Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

A Gentler M-Dot

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I occasionally poke fun at triathletes. As a result I sometimes get a salty comment or two. Keep in mind, triathletes, that I’m only having a little fun with you. Do not forget that I myself have done every distance of triathlon that there is, including a full Ironman.

By the laws that govern all of sport, you are not to question anything I do or say unless you also have completed a full-distance triathlon of 140.6 miles. Conversely, if you have done so in a time significantly better than mine, a feat quite easily attainable as I barely made it before the cutoff at midnight, I am required by sport law to be your squire, polishing your goggles and spraying Pam on your body at your next race.

Or that would be the case if I still lived in the world of triathlon. But nay, I have ascended from the Wal-Mart of endurance sport where athletes can get all their disciplines in one place to the boutique specialty shop of cycling where the smugness comes free with any purchase.

Yes, who can question that cycling is the upper echelon of endurance sport? Why else would a pack of 5’6″ 120lb dudes be so revered and fretted over?

All kidding aside, I am proud to be an Ironman triathlete, as everyone who has done one surely is. Many of us get the M-dot tattooed on our legs so that we can forever be known for the Ironmen that we are. What could be better than walking to the start at a 10k with the red M-dot Ironman logo tattooed on your leg, leaving awed fellow runners in your wake?

Sure, some people get the M-dot logo tattooed on themselves when they’ve only done a half Ironman race of 70.3 miles, but they usually use colors or the numbers to denote the difference. Now, though, the Ironman M-dot logo and brand might be getting even more diluted, because the World Triathlon Corporation who owns it is now going to start hosting Olympic distance races as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

World Triathlon Corp., whose signature long-distance event, the Ford Ironman World Championship, is taking place in Hawaii this Saturday, plans to add 13 U.S. triathlons to its 2011 lineup that will cover only 31.9 miles, which is the distance used for triathlons in the Summer Olympic Games.

As you can see if you read the full-length WSJ article, it was clearly written by someone who is wholly ignorant of triathlon, as they’ve rounded up the distance from 140.6 to 141 miles, something a triathlete would never do.

This trend of shorter distance races propping up longer ones is present in all of endurance racing. Marathons typically offer a half marathon option which gets much more entries than the full distance option does. I happened to be privy to the numbers of entries from one such marathon, and they look like this:

12,491 registered Half Marathon Runners
2,800 registered Full Marathon Runners

It may not seem like a big deal, but its hard to distinguish from the race schwag after the fact who did the full distance race and who just did the half. This can be a little annoying to full marathon runners because they paid more and ran twice as far for the same tee shirt design. Note that some races, the Mercedes Marathon in Birmingham, AL being one that I know of, do a good job of differentiating. I know because I’ve done both distances.

Unfortunately I think that this is just one of those things that we’re going to have to learn to live with. Some people are going to want to do full-distance races, and in order for there to be full-distance races to do, promoters are going to have to make money by selling shorter-distance entries to people who don’t want to be in pain for quite so many hours on end. Having done three full-distance marathons myself, if you count the one I did as part of Ironman, I don’t know that I will ever do another. They hurt!

Still, I’m kind of glad I never got an Ironman M-Dot tattoo. How would I explain such a thing to my fellow cyclists? The shame!

5 thoughts on “A Gentler M-Dot”

  1. jimmy

    I hope I’m one of the salty commenters.

  2. Amy

    You freaking stole my material from my response to Brian!!

  3. jim

    Amy’s response to Brian:
    It’s always about the money..notice most marathons have a half? It’s the half entries that pay the bills, and get the sponsorship…and everything they sell in the gift shops, says ‘marathon’ regardless of the distance you run. I do the WPB half every year..they give the same tshirt, to the 5K-13.1 and 26.2, and they all say marathon!

    Based on the two IM I have visited…most of the participants are repeat entries, from other races. Repeaters spend less, so they need to expand their market.

    Did you know one of the reasons the Thanksgiving full is being canned…the 5 hour time limit, too short.

    Regards, Amy

  4. Emily

    I used to be snooty about the full marathon t-shirt thing, and cranky about how the half-marathon people got the same one. They are special t-shirts earned by special people who run really far (or at least register to run).
    Then I saw a methy-looking homeless guy pushing a shopping cart while wearing the exact Las Vegas Marathon t-shirt I was most proud of.

  5. John T

    I used to be snobbish in regards to the half vs full thing. Yes I am proud of my 2 70.3 events that I have finished, and have a tattoo to show for it (not a dot M either.) And having completed 17 marathons in the past 5 years, there were times that I felt slighted over the fact that I paid more and seemed to have gotten less than the half-marathoners. But as I have gotten older (and hopefully wiser) I have come to realize that each of us have different levels of endurance, speed and fortitude.

    In today’s world of high obesity and corn fructose enhanced products, the fact that someone is out and running any distance is a plus for them. We as runner, triathletes, whatever need to be encouraging those that may not be doing the whole enchilada. And though I have had some pretty fast times in my running, I have also paid the price in injuries. Now I just run for the love of it all, not for speed or glory and I am finding the whole endeavor a lot more enjoyable. And I am passing that “wisdom” onto those that I know who are just getting started in the world of running and tri’s.

    Get out and get active, be it 5k, 10k, 13.1, 26.2 or whatever. Enjoy it, have fun with it, and build up friendships with it. I know it has worked for me and I have a great bunch of friends who are all at different levels and that makes it all the better (this includes you Jim!!)

    And keep on spitting out those words Jim, I enjoy reading them..