Marathons Are Yawn

I’m getting sick of the runner’s narcissism that permeates throughout life.

“You mock marathons because you can’t do one!”

That’s such an 8 year old mentality. I cringe whenever I see the “26.2″ stickers on car windows; it’s just a participation sticker. I went to kindergarten too, so I guess I understand their pride. You don’t see anyone putting a “500 lbs” sticker on their window, but if they did it would make more sense. After all, being able to do anything with 500 pounds requires some sort of development. There’s a huge portion of the population that will never understand what 500 pounds feels like. On the other hand, a huge percentage of the population can complete 26.2 miles if they gave enough of a shit. You can even walk part of it! It’s not that impressive.

I’m almost tempted to go do a marathon to prove a point, but, oh yeah, I don’t care.

Marathons aren’t even practical. If you need to run over 20 miles to avoid something, you can probably avoid it by walking. Or you would have died already. In fact, the storied hero Pheidippides dropped dead after completing his “marathon”! Even if this story was real (it isn’t), it’s not near as impressive as what actually happened.

The Persians were planning an attack on Athens by landing 24 miles north along the coastal plains of Marathon with an army 80,000 strong. The Athenians only had 10,000 infantry to deflect such an attack. One Athenian leader, Miltiades, had big coconut sized balls (equally hairy, no doubt); his idea was to march their asses straight to Marathon and fight the Persians at the pass. Everyone realized it was either a) get their asses kicked or b) try and have a Leonidas moment (which wouldn’t happen for ten more years, but stay focused). The Athenians marched up to Marathon to find 80,000 assholes camping in the plains.

“We are so fucked,” the Athenians thought. A few days later they got word that the Persians slipped off into the night to sail the bulk of their army down to Athens. They only left a 15,000 strong holding force. Miltiades, that guy with the gigantic balls, said, “Good,” and let everyone know that it was clobberin’ time. It would take the Persians 10 to 12 hours to get to Athens, so if they whipped some Persian ass and then rushed back home, they should have time to defend their wives and children. While some of the leaders pleaded to wait for the Spartans to get there (which was not a certainty), Miltiades whispered, “We attack at dawn,” and then he put a cigarette out on his own arm to prove a point. Okay, that last part may not have been true.

“Oh, how I love the smell of blood and carnage in the morning,” is probably what Miltiades said when the battle ended at 9 AM. After three hours of fighting, the marshy water ran red with Persian blood. The Athenians lost fewer than 200 men.

Now imagine this. You have been strung out for several days at the though of your entire way of life being annihilated. A Persian victory would destroying the Athenian government, sell your children into slavery, and rape your wife countless of times. After days of this prospect, you finally unleash fury in a three hour battle. All of that pent up emotion has been wrought down on your foe, but as the final battle cry of victory ebbs away, you think of your son back home, sitting in your wife’s arms. Your dog sits with them wagging his tail. And those Persian fucks are on their way to kill everything you love.

“Ruck up, boys, we’re headin’ home,” Miltiades said followed by swigging straight whiskey. The Athenian soldiers had 7 hours to travel 24 miles in full battle gear. Armor, weapons, and rations. They pounded home as fast as they could. Imagine the pain of each step with their blistered feet. Imagine the fatigue their bodies felt. Imagine the fire in their bellies knowing that every second counted to protect their wives, their children, their city. At 4:00 PM some of the Athenians crested the cliffs facing the ocean where the Persian army was  arriving. After seeing those fierce Athenians caked with blood, no doubt flashing their asses and clanging their shields, the Persians thought, “Uhh, this probably isn’t such a good idea, mmkay.” Deuces.

Now that’s a fucking story. That’s an athletic event worth emulating.

 

Leave a Reply

  1. I wonder if I’m allowed to quote your version of this battle in my dissertation… and then talk about how all those Greek warriors might have just been able to squat 500lbs, but didn’t give a fuck about running a marathon, either.

  2. I have a sudden urge to knock over my cubicle wall, punch the closest person square in the jaw, and then walk all the way home and ravage my wife.

  3. does anyone else feel this way about mud runs? Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re cooler than a marathon, buttttttttttttttttt if I have to hear another person tell me how awesome/tough/badass/tactical/elite they are I might puke.

    then there’s all the greased up mud pics….don’t get me started on the pics

    • also caveat to this…i do think GORUCK and actual military based training challenges are cool, but a greased up mud run in vibrams just doesn’t do it for me.

      • I find “color runs” the most annoying. Why the shit would I want to go running and then get sprayed by a bunch of non-toxic paint after I’m already a sweating, panting mess? I mean, there aren’t even any obstacles in these things. I just don’t see it.

      • As an aside, something that distinguishes the GoRuck from something that is just a smoke-fest is the team building element. In my opinion that’s how it is differentiated.

    • “Mud Runs: For that “I was going to join the military but…it doesn’t matter since I did this 3 mile run and know what it’s like” kind of story.”

      posted by one of my veteran friends on facebook

    • Wholeheartedly agree. A lot of them act like they completed buds or something that matters. This is not to discredit those that do it for a fun time, but I’m done hearing about it after a couple days… you aren’t shit but someone who enjoys spoon fed recreation.

  4. I second the mud run disdain. And I always want to slam my car through the back end of those 26.2 pencil necked douchers.

    Also, great story bro.

    Also, add those 500 stickers to the 70s big store inventory… I’ll be buying one soon.

  5. This was a nice post. I am sick of marathoners, triathletes, and ironman participants being elevated by the human population in general as if they routinely perform superhuman acts. It isn’t a walk in the park, but anybody could do it if they got off their couch and trained for a 2-3 months. The whole walking during a race is really lame too.

    Powerlifters, weightlifters, strongman competitors and all other strength athletes (like throwers) are under appreciated. Most people see a strength athlete and they think it is some dude (or dudette) grunting hard.

    End rant.

  6. I’ve run a couple marathons (both shitty times). I agree that anyone can finish one by training for a few months. I think they should receive a hat tip for doing so, but the 26.2 stickers are a bit much (let alone the 13.1 stickers). Justin, I’ll save you the time/effort and tell you that, I’d trade one of my marathons for a 500 lb ANYTHING in a heartbeat. That being said, after feeling like shit after my second marathon, I realized that I needed to get stronger and it led me on a path towards strength training, so I guess I should be happy that something good came out of it.

    I agree that most people’s idea of fitness is endurance (running) and flexibility (yoga). Strength doesn’t even occur to them and they usually think they can’t do it because of their “bad back” (which is actually a weak back).

    • I admit that marathons require a level of mental fortitude that isn’t really seen in strength sports. There’s no other test for the psyche like having to push through a long and grueling endeavor (that’s why all special operations selections do this). Nevertheless, running a marathon is still a single, non-skill dependent activity.

      I have a friend who did a full Iron Man (the long-ass one). He said the GoRuck was harder, and the GoRuck was half the time.

      I’ll also point out that the GoRuck is going to be 12 hours while a marathon will, at most, be 6. And the GoRuck has many other mental demands than just simply “going” (and that’s not considering the physical demands). This is just one example of a different event that requires different abilities. I’m not saying it’s better just because I did one.

      • I agree that the goruck adds several different elements that lack in a marathon. While it may only be 20-24 miles, all of those miles include carrying a heavy pack, indian running, etc; most of the miles include obstacles, water, the carrying of giant logs/coupons, etc. It has a team aspect not found in most other “challenges.” I took away great appreciation from the GoRuck. Most importantly, and more subtly from the following conversation:
        (~2AM, Downtown Boston)
        -Frat Boy: What are you guys doing?
        -Cadre: Oh, just a little challenge (teams are carrying ppl up and down several hundred stairs)
        -Frat Boy: That’s cool. I can probably do shit like that, if I worked out more.
        -Cadre: Its all mental.
        -Frat Boy: Were you like in the military or something.
        -Cadre: Meh.

        Quiet Professionalism.

        • Also, with the challenges & marathons. Its really a personal thing – can’t stand people that talk endlessly about it…”Yea I’ve done 3 tough mudders.” “Yea the warrior dash was basically SEAL training.” And so on.

          STFU no one cares.

    • I used to be a distance runner, and I was just thinking the other day how silly the “13.1″ decals are. Anybody who’s run both of them (I have) can tell you that a full marathon (If you actually run it) is about 5 times as hard as a half. I no longer believe that the amount of training you need to do in order to run a good marathon is good for you. But I still respect those who are willing to put in the work. A few years back, I was doing 10-12 hours a week of running, rain, snow, or shine, because that’s what’s required to run well. Lifting only takes me about 2 hrs/wk.

    • I will note that while I think running any old marathon is lame, if you can qualify for the Boston Marathon and then actually run it with a decent time, you have in fact achieved something special (or that the very least, something that requires more than just effort and “trying hard”).

      • Sure, I agree with that. But you know what? I have a friend who does that, and he’s not pompous about his running (though it’s an every day thing) nor does he gloat about completing a meager run. He’s accomplishing something that a huge portion of the running population never will, but he doesn’t wag it in anyone’s faces.

        He’s fast as shit in short races too. Smoked me by a lot on a 1.5 mile run a few years ago when I was doing CrossFit.

          • The world record for the marathon is like 4:45/mi for **26** miles in a row. The 5K record is very near 4:00/mile. World class distance runners are freaks in their own domain, just like the guys at the top of Olympic lifting. They are all born for the most part, not made.

  7. I agree with everything said. These points were crystalized for me recently as I walked to work with a colleague. It was about 85 degrees and since we were wearing suits and ties we didn’t walk very fast. As we walked the 8 blocks or so to our lunch spot, we noticed the street was closed by traffic cones and police. Suddenly we came upon a group of people in matching white t-shirts and running shorts/hot pants, all marching in that goofy speed walk thing people do when they do 5k “races.” The two of us got lost in coversation and before we knew it we had passed the entire group. I looked back on them in disbelief. Here we were taking a casual/slow stroll to lunch, and we fucking smoked these goobers who were in a fucking race?! A race! And they closed the damn road for it–an important road needed to access the freeway onramp at that. Those people really steam my crabs. I’m sure they all went back to their offices adn bragged about how they “finished” a 5k and made world peace all at the same time.

  8. As a greek, let me add a history note.
    The story about Pheidippides seems to not be true indeed. There are a lot of speculations about how the message of victory went to Athens.

    What is less known, but true, is the story of Philippidis who is often confused with Pheidippides. A few days before the battle of Marathon, he was sent to Sparta to ask for help. He covered the distance Athens – Sparta (around 240km) in 2 days. To his honnor is created the Spartathlon.

      • oooh! So we have a chance for a seminar in Greece?

        Wait a moment; if my memory serves me well, you compete in something (oly weigthlifting?). If so you can’t be living in Greece…

          • I live in Pyrgos. My brother lives in Athens, so when I can, I visit him.

            I wish I could organise one in Pyrgos. But to happen, I’d have to translate every word of Justin. :)
            A seminar in Athens is a good idea. There are a good amount of people doing Crossfit or a kind of strength training.

      • He returned. What the ancient historians praise is that he went to Sparta in 2 days. And no, he didn’t take a horse. Running great distances was his speciality.
        And it’s doable even with nowdays’ standards. The record of the spartathlon is a bit less than 21h.

  9. This story got me fired the hell up. I’m gonna go bench Earth now. If you feel something like a quake, it’s just me. I’ll put us back into the proper axis when I’m finished.

  10. It wasn’t my fault, man! I had to tell Bruce Willis that there’s no way he’s going to stop that asteroid from crashing into us, but he just wouldn’t listen. So I took it upon myself to create a new axis for us so we would be out of harms way.

    I swear it’s true!

  11. I used to run a lot before lifting. Then I asked myself why am I “training” to run long distances? Strength training coupled with short, intense sprints is way more functional. If you need to run from something/someone, training to sprint all-out for a minute without gassing will save your life way more than training to run for an hour non-stop. And if it’s still chasing you after a minute, at least you’re strong enough now to put up a fight. If it’s still chasing you after an hour at an 8 minute pace, then you deserve to die.

  12. Yesterday, some of my Facebook acquaintances were sharing an motivational poster of a guy running a marathon which read “even if you come last, you are still ahead of those who wouldn’t dare to try”.

    And I certainly can appreciate and celebrate the sentiment of getting off the couch and doing something, and I have nothing against people running or training for a 10k or whatever; nevertheless, I loathe the “that’s good enough” attitude, the “you are a winner for showing up” attitude. If you sign up for a marathon and you came in last, sorry to break it to you: you suck, you are awful at marathons and you should urgently do some soul searching to figure out why you are so shitty and how to stop being shitty, instead of basking in the glory of your superiority over the non-marathon running crowd.

  13. I’m glad the CF Games this year has included their version of a triathlon into the events. The idea of training purely for marathon ability seems silly to me too, but the ability to go long should not be overlooked. People have been complaining that there hasn’t been a dedicated long distance event at the Games, and well, here it is. Even better is that the winning male is 6′ and 225 lbs.

  14. The 26.2, 13.1 and tri people who just finish events with times that never drop and whose physiques don’t improve are puzzling to me. Where is the reward? I did tris for few years, but for me the time involved was too much diminishing returns. I returned to my heavy lifting roots one year ago, and I’m shredded. I spend less than 3 hours a week lifting, do no cardio and follow intermittent fasting. My friend who jogs all the time is perplexed that I’ve made good progress while he has continued to get fatter. The erroneous idea that running is the best path to fitness and health is pervasive.

  15. I would rather see a 26.2 than a 13.1. 13.1 says, “Dude bro, I totally just did half of the work and quit!”

    “My kid is a “C” student at blah blah elementary! I failed the 8h grade! I’m solidly mediocre!”

  16. To be fair, 26.2 miles on your own two feet represents a pretty massive step for some when they start from such horrendous conditions resulting from years of excessive eating, shit quality food and sitting on their arse all day every day. I know a couple of people who’ve improved their fitness and health enormously as a result of challenging themselves to complete marathons, although I certainly agree it’s not the be all and end all of fitness or even of endurance sports. Personally, I want to be able to lift 500lbs AND run a decent marathon (or Ultra, since I find them more interesting).

    .

    • Sure, but once that person completes that event they should raise their standards. Merely completing it is old news, not impressive once you’ve done it. I understand being proud of something you didn’t previously think was possible, but simply moving 26 miles is just setting the bar low, in my opinion.

      My style is not to gloat or throw things in other people’s faces. I’ve never been impressed by accomplishing something because I expect it out of myself. That means I have disdain for people that are either a) impressed by mediocrity or b) are overly pleased with themselves when they accomplish something and then continue to hang their hat on it.

  17. Had to leave my first response ever on this site to this post. I run marathons and ultras. I do triathlons and ironmans. I’m an above average runner. I tried to run in college, but kept getting injured with stress fractures. I know that anyone can carry their carcass across 26.2 miles and I don’t recommend it. This stuff is bad for you. In fact, when my friends sign up for these things, I ask them why? If they feel the need to train, I would prefer they train (and train hard) for a 5k. It doesn’t matter the distance. If you run a half marathon and you’re shitting you’re guts out for the next 36 hours because you ran so hard, well, that’s admirable if not disgusting. When I do a hard workout for running it destroys me. I can’t do it before work anymore because I’m so dead. I’m shaking and coughing. I don’t have any stickers on my car. The only reason any of my friends know I do this stuff is because of how much freaking time I spend doing it which occasionally precludes me from doing fun things with my friends. It’s very hard to have an effective training iteration when you’re hung over. I do it because I like racing. That’s mostly it. Lining up to run 26 miles at 6 minute pace scares me because it hurts so much and I fail over and over and I like the challenge. I don’t do it because I want recognition or because some Greeks did it. And I don’t do it because it’s similar to some historical military movement. (If you want to do something military related, put 50 pounds in a backpack and walk 10 miles without pause. Or run with it.) I just like it. I doubt many of you strive to attain your lifting goals because you want to walk around and be recognized. I will probably never know what it’s like to be under 500 pounds. The most I squatted was 3×5@245. I also like lifting. Someday I’d love to squat 400 or press my body weight. Lifting makes me feel great after I workout, especially deadlifting, unlike running hard, which makes me feel like crap. Unfortunately, like I said, I really like racing and lifting heavy and running fast and far aren’t really symbiotic relationships. I suppose the point of my comment is I understand and share your frustrations about how society views running and triathlons, just know not all of the participant’s are like the people that frustrate you.

  18. I think marathons and the like are held up in such esteem because of how most people work out. Most people associate working out with running or something similar already and marathons are a natural benchmark of that type of fitness. Nobody talks about their 27 mile time or 25 mile time because it isn’t easily comparable to others. Same reason nobody times their 35 yard time or 110 meter speed. I think running and biking attract more participants in general because people feel more comfortable with those types of activities already so they can make a change in their lives (trying to become more fit) without totally leaving their comfort zone (and trying something foreign that might require coaching). I think the functional/tactical arguments cut both ways. I am stronger than I will likely ever have to be for anything I might encounter in a day except for the weights I want to lift tomorrow. At some point the heath benefits for either activity (weightlifting or endurance sports) become so marginal that it is really only vanity that keeps us pushing for more. I can’t squat 500lbs now, but in a few months I will. I can’t run a marathon now, but in a few months I could. This community is trying to get stronger that community is trying to get endurancey-er. In the end, almost all have overshot our original fitness goals and probably secured all of the health benefits from our chosen activity. In fact, just as we want to convert those marathon runners to our form of exercise I bet most of us (well at least me) would benefit from time spend training a different mode of fitness.

    • I don’t give a shit about converting anyone. I program for someone to achieve their goals. You assume that we only care about lifting. That’s the majority of 70′s Big readers, but there are plenty of endurance enthusiasts here too (along with crossfitters, martial artists, military, etc.). This isn’t about disliking running for the sake of it (though I’m not a fan), it’s about people who run going out of their way to make a claim of superiority.

      You guys are driving me insane.

      • I think that the conversion point is a fair criticism of my post. As is the general assumptions made about 70sbig readership. To some degree I was also responding to comments and not the post itself. I wasn’t trying to straw man you. My basic claim was marathon participation is a benchmark. Sure some people get too excited about it. I was pretty pumped to get into the 1000 lb club in high school (granted I was in high school still but I feel like it is probably similar) but I see the “I ran a marathon” stuff less like superiority and more like how competing in anything is viewed here. Again, that is probably general and there are those that claim to be superior after a couple of runs. However, there was even a post a while back here about doing something, anything (a weightlifting meet, a strongman comp, etc) and stop just lifting and start training. I see the satisfaction people get from doing a marathon as the same as somebody doing their first anything event.

        • This all kind of reminds me of the “everyone can squat 400 lbs” post. Nobody wants to knock someone for competing or acheive any minor level of fitness. However, they shouldn’t be so quick to pat themselves on the back and think they’ve acheived elite status.

    • I agree about the weird race distances and nobody talking about a 25 mile PR. I signed up for a 25km race and did well for my age group since there were nearly no fast runners. I always assumed anybody fast didn’t sign up since it wasn’t a 10km or a half marathon but the weird 25km distance.

  19. Everytime I read something about Greek battles, I always picture them as the cast from 300. I read Gates of Fire not too long ago, and in my head, every character was a shirtless crossfitter. That movie has ruined me.

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  21. You wanna know why Ethiopians and the like are such good marathon runners? Because what we call “running a marathon” they call “jogging to and from school” and do so at the age of 5.

  22. Having a 13.1 bumper sticker is literally saying “Oh hey, I’m a C minus student. I show up and listen, sort of try, but end up sucking, but hey! you can’t fail me cause I sort of crossed the finish!”

    What am I not getting about the thought process that says “OK I’ll train for six weeks, cut down on junk food, and destroy my knees during this marathon and then I will have a great body and no fat?” How do people even make this connection? Has this ever actually worked????? DO YOU EVEN LIFT?

  23. Completing marathons is unimpressive. Oprah Winfrey even did a marathon. If she could do it, it is unimpressive. I’ve signed up for some tougher endurance stuff (ultras) and I did those events undertrained(only 15-20 miles/week of running) just to see if I could finish. If I could do it, it is unimpressive.

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  26. Has anyone made the point I like to make to all my fellow parking garage people who have 26.2 stickers on the back of their car that they are officially as awesome as Oprah? Or my 13.1 friends who aren’t even as awesome as Oprah. When the biggest loser started using a marathon as a great achievement I lost all interest. If those fatties can do it who can’t!?!?

  27. Oh yeah hey and another thing I hate about long distance running is the amount of coverage it gets at the Olympics. I mean COME ON , it’s so boring. Just show us the start and the end??? And then the boxing and weightliting gets minimal coverage at obscure times.

  28. I’m new on recommendation. So far everyone looks like a fat f###. Why cant i see what the founders look like? I bet they are just bloggers who say “I blog” just so they dont get accused of being shit talkers who are just angry nerds who think that anyone is actually thinking about them. Direct me to correctionville por favor.

  29. I’m not sure this is an apples to apples comparison. I would equal finishing a marathon with little training to deadlifting 315lbs with little training. It’s not a really big deal, anyone can do it with a little work. But if we’re comparing deadlifting (or any lift) >500lbs, I think that should be compared to running a marathon at a given time per mile. Lifting 500 lbs is elite in the field of weightlifting (depending on weight class I guess), and running a marathon at X per mile (not sure what elite is) is elite in running.

    I think your main gripe is that weightlifting doesn’t have stickers for cars? ;)

    • I agree with this. My ma busted her ass training for her first and only marathon at age 51, so when I see the 26.2 sticker on her car I feel a little pride there; however, when I see twentysomethings with that same sticker or posting on social media how they ran so many miles, I just shrug. They’re young, they should be able to do that. Probably a double standard, but I don’t care. If you’re young and healthy then you better be clipping along, otherwise, nobody is impressed.

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  32. If you don’t like marathons, don’t do them. But there’s no reason to belittle them. Not practical? Lots of sports aren’t practical, we do them for love. And while “anyone” can run a marathon, that can be said about a lot of endeavors. It’s doing it better than last time that is the goal.

  33. Anyone can do a marathon. I proved it. I really think it’s something white people do for and excuse to accessorize. I then came to my senses and got back to picking up heavy shit.

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