Weather Forecast


The half-marathon solution

The year was 499 B.C. To make a long story short, the Persians were determined to punish the Greeks for coming to the aid of the Greek city of Ionia, which revolted against the control of Persia. A critical battle was fought on the Plain of Marathon where the Greeks, with superior weapons and bodily strength, drove the Persians back to their ships with a loss of 6,400 men, while the Greeks lost only 192. But it was feared that the Persians might then attack Athens, 26 miles away, and that Athens may surrender without knowing of the victory at Marathon. So the Greek general, Miltiades, sent a runner, Pheidippides, to Athens to report on the victory at Marathon. Pheidippides ran the 26 miles to Athens, gasped and said, "Rejoice, we conquer," then fell to the ground dead. His time from Marathon to Athens was not recorded.

From that day forward, long distance races have been called "Marathons." Rightfully, they should have been called "Pheidippides Runs," but it's too late now. Between the Plain of Marathon and Athens is Mount Penteli, and it was assumed that Pheidippides had to run around the mountain and his route was 26.2 miles, so the distance of the modern marathon races, first run at the Olympic Games in Greece in 1896, is 26.2 miles. The oldest and most famous American marathon is the Boston Marathon, first run in 1897.

Thousands of runners run marathons every year, including many in Fargo, Duluth and the Twin Cities. Some are hard core, heavy trainers who return annually for the grueling event. Others have discovered "the wall" that nearly stops them in their tracks between 18 and 22 miles, and they prefer the comfort of a shorter run next time out. For those runners, the half-marathon (13.1 miles) was invented. For some, the half-marathon is serious training for serious marathoners, but most have no desire to run farther.

When you think about the half-marathon for a while, you realize the concept makes sense well beyond the running of road races. For example, there are restaurants that serve meals bigger than one person can comfortably eat. They don't mind throwing away the leftovers because they've charged plenty for the meal. The half-marathon approach is for two people to order one such meal and to split it. Most places understand their huge meals may need to be divided, and have the grace to not charge extra for the privilege. It makes good sense to split the meal and good sense not to penalize the good sense.

At one time, shredded wheat breakfast food came in only one size -- huge biscuits the size of your fist. The only way to eat the stuff was to shred those biscuits into little pieces. Then some genius stumbled over the idea of making shredded wheat bite size -- tiny biscuits. That's what I'm talking about -- making things bite size.

I have seen northern pike washed up on the shore of a lake with a sunfish stuck in their mouth. They tried to swallow a marathon meal and choked to death on it. Should have been satisfied with a couple minnows. We can learn a lot from nature.

Does your house need painting but the expense would be too great and time is short? (Paint an entire house in October?) The half-marathon solution would be to paint half this year and half next year. But if you choose this route you can't change colors (much), and of course you can't stop in the middle of a wall. But if you do the job carefully and well, nobody will notice -- unless you start bragging about it.

Or finally, if you're a fan of the Minnesota Twins and love to watch them on TV, but the season is so long (162 games, or 163 if you count playoffs) and you just don't feel you have the stamina to watch them all, you can compromise and just watch half.

If you do that, be sure to watch the second half.

The moral of the story is this: Don't bite off more than you can chew.