Thursday, November 14, 2013

When Will Marathons Come in Bite-Size Portions?

Another in my continuing series of race-improvement ideas.  See here for the previous installment.

The kids were off at school and I was rifling through my daughter’s Halloween candy bag, as I normally do, when another epiphany (ed: that’s not the giant drums, right?) came to me by the reflective glow of a Peppermint Patty foil.  My fingers slowly raked through the tumbling bite-size candy portions like an Asian masseuse through unkempt pubes.  So many “bite-size” portions…so evenly divided to save my teeth the trouble of separating a piece from the main body of candy…offering both a fun and healthier alternative to the “full-size” bar.

My maths aren’t no good but I believe it means:

Bite-size = Fun! = Healthier = BETTER

And here’s where the timpani comes in: Marathons should be offered in bite-size portions!

Let me explain since you come here for sciencey stuff.  Each bite-size Snickers is advertised as more FUN than a regular size Snickers.  It’s also marketed as healthier since, of course, portion control.  And since I would rather die than question an expensive marketing campaign geared towards misdirection and positive trigger words, bite-size is truly infallible compared to full-size.  (By the way, YES you may insert a “that’s what she said” at any point in this paragraph or the remaining text, reader choice, and it would be completely appropriate.) 

For example, without going over the maths, I believe one full-size Snickers equals roughly 29 bite-size Snickers calorie-wise, fat-wise.  Who’s going to eat 29 bite-size Snickers in one sitting?  Sure, throughout the day it wouldn’t be unusual to pound down four or five dozen but in one sitting?  Ridiculous.  And each and every portion involves a fairly rigorous and complicated set of finger maneuvers to open the little package in order to extract the chocolate shame pie.  You probably burn as many calories as you ingest simply by walking by the candy bowl, debating with yourself if you should have another, passing on after a mournful pat of the belly, and returning a minute later only to shift through the candy orgy in search of a prize, unwrap, chew, chew, chew, swallow.  That’s a lot of work and a lot of calories burned!  It almost makes more health sense to DO this several times a day than NOT to do it.  At the very least, it makes more sense than eating ONE regular size candy bar in one sitting.  No fat-burning candy bowl drive-bys.  No mentally exhausting debates filled with lust, anger, shame and, finally, sadness. Is this an approved diet plan/fitness technique?  It should be on an infomercial somewhere.  (PsnickersX?!)

So, how does this relate to marathons?  Well, let’s face it, running 26.2 miles is hard.  That’s a regular-size marathon.  If we learned anything from my maths and sciencish discussion in the preceding paragraphs, it’s that regular-size is bad and bite-size is good.  And this would be a good time to insert a 'that’s what she said'.  The math adds up.  You can basically eat as much as you want in bite-size portions without the harmful effects of a full-size portion. 

When I run a marathon, I usually start out strong, controlled, and confident but somewhere around 20 miles in my pace slows a bit, breathing becomes labored and, mentally, it can be a struggle.  I exhibit none of those signs after completing my third dozen of bite-size Snickers.  I’m just as ravenous, confident, and energetic as the preceding 35!  In an all-out effort, I can probably run a mile in around 5:10 (if I haven’t had three dozen bite-size Snickers that morning).  That would put me near the front of any marathon if not outright winning it.  But that’s only for a mile.  I couldn’t keep that pace for any more than one mile.  There’s something about a "regular-size" marathon that zaps my energy.

I’d like to split my marathon into 26 fun-size bites.  Over a few weeks, I could put together a pretty respectable marathon time.  One that just might have certain long-legged Kenyans quivering in their unflattering side-split running shorts.  Suddenly, in bite-size portions, I ‘m not just one of the (admittedly rugged-jawed, genetically “put together”) rabble trailing the leaders;  I’m a bite-size champion! (t.w.s.s.)

And that’s maths we can all get behind!  Race directors, take note!

Happy trails.


Jamoosh said...


This has already been done at multiple levels. Several marathons feature "Kids Marathons" where prior to the race kids run 25 miles (1 mile at a time - bite size if you will) and then run the final 1.2 and get a "marathon" medal. A couple races (SFO, I think is one) have a deal where you log 13.1 miles and then come do the last half of the marathon.

I think I may have just rained on your parade. But hey, there's another Fun Size Snickers waiting for you!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm..might want to double-check that math. Kenyans who run full-size marathons at an average pace faster than your mile time probably won't feel terribly threatened.

Jill said...

The Kenyans will probably laugh at your 2:15 marathon (pieced together or not).

Running Through Phoenix said...

"The Marathon is just a victory lap", the true race happens in the training. How many Kenyans and certainly how many children train like we do? I have three plastic pumpkins to rotate through, a steely-eyed spouse to hide my "training" from, and a highly competitive regular sized labrador retriever to compete with, often quite physically (she did not say that). No, we are true marathoners. Child runners and steroid enhanced mega-millionaire Kenyans indeed!