Numbers Are All Over Endurance Sports But What Do They Mean?

[caption id="attachment_9454" align="alignright" width="225"]numbers - endurance sports - meaning Is this a number that has meaning?[/caption] Numbers are a large part of endurance sports as well as my professional life.  I spend day in and day out dealing with numbers.  In the morning I am running and maintaining a heart rate within a specific numbers range.  When I enter the office I become a professor of marketing and calculate spending, return on investment, share of voice and a whole host of numbers that convey a meaning to my clients and myself.  This past week all of these numbers, specifically endurance sports numbers, were thrown at me and made me tilt my head to think the way that my pug, Ginga, does. The numbers that were thrown my way were 9 and 10.  In two separate conversations the following took place:
  • You broke 9 hours at your first 50 mile race.  Do you feel like a badass?
  • Hey man, congrats on breaking 10 hours on your first 50.  Impressive.
The two statements gave me pause.  Maybe for the first time in my life I didn't puff out my chest and say:  Why yes, I am a badass!!!  I thought to myself and then asked why is 9 hours a holy grail?  I do not consider myself a badass because the guys that went past me at miles 45 through 48 and finished 20 minutes ahead of me are badass.  The guy that was cascading down the hills like a jungle cat…..he is badass!  Me, I'm just a dude running his first ultra trying to figure out how this all fits into my life. When the second statement came I was truly thrown for a loop.  The person giving me the congratulations on the pre-10 hour finish is somebody I look up to in endurance sports.  A person who has qualified for both Kona and Boston.  Has run with donkey's in Mexico.  Crewed for friends and Leadville 100.  The kind of endurance athlete I want to be when I grow up, yet his numbers made me think why 10 hours?  Why did he not say 11 or 12?  Why was this his mystical number? [caption id="attachment_9455" align="alignright" width="300"]numbers - endurance sports - meaning Source: RunTri Even the median is nowhere near 12 hours.[/caption] I am going to go back to Ironman for a moment to talk about numbers in that sport as well.  I finished my first Ironman race in just under 12 hours and the pats on the back were accompanied by the words:  great job getting in under 12 hours.  I thanked them and thought that it was a great accomplishment.  I then did it again at Ironman Arizona and fell short of that line in the sand at Ironman Texas 2013 yet that is the race I am most proud of.  At IMTX in 2013 I battled panic attacks in the water and finished that portion is 1:48 which is extremely slow in comparison to the 1:30 I did previously.  The heat took over and with temps in the 100+ range I managed to run the 15th fastest marathon of the M40-44 Age Group yet my overall time was 12:03:58.  Running as fast a marathon as I did held more importance than the overall time of 12:04 but I ask why?  Is it because I did not break 12 hours and then again, why is 12 hours the fictional hour mark that sets people apart? I started to research average times for 50 mile ultra trail marathons and stopped almost as quick as I started because the numbers I see in another race mean nothing in comparison to the race held on February 8, 2014.  Only that day can be compared to itself.  On that day I ran 8:53:52 and finished tied for 44th with Jeff out of a total of 322 that started and 288 that finished (89% finish rate) but there were well over 400 that registered so nearly 100 did not start the race.  Where do you define the numbers?  44 out of 322 or 44 out of 288?  Besides that what makes the 9 hours the line of demarcation? Being recognized for achievements, big or small, matters to me especially when the two quotes above are from your wife and a good friend.  That being said I want those numbers to mean something.  Can they mean something to more than just me?  Is there a way to universally define what is a defining time for endurance events?  Can we grade the courses on the days that they are races so that we level the playing field and allow the numbers to mean something?  Or is it because they cannot be compared and conversation and debate can ensue allow those numbers to continue to be applied at the presenters discretion?

Why Do You Think The Numbers 9/10 or 12 Mean Anything?

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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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