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Marathon Bias

Posted by Matt Fitzgerald on Dec 22, 2007 6:34:14 PM

There is a well-known Ironman bias in the sport of triathlon. Shorter races, especially sprints, are considered inherently less "serious" than the Ironman. Any triathlete who becomes a serious competitor feels compelled to move up to the Ironman distance sooner or later. I know it from personal experience. After gaining experience with a few sprints and Olympic distance races I climbed the ladder to half Ironmans and ultimately, inevitably, an Ironman. After devoting a full summer to training as much as 22 hours a week, I placed 51st at Ironman Wisconsin. Not quite what I was hoping for.


Subsequently I decided I might be better suited to shorter races. The next year, on about half as much training, I finished first in my age group and second overall in the Long Beach Triathlon.



In running, the marathon bias is not as extreme as triathlon's Ironman bias, but it does exist. There aren't many highly competitive runners who race a lot of 5K's and 10K's and never do a marathon. I've succumbed to the marathon bias, too. I've run 10 of them now, and I've never run a particularly good one. When I plug my 5K, 10K, and even my half-marathon PR's into those race performance equivalence calculators they always tell me I should be able to run a much faster marathon than I actually have done.



Every runner has a best distance, and mine is most certainly not the marathon. With this reality in mind, my recent search for a next big racing goal to follow my latest disappointing marathon earlier this month led me to decide to peak for the Carlsbad 5000 in April. I'm going to try and take 10 or 15 seconds out of my 5K PR of 15:56. If you're a born 5K or 10K runner who has fallen for the marathon bias as well, why not join me in setting a goal to run a fast short race this spring? Leave the marathons to the marathoners!



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