Marathon Distance Changing in 2015

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- Graphic by ilovemysticker.com

- Graphic by ilovemysticker.com

Have you ever wondered why a marathon distance is 26.2? A Sheboygan, WI woman decided to find out, and in the process has mounted a national campaign to change the official marathon mileage to 26.0. Marsha Bagwell is part of a growing population of people who are bothered by the uneven numbers of race distances. "It always annoyed me when I saw 13.1 stickers on cars. I didn't know what they meant at first and then I found out it was a half marathon distance."

Bagwell says she didn’t understand why anyone would run a .1 after 13 miles. “Doesn’t it bother people to run an uneven distance? Why would you want to keep going for such a little bit when you can finish on an even number?”

Her radical views were initially dismissed by the USATF and RRCA clubs until both organizations began hosting focus groups on the topic.

Interestingly enough most of the participants in the focus groups were runners who felt the same way.

Said one veteran marathoner who preferred to remain anonymous “That .2 at the end has cost me several PRs and first place finishes. I would be happy if I could just finish at 26.”

Another runner, Tami Lakwitz said she has not been able to enter any races because of the 3.1, 6.2 and 13.1 mileage.  “I can’t stop my run until I end on an even number. It is so bad that if I don’t stop my Garmin in time I have to run another mile until I end on a zero.”

Lakwitz is part of an organization called Compulsive Runners Against Points (CRAP).   Lakwitz says that CRAP has been lobbying for the change for years.

According to Lakwitz the idea of the marathon is based on the story of the historic battle between Greeks and Persians over 2,500 years ago in Marathon.

History says that Greek soldier Pheidippides ran from the battlefield to Athens to announce the Greeks’ big victory and died of exhaustion after running the complete 42 km distance.

Bagwell says “technically speaking 42 kilometers is really 26.09 miles. I don’t know why we can’t round down to 26.0 instead of up to 26.2. It makes no sense.”  CRAP can’t agree more.

Apparently the Association of International Marathons and  Races (AIMS) agrees.  Until Bagwell brought it to their attention they didn’t know the original distance had been rounded up too much.

“There’s no way to know exactly how far Pheidippides ran 2500 years ago.  We do know that the distance was approximately 42 kilometers. Quite frankly we are not sure why the number of miles was rounded up to a .2,” says AIMS President Paco Borao.

Bagwell points the finger at the United States running community. “Runners are overly proud of their accomplishments. That’s why they put a .1 or .2 after their favorite distances. Apparently it’s not good enough to run just 13 miles, you have to tag a .1 on the end just to show off.”

Bagwell further explains that runners just want to seem more awesome than they really are. “They call it a 5K when it’s barely over 3 miles. And a 10K seems further than the 6 miles it really is.”

AIMS agrees and after meeting with Bagwell and CRAP they have conceded that the marathon distance will be changed, along with 5 and 10K races.  And eventually the coveted half marathon will become an even 13 miles.

The change will be phased in over a matter of months starting with all 5K and 10K events.  Going forward races will be referred to as 3 miles or 6 miles.

Bagwell says she doesn’t care if the half marathon is still called a half, just as long as there’s not a .1 after the first 13.

Lakwitz says CRAP members are thrilled with the changes.  “This has been a lifelong dream of CRAP to see how this all comes out.”

Bagwell is happy to have united forces with an organization that had already done a lot of the legwork.  “CRAP has been lobbying for this for years. With my connections and their experience we have been able to successfully change something that has bothered non-runners and CRAP for years”.

Lakwitz says CRAP is happy with the news, even if the changes aren’t immediate.  Says Lakwitz, “I look forward to running my first 3 mile race in 2015.

AIMS does fear the potential backlash from runners, but knows that there’s a lot more support than people think.

“We have heard from the publishers of the “Couch to 5K” series that they expect additional sales of their new book “Couch to 3 Miles” and the bumper sticker industry can hardly wait to print new stickers for runner’s vehicles.

There’s an estimated million dollars in sales in new 26.0 stickers alone.  Bagwell is breathing a sigh of relief that her efforts and CRAP were finally successful.

“I feel like I can do anything. My next project will be eliminating those costly and wasteful race finisher medals,” says Bagwell.

CRAP has publicly stated they are not on board with this new effort.  Lakwitz says they are grateful for Bagwell’s help in removing the point in distances races but CRAP won’t eliminate medals.

“That’s just going too far. For one thing marathoners deserve a medal for their efforts, and number two, they expect to receive them.”

For more information on how these new distances affect your race results and personal records from past events, visit the AIMS sponsored website www.thereisnopoint.com.

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