Why the 5+ Hour Marathoner and the 14+ Hour Ironman Are My Heroes

I’m a pretty fast guy for a non-elite runner. I can still break a 4:30 mile, a 16-minute 5K and a 33-minute 10K at the age of 45. My PR in the marathon is 2:27:17 and have run in the 2:30s three different times as well throughout my life. I tell you this not to brag, but to say if I weren’t this fast I don’t know if I would be such a serious runner. I am blessed to be able to run at a pretty good gait and enjoy running at top speeds. Heck, if I were fast enough to be a sprinter, I would have probably been one, but that was not to be.

So while over the years, people have been “amazed” by how fast I can run this distance or that, I honestly think to myself that I’m just lucky to have good running-DNA and a pretty good work ethic. What I’m really amazed at are the people who work their asses off to break a 6-hour marathon or 15-hours in an Ironman – these are my endurance heroes!

It’s All Relative

For years I’ve told the countless people I’ve coached for marathon events, “It’s all relative”. When I say that, I’m speaking about the work effort that goes into running a sub-3 hour, sub-4 hour, sub-5 hour or sub-6 hour marathon. Just because I can run a sub-2:30 marathon doesn’t mean I work any harder than the individual who runs the sub-4 hour marathon, it just means I’m faster.

And if I had to be on the roads for 5+ hours (in a marathon) or 14+ hours (in an Ironman) I am pretty certain I would not be so inclined to enter one.  The mental fortitude and physical demands you must undertake for multi-hour runs, rides and swims is truly amazing – inspiring, I would even argue. I honestly get a bit edgy on a run longer than 90-minutes. So, if you told me that I needed to go on a 20-mile run or 80-mile bike ride and it was going to take me 4-6 hours, I would probably say nope, that’s just waaaaay too long! But many of you out there are these people, and honestly, I don’t know how you have the will or the drive to be on your feet or in the seat for that sort of a duration – now that’s some real grit and determination!

Be Proud of Yourself

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to cross that finish line. Those of you who take 5+ hours to run a marathon or 14+ hours to complete an Ironman, you train like the rest of us train. You have doubts if you’ll finish, just like the rest of us. You are not sure if you can handle this enormous challenge you’ve placed before yourself, just like the rest of us. But on top of all this, you know that there will be no fanfare for you. There will be no write-up in the local paper about your courage. There will be no top-3 age-group finish, most likely. You are on your feet and the roads for more hours than the rest of us and yet you still want to continue. You know you’ll be towards the end of the pack, and yet you wish to go on. You are, my endurance brothers and sisters, no less of an athlete than the 2:07 marathoner or the 8:10 Ironman finisher. You are inspiring. You are the spark that let’s others know, that it can be done if you believe in yourself and have the will to pursue your dreams and goal. I thank you for this. You are all truly my endurance heroes.

Happy Racing!

Athlinks Staffhttp://blog.athlinks.com
Posts by the Athlinks Staff are authored by our in-house group of athletes and subject matter experts in the fields of performance sports, nutrition, race organization, and training.

Related Articles

Observations of a Trail Running Rookie

By: Andrea Lee Negroni Last year, I resolved to make 2023 a year of “yes”...

Meet Curt Maggit, NOBULL Athlete

Curt Maggit finished his professional football career with seven major surgeries, including two ACL and a hip fracture.  Fast forward to today, the...

Scott Stallings’ Top Training Essentials

As more professional golfers begin to publicly promote their dedication to off-course training and preparation, Scott Stallings, a NOBULL athlete, has discussed...


    • Thank you so much. I mostly walk/jog but finally made a ten kms jogging the whole way. Felt really really triumphant and I reckon felt as good as someone who does a blistering time .

      • David, I am with you! Point on! I heard a lot of comments during my marathon life..”Oh! You finished 5:34 minutes? No way for me to be on the road that many hours” I am happy to run a sub 6 and work on 4:59:59.A sub 5 later..as I retire and have more time to train..I love long distance, so as far as I finish the race officially , I am happy..But still sub 5 is my desire! Thank you for such kind words..Today, I read a really snobish comment about slow runner who ran Boston:” If she can not run at 3 hrs, she has no bussiness to be at Boston.” I think this statement is a cruel one. We are Americans who grows bigger with the width but not taller with the length, so it is encouraged to see people get out to run a 26.2 miles to better themselve for health benefits..I applaud them..and I could not agree less than what you have just written on the blog regarding on the back of the pack runners.

  1. I so appreciated you writing this! It really is a test of my endurance when I’m on a course for 6+ hours. But the bragging rights make me forget the pain. 😉

  2. When asked what advice Crowie (Craig Alexander – 3xIronman world champion and 2x Ironman 70.3 world champion) would give to 15+ hour finishers at the pre-race briefing for Ironman UK 2014, he responded “I can’t give you any, I’ve never been on an IM course for longer than 9 hours, you guys are the real athletes!).
    It’s good to read that the pro’s and the top end amateurs have similar views – thank you
    For the record, I finished IM UK in 16:21:33

  3. Thanks so much for posting this. I finished my first Marathon (OK and ONLY) at 50 in 7 hours, time limit of the course. I never thought I would do something like that and as a slower runner decided to go for it once. I really learned alot about myself and others too who were there for me on the race and in my training. When you are slow, you have to have a thick skin to some comments others make. Here’s to the back of the pack!

  4. Awwwww, thanks!! I appreciate your encouragement. After 2 – 5+ hour marathons and over a dozen 2:30+ half marathons and countless other races, I’m trying triathlons now. I’ll be slow there, too, but I will finish with my head held high.

  5. As a 2:45 marathoner, 16:48 5ker you would think I would excel at the run leg during an Ironman. The dreaded IT Band Syndrome will tell you otherwise. I have competed in 5 Iron distance races now and I have yet to be able run one. I have walked the entire marathon/half marathon portion of every race thus far. I competed last week at Ironman Mont Tremblant and ALL I wanted to do was get up and run but with the 7 month, no running, no biking recovery time it took me after the last Ironman, I didn’t want to risk it. This new slow approach to racing has given me the opportunity for some of the best moments of my life though. I have met some of the best people I have ever met in my life while walking with them for hours during these races that is simply irreplaceable. I continue to keep in contact with them to this day. It has actually become more enjoyable to have these conversations than to run my ass off and try to once again PR a run. So to those who find themselves in the dark, with glow sticks, fences already being taken down … YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT! Keep it up because those fast guys in front are a lot more lonely than you think and certainly aren’t making the TRI connections you are.

    • Great point. I would agree with you, Ryan. While it’s nice to be fast, it’s also nice to make connections with people. Good for you for seeing the silver-lining with your IT Band issue. Cheers!

    • Ryan, I got serious IT band and injury and horrible knee pain in 2026, I took me out of 8 months without running. During this agonized time, I was so sad and wished I could run regardless the pace…Oct the 8 , Chicago was my first coming back marathon since the MCM in 2015. I found the unbelievable and undescribable feeling of happiness to return to long distance..This feeling only runnets could understand…I acrossed the finished line at 6:02 and go on to the MCM Oct 22 with a 6:01 finish…During these runs, yes, I met and talked to some runners..and we made friends for life with the same passion…:” we are not afriaid of moving slowly, we are afraid of not being able to move at all..” Thank you for your wonderful insight thought of a back pack runners and the pleasure we have during the race. Keep on smiling! Keep on running! Cheer!

  6. Thank you for this. I have never made it to a marathon, but I have run several half marathons, never faster than 2 hours and 24 minutes. I’ve also ran many 10kswp, and am yet to break the one hour mark. Sometimes I wonder why I keep running, because I never seem to get much faster. I’m training for a 15k right now, and this is just what I needed to read!

  7. I appreciate the volunteers who stay til the end so I can cross the finish line like those who finish much faster! Hydrated, in some cases, fed, and handed a medal for my efforts!!!

  8. This just made my day. I’m on my 5th marathon and don’t think I’m ever going to break my 5 hour goal. This helped… more than you know.

  9. I cannot tell you how wonderful you made me feel right now. I was completed 10 marathons, two were sub-5:30. On a whim I compared my fastest time to see what the difference was to BQ. If I ran the fastest time I have done in a marathon when I am 80, I will qualify! This year I am training for the Wineglass Marathon and have hit all kinds of physical issues, my hips have decided they need to be replaced so to say training has been a struggle is an understatement. I just did my 22 miler and it was not what I would think a marathon standard is … But. I will continue and push to finish in Oct. I remember in 2006 being one of the last people to finish the Richmond marathon within course time and running into the winner of the marathon back at the hotel. I asked if he would take a picture with me .. the pic would be of the first place and the last place runners! He was so sweet. I told him how I marveled over his speed and I was in awe of his ability. He looked at me and told me he was in AWE of me .. he did not know how I could run for that long .. Those words have pushed me ever since. Until this year. Now it is your words that have touched my heart. Thank you.

  10. I am very touched by this article to the point almost shedding tears because i have recently given up my dream to become a marathon runner and IM simply because im not improving time at all. Very genuine effort to encourage the rest of us who arent born runners or late starters to keep pressing for finish line. Always hate feeling intimidated and the feeling of defeat. Your article has just proved these feelings aren’t real, and in fact dangerous to our health! Thank you for reminding me to again pursue the dream that i have recently given up.

    • I’m glad I could raise your spirits. Why don’t you think you’re improving? It’s alright to be intimidated at times, just don’t let it get you to the point of total paralysis. Don’t give up!

  11. Very proud slow runner here. Started running at 116kgs and have lost 25kgs so far. Completed 7 marathons with the fastest over 4 and a half hours and steadily getting slower. Have also completed 4 ultras with the longest being 150kms. Great hearing the cheers from faster runners on and off the course. Great read. Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

  12. My heart soared when I read this. I should be proud but I always think people are judging even though I know most of them are not. Doing my 4th marathon this year and would be very happy to break 5.30. I am 57y.o. and want to do a marathon every year until I just can’t !!

  13. Thank you. My first marathon was the NYC marathon in 2013. I trained my butt off for it and finished in 6 hours. By the time I finished it was turning dark out and some water stations had packed up so I was left to fend for myself. A lot of the crowds died off except for the few family members of us endurance runners. Lol. My family was perched at mile 25 running along side of me on the other side of the ropes! When I crossed the finish line I cried like a baby not of sadness for being so slow but because I ran my heart out and put a lot of blood sweat and tears into one of the greatest accomplishments of my whole life. Great article

  14. This article and the comments made me cry. All of my running friends are fast. They have only ever been positive, but it has been hard not to compare myself and come up lacking. Thank you so much, David, for the encouragement and inspiration.

    • Like I’ve always said, “it’s all relative”. Keep running and improving yourself – inside and out. Thanks for the kind words.

  15. Well the timing on reading this couldn’t be more perfect! I’ll be running my first marathon (Chicago, October 2015) with a team from the Alzheimer’s Association, to honor my late Mom.
    I’ll be attempting 22 miles for the first time EVER, tomorrow morning. God help me! Every mile past 18 is an in-your-face reminder that I’m 54, and that getting older is clearly NOT for sissies.
    Your words have encouraged me and given me a little more spring in my step. Thank you so much for the nod.
    God Bless.

    • Laura – you’re sooo welcome! Chicago was my first marathon ever, too! Yes, I’m 9 years behind you in age and I already realize that this getting older is definitely not for the faint of heart. You can do it! All the best!

  16. As an older, back-of-the-pack runner and triathlete, I appreciate your comments. One additional issue that I have never seen addressed is that, while the elite athletes and faster age-groupers finish their runs in the cool of the morning and enjoy the benefits of icy sponges and cold drinks at the aid stations, we slower athletes are often running during the hottest hours of the day, after having already been on the course for many hours. It is not uncommon for me to come across abandoned aid stations, or aid stations that only have warm liquids remaining, or worse yet, have run out of liquids, and we are precisely the people who are the most dehydrated and heat-affected and are in need of cool liquids the most. It would be nice if race organizers could keep this in mind.

    • I totally agree with you. When I ran the NYC marathon I have to tell you that while I was no where the slowest I was very disappointed that a lot of the water stations were tearing down by the time I got there and I found myself running around the cup sweepers! The last 2 miles were still remaining and amazingly active because by the time I crossed there were so many amazing stories of endurance runners.

  17. Thank you for this. I have run 2 marathons at just under 6 hours. They were taking down the finish line on both of them when I finished – kind of disheartening! My issue is with training plans that assume us “endurance” runners (12 minute milers?) can go at the same training pace and plan as someone who runs a 7 minute mile. I will continue to run and bike and be physically active because I see both as lifetime sports that will keep me healthy into my 90s, and I will do it at my pace!

  18. Thank you for your appreciation of the slower runners. I attempted my first race of greater than a 10k in 2012. It was the Honolulu Marathon, at age 42, and only 2 years before retiring from a 24 year navy career. After months of dedicated training, I couldn’t break 6 hours. I can run a 25 min 5k, which while it is not fast, it did not have me thinking I’d be so slow at 26.2. I didn’t break 6 hours until my 3rd try at Honolulu, and in 4 months, now as a high school teacher, I will try for a sub-5:30. I will never qualify for Boston, and that me be the biggest reason I wish I was faster, but there are worse things in the world. To give up trying to be my best, to give up trying to improve, or to give up trying to set an example for my kids & my high school students, that would be much worse. I sacrifice hours from my family to train & get up at 3:30 on Sunday AM to beat the heat here in Hawaii, just to complete a 14, 18 or 20 mile training run before I melt. I do this because I love the feeling of doing that which most others won’t. Thankfully I have a supportive wife! Thank you for acknowledging that we are “runners” too, even if we will never finish up front!

    • Paul:

      It’s funny, because while I know from coaching hundreds of adults over the years that they are much more insecure about how they look when they run or how fast they are than any of the kids I coach, it’s still quite interesting to me the self-doubt we all have even as grown ups. In this case it may be how “fast” or “slow” you are; in other parts of life it may be how “rich” or “poor” we are…I may be naïve, but I honestly think most people are good, overall. And that we do pull for others and hope for the best from our fellow man. I have read many comments that say something like “nice it is to read that faster runners think of slower runners in a positive light…” , and to be honest, while there are always going to be “haters” out there, the people I know who are fast don’t look down at “slower” runners…you know why? Because we know the pain and effort it takes to run one’s best. Whether your best is sub-2:30 marathon or a sub-6 hour marathon. Running “fast” is all relative and to run your fastest is always going to be hard work – and everyone can appreciate hard work not matter what your background. All the best to you!

  19. This is JUST what I needed to read. I’ve been running for a little over 1 year and my 5K PR is 27:42. My 1st 1/2 marathon was this May with a time of 2:15. I try to be happy if I’m in the top 10 for my age group and yet I still get sucked into comparing myself to other runners and wondering if I should be faster. To be honest, I rolled my eyes when I started reading this post. But once I finished the last paragraph, I had a big smile on my face. Thanks for looking at us turtles, not with pity, but with humble admiration. Not that it really matters, but I have often wondered what really fast runners think of the back-of-the-pack runners. Now I know. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I wish you many more happy miles!

    • Diane, this does come from my heart – and I hope that was apparent in the post. A few have said I was/am being patronizing to slower runners, but that wasn’t and isn’t my intention at all. I have coached hundreds of everyday people finish marathons and see what they go through and it’s really no different than what a faster runner goes through – we all have self-doubt at times, but the key is to not let it engulf us or define us. There is absolutely no patronizing when I say I would probably NEVER want to do a marathon if it took me 5-6 hours – that’s a lot of time on one’s feet and in one’s head; so, I think it’s a special and amazing person who knows he/she will be out there for that amount of time and still decides to go through with the race anyway – that is remarkable in my mind – honest and true.

  20. I really enjoyed your article as a 5 hour marathoner I sometimes loose sight of why I took up running 4 yrs ago I run for my mental health marathons give me more than any tablets ever could I have met great people fast and slow our motto is Run Long Run Strong #livelife thks again

  21. Great read I’m middle of the road in most races I do, sometimes a lonely place sometimes a crowded place, had my heart set on a Marathon but injury in training means I never made it, 23 miles then broke for months 🙂 my goal originally was to beat 50mins in a 10 km I eventually did with a 48min time, next goal was a half first one 2hr 6mins next one 1hr 48 which I was delighted with, since April this year though I just seam to struggle every run I do, old age and injuries catching up I guess I’ve a 10km race on Saturday and I no I will end up between 50-52 mins to complete, when I so crave a sub 50 min run, so much so I though about pulling out, but after reading this my chin is up and the race is on be it 48,52 or 60 mins I’m going to enjoy the finish line and the race 🙂

  22. Thank you for this! I self trained for 20 weeks in the Pacific Northwest (through rain, sleet, snow, and hail) to run a 5:46 full marathon. No one can take that away.

  23. This is right on!! I’m 40+ and not an athlete anywhere close to you but I’m an above average athlete who trains at a Crossfit gym. When I come across better athletes (which is often), I’m impressed but the feeling is fleeting. Theres nothing memorable about it. However, when I meet people who are not athletic, many struggling with weight issues, these are the people you remember. They are so inspirational. Getting up early in the morning and doing something so hard is tough for anyone but when you’re doing something that doesn’t come naturally at all its amazing to me. I respect and admire these people more than they could ever imagine.

  24. i completed Chicago in 2004 and 2005 both at over 5 hours. I have been joking with people for years “anyone can run a marathon in 2 1/2 hours, try staying out there for 5+” After giving up running for the past several years i am now training for a half in October. I can’t remember when i have felt so good running. Hoping for an 11 minute pace. i echo everything you have said and all the comments above. Doesn’t matter how fast you go, its a huge accomplishment to finish a marathon and anyone who even has the courage to attempt it should be proud.

  25. Your article brought me to tears. The longest road race I’ve done was a 5-miler and it took me almost 2 hours. However, I didn’t give up. The triathlon I did took me almost 4 hours and if it had not been for a wonderful friend who stuck with me the entire time, I don’t know if I would have finished it. I’m overweight and have a couple of injuries that make it difficult for me to run, so I walk/jog (wog) most of the races I do. I have not been consistent with training, so I know that is part of my issue. However, your thoughtful, heartfelt comments have encouraged me to keep moving forward and not give up. Thank you.

  26. This is such a great write up. Andrew and I talk about this quite a bit on our podcast (Back of Pack Endurance on iTunes and at backofpack.com). This needs to be shared with some of those Type A’s at LetsRun.com that feel we slow people don’t belong on the course. Thanks for writing this.

  27. Such a very kind post! Thank you for the encouragement :)). I am always amazed at the athleticism of others, and I wonder what I’m even doing out there. I did a Half Ironman on 8/30/15 – took me 8 hours 15 min to finish. It’s very discouraging to be the only one left on the field, and to feel like I’m keeping to volunteers there hours after everyone else has gone… I stumbled upon this post on Twitter, I suppose it was just fate. Thank you for making me feel better :)) And, CONGRATS on your fabulous racing achievements!!

  28. When you say that a 5 hour marathon runner works just as hard as a 2:30 marathon runner, you’re actually right by physics. At the same weight, it takes the same number of calories to cover a mile regardless of the pace. For a 150 lb person, they’re going to burn 2600 Calories running a marathon regardless of pace, so long as it’s a running pace. Since the human body is about 20% efficient, you’re burning 2600 Calories to perform 520 Calories worth of work (in the physics, W sense), moving a human body 26 miles using a running motion.

  29. I just finished the 40th Marine Corp Marathon. It was my 2nd marathon with my first being at 5:27. My goal was to beat that time. But at mile 21 every muscle in my legs was hurting so bad it was hard to walk let alone run. I did run every 10 minutes or so for 100 seconds and then had to stop. At mile 24 I calculated my time and what pace I would have to run to keep it under 6 hours. I then said to myself, “This is going to hurt a LOT!” I finished in 5:57.

    THANK YOU for all you stated above. While I am dis-appointed your words remind me that I have done something that very few in the world every will do. And the time I put in well paid off.

  30. I agree with you, David, 120%, if there is anything like that. I always tell myself that I am a winner by simply having the courage to stand at the starting line with elite runners. Crossing the finish line is a bonus. I also have said that the real marathoners are those who take longer than 5 hours to complete a marathon. These individuals have the determination, grits, and fortitude to move on when the elite and fast runners are long gone. The great thing about marathons is that we all cross the same finish line and for the most of us, receive the same medal. Now, that’s what endurance is all about.

  31. This headline is too true. There is little more inspiring than going back out on the course and cheering on everyone still out there. You inspire me to be more than my average, to commit to PRs. When it gets difficult training in the dark of morning at 5 AM, I think of the marathoners, the Ironmen and Ironwomen I saw running after dark of evening, figuring out how to put on glowsticks, when the cowbells are few and the course is a mess. I don’t train to be like the people faster than me. I train to be like the people braver than me, who actually committed to a goal and did it, who stuck it out when no one was watching, who signed up even though everyone doubted they could do it. “To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift.”

  32. If you want to see true grit, spectate at the finish line of a marathon when the 5, 6, and 7 hour finishers are coming in. I did that this year at the NY Marathon and will always do that going forward.

  33. i finished BOTP style in NYC this year in 6:28…. Was aiming for a speedy 5:30, but had pain from mile 5 on….my long runs are 5-6 hours! I no longer say I’m a slow runner, I say I’m a strong runner!

  34. Thanks so much for this! I have not run a marathon (yet) but finished both of my halfs over the 2:45 mark and can’t seem to break 1:15 for a 10k… I have also literally been in the bottom ten to cross the finish line in all three of my sprint tris that I have completed… But I have complete them… And for the girl who could not run a mile to save her life in high school, that (and the ability to display the cool bling) keeps me moving forward… For my first half my friend made me a shirt with “I know I’m slow and I’m ok with it” written on the back. So while, yes, it is sometimes hard to be out there and see all the many finishers backtracking past you with their medals and gear bags, the sweet taste of success keeps me going towards the finish line. It is awesome and encouraging to read your words and know that us back of the packers and not forgotten or dismissed.

  35. I am disabled; I walk, not run. With a cane. I am a 7 hour marathon. I love it. It is tough and tiring to train. Someday I would like to be sub six, but even if it never happens, I will keep on. From the back of the pack, we sometimes wish, but never envy. The only person I am competing with is myself.

    My one regret is that I will never qualify for Boston.

    • Way to go!!! Keep it up. Did you know there are charity spots in Boston? Registration fee is expensive, but the proceeds go to charity and you don’t need a qualifying time. Just an idea if you’ve been dreaming of being a part of the Boston marathon!

  36. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. I’m surrounded by running snobs who correct me when I say I’m a runner by telling me I’m a “jogger.” When I tell them I ran a marathon, they congratulate and ask my time. When I say “5:09” their smile drops and they say “oh.” Ridiculous!

    • They are running snobs, for sure! They have no idea about your journey, where your starting point was or the mental fortitude you have within you. Congrats on your 5:09!

  37. Thumbs up to you, David Allison. This makes me feel a lot better about my 3:15ish half marathon! I was also over 300 pounds at that time, so I was twice as heavy as the people who finished twice as fast as me.

  38. You can check out a book I wrote a few years ago entitled Life is a marathon: What running marathons has taught me about the Christian life. Amazon has it. In there, it is emphasized that running is not only for the swift because whether you finish in 2:04:00 or 7:00:00, you cross the finish line. You are a winner by just having the courage to get to the starting line. Cross the finish line makes you a winner.

  39. I think training advice for 5+ hour marathoners would be good too.

    Generally people say you should run ~20 miles several times before your marathon, I don’t agree if that means you are running for 4h+ to do those runs, there is just too much chance of injury and too long recovery time will be needed. Better to run shorter runs more often.

    Also reading another blog post on Athlinks it suggests 40-50mpw for marathon training, 50mpw could be 12+hours of running a week for a slower runner, that is as much as some professionals run!

  40. Anything we do is so much better than nothing! I didn’t start running until turning 50 and it is the best decision of my life. Such a positive encouraging environment by the other runners(fast and slow). Us slower runners enjoy the entire experience and aren’t disappointed if we do not make our goal time since we don’t set a goal time. Thank you for the great encouraging article!!!!!!

  41. Oh thank you that’s just made me cry. I’m fairly new to running my 3rd half marathon will be this year and my 2nd marathon this year my first being 5.24 which I’m so chuffed at. Its nice to know the faster runners do think of us ☺☺ I wish you all the best on your future running xx

  42. Great read! Often thought it must feel like more of an endurance event for us! ( my PB 5 hrs and 17 mins)

    Thanks for acknowledging and respecting us slower crowd!

  43. Thanks. But the 14 hour IM think is a bit of a backhanded insult. I raced Wisconsin, and I freely admit that I was back of the pack and happy just to finish. But, look at the stats.

    IM Wisconsin (numbers are approximate)
    -Sub 17 hour finishers: 2400
    -Sub 16 hour finishers: 2150
    -Sub 15 hour finishers: 1850
    -Sub 14 hour finishers: 1400

    So, you are taking pity on 40% of Ironman finishers for finishing despite being slow. Seriously? Sub 14 hour Ironman is like a sub 4 hour marathon…pretty decent, and middle of the pack.

    My recent marathons have been over 5 hours. My one and only IM was 15:42. Yes, I am back of the pack, and I appreciate the intent of this article. But you are calling a large number of pretty fast IM finishers slowpokes. The party are an Ironman is the final hour at the finish line…

    • Raymond:

      While I definitely appreciate your sentiments and critique of the article, I’m not quite sure where it’s taking pity on finishers who are taking 14+ hours or 5+ hours to finish their respective races.

      Doing some quick research, here are some average times from a few Ironman events (From runtri.com):

      • Ironman Arizona: 12:57 – From 2009 – 2011
      • Ironman Canada: 13:09 – 2012
      • Ironman Louisville: 13:11 – 2011
      • Ironman Texas: 13:18 – 2012

      And the average marathon time based on data from runtri.com is 4:24.

      And knowing these times, the article here intentionally discussed 5+ hour marathoners and 14+ hour Ironman finishers, because these times are below the average finishing marks in their running and triathlon events. There is no pity taken upon athletes who race these times, but rather the article’s intention was to perhaps give a little bit of recognition for all of the hard work and dedication athletes with these times put into these sports as well.

      “The mental fortitude and physical demands you must undertake for multi-hour runs, rides and swims is truly amazing – inspiring, I would even argue. “ – Where is the pity in this?

      “Just because I can run a sub-2:30 marathon doesn’t mean I work any harder than the individual who runs the sub-4 hour marathon, it just means I’m faster.” – Not quite sure why saying persons of all paces are working hard is an insult either.

      Overall, the point of this post is to shed some light on back-of-pack endurance athletes for their amazing efforts and courage as they go through all of their training, doubt and heartache, even when there is usually no to little fanfare for their remarkable achievements.

      If you read down the comments you will find many have felt this was a positive article for them and by no means trying to belittle or take pity on them.

      But I love civil discourse and appreciate your remarks.

      All the best.

  44. Thank you for this article. I am a very novice runner and finished a 5K today in just over 46 minutes ( and one of the last 10 to finish). I made it a point to stay and cheer on the last few runners which included a 91 year old man. I didn’t have a great time but I did finish and may do another race next week

  45. Just shared this wonderful article. I tried my first IM (TX) three years ago at the age of 27 and missed the final mile 17 run checkpoint by less than 10 minutes. I was devastated and felt that I had let my friends and family down. I regrouped and tried again the next year and finished in 16:12. It was the highest high I’ve felt since college baseball, but I’ve always been somewhat ashamed of sharing my time. Recently I’ve been helping a friend with IM swim training (my favorite) and have been on the fence since my bike and run times are soooo slow. You’ve certainly provided a different and positive attitude for those of us whom are competitive, yet are only able to compete for our own personal goals 🙂

  46. People can bring us something or they can teach us something – even if what they brought was packaged in pain and confusion, ultimately th;#ey8217&ll leave some sort of lesson which will better us for the future

  47. I just finished my first Ironman. IMCDA in 14:36. I am proud of that time. For me, it’s not about being the fastest. I am 51, and have to balance life and exercise. My goad was to finish around 14 hours. I have many friends who finished the same race under 10 hour hoping for a podium spot or Kona qualifier and others in the 11 to 12 hour mark. As individuals, we are all out their for our own reasons, we all earned something, personally. We all had goals, we all met them or didn’t. In the end, we all went from 0 – 140.6 and had our ups and downs. Some of us moved faster, some were slow and steady. We all worked hard. That’s what I love about triathlons and the individuality of each discipline.

  48. Excellent article. I remember before my first marathon hearing a similar point from an elite runner speaking at the Expo. Somebody asked him about the hard work and he said that while he knew he worked hard he really thought that those of us who were out there pounding the pavement for 5 hours and maybe more were working just as hard and definitely longer. It was a good point then too.

  49. This just completely made my day! I have run Marathons on a whim & I have run marathons after months of training, only to have the exact same time down to the second. I have had to accept that I am just a slow and steady type of runner and get over the fact that I will never make it to the podium. Thanks for the affirmation at a time in my training when I desperately needed it!

  50. One thing I love about runners: the mutual respect for the hard work it takes to finish a race – no matter the time. Thank you for appreciating that I gave it my all to run my 5:20 marathon… even if there was no more powerade, chocolate milk, or spectators to be found at the finish.

  51. This is a great article and what I realized is that the time spent training is probably double for the slower athletes. That means they are giving up time with family, as well as time spent doing things they might prefer. It takes a lot to train for these huge races such as a marathon or IM. Last weekend I went for a run with a guy from my running group and it took us nearly 2:45 to get in 10 miles. There was a lot of walking and I still had 6 on my own. I totally understand the difficulty of training for the slower athlete and I am no spring chicken nor fast. But I did qualify for Boston as a 60 year old and hope to again. Not starting running until age 57 gave me a slow start, but I love the sport and support anyone who wants to join the fun. I hope to be the 95 year old out there still running marathons!

  52. Thank you for this post! I am far from the typical runner. I had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery ten hears ago. I lost 90 pounds. I am 62. I began cycling regularly. Five years ago I began running. I am a slow poor runner. I run for myself and my self-esteem. I may be slow and be near the back of the pack, but I am there. Lat is what counts to me.

  53. David, thank you for this article. I have struggled for years to pick up speed and even at the height of my game back in 2009 I was still a 5:21 marathoner (and I was elated). I remember chatting with a 3hr marathoner on the way to the starting line once and I had said to him, “I don’t know how you run that fast!” and his reply was, “I don’t know how you run that long!” Respect – both sides of the aisle. But as my 7th marathon approaches I’m going to read and re-read this article to keep my motivation up when those times get tough and I feel like I’m slugging through on those rough days. Thank you. Congrats on all your times and I wish you the best in the future as well.

  54. What a great feeling I got from reading this article! I lost about 40lbs and after a couple years of running various races (5K-Half, Triathlons), I decided to take on a Full Marathon. I trained hard! I crossed the finish line in 5:55:51. I crossed the finish line! I am a marathoner! I will never be the quickest….not even close, but it’s MY race to run.

  55. This article is still providing inspiration – over a year after it’s been written. I’m about a 12-minute miler; longest official race I’ve run is the Army 10-miler in Washington, DC. My brother has recently started doing triathlons (and is doing a wonderful job) and convinced me to look into duathlons since I don’t swim (yet – lol). I found myself today calculating how long it will take to finish, yadda, yadda – and this encouraged me to just finish! I am putting in the training and I’ll do the very best I can. Thanks much!!

  56. I’m usually between third last and last at ultra marathons but the Scottish ultra community has a very good habit of giving the final runners a pretty big fanfare and I guess because even the fast runners do things like time-specific races on laps etc they do have a real idea of what it feels like to be out for 12, 24, 35 hours….

  57. This is a really good article and has made me feel alot better about my running so thank you. I started running in October originally to encourage my son to get off the xbox and to get more active. His argument was that he would be too slow and his peers would laugh at him. He isn’t slow at all just doesn’t have a great deal of confidence so I said I would run with him. Since then we have done some 5ks and 10ks together and I have done my first half marathon. He has since joined the rugby and football teams at school and I have signed up for my first marathon. I’m really nervous and know that I will be near the end but this has made me feel a lot better about it. Plus my son and daughter are going to be near the finish to cheer me on. And in my little girls words you are winning even if you come last because you get a medal or a prize and only winners get that! ( she is 5).

  58. A nice article. I used to be proud of my accomplishments and only recently began to doubt myself after I was dropped from a relay team because I wasn’t fast enough (had to run a sub 10 minute pace). Not knowing if it was only the captain who wanted to drop me or if others on the team thought the same thing, I have started to wonder how many people think of me as being so “slow”. It’s been very difficult to continue running. A friend sent me a link to this article … I’m sure to try to boost my spirits. It is enlightening to know that not everybody looks down on you just because you can’t be as fast.

  59. Thank you! I’m running my first marathon this weekend with a guide as I’m registered blind. We’re looking at 6:30 hours and I feel hugely daunted so reading this was really encouraging.

  60. This. This article made my day. Thank you for telling it like it is and to encourage others to continue their journey regardless of their ability.

  61. Thanks. Yes, it’s hard. I enjoy half marathons and Olympic distance triathlons because they only take 2-3 hours. I don’t do many full marathons and have never done an IM, not because I can’t, but because I don’t have the time. If I were faster I would do more marathons and give an IM a try.

  62. Tear to my eyes, I love ur perspective, and the fact that u as a fast athlete understand and see the whole picture. Thank U so much for sharing your views, it means the world to us slower ones.

  63. As an older Age Group Ironman competitor that will never finish in the top tier of my AG. I have never ran a marathon without doing 112 miles before it but I wouldn’t have it any other way either! Thank you for this article as it has made my day!

  64. A few years ago I finished a 3:30 marathon, passing a large woman just before the finish line and she was in tears. As I stopped it dawned on me she was completing a 1/2 marathon as I was finishing the full. As the article says I was inspired by this woman and found myself in tears for her and cheering her in. Her accomplishment was much greater than mine and I was very impressed. Keep on running!

  65. Thanks for your inspiring words. I am a walker first and just started running in the past 2 weeks. I walked a full marathon, it took me 8 and a half hours. I was second to last to finish and had such a great sense of accomplishment. Towards the last 5 or 6 miles I was my own cheering section and had private conversation with others all within my own mind. Every time I passed a person on the trail we had a conversation that went like this <" Great job keep up the walking you are doing a great job." "Thanks".

  66. I once heard Bill Rodgers express much the same sentiments. Many thanks to you both. And as Walt Stack used to say, “It’s us guys in the back that make you guys in the front look good!”

  67. Just found this inspiring and motivational article, I love it…thank YOU!
    I just shared it with my inner circle. I’ve completed 5 marathons. I had to power walk my last one due to and injury…and I’ll be walking this Sunday in the Erie Marathon. My goal is to finish before the course closes.

  68. Overwhelmed with gratitude for this article; I bookmarked and printed it so I can re-read before my next marathon in Savannah next month. Also shared it on my Twitter account. I’ve completed four marathons, all under six hours. None were easy, but I feel stronger each time; I am encouraged to keep moving forward.

  69. Thank you for writing this. It’s very true – no matter the speed – everyone had to put the work in to do it.

    My one and so far only marathon took me 7 hours and 50 minutes. Was on pace for a 6:30 finish through the first 13 miles and then hit the wall. Everything went wrong. But no matter what was thrown at me (not literally of course) I kept at it and still crossed that finish line. I spent hours on the course with few, if any, supporters around. Many water stops had closed up with just cups of water left for those of us “still out there”. It was a long, long day and I thankfully had an amazing friend out there along with way, supporting me, pushing me.

    No matter how fast or slow you go – it’s still 26.2 freaking miles. Which is a long way to go, especially by foot. Congrats to anyone who has done a Marathon, or even attempted one. It’s no easy feat. And I repeat – just don’t give up and you will be a winner right there!!!

  70. No fanfare, no awards, and MANY times not much nutrition. For example, at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, most runners got a bag of nutrition items when they finished. I got a bottle of water, a much-loved banana, and foamy beer, which was wonderful because many times the beer is long gone when you are a slower runner. I found it ironic that the marathon people knew exactly how many runners were in the race yet they ran out of the bags. Also, I was not alone at the back of the pack; I passed 308 walkers in the last six miles, and I know there were hundreds more heading in behind them. It’s not like we’re a small number; treat us just with a little respect and we’ll shell out $200 to do it again! One more thing: even though hundreds of us were on the course, most of the water stations/nutrition stations were closed in the last six miles. If you are passing your fifth or sixth hour of running, you are among the very people who need the water and fuel still coming. Luckily, some runners who finished the marathon earlier, set up their own renegade fuel/water station for us by pooling their leftover gels and Gu’s, and encouraged our efforts to finish as strong as humanly possible. Thank you for your article!

  71. Thanks for this! I have run several marathons – all over 6 hours. I did Phoenix first and had to go to ER afterwards and I warned the doctor not to lose my medal because I worked so hard to earn it!! When I told him it took me 6:23 to finish – he didn’t laugh. He seemed impressed. He said he couldn’t believe the mental stamina it would take to run that long!

  72. thank you for this!!
    After my car accident, i lost a lot of “time” on my mile when i could finally start running again! I was a 9.5/10 min miler, now I’m a 11.5/12 min miler…. the acknowledgement of all the hard work is very much appreciated!

  73. Thank you for writing this. My theory is as long as I’m enjoying it time is irrelevant. I’ve completed 4 marathons all over 5 hours but we all get the same medal at the end

  74. Very well written! You’ve taken the words right out of my mouth, and likely many other mouths. Although I do not consider myself close to being fast – running a 5K at 50 in under 19 minutes has many friends thinking otherwise. And yet every time I see a friend or another runner finishing similar or longer distances in a time that leaves me in awe of their level of physical and mental discipline…well I’m simply amazed and inspired. My hat is off to all those athletes that push themselves to such extremes.

  75. I ran in junior high. As the only girl running the mile and the two mile, coaches worked with the guys and I was on my own. I finished the two mile as the winner because the state champion was so late to arrive, she still lapped me. My time was posted in our school and I knew that as soon as someone tried, my timing would be beaten easily.

    I played other sports, all along dealing with asthma, then began a difficult time period, a decade, with pregnancies that gave me gestational diabetes and tachycardia, and then severe endometriosis that included weight gain and joint pain.

    After understanding that my new medication would add to my weight and that getting rid as much of the adipose fat around my mid-section would help, I began the painful path of walking and returning to “running.” Downloaded C25K and 10K apps to help me train. A friend asked me to join her for the Run4Hunger and she had to walk a good portion of it with me as my leg would go to sleep and hurt in the hip simultaneously. She never acts like I’m holding her back.
    I kept it up, watched videos that helped me get my joints back into place and I increased my distance, but not my time. I’ve tripped once, dislocating my jaw and hurting my knee, then a year later tore a calf muscle and paid for 14 weeks of physical therapy, then a year after that slipped at the grocery store and cut another hole into the same knee.

    I run now at 48, just a bit faster than I did at 13. I can forget I’m trying to get my body over the menopause hump so I can get off the hormone medication and be done with the physical pain and trouble of endometriosis. I forget that I’ve done most of the work alone. I forget that because of training I eat a fairly healthy diet with all of my restrictions. And I often lose the fact that if I never get faster I have accomplished finishing 5 5K races. It gets more and more difficult to keep going when my medication wins the weight battles (I lost 43.5 lbs, was 1.5 lbs. from my goal only to gain nearly all of it back during the injuries). I still have really bad days when I ache so much I stay under the covers and don’t even try my new treadmill.

    Back-of-the-Pack can be so torturous that we need to be reminded of our individual accomplishments: no medals, no treat bags, no great distances, not even family at the event. We need to hug ourselves, encourage each other, and be pleased with our times because of the work we put in.

    Keep posting articles like this that help me climb out of bed one more day, tie on my shoes, and get moving. My marathon is running over the menopause finish line. I would be honored to consider these here as my training crew and those cheering for me during my last few miles.

  76. Thank you for this, still inspiring. I have run 6:01 and 5:52 marathons. I missed my one this year through a cold and had trained hard for it – so I honoured my training and did a DIY marathon round local streets with another marathoner friend, several running club friends incl one lady who had run the mara we were mean to run the previous weekend in 4:10. She told me she had new respect and awe for those who ran slower, which was lovely. And we still had fun.

    I also suspect I have encouraged more people to start running and start running long as I am more relatable than a whippet who can do a 3 hour marathon. If I can do it, anyone can – but I still take my training very seriously.

    Thank you for putting this out there, it’s very much appreciated.

  77. Thank You for this I am about do my first marathon on Sunday and hoping for a sub 6 hours and the stress of a 6.5 hour cut off is not helping my nerves, coming from a family of runners that are fast, I get lots of negative comments on my speed, even though I am going as fast as my little legs will let me!

  78. Great article. I’m doing my Uni Dissertation on this! I’ve done two Ironman under 13hrs and 70.3’s under 6 but the strength it takes to complete before cut off is immense for all of us with so many pressures physiologically, psychologically and socialogically should never be underestimated. May I add extra for women also as they have the same cut off times!

  79. Thank you. I just ran the Ultra Trail Australia 100km trail race in 22 hrs and 30mins. I was (am) disappointed with my time, but I finished. I crossed the line at 5.30am in the dark, with a -3oC wind chill to a handful of spectators and my freezing husband.

  80. I was so excited when I finished my first Marathon just last month (Providence, RI). I just started running at age 57 two years ago and slowly progressed from doing 5K’s for fun with my daughters and friends. I was so anxious in the days leading up to it… did I train enough, did I eat right, can I even finish?!!? In the end it was the perfect day, overcast and about 63 degrees. Once I hit the halfway marker I actually began to believe I’d make it! When I finally saw my husband at about mile 26, beaming, I knew I’d done it and could be proud because he was! It took me 5 hours and 11 minutes and I couldn’t be happier. Your article explained it all so well and I appreciate your encouragement!

  81. Thank you David Allison for your kind words, I never thought someone like you a professional runners ever say this, im a slow runner I can only run 6 min per km or 5 + hours marathon, thank you for understanding and you engorgement I’m truly think positive, im a Islander who loves running a Marathon. .fa’afetai lava.

  82. Great article. I have last weekend completed a marathon 5.03 hours. Number 12. So proud of myself, ran all the way, no walking. Just a weekend warrior who loves clocking the kms and pushing the body.

  83. I’m a former heavy guy who lost the weight and the clawed my way painfully from the back of the pack to somewhere in the middle. I learned to swim and ride a couple years ago and have not first Ironman this year. I have nothing but love for everyone ahead of and behind me.

    Turning my then 300lb 37 year old self into an athlete is the hardest thing I’d ever done, but the support of the running community for us outliers was absolutely necessary and always present when I needed it. Stay the course everyone!

    Totally worth it!

  84. David, you are a Godsend.

    I recently ran my first marathon in 5:48 and was not confident to share my time with anyone – even my friends who are not runners. When I read this post, I just smiled with little bit of tears in my eyes. When I ran/walk my marathon – never once I was tired physically or mentally, I realize this only now. Sometimes there are positives which we tend to ignore which can help to gain impetus for the next one. I am only taking positives from my marathon – jogged 20kms continiusly, drank at every waterstation while running, sprinted the last 400 meters..maybe there were many more of these small moments 🙂

    Thank you for making my day. May God bless you!!!

  85. Thank you. I was 58 when I just Forrest Gumped it, out of the blue. It took me 5:45 and I felt that wasd horrible but I read excited I finished. Your words are so kind.

  86. Thank you, David—and congratulation on your accomplishments! I must admit that, although I rarely voice it, I do feel disappointed with myself when at 67 years of age I see my times deteriorating and I can barely keep up a 13 minute per mile pace in any distance race. Reciting to myself “You were not always this slow” and joking that I am changing my name on race applications to “Slow-vatch” does not offer much solace. It seems easy to throw in the towel when your maximum running pace is slower than spectators who are walking their dogs!
    We know that cardiologist, author (“Running and Being,” “Going the Distance”), running guru George Sheehan would have had none of this self-pity—still running and writing when he was dying from prostate cancer. ” Running is a blood sport,” he wrote; it transcends items like PRs, medals, and the quintessential running footwear. We are in a spiritual realm here that we appreciate much more as we grow older, run slower, and get closer to our personal finish line.

  87. To the editor—I submitted a fairly long comment to the wonderful article about 2 weeks ago but nothing has been posted—was it too late for posting?—if possible, I will try to send it again. Tony “Slow-vatch”

      • Thank you so much for posting—was excited to see! I am a pediatrician and write a column for our netwok blog called “Mind on the Run.” Some of my blogs report on children’s races and some are philosophical editorials like George Sheehan wrote. Can I submit an article to Athlinks for your review? Tony Kovatch

  88. Thank you thank you thank you. I ran my first ( and I thought my last) marathon the day before my 40th birthday 7 years ago. Coming in at 5:17, I felt wrecked and defeated and swore I would never do it again. I received off handed comments about my finishing time and questions on why it took me SO long. Well 3 weeks ago I ran Avenue of The Giants with my husband because he wanted to run a marathon before he turned 50. We were on pace to finish under 4:30 but HE hit the wall at 18 and i vowed to stay with him and we finished at 4:51. Now I had an “itch”. Can I really do this again? Can I actually do better? Well David you just made my mind up for me. THANK YOU


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

Observations of a Trail Running Rookie

By: Andrea Lee Negroni Last year, I resolved to make 2023 a year of “yes”...

Meet Curt Maggit, NOBULL Athlete

Curt Maggit finished his professional football career with seven major surgeries, including two ACL and a hip fracture.  Fast forward to today, the...

Scott Stallings’ Top Training Essentials

As more professional golfers begin to publicly promote their dedication to off-course training and preparation, Scott Stallings, a NOBULL athlete, has discussed...

Staying in the Game: Why You Need a Primary Care Sports Medicine Doctor

You smashed your big toe during a game of kickball, and it really hurts. Or maybe you have a case of what...

How Athletico Helps Treat Your Pain

The best way to treat your pain is to start where you normally finish - with physical therapy. Athletico’s...