Marathon: noun. 1. a race in which people run on roads over a distance of 42 kilometres or about 26 miles; 2. an activity that takes a long time to complete and needs a lot of energy and determination. (MacMillan Dictionary definition)
With the growing popularity of running as a sport in the country, more races are being held every weekend, more celebrities are joining them, and of course more media attention is given. This is a good thing since more people will start taking it up.
Of course, when we take up anything new, we ought to find out as much as we need to know about it, especially the terms commonly used so that we can understand each other. For instance, people unfamiliar with the term “PR” would be hard-pressed to define what it is; runners who’ve done a few races will talk about beating their PR’s. (FYI, it means “personal record” or “personal best time”.)
There was a recent race covered by a television network where their homegrown celebrities participated. The reporter referred to the celebrities’s race distances as “3K marathon”, “5K marathon”, “10K marathon”, and “21K marathon”. Had the reporter taken the time to understand the word she was using, she would have realized the strangeness of what she was saying.
While some races do offer a marathon distance (42.195 kilometers, or 26.2 miles) alongside shorter distances, 3K, 5K, 10K and 21K are shorter events and cannot be called “marathons”. Similarly, some race organizers have taken to calling their events “marathons” despite not offering a 42K distance.
Though the dictionary meaning of “marathon” has a secondary usage when describing something that takes considerable time or effort, in its primary usage of describing a race, it should only be used to describe a race 42 kilometers long. (Check out more info in Wikipedia’s entry for “marathon”.)
As this sport becomes more mainstream, we ought to promote correct knowledge about it. As they say, “the more you know…” the better. In short, marathons are races, but not all races are marathons. “Marathon” is not a synonym for “race.”