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The Point of the Marathon (article)

The Point of the Marathon (article)

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This post is going to make some readers uncomfortable. In this post I am going to discuss the purpose and concept of the Marathon (and similar racing events) and what it is to be a high level athlete. I invite you to seek out anything from this article that might assist you in improving your running, your mindset, and your approach to living life at a higher level.

If you are just out to have an emotional response this post may not be for you, that is ok. There is a real difference between the average person who enjoys fitness and that of someone who is a high level athlete.

[The Article]

There are many articles going around recently declaring that races should remove cut off times and allow those at the tail end of the race to simply finish. I disagree.


Here is why: Real athletes:

1) Have respect for their bodies. This means they value their health and fitness, they continually test their mental and physical limits in training and performance events, they understand basic concepts of success.

2) They respect each other. They recognize and respect hard work, focus, dedication, discipline, drive, the valuing of health and fitness, hard decision making, the process of achieving/growing, the process for attaining success, the sheer effort put into being a real athlete.

3) They understand the purpose of racing events (including why there are cut off times).

4) They understand that success is a series of progressive steps to be learned, grown into, and conquered.

5) A Marathon is not something you just sign up for and hope to finish. It is something to mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically train and prepare for – in which you give everything you are into doing your best the entire 26.2 miles of the race. It tests you, questions you, and in the end defines you (that is makes it clear to you and everyone just who you are).

The REAL PURPOSE of racing events:

(This is actually the fundamentals of success applicable to every aspect of life – a series of progressive steps of increasing difficulty to be learned, grown into and achieved).

A 1 mile event is meant for those who will be walking.

A 5k event is meant for those who are beginning their fitness journey and are building the elements of running. In other words seeing just what level of fitness shape they are in, learning about and building basic levels of focus, better decision making, discipline, drive and establishing the concept of setting small goals, putting in the work and reaching those goals.

A 10k event is geared for those who have gained the fitness level (along with being able to put in the elements for success listed above) of being able to run 3 -6 miles, and they are working hard to improve upon all those basic elements of running and success. Notice I said able to run and working hard to improve upon.

A Half Marathon is for those who have been running for some time now, those who have put in the miles, the hours, the sweat, the effort, the discipline and dedication to training their minds and bodies into running long distances. These are intended for runners who can easily run that 6 miles, and are consistently improving their ability in running 10+ for their long runs.

This is a springboard for the training and success concepts that will be required to have achieved and be able to apply consistently while in preparation for running the full marathon.

The Marathon is intended for high level athletes. Persons who have achieved a high level of fitness, mental toughness, physical endurance and capabilities. This level of endurance and regular training is at such levels that running a 13-15 mile long run is no longer a challenge, but something that has become a common aspect of the athletes regular training schedule.

The Ultra Marathon event is geared for the athlete who needs a serious challenge in which to continue to train for and test the limits of the mind and body, in which simply doing a 26 mile run no longer does.

Are you getting the idea here?

These racing events are geared towards actual athletes (people who value continually increasing their mental and physical abilities and testing them).

They are intended to be progressive steps of achievement and ability over a long term timeframe, in which the training and preparation (and personal growth) required to do them and do them well is continuously increasing in difficulty and effort required. They are meant to be RUN.

Not walked. (And there is a big difference between walking for 20 seconds to sip water, tie a shoe, or walking one minute out of 10 once the runner is past the halfway point of the race vs walking the majority of the entire race).

The real athlete is fully aware that they should not be signing up for a race if there is any likelihood of them not making the cut off time with ease. The real athlete acknowledges that level of personal accountability (and realization) and respect for fellow runners.

Racing directors have every right to establish cut off times. They have every right to scoop people off the road who shouldn’t have signed up for it in the first place.

These cut off times give PLENTY of time to complete the event at a pace that is realistic for even the average runner (who has put in the proper training for the race).

Those who participate in these long distance events and are out of shape and unable to run most of the race are actually disrespecting the real athletes (everyone else doing the event). Because the real athlete has done the preparation required to actually run the running race.

What happens nowadays is people who haven’t earned the right to be in these events (those who’ve yet to learn and understand the basics of success and being an athlete) are demanding instant respect, instant heroism simply because they finished participating in a 13 or 26 mile race.

They’ve missed the point completely. IT IS A RACE involving RUNNING!

There is absolutely nothing heroic about being one of the last 25 people to finish a race. There is nothing to applaud if you’ve walked 10 of the 13 miles, barely made it to the finish and are still so out of shape and overweight that you are completely clueless as to what is required of and involved in being a person who decides to truly respect their bodies and live a lifestyle of health and fitness.

Don’t give me a bunch of excuses about injuries, illness or yada yada! People with one leg or one arm or who’ve had heart transplants or just popped out babies or who are 80 years old who value health and fitness, decide to put in the training required (regardless of their unique situation) and sign up and truly run and perform just as well as the other runners who’ve prepared and trained properly.

If you are one of barely making the cutoff time people, don’t get upset with me for pointing out the facts about the decisions you are making (or not making) in your life.

The point of a half or full marathon is that it is for people who are actually RUNNERS who already are living a fit and healthy lifestyle. A real athlete who has already achieved the basic foundations for being an athlete and a long distance runner.

These races are not meant for wannabes. They are not meant for walkers. They are not meant for beginning runners.

They are meant for REAL athletes who are in need of challenging events to continue pushing the threshold for what their  minds and bodies can do.

In fact, the cutoff times should be moved up! Yes, they should.

The thing is I will not sugar coat anything. The truth about real athletes who actually RUN the half and full marathons are not looking to just finish. They are actually competing, with themselves and against each other (that’s actually motivating each other) to see just what they can really do, while in their top tier fitness level, while at the peak of their training program.


It isn’t about the overweight, out of shaper that is so very much a beginner in every aspect. There ought to be pre-requisites just to sign up for these longer, meant to be challenging events. The event isn’t challenging because of the distance to be run but due to the level of intensity and performance that the athlete applies and requires of themselves throughout the entire course and in the training beforehand.

This level of effort and intensity given by actual athletes is a completely different thing than the effort and intensity given by non athletes. It really is.

*So if you really want to change your life and your health, if you truly want to do a long distance event – have a little respect. Respect the event. Respect the real athletes who have put in the time and training. In doing so you learn to respect yourself. Part of this is learning to trust the process. Trust in the time and effort it really takes to learn and build upon the success aspects of really running a marathon.

Truly running one does change you, because the training and preparation required to really run it changes you!

This article is part I of a 3 article series.

Continue on to More on The Purpose of the Marathon followed by

A Higher Level For Living

 This series set in motion the concept of the Book

The Point of the Marathon – Raising the Bar for a Higher Level of Living

Available on Amazon Kindle!


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Comments (5)

  1. Reply Betsy

    I understand your point of view but I wholeheartedly disagree. I don’t believe in labeling and calling someone a “real” athlete versus not a real athlete. Just like I don’t like it when people say what a “real” women is. A woman is a woman and an athlete is an athlete. It doesn’t matter to me where people are in their athletic journey. What matters to me is that they have embarked on that journey and that they are giving it their best. I also don’t think that each race distance is in place for the reasons that you specified. The race distances exist to give variety and allow people to choose which distance speaks to them.

    And as far as walking during a race goes? It doesn’t matter to me what other people do. People spend far too much time being upset by what others do. You do you and let others do them. I am however ok with races having cut off times as I recognize why they are in place.

    And lastly there most definitely is something heroic about being one of the last 25 people to finish a race. And lots to applaud if you’ve walked 10 of the 13 miles. And shame on you for saying otherwise. You have no right to judge people on their journey or to discount the effort they have put in.

    I hope that people don’t judge the running community based on your post as I find runners to be the most supportive and caring people I have ever met. Your post is certainly not reflective of that and I would hate for them to get that impression.

    1. Reply Nicolette Brink

      You would be one that missed the point. I don’t ever write to hold people’s hands. People will never reach their potential as long as they hide behind “It’s okay to simply embark on the journey.” There is big, big difference between those who have signed up, hardly trained and have yet to learn the aspects of what it takes to live (as an athlete) at that higher level, vs, the ‘real’ athlete who truly has spent years putting in the time, energy, sweat, etc to turning their minds and bodies into the best they can be and living at that higher level every day. And there isn’t anything heroic about being the last person to cross the line. They put in the minimum out of everyone else there that day (perhaps it truly is their best ability they could give at that point in their journey) but everyone else was able to rise up to a higher level.
      There is no judgment given upon where people are in their own personal journey – I did however state that there is a difference in athleticism, and that instead of removing cut off times, perhaps we instead ought to be respecting those ‘higher’ athletes who’ve done what is required to truly race the race (hence the coinage it is a race indeed despite what others want to turn it into to make themselves feel better about it). I always support, cheer on and applaud those who are up and moving and working towards improving themselves in all areas of life (which is why I am success author and coach).
      People cannot change and grow if they are applauded over everything they do. They must become aware of new approaches to life and how to live it in order to realize they could go about things in different ways. If they want to become the best they can become, they have observe what those who are doing what they want to do are doing differently. Case in point – the marathon. If you want to become more than just a walker who scarcely finishes you must grow out of that mindset and live at a higher level to get better and do much better at the next one.

    2. Reply Nicolette Brink

      I’m sorry you missed out on the important concepts I talked about. Your response however did inspire me to write another great post about it. Perhaps you will find that one more enjoyable.

  2. Reply Reist MMummau

    I am curious to find out if you are a runner and if so, what level do you run?

    In your bio you write:
    “I write for those who have yet to try, and want to. For those who keep trying and feel like they are not getting anywhere. For those who are well on their way to achieving their dreams, and maybe already have.”

    I don’t see consistency in your message , this article seems to be written with the goal to diminish those that run for the joy of the run, not to encourage people to try.

    Run Hard,

    1. Reply Nicolette Brink

      Many people missed the main point of this article, the article was meant for the average person to step out of their viewpoint and try to see what life is like for a higher level athlete – the responses really confirmed what it is like for the advanced athlete – a total lack of respect and how today the ‘racing world’ is now not about long term training, competing and being an elite level athlete but is to accommodate everyone. There are a handful of great follow up articles I’ve written to come after this one – from many angles. The thing is, I’m a writer, I am supposed to invoke people, toss firecrackers and get people stirred up. And people’s interpretations is a great example of how many just react instead of responding with a learning mindset of what (if anything) can I learn here. The average runner can take away some great tips for becoming a better runner (or apply these success principles to other areas of life, but most just want to point fingers and blame elsewhere instead of striving to become the best they can be. And yes, I know and do write for people of all backgrounds, including those who live life as a high level athlete.

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