The 6+ Hour Marathoner

This post is in response to Patrick over at who recently wrote his opinion on over 6-hour marathoners. I recommend reading his post, as well as watching his short video message to get the complete story. In a nutshell, Patrick doesn’t believe that anyone should be running a marathon if you can’t finish within six hours.

Let me say, that he is very respectful about his thoughts on why he believes this cut-off should be in place for the 26.2 distance. He seems supportive to the slower runners. That said, I disagree with him. As a five-time marathoner who has not run 26.2 miles in under 6 hours, I feel that by not allowing at least 7 hours isn’t giving a good deal of us back-of-the-packers a real chance. A 7 hour marathon would be an average pace of 16 minute miles, which seems like a fair cut-off point. Most races utilize that 16 minute mile as the minimum pace that you must keep to finish the race before a given course reopens to traffic and such.

6+ hour marathoner - love John Bingham

While I understand the argument made by Patrick on the resources given to that “extra hour” after the clock hits 6 hours, it isn’t feasible for a lot of us even well-trained and fit runners to run that fast. While I would love to be faster (who wouldn’t?), I know I work hard to achieve the things I have done. I have come from a former overweight, unfit chick to a healthy weight chick who has run five marathons, twenty half marathons and who knows how many 5k, 10k and other distance races. I never thought I could run a mile, let alone 26.2 miles. Running is something I work hard at, but I’m just not fast. Some of us aren’t created to be speedsters (let alone Kenyons).

Marathons aren't just for the fast runners. Giving the slower runners the time. #running #marathon Click To Tweet

Addressing the cost of resources factor for say an extra 60 minutes of police officers directing traffic, medical support, and what have you, I don’t see that as a huge issue. In fact, I think the extra say 100 runners you may have that finish in that 6-7 hour window, their registrations more than take care of it. While you can’t really calculate the affect these runners have on future registrations and positive social media impact (although, you probably could come to an estimate) because of their race experience, I think it’s likely quite high. Social circles for runners truly can make a difference for a race. I know my training group as well as my many online running communities are constantly talking about whether to run this race or that race…if a race has this or that. Sure, faster runners can and probably also do this, but I believe the slower runners have a higher impact in the end. We notice a lot more factors in a race.

Bugs Bunny & Cecil Turtle

What I do agree with Patrick on is the “Couch to Marathon” idea. He believes it’s a bad idea, and I concur. Sure, someone COULD jump off the couch and start training for a marathon tomorrow, but why? The progression from say couch to 5k, to 10k, then half marathon just makes sense. We didn’t just start Kindergarten as kids and then skip to high school. It’s a ladder you climb. Not to mention that most marathon training programs recommend that you already can run six miles at the least and are already running pretty regularly. It makes the most sense to properly train yourself physically (and mentally) for up to 13.1 miles then take on the marathon. It’s quite a beast already, I’m reminded of how tough it is each time I am training for 26.2.

That’s my $.02 on slower marathon runners who are over that 6 hour finish time. What are your thoughts? Are you with Patrick on the 6-hour cut-off? Or, are you like me, all for up to 7 hours for marathoners to finish?


The 6+ Hour Marathoner — 9 Comments

  1. You are amazing for all the things you have accomplished. I don’t particularly stand on either side of the fence because I’ve never run a marathon. I know races are expensive, and if it’s coming down to cost issues, I don’t see why the races wouldn’t be able to support the help for an additional 60 minutes.

  2. I’m all for anyone who wants to give it a shot to get out there and get moving. As long as training is smart and safe they should be given an opportunity to work towards their race finish. I guess the cut-off time can be a challenge at certain races due to city regs and/or race volunteers?

  3. I will say that every race I’ve ever run has been very clear at what time they will close their courses. If you know you won’t be able to finish at the 5 hr (or 6 or 7 hr) cut off, choose another race. From what I understand some race series are more able to accommodate walkers than others. A lot of cut off times stem from city regulations for closing streets or insurance purposes – not just because they don’t want people participating. An example of insurance purposes is the Knoxville Track Club. They don’t allow headphones in their races due to insurance regulations and the fact that they can’t close streets in their races. Since the course is open to traffic, you agree to not wear headphones and you will be disqualified for doing so. Every single race there are always a few wearing them who don’t get their medal and they’re upset, despite being told over and over again they can’t. I see the race cut off time as the same type of thing. I have no problem with slower runners or walkers – just choose the course that will accommodate the longer times 🙂

  4. I’ve done over a dozen full marathons & more than 50 half marathons at or about the 4 hour & 2 hour marks respectively. That said, I admire the folks who can be out there on the course for 5, 6, or 7 hours! I was listening to an elite runner at an awards ceremony after a marathon one time, and she said “the real winners are the ones who are still coming in….to be out there so long….I don’t know if I could do that”. And I totally agree. I mean, here’s an elite saying she couldn’t run or walk for 6 + hours. And I’m with her! It takes a lot of grit, and if someone is willing to do that, then I say we support them!

  5. Yeah, that is true. I’m all for a cut-off time depending upon what the RD needs to do for their race depending upon the area, etc. But, saying that anyone who can’t run 26.2 in under 6 hours shouldn’t run a marathon is where I disagree. Each race should make their own decisions, which they presently do.

  6. Exactly, every race makes their cut-off time clear. I know I pay attention to the cut-of times when I sign up for a marathon since I know I’m slower. Pretty easy to do, you just have to choose a race with a 7hr time limit. 🙂

  7. Agreed, being out there longer is hard! I mean, I train for it, but it’s reality. I usually get great support from the faster runners when they are out there running or done. Most appreciate that we are out there longer than they are. Running should be about supporting one another. Sure, there are those that race for awards, but the majority of us are more social runners out there to push ourselves and just do the distance.

  8. The main reason I haven’t done a marathon is that yes, I believe it would take me at least 6 hours, possibly longer, and I simply don’t want to run that long.

    But many people do, and I agree with you, we have a vast impact on social media.

    I also agree that it’s a bad, bad idea to run a marathon within your first year of running. Too many would-be runners are injured that way.

    I also think that while it could take a runner more than 6 hours to complete their *first* marathon, there are often chances that they will learn a lot and go on to be faster marathoners.

    I think you have to be a slow runner to truly understand!

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