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Running is a relative term. I ran/walked my first marathon (Maui 07) and was thrilled with a 5:09 finish time. The fact I made it to the end, and was willing and able to run again by the end of that week, was all that I wanted. Next "race" is Ogden in May and I all I hope for is under 5 hours. I "run" for fun, fitness, and friends; that is enough for me.
That's an interesting question. I think everyone that runs the majority of the race deserves to be able to say they ran the marathon. I think it's a huge accomplishment to also be able to say you walked a marathon. Not everyone can say they've done that. I don't know that I'd give a time as a cut off. I might call under 4:00 something else...
I think I would agree that "running" a marathon is a relative term! That is probably why marathon organizers tend to prefer the term "finisher". How ever you finish a marathon is an accomplisment. I believe special credit ought to be given to those who are not naturally talented and are brave enough to opt to do a marathon, walking or running the whole thing. So if they finish marathons, then they are marathon finishers. Not everyone can do that. If you want to be more than a mere finisher, than go for it and get a good finish time and brag about that all you want. I was very thrilled to be a finisher, but now I want to do better than that. I never will I look down on anyone who finishes them however they did them.
I have both "run" and "walked" a marathon- and to say that I finished was all that I really cared about in the end... Yes, there are always the elite, or even the fast, runners. But I think that there must, in everything, be a balance. To finish a marathon in 6 hours may mean more to that person that severely struggled than that person who breezed out a 3:20. It is an accomplishment to have finished a marathon- period. At the end of the day, only an elite few receive awards, the rest of us receive the title "Finisher", regardless of finish time. So I guess that I'm trying to say that if my grandma told me she ran a marathon and I know full well she walked it- I would still be just as proud of her.