26.2 miles is still a very big achievement.

  • Amber November 2, 2009, 2:50 pm

    Who cares about labels? I call my self a blonde but I use the aid the the bottle. Pretty sure everyone is aware of that. Seems to me the same would be evident of runners and walkers at a marathon.It’s effort and heart put into the marathon not the outcome that defines you, IMO.

  • Courtney November 2, 2009, 3:00 pm

    On a slightly different note but in the same vein, I have been proudly calling myself a “triathlete” because I completed a sprint triathlon this summer. However, it was a sprint, not a full distance…maybe I’m getting ahead of myself calling myself a triathlete? I didn’t even think of it until I read this conversation on marathoners..made me think!
    Adventures in Tri-ing

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 3:07 pm

      naw, you’re a triathlete. its not like youre walking around calling yourself an ironman. 🙂

      • Courtney November 2, 2009, 3:08 pm

        Someday I hope to!!!! :>

    • Kate November 2, 2009, 4:19 pm

      Haha. I feel weird calling myself a triathlete and I’ve done lots (including a half-iron)… 🙂

  • Kate November 2, 2009, 3:01 pm

    What about race walkers? They can finish a marathon faster than most people can run it. So, I think they can clearly call themselves “marathoners”.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 3:06 pm

      i dont know! race walkers are intense.

  • Amy November 2, 2009, 3:10 pm

    I just finished my first marathon in 5 hours, 27 minutes. I had tendonitis in my right foot AND battled a cold the week before the race. If those two things aren’t enough for the elite runners out there, let me also say that I had the unfortunate experience of peeing blood after the race. I was well-trained, well-hydrated, and well-fueled before and during the race, and it was still the most physically and mentally excruciating I have ever done. I might have been slow, and it wasn’t the time I was looking for, but I ran the entire course and only walked through the water stops…so ain’t nobody gonna tell me I’m not a marathoner! 🙂 Great post, Caitlin–I always appreciate your candor and do not think you were being bitchy at all.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 3:11 pm

      congrats on your marathon time!!! i think you are awesome for struggling thru a sickness and an injury!!

  • Lisa November 2, 2009, 3:10 pm

    I commented on another blog about this article – for me, the actual race of the marathon is almost besides the point. If someone has put in the training time over the past months leading up to the marathon, then whatever the finishing time is should be celebrated. I see it as mostly a mental exercise (unless there’s something seriously, physiologically wrong) – cause it’s the getting out of bed, making the effort, week after week, to put in the long runs that’s the real test. And anyone who’s accomplished that, and then finishes the race, is a marathoner. (And I think that I’d even go one step further and give the title who’s done most of the training and for one reason or another, couldn’t complete the race.)

    It’s also funny for me to read how many people (and how many people IRL) are so in awe of marathons. I’m always telling them that if I could do it, anyone could.

  • jane November 2, 2009, 3:11 pm

    I think that if you cover those 26.2 miles whilst trying your very hardest the whole way through, that makes you a marathoner. I am not sure stopping for lunch counts as trying your hardest. But if you have a medical or some other reason why you can’t fly along, even if it takes you 6 hours I think you most definitely still count! Thanks for your lovely inspiring blog 🙂

  • Cynthia (It All Changes) November 2, 2009, 3:12 pm

    I’m with MamaPea on the fact that I’ll never flat out run a marathon. I will have to do the run walk method to make it the entire distance but I will definitely be sporting the 26.2 sticker as well.

    I agree there has to be some sort of limits like not stopping for lunch but what do you say of people who improperly fuel and stop to pee a lot.

    For me a marathoner is the person who put the training in and got up that morning to run the race when others are still in bed. If I put the work into preparing for the race then I am a marathoner whether or not I will finish in a record time or not.

  • Sammi November 2, 2009, 3:31 pm

    Wow I found that article to be kind of immature. It sounded like the “elitist runners” were whining and letting out their resentments. I agree with your response to it though. It is ridiculous for people to call themselves “marathoners” if they stop to eat or don’t train. But if you put in the hours training and really push yourself beyond your limits than I think you deserve the title just as much as anyone. Honestly I think the seasoned runners have forgotten what it was like to start out as runners. Most of them didn’t start out running 8 min miles.. and if they did they’re just blessed freaks I guess haha. I don’t really see what the problem is with walking in between miles either as stated in the article… our bodies are not made to run for 26 miles straight!

    I can’t even imagine running a 10K let alone a marathon so I have the utmost respect for anyone who gets out there and tries! I cant barely run 3 miles right now and I am slower than most turtles so I won’t be competing anytime soon!

  • Ellen November 2, 2009, 3:35 pm

    I agree on the time cap, but I wouldn’t want it to be TOO strict because there are a lot of elderly people who run the race, and I’d hate for something like that to stop them. I watched the NYC Marathon yesterday and saw a couple (who was definitely in their 70s) holding hands while they ran together. It was SO cute and inspirational, I teared up.

    • Shelly November 3, 2009, 9:58 am

      One of my professors from when I was in grad school is a Marathoner. He is in his 70’s and didn’t start running until he was in his 50’s- but he’s run tons of marathons, including ones in Antarctica and Africa. He’s not fast, but he’s definitely a marathoner- and I love how many awesome experiences he’s had just because of running!

  • Sara November 2, 2009, 3:54 pm

    Hear, hear! I agree with you 100% on the marathoner issue. I also agree with Ellen (#85) and I think she raises an important point–some people run at different speeds for different reasons. No one would expect a 70+ year old to run a sub-three hour marathon. And what about those who DO have a sub-four-hour marathon in them, and yet race day hands them an upset stomach, or a pesky muscle cramp, that may take several miles (and hours) to push through?

    Great post 🙂

  • Sarah @ See Sarah Eat November 2, 2009, 3:57 pm

    I’m very conflicted on this issue because even though I am a runner (and walker) myself, I have family members who walk races, who abide by all the “rules” and stay out of the runners ways. They try their hardest and improve with each race, but they still have to deal with things like not getting water, having things at the end of the course being shut down (food) and one of my aunts even got lost during a race because there was no one there to tell her which way to turn…all because they were “too slow” or weren’t with the runners who finished before them.

    I’m talking maybe a 16 or 17-min/mile pace…and this wasn’t a marathon. This was a 5k, 10k and 10-miler. They weren’t trying to win. They didn’t stop for lunch (which is terrible by the way). They are out there for themselves, their health and to promote activity to their middle-aged friends and things like that can be very discouraging.

    I think someone is a marathon-er when they complete that 26.2 mile distance. I ran a half-marathon and walked the same one a year later. While they were very different experiences and one took longer than the other, the one I ran was no better to me in value than the one I walked. Just that I did 13.1 twice was of value to me!

    And I think doing one makes you a marathoner, not waiting until 2. Thanks for stimulating conversation!

  • Lauren November 2, 2009, 4:06 pm

    My initial reaction was that you have to run a marathon to be a “marathoner.” It doesn’t matter what pace you keep, so long as you are steadily running (walking breaks, etc. permitted).

    After reading these responses, though, I think I’ve changed my viewpoint a little. Running or walking 26.2 miles is an enormous achievement–one that requires extensive training, discipline, and resolve. If you complete a marathon, you’ve attained the (coveted!) status of “marathoner.”

  • chandra h November 2, 2009, 4:18 pm

    I think no matter if you run or walk 26.2 miles you’ve still run or walked a MARATHON. isn’t the word greek, and 26.2 miles is the exact distance messengers would run to deliver news to the king? lol something like that i think, i should google it before commenting but i’m lazy 🙂
    so I think you can be different types of marathoners, but if you complete the distance you HAVE completed a marathon in some way – just like you can bike or walk or run or swim 10 miles but 10 miles is still 10 miles. it’s just the arguement of which type of marathon completion deserves the most recognition/credit? and I think that’s totally subjective and up to interpretation based on circumstance and the individual 🙂

  • Katy @ These Beautiful Feet November 2, 2009, 4:26 pm

    Interesting article. I think if their were a cut-off time, they should make it max. 6/7 hours. So you don’t have those stopping for lunch, but it’s still feasible for people who have trained for the marathon to finish. I am somewhere in the middle as well on this. I think if you walk more then half of it, you probably aren’t a marathoner. I can walk 26 miles around disney on a good day 😉 (not really). But I seriously think if you run a marathon you are a marathoner. You run daily and this isn’t one marathon you will complete and then be done running, you’re going to keep finding a challenge and probably complete another one! 🙂 Either way you’re awesome. Keep running!

  • Samantha @ Mama Notes November 2, 2009, 4:36 pm

    I think walking vs. running a marathon is completely a marathon.

  • Lizzy November 2, 2009, 4:42 pm

    this can be such a controversial subject. i do believe a cut off time is much needed, because for one they can’t block of roads for 2 long of a period of time, but telling someone that who is walking a marathon instead of running and not giving them the title they deserve is just not right. running and/or walking 26.2 miles is something to be proud of

  • jen November 2, 2009, 4:47 pm

    my little bro finished his first and only marathon in 4 hrs 4 min. do i consider him a marathoner? f- yes! he did it to do it. to have an accomplishment for himself. if he chooses not to run another, does that mean he wasn’t a marathoner for that day?

    i am running a half in 3 weeks. i struggle with “am i a runner?” i’ve done 5 5ks so far. this training proves that i like my running like i like my alcohol. in moderation when i can enjoy it. running in the rain, pushing my sore ankles, knowing i “have” to make x-amount miles this week. frankly, it blows. i’m running it to accomplish a goal. i was the girl who hated athletics and could do a lap. i’ll never be an “elite” runner, but am i not a runner?

    as an english teacher i believe whenever you engage in the verb, you are the doer of the action. adeptness is not a prerequisite. i run, i may not do it well or swiftly, but i do it. you are a marathoner if you engage in completeing a marathon, kiddos.

    HOWEVER, if the rules say meet the QT, meet it. them’s the rules.

  • Kim November 2, 2009, 6:17 pm

    I don’t think you should be so stuck on titles. If you complete a marathon (even just one) then you can say you are a marathoner… but why does it matter anyway?

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 6:18 pm

      well, i’m personally not so stuck on titles, i was just responding to the NYT article.

      and re: why it matters, i think it matters to people who put in 5 months to training.

  • Betsy November 2, 2009, 6:43 pm
  • Jenna November 2, 2009, 7:04 pm

    great post caitlin! very interesting 🙂

  • Lisa November 2, 2009, 7:15 pm

    I ran the NYC Marathon yesterday. It was my first, I crossed the finish line, and I call myself a Marathoner. I didn’t run the entire 26.2 miles, but I didn’t make a stop in one of the bars along 1st Ave to grab a slice of pizza or a drink. I kept moving. First, I think that anyone who finishes a marathon is a marathoner. They can not be considered anything less as they have paid the entry fee, have done the training and gone the distance, unlike billions of other people who have not done those things. Secondly, I feel it is inappropriate to stop for lunch or dinner along the way. Yes, fueling is necessary to keep energy and strength up, but I just don’t see how a full meal is appropriate. In the case of NYC, it takes countless city workers, NYRR staff and volunteers, and all sorts of other people behind the scenes to keep the roads clear throughout the 5 boroughs. It’s not an easy task and can’t go on forever. It is necessary to have a cutoff at a reasonable point, they can’t keep the roads closed for countless hours.

    The NYRR did a great job yesterday and undertake a massive operation each year, especially this year when 43,000 people took part in the 40th running. I am proud to call myself a marathoner and hope that others who take on the adventure give it the respect that it deserves.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 7:17 pm

      congrats on your amazing accomplishment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • BethAnn November 2, 2009, 7:28 pm

    I read it a few days ago, I hate the elitist attitude and my main irritation with this article is that it labels people at all. Why must there be an elitist label? Why can’t anyone who participates in a marathon, be a marathoner? I saw someone running a 1/2 marathon with no bottom legs, they were plodding along, but does that mean that they didn’t run? How discouraging to people who are working there best, or who might have to eat in the middle to go the distance, to have someone call them a “plodder”. It’s like labels in high school..the jocks…the geeks…the theatre people…the plodders…the walkers…the runners. Walking, biking, running, plodding or WHATEVER for 26 miles is no easy feat. The people who are so called “racers” will one day be slower and probably plauged with all kinds of joint problems…should there be a race for the “injured have beens?” or “ex elite marathoners”? I don’t think they would appreciate that,much like the slower racers don’t appreciate being labeled.

  • BethAnn November 2, 2009, 7:29 pm

    **the bottom part of the man’s legs were metal…i haven’t taken the chip timer off my sneaker from that race because i was so inspired by what that man was doing (i was running the 10k and he was running the 1/2)

  • stephanie November 2, 2009, 7:36 pm

    I was a spectator at one of my husbands races recently in which Heather Fuhr (Ironman World Champ) was competing, and of course won! I was really moved when she came back to the finish line well after she had finished, and stood there cheering and high five-ing the very last competitors…. people struggling and barely hanging on, but grinning ear to ear with THEIR accomplishment and pride. Now THAT I respect!

  • sirenjess November 2, 2009, 7:49 pm

    This is a good topic. I’m stuck between a rock and hard place with this one. I’m an assistant running coach and I’m helping with training for one of the Rock and Roll series runs. I’ve run two marathons. My first in 3:58:03 and my second 3:39:01. My second qualified me for Boston.
    I think that you do the distance you should call yourself a marathoner. No matter how you do it. But I get angry with individuals who are capable of so much more who don’t work up to their full potential. I have a friend who did a marathon and didn’t really train and finish it in like over 6 hours. She could have done it faster but she decided to walk most of it. Which is fine, but I consider myself a serious runner (or I like to think I am) and it bothers me that someone doesn’t take the marathon seriously. It’s a tough distance and takes work.
    Mario Lopez ran the Boston marathon with his girlfriend and the article was in Runner’s world. He stopped to eat lunch during the race. Totally pissed me off.
    But kudos to those who train for distance no matter how you do it. We all start somewhere.

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 8:37 pm

      you are an awesome runner and MAJORAH kudos on BQ!

  • Amy November 2, 2009, 7:50 pm

    I have completed 4 half marathons, 1 full marathon, a half ironman triathlon, and I’m currently training for a full ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a marathon in one race), AND I spent 17 years training as a division one swimmer (so for me, training 5 months for a marathon doesn’t seem very long)….and I still say that anyone who walks, runs, handcycles, 26.2 miles can call themselves a marathoner!

  • Erin November 2, 2009, 8:06 pm

    I agree with many of the comments left on this post that a marathon is a marathon is a marathon! I’ve been thinking about this lately as well because I just signed up for a half marathon in May. I’ve run 5Ks and 10Ks before (11-12:30 pace generally) and I’m am definitely one of those “fat guy” plodders someone in the article talks about passing. I can get behind closing time for logistics and I can even see how some people in the elite division might say that runners, like myself, are “tainting” their hard work and training – but when you run for your own personal reasons, all that stuff doesn’t matter.

    Do I run for time or medals? No. I run because I’m trying to be better, healthier, and stronger. I run because I know, deep down, that it’s what I’m meant to do. I run to prove to myself, and no one else!, that I can be mentally and physically strong enough to change my life.

    I read through some of the NYT comments on the blog and found this from the Editor of Runner’s World. Sums things up pretty nicely!

    ->Really, what amazes me most about this article is that the writer was able to find people who’d go on record (on the front page of the NYT!) dissing other marathoners. In my experience, runners welcome anyone who wants to put one foot in front of the other, mile after mile. I have completed 35 marathons–in times ranging from 3:29 (yay! in ideal conditions) to 5:45 (ouch, when temps reached 95). I was well-trained, fit, and under age 40 when I ran both races, and because the slower time was so much harder–I ran, I walked, I staggered–I will never be able to say to anyone, no matter what their finish time, that they didn’t really “run” a marathon. If anyone thinks running 26.2 miles “not a big deal,” please come join me for my next marathon, and we’ll have plenty of time to discuss that issue! 🙂

    Tish Hamilton
    Executive Editor, Runner’s World magazine

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 8:33 pm

      i think this is a GREAT QUOTE and oh-so-true!!!

  • Mama Pea November 2, 2009, 8:18 pm

    I wasn’t offended by your post at all, so please don’t think I was.

    And if you let me know when your next marathon is, I’ll make it a point to be there, arms swinging wildy, with a fanny pack on, or course, and I’ll make sure to line up in the 9 minute mile pack JUST so I can get in your way 😉

    You couldn’t be a bitch if you tried, my friend. Okay, maybe if you tried, but you weren’t in this case!

    • Caitlin November 2, 2009, 8:33 pm

      hehe love you 🙂

  • Jolene ( November 2, 2009, 9:57 pm

    Very interesting topic today! I think that if you complete 1 marathon, you can say you are a marathoner … but I also believe that you have to RUN the marathon (with reasonable walking intervals), and finish in a reasonable time. Otherwise, anyone would be a “marathoner” tomorrow – I could walk that distance in a day or two no problem 🙂

  • Tinagirl November 2, 2009, 10:52 pm

    For the last 6 years I have participated and raised a lot of money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I walk through SF over the GG Bridge into Mill Valley and back across the bridge for a total of 26.2 miles on day one then walk through the City for 13.1 on day 2. It takes training and commitment and I raise $1800 or more every year to do it. There are other ways to be a marathoner. you don’t have to walk a marathon for runners. There are options.

  • Tay November 2, 2009, 11:36 pm

    You are absolutely NOT a bitch in any way. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and even your opinion isn’t bitchy at all. While I know that walking a marathon is no easy feat at all, I’ve never really thought to call walkers “marathoners”. But now that I think about it, why not? My mom walked a marathon, and I know how many hours she put into training, and how hard it was on her body. And like many of the commenters, many people physically cannot run, let alone run 26.2 miles. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t complete a goal of theirs by completing a marathon. There of course should be limits (such as lunch?! really?! shopping, etc). It’s a very controversial issue, that’s for sure!

  • Krista November 3, 2009, 8:18 am

    Of COURSE running one marathon makes you a Marathoner! Having one baby makes me a Mom, please don’t tell me I must have 2 running around before I can be called a Mom. 😉

  • Lindsey November 3, 2009, 9:26 am

    I’m a little late in joining the debate. But I wanted to chime in that I attended the “Legends of the Marathon” Times Talk last week with some of the greatest women marathoners and they all fully disagreed with the plodders article. Of course, they could have just been saying it so as not to upset anyone. But they all shared the sentiment that setting a fitness goal, training hard, and running it no matter what pace makes you a marathoner. The number of people running marathons is also increasing awareness and support for the sport, garnering more media attention, etc. All good in my book.

  • Jesse November 3, 2009, 9:27 am

    I am definitely a marathoner and I have only run one. I really don’t think that should even be a question. Ditto what Krista says above about being a Mom… repetition isn’t required!

    And I hated that NYTime article; stupid, stupid, stupid. Obviously I don’t think that people should be out planning to take 8 hours on the course, but really? It takes heart and power out there to get your butt 26.2 miles.

    The cheating article just makes me laugh…

  • Megan November 3, 2009, 2:26 pm

    One thing that has suprised me a little are the number of people who have mentioned that even though they are going to get the ‘26.2 sticker’ as soon as they finish even though they are finishing in a slower time. This just makes me wonder if people are really doing it for themselves or as something to impress other people. As a 3:30 marathoner, I never bring it up and cringe when others introduce me as someone who runs marathons. I don’t think of myself as a marathoner, but as a runner.
    Irregardless, people should feel accomplished to pushing themselves to any challenge but everyone needs to learn to be less obsessed with labels. Sorry if this seems bitchy

  • Jocelyn November 3, 2009, 5:09 pm

    I think the label of marathoner should go to the kids in africa who run 30 miles per day in barefeet 😉

  • Britt (Runnerbelle) November 4, 2009, 10:03 pm

    I feel odd sometimes being called a marathoner… but I am. I complete 2-3 a year and qualify for Boston. I am proud of my accomplishments and have my 26.2 sticker on my car. 🙂

    At the same time absolutely I consider my mom and stepdad marathoners…. and they are slower than me. My mom is 64 and recently ran a sub 4:30 marathon. My stepdad who suffered a brain injury 2 years ago and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma last year just did the Marine Corps Marathon…. it was his slowest ever due to his recent set backs. But despite it taking him 6 hours, about 2 hours more than he used to, I think it was the marathon that meant the most to him. He trained hard for it. It was a HUGE accomplishment for him. He is a marathoner.

    • caitlin November 5, 2009, 4:30 am

      your stepdad is SO inspiring to me!

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