Monday, March 22, 2010

13.1 Miles and Semantics

Run 13.1 miles and you'll find yourself searching for the right words to describe the experience. "Half marathon" seems really inadequate; running a 13.1 mile race is an accomplishment, not half of an accomplishment. Plenty of runners have been batting around alternative names for a race of 13.1 miles. I have favored "trisko," a play on the fear of the number 13.

Last week, I was standing at the starting line of the St. Patrick's Day 5K, and I noticed the t-shirt a woman in front of me was wearing. It declared that she was a member of Team Pikermi and had this picture on it:

I was intrigued enough to hit my computer pretty much as soon as I got home to learn more. Sure enough, Team Pikermi is a group of runners who are enthusiastic about the 13.1 mile distance, but think it needs a better name. And I am not afraid to admit, the name Pikermi is much cooler than trisko.


Because Pikermi, Greece is midway between Athens and Marathon. Pikermi, as a name, has the same historic significance as Marathon does for the 26.2 mile distance. I like to think that when Phedippides hit Pikermi, he was still feeling pretty good. Maybe he had some Gu, checked his Garmin, and thought he'd be in great shape after 13.1 more miles - we've all had that feeling. I can also say with confidence that if old Phedipp had finished his run in Pikermi, not only would he not have collapsed and died at the finish line, but he would have felt just fine after a shower and a good lunch.

I challenge my fellow lovers of 13.1 miles to join Team Pikermi and help give this distance the respect it deserves.

I ran into a different semantic debate about running 13.1 miles last week, with my husband. We were getting ready for bed, and he asked, as he often does on Saturday nights, "How long are you running tomorrow?" I told him 13.1 miles.

"But... that's a half marathon!"

"Well," I explained, "My training program has me at 13, so I like to throw in that extra .1 for fun."

Steve was astonished. "You're running a half marathon tomorrow."

"No, I'm running a half marathon distance tomorrow. It's not a half marathon," I said.

"What's the difference? That there are no guys in yellow vests telling you which way to turn?"

"I guess that's part of it," I said. "I also didn't pay any money for this, don't have a bib number, no official timer, no race director, no t-shirt, no one else runnign it with me, the course hasn't been certified..."

"Whatever," Steve responded. "You're running a half marathon tomorrow."

As I turned out the light, I muttered, "Half marathon distance."


Karen said...

I like it! It kind of gives the half it's own identity instead of just being little brother to the full.

時尚 said...

Cheek brings success. ....................................................

bill carter said...

HI Betsy

Every time I stop by your blog I get to learn a little something or at the very least be a little inspired. You honestly just write the best stuff. I am doing my first 13.1 in May and can't wait to try the distance.
Take care Betsy and run well!!

KK said...

Great blog entry. I'm going to go check out that website right now. Keep up the great work both running and writing, Betsy!

Running and living said...

I agree about the 1/2 marathon name. I mean, we are not calling the 5K a half 10K, are we?

Laura said...

I really love the name Pikermi - thanks for sharing that!

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怡如 said...


PalmettoRunner said...

Interesting thoughts on the "half" marathon. The Ironman rebranded the Half Ironman to "Ironman 70.3" because swimming/biking/running 70.3 miles didn't seem like "half" of anything.

I think the we need some new name for the half marathon.